The following information is provided as a guide to the pursuit of a doctorate in Operations Research & Industrial Engineering, including the general process and description of major requirements. This information should be considered a guide – the requirements for the degree are spelled out in the Graduate Catalog, which is the official reference for all graduate school regulations.

Please note: This page is not meant to be all-inclusive. It includes areas where we have observed difficulties in the past. If you need clarification, read the Graduate School Catalog, talk with the degree evaluators in the Graduate School Office (MAI 101), talk to the faculty in the academic areas, and talk with the OR Graduate Coordinator (ETC 5.224) or the Graduate Adviser.

The essential milestones for completion of a Ph.D. in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering are:

Admission to the Graduate School

New Students: Admission is based on GPA, GRE scores, letters of reference and a statement of purpose. Typically admitted students have a master's degree, but we also have a program to allow students to work on a Ph.D. directly after their B.S. degree.

Continuing UT Students: If you received your master's degree from the University of Texas, you need to complete a form to apply for admission to the Ph.D. program. This form lists three professors who will be asked to recommend your admission to the Ph.D. program.

Passing the Qualifying Examination

Description and Purpose: There are two components to the Ph.D. qualifying examination: an “in-class” written exam and an open-ended one week “take-home” exam. The written exam tests technical competency in material fundamental to operations research and industrial engineering.  The take-home exam tests a student’s ability to think creatively and to solve unstructured problems.  It is used to assess a student’s potential as a successful doctoral candidate and researcher.

Timing: There is no formal prerequisite coursework. A prospective Ph.D. student is encouraged to submit an application to take the qualifier exam as soon as obtaining competence in the material covered in the coursework of Linear Programming, Decision Analysis, Stochastic Processes and Integer Programming. In any case, the exam should be taken no later than after completion of the student's third long semester in the program and must be passed within two years of beginning graduate study (before the fifth long semester). A student who wishes to take the qualifying exam after this point must appeal to the ORIE Graduate Studies Committee (GSC). The exam is offered twice a year (August and January).

Admission to the Qualifying Exam:  Only students admitted to the PhD program may apply to take the qualifying exam. Students in the MS-only program may not take the qualifying exam. Students must fill out a qualifying exam application following the procedure detailed in the exam announcement.

Although there are no course requirements for the exam, PhD students with an appropriate background and a graduate GPA of at least 3.65 in coursework at UT relevant to OR will be approved automatically; PhD students whose background is incomplete or who have a graduate GPA less than 3.65 in OR coursework may be denied permission to take the exam and should consult the graduate advisor well in advance. 

Examples of typical questions and syllabi for each part of the Qualifying Examination are available as detailed in the exam announcement.  Answers to these questions will not be provided.  However, a student interested in more detail is encouraged to meet with faculty that will be preparing the qualify examination questions.

Examination Format: The in-class part the qualifying exam typically takes place over two days and lasts 3 hours each day. The take-home exam follows immediately after this and takes place over a one week period. Students should consult the exam announcement for specific details of dates and names of faculty preparing the exam.

Selection of a Dissertation Topic and Faculty Advisor

The student should consult with his or her research advisor to decide on an appropriate dissertation topic immediately upon passing the qualifying exam, if not earlier. Typically the research adviser serves as the chair of the dissertation committee. This committee will be responsible for overseeing the student's doctoral program, including courses and dissertation.

Advance to Doctoral Candidacy

The Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) of the ORIE program requires that a student pass the qualifying exam and be admitted to candidacy before accumulating 50 credit hours toward their Ph.D., including research and seminar hours. This rule was adopted to promote a timely completion of the Ph.D. consistent with the University’s 99 Hour Rule.

Advancing to Ph.D. candidacy requires that a dissertation committee be formed. Per Graduate School rules, the dissertation committee includes a minimum of four members, including three members of the GSC and at least one member from outside the department. This committee must meet to review the student's course program and dissertation proposal. The committee will typically make recommendations with respect to the scope and direction of the dissertation. Furthermore, the committee reviews graduate courses taken or to be taken as part of the student’s Program of Work, and the committee may recommend that additional courses be taken.

Curricular requirements for the PhD can be divided into three categories: master’s level certification, PhD coursework, dissertation coursework.

Master’s Level Certification: Students must be deemed to have obtained a master’s level knowledge of ORIE as part of the PhD degree. This can be done in two ways. (1) A student may have a master’s degree in operation research, industrial engineering, or equivalent discipline from an approved institution. If a student is unsure if they satisfy this requirement, they should check with the graduate advisor. (2) A student may obtain a master’s degree in ORIE at UT-Austin.

PhD Coursework: A student must also complete PhD coursework, also known as the program of work. This work is comprised of 24 credit hours of approved graduate or upper level undergraduate courses. There is no fixed requirement on the number of ORIE credits among the 24 hours, but the graduate advisor will generally require that a significant portion be in ORIE. No course used for the master’s degree can count toward the PhD coursework requirement. Furthermore, no “core” ORIE course can count toward the PhD course work requirement. The ORIE core courses are: Linear Programming, Stochastic Processes, Integer Programming, and Applied Probability.

A maximum of 3 hours of the 24 hours may be taken on a credit/no credit basis. No ORIE course may be taken on a credit/no credit basis, if it is to be counted towards the program of work.

Each PhD student must take Emerging Topics in ORIE before advancing to candidacy. This course requirement applies to doctoral students entering the program in August 2016, or later. However, all current PhD students are encouraged to enroll in the course before graduating. Like any other ORIE course, this course must be taken on a letter grade basis and it may count toward either the master's or PhD program of work. Students may repeat the course, on a CR/NC basis, although it will not count for degree credit when repeated. All graduate students can take this course at any time on a CR/NC basis.

