Jul 24, 2024  
Graduate Catalog | 2018-2019 
Graduate Catalog | 2018-2019 Previous Edition

Electrical Engineering, Ph.D.

The Ph.D. program is designed to provide the students with research-level expertise in a focus area within electrical and computer engineering and breadth of knowledge in areas related to the focus area. In addition to taking a set of courses in a chosen area of concentration, a key aspect of the doctoral degree is the student’s research dissertation. Each dissertation is expected to be a significant original contribution on research on a chosen subject, leading to one or more archival publications. Successful doctoral candidates learn how to acquire advanced knowledge from published research articles, identify research problems, formulate plausible approaches to solve them, analyze and evaluate proposed solutions, and present technical material orally and in writing.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Graduate School, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering seeks the following from applicants to the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering program:

  1. A master’s degree in electrical and/or computer engineering or a closely allied field, demonstrating strong academic background for performing research in a chosen area of interest (Exceptional students with only a baccalaureate degree who are motivated to pursue a Ph.D. may also be considered for direct admission to the Ph.D. program)
  2. Satisfactory scores on the quantitative and verbal sections of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test*
  3. A statement of purpose, written by the applicant, that specifies the applicant’s research interests within Electrical and Computer Engineering

*The GRE requirement will be waived for:

  • Applicants who have an undergraduate degree from an ABET accredited U.S. institution and have at least three years post-graduation experience in the related field
  • Recent UNC Charlotte undergraduates with a minimum GPA of 3.25
  • Currently enrolled UNC Charlotte undergraduate students eligible for the MSEE Early Entry Program with a minimum GPA of 3.25

Early Entry Program

Exceptional undergraduate students at UNC Charlotte may apply for the Early Entry Program and begin work toward the graduate degree before completion of the baccalaureate degree.  See the Undergraduate Catalog for details and requirements.  Also see the Degree Requirements and Academic Policies  section of the Graduate Catalog for more information about Early Entry Programs.

Degree Requirements

The following is a chronologically ordered set of requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering:

  1. Appointment of a Ph.D. advisor and formation of an advisory committee.
  2. Development of a Ph.D. Plan of Study detailing all course and examination requirements.
  3. Successful completion of the qualifying examinations.
  4. Presentation of a proposal for Ph.D. research and admission to candidacy.
  5. Successful defense of the Ph.D. Dissertation.

Within the first semester of being admitted into a Ph.D. program, the student should choose a Ph.D. advisor and form an advisory committee. In conjunction with the Ph.D. advisor and this advisory committee, the student will develop a Plan of Study to meet the Ph.D. program requirements of coursework and examinations and prepare to undertake original research leading to a doctoral dissertation. Normally, a student would be expected to have at least one archival publication on the research performed for the dissertation.

Plan of Study

The Plan of Study must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Programs for review and approval within the second semester of enrollment in the Ph.D. program. The Plan of Study must show a minimum of 72 hours of credit beyond the Baccalaureate degree, including 18 hours of doctoral dissertation credits. At least 12 hours of coursework must be taken after admission to the Ph.D. program. The specific course requirements will be set by the student’s Advisory Committee. Doctoral students should take 8000-level courses when they are available. 6000 and 5000 level graduate courses that do not have 8000-level counterparts may also be counted towards the doctoral degree if approved by the Advisory Committee. For students who do not possess bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in appropriate fields of study, additional coursework may be required. Courses taken without the approval of the advisory committee may not be counted toward the degree.


A student must have a GPA of at least a 3.0 in order to graduate. The dissertation is graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis and, therefore, will not be included in the cumulative GPA. An accumulation of more than two marginal (C) grades will result in suspension of the student’s enrollment in the graduate program. If a student makes a grade of U on any course, enrollment will be suspended. A graduate student whose enrollment has been suspended because of grades is ineligible to attend any semester or summer session unless properly readmitted to the graduate program. Readmission to the program requires approval of the Dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the student’s major department.


A student may satisfy the residency requirement for the program by completing 18 hours, either coursework or research credits, by study-in-residence during the academic year and during the summer terms, as long as the study is continuous. Study-in-residence is deemed to be continuous if the student is enrolled in one or more courses (including research/dissertation credit) in successive semesters until eighteen hours of credit are earned.

Qualifying Examination

In addition to demonstrating a high level of competence in coursework, the student must pass the Ph.D. qualifying examinations. The qualifying examination should be taken before completion of 24 hours beyond the master’s degree but must be passed no later than four semesters after initial enrollment in the program. Failure to pass the qualifying examination after two attempts will result in the termination of the student’s enrollment in the Ph.D. program.

The qualifying examination is divided into two test sessions. The first session comprises of a written examination on the breadth areas of electrical and computer engineering, and the second session is a research aptitude test that comprises of a technical presentation. For a detailed description of the procedures for the Ph.D. qualifying examinations in electrical and computer engineering please contact the ECE department or visit ece.uncc.edu.

Dissertation Proposal and Admission to Candidacy

Because the Ph.D. program is heavily based on independent research, each student must write a proposal describing his/her proposed dissertation research following the technical guidelines established by the department. The proposal must be presented to and orally defended before the student’s advisory committee. The proposal must be presented within one year after the qualifying examination is passed. Upon approval of the student’s dissertation proposal, the advisory committee will recommend the student’s admission to candidacy subject to the approval of the Engineering Doctoral Graduate Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.


Evidence of a high degree of competence in scholarship, written exposition, independent inquiry and the ability to organize and apply knowledge must be demonstrated by the student in the dissertation. The student will make a public defense of the dissertation at which time the dissertation, as well as the student’s knowledge of the field, will be appropriate matter for examination by the student’s advisory committee. Although questions may be asked by the general audience, evaluation of the dissertation defense is the sole responsibility of the advisory committee. The dissertation will be graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis.

Application for Degree

Students preparing to graduate must submit an online Application for Degree by the filing date specified in the University Academic Calendar.  If a student does not graduate in the semester identified on the Application for Degree, then the student must update his/her Admission to Candidacy and submit a new Application for Degree for graduation in a subsequent semester.

Time Limit

Students are allowed a maximum of eight (8) calendar years from formal admission to the Ph.D. program to complete the program successfully.


There are two forms of assistantships that are offered by the ECE Department. These are Teaching Assistantships (TAs) and Research Assistantships (RAs). RAs are controlled by faculty members with research grants, and the faculty members make the decisions in selecting students for RAs. Therefore, for RAs, students should contact individual faculty members directly. TAs are given to students to help faculty members with classroom teaching or laboratory instruction and these allocations are related to the ECE department needs and available resources. In all cases, the TAs and RAs are awarded to exceptional students. Application forms are available online at ece.uncc.edu.

Tuition Waivers

For exceptionally qualified candidates who are awarded TAs or RAs, a limited number of tuition awards are available on a competitive basis.