Degree Requirements

Please see full degree requirements below (PhD Requirements begin on page 13). Specifics on program milestones can be expanded on in the following section. 

PhD Milestones

1 - Registration

Creating your Fall schedule and first year plan
  1. Review your core classes and see when they are being offered. Fill those courses in for Fall/Winter/Spring.  
  2. Review what other classes are being offered in our department, and make a list of the ones that seem interesting to you and when they are being offered.
  3. Explore classes outside of ECI that are related to your research, academic and/or career goals. Make a list of these courses and when they are being offered (this might take some searching - department websites, historical offerings, etc). 
    *Note: be sure to review prerequisites when exploring classes!
  4. Review if you have other course requirements, such as the background courses for a student without an engineering degree, or the graduate first year English course. These courses will NOT satisfy requirements for the MS or PhD Program of Study.
  5. Start making a one year (three quarter) plan, with about 2-3 courses per quarter (and maybe one or two back-up courses). 
  6. Be sure your plan fulfills all the degree requirements. You can consider using the Program of Study form, as you will need to submit a preliminary Program of Study around the start of your second quarter. 
  7. Attend the Area Advising as part of the CEE Department Orientation, and check in with the faculty about the courses you are planning to take. 

2 - Preliminary Program of Study (PhD)

Consult with your Major Professor to identify a Program of Study Committee as soon as possible, but no later than the end of your first quarter of study (see Section III for Committee Membership Requirements). The doctoral Program of Study Committee, composed of three faculty members, serves as the Guidance Committee and have the responsibility to guide you in formulating your Program of Study. In consultation with this Committee, develop a Program of Study.

The Program of Study form serves as the formal written plan of courses to be reviewed and approved by the GPC. The form is filed (at a minimum) twice, once as preliminary Program of Study, and subsequently as final Program of Study. The preliminary Program of Study (student must check the “preliminary” box on the form) lists the courses planned to be used to satisfy the curriculum requirement of the Ph.D. degree, and should be filed with the Graduate Coordinator before the end of the second quarter of entering the Ph.D. program. It also must be reviewed and approved by the GPC within the first two quarters of entering the Ph.D. program.

Early submission will allow Ph.D. students to adjust their Programs before investing time and energy in courses that may not be approved by your program of study committee and the GPC. If a student decides to make any changes to the preliminary Program of Study after it has been approved by your program of study committee and the GPC, the student must submit a revised preliminary Program of Study for a second review by your program of study committee and the GPC.

The GPC has the right to reject Programs of Study that are inadequately developed. Students are recommended to consult with their Major Professor and their Program of Study Committee, and follow the guidelines (below) carefully, in developing their Program of Study.

  • Program of Study Guidelines
  • Quantitative Criteria:
    - The Program of Study must include a minimum of 46 units of graded coursework beyond the baccalaureate degree. The Program of Study committee may, and often will, require more than the minimum 46 units of graded coursework be included as necessary to ensure appropriate academic
    - preparation; typical programs of study range from 46-60 units.
    - Courses taken should generally be at the graduate level and should collectively develop both depth and breadth of knowledge.
    - A minimum of 24 units must be taken at the UC Davis campus.
    - No courses used to satisfy prerequisites may be used.
    - Courses taken more than eight years prior to the Qualifying Examination may be counted toward satisfaction of the Program of Study as an exception to policy only after approval of the Program of Study Committee.
    - Only courses in which a ‘C’ or higher or ‘Satisfactory’ (in courses with no letter-grading option) are earned may be counted toward satisfaction of the Program of Study.
    - Courses taken more than eight years prior to the Qualifying Examination are normally not counted toward satisfaction of the Program of Study.

    Acceptable Programs of Study must satisfy the following qualitative criteria:
    - Depth: knowledge of theoretical and practical aspects of the field usually, but not always;
    - Breadth: should expand foundational knowledge;
    - Coherence: courses taken should be complementary and intentionally chosen. The requirement of coherence expressly precludes taking a large number of single courses in unrelated areas.
  • Supplementary Material
  • When submitting the preliminary Program of Study for GPC review and approval, the following supplemental information should be provided in writing:

    1. For any course outside of CEE, provide either a syllabus for the course or description of the topics covered in the course;
    2. For students including courses on the Program of Study from institutions that assign numeric grades, a description of the basis for converting the numeric grades into letter grades should be provided. Both the numeric and letter grade should be provided on the Program of Study form.
    3. For students including courses on the Program of Study from institutions that are not on a quarter system, a description of the basis for converting course units into quarterly units should be provided.

3 - Student Progress Assessment (Annual)

The Student Progress Assessment (SPA) is an online form, and is initiated each year in early April, and is due in mid-June. SPA must be completed annually.

Normally, this form is started by the student, and then completed during a meeting with your Major Professor. Students graduating in spring of that year may request to opt out of the SPA.

4 - Final Program of Study | Qualifying Examination (QE)

Final Program of Study

Upon enrollment in the final required coursework, the student files the final Program of Study, including grades, with the GPC (student must check the “final” box on the form) for review and approval. 

GPC approval of the final version is a requisite step toward assignment of the Qualifying Examination committee. Because this involves the GPC, the student is strongly encouraged to work closely with their Major Professor to determine the proper time for submission of the final version in order to schedule the Qualifying Examination as the student desires (Note: the GPC does not meet over the summer; and the QE application must be submitted at least one month prior to the QE date after program of study approval). 

Please view Program of Study Criteria and guidelines in the 'Preliminary Program of Study' milestone section. 

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to determine if the student has the ability and academic preparation necessary to successfully conduct independent research and complete a doctoral dissertation. The format of the QE is specific to a students' area of specialization (see details in the Degree Requirements).

Preparing for the QE

  • Timeline

  • 10-12 weeks prior  - Discuss your exam with your Major Professor, and invite committee members.  Verify that your approved final Program of Study is complete with the Graduate Program Coordinator. 

    6-8 weeks prior - Set the date of the exam and reserve the room.

    5-6 weeks prior -  Initiate the UCD Qualifying Exam Application in GradSphere (committee requirements and emergency plan options below). Once initiated, the application will route for program approval.  Once approved by the Graduate Program, the QE Application will route to Graduate Studies for approval.  The QE cannot proceed until Graduate Studies has approved your QE application.
    *QE applications MUST be submitted to Graduate Studies at least 30 days in advance or they will be denied. Please try to submit 40 days in advance to secure departmental approval by the 30 day deadline. 

    2-4 weeks prior - meet with committee members and share any requested documentation (dissertation prospectus, slides, etc - discuss requirements with committee)

    1-2 weeks prior - make sure you received the approval from Graduate Studies for your QE. If your approval is pending, reach out to the Graduate Program Coordinator to help you follow up with Graduate Studies. 

    Exam Date! Arrive early, make sure all technology is working. 

    1 week post – Upon successful result, initiate the UCD Advancement to Candidacy Application in GradSphere to establish the Dissertation Committee!
  • Required Administrative Process: 40+ days in advance
  • All students must submit the UCD Qualifying Exam Application in GradSphere. 

    The final PhD Program of Study must be complete (approved by the committee and Graduate Advisor) BEFORE you submit your QE application.
    Students should plan to submit the Qualifying Examination Application AT LEAST 40 days prior to their QE dateApplications that are not routed to Grad Studies by 30 days in advance of the QE date will be denied. 

    Remote Member: Exams may now have one remote member without the need for exception paperwork from Graduate Studies - please be sure to check the appropriate box if this applies.

    Emergency Plan Options: Pre-approved emergency plans are not required- rescheduling the QE in the event of an emergency that prevents all members from being present is always allowed.

    The student must discuss the Emergency Plan section of the application with their proposed QE chair, prior to submission of the application.

    • - Changing to a Fully Remote Exam if an Emergency Occurs
    • - Moving the Exam to a Pre-Scheduled Backup Date/Time
    • - Reconstituting the Committee with a Pre-Determined Alternate Program Member
    • Note: The 72-hour separate makeup exam option is NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
  • Committee Membership
  • The CEE QE Committee must consist