Dissertation Coursework: As required by the graduate school each student must take dissertation reading (ORI *99R) and dissertation writing (ORI *99W) at least once. These courses can only be taken after a student has advanced to PhD candidacy.

Based on the recommendation of this dissertation committee, the student completes the necessary forms for application to doctoral candidacy. One form is the Ph.D. Program of Work, which involves a listing of the proposed course work (previously completed and yet to be completed); this form is signed by the student’s dissertation supervisor confirming that the list of courses in the Program of Work has been approved by the dissertation committee. This form is then signed by the GSC chair and is held in the student’s departmental file. Once the Program of Work has been approved by the graduate adviser, the student must complete the application for candidacy which specifies the proposed doctoral program chair and committee members, as well as an abstract of the proposed dissertation research. The chair of the GSC, the Graduate Adviser, the student’s committee, and the dean of the UT Austin Graduate School approves this form. The student is then officially a doctoral candidate.

Research for Dissertation

It is recommended that the doctoral committee meet at least twice after the initial meeting: one or more times to review and possibly redirect the dissertation work, and a final meeting for the dissertation defense. In addition, it is expected that the research adviser meet regularly with the candidate during the development of the dissertation.

Write Dissertation

The candidate should recognize that it takes significant time to write the dissertation and should allow at least one long semester for the formal writing after all technical work is done. Also, the candidate should provide to the adviser as the first draft a complete manuscript, one that is completely satisfactory to the candidate and is in a form that could be word processed into final form.

Successful Defense of Dissertation

At a time when the candidate and the research supervisor feel that the dissertation is complete and a draft has been completed, a defense is scheduled. Members of the committee should have a copy four weeks in advance of the defense. The defense and draft must meet the approval of the committee. If satisfactory, the committee will Pass the student and sign the Report of the Dissertation Defense. The candidate then has the dissertation prepared in final form, including any requirements specified by the committee, has a signature page signed by the committee, uploads the dissertation to the Texas Digital Library and submits remaining documentation to the graduate school. The finished document must be approved by the Graduate School.

Special requirements and restrictions

Registration and Courses

The 99 Hour Rule: after accumulating 99 credit hours toward their Ph.D. degree, students will be charged non-resident tuition. The credit hours include seminar, research and dissertation hours.

  • A doctoral student should pass the qualifying examination and be admitted to candidacy before accumulating 50 credit hours towards their Ph.D. degree.
  • Each semester, you are advised in your academic area concerning courses. A faculty member from the area must sign a form listing your proposed courses.
  • If you are a continuing student, we strongly recommend that you pre-register. If you do not pre-register or if your registration is canceled (due to non-payment), your appointment as a TA or GRA will be delayed.
  • If you are a full-time student, you must enroll for at least nine credit hours in each long semester (Spring and Fall).
  • The research courses (180M/380M/680M/980M), internship course (ORI 397M) and the seminar courses (ORI 397K) may be used to fulfill your minimum enrollment requirement, but they do not count toward your graduate degree.
  • You may add/drop ORI courses during the departmental add/drop period in the ME Graduate Office. Courses other than ORI must be add/dropped in the department offering those courses.
  • The dissertation courses are offered only on a CR/NC basis.
  • If you are a Ph.D. student, you cannot sign up for dissertation (ORI x99R) unless you are admitted to candidacy by the Graduate School. There are two sections of dissertation courses; the first is “R” for research and the second is “W” for writing. A student registers for “R” only once and registers for “W” each semester fall and spring semester after that until he/she graduates. A doctoral student must be enrolled in dissertation during his/her last semester in order to graduate. 
  • Refer to the course schedule for the last date to change grade status (CR/NC or letter grade).
Teaching Assistants (TA) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRA)
  • In order to be appointed for a TA or GRA, you must be in good standing (not on academic probation).
  • If you are appointed as a TA or GRA, you must register, and remain registered, for 9 semester hours in the Fall and Spring semesters. Summer appointees need to be registered for at least 3 semester hours.
  • Teaching assistants are assigned by responsible faculty in the academic areas. If you are interested in being a TA, you must complete a TA application. The application is available at the end of each semester for the following semester. This must be done every semester, even if you have served previously.
  • When appointed as a TA, you cannot withdraw to accept a GRA after classes begin.
  • An international student must be certified as competent in the English language before he or she can be appointed as a TA. Non-exempt international students (depending on country of origin) must pass the ITA English Assessment, which is administered by the International Office.
  • Graduate Research Assistants are assigned by faculty members holding research grants or contracts. If you are interested in a particular research program, you must contact the faculty member directly.
  • You cannot be appointed as a TA/GRA more than 14 long semesters (7 years).
  • In general, students that have not been a teaching assistantship for 2 long semesters will be given priority.
Doctoral Candidacy
  • You must pass a qualifying examination to be eligible to apply for Doctoral Candidacy.
  • All courses on your Ph.D. Program of Work must be taken on a grade basis.
  • Since the process of applying for candidacy takes several weeks, apply for candidacy well before the semester in which you would like to register for dissertation credit.
  • Once advanced to candidacy, you must continuously register during all fall and spring semesters unless granted a "leave of absence" by the Graduate School.
  • Apply to graduate in the semester you plan to graduate. In the event you do not graduate, a new application must be filed the next semester and every semester after that until you graduate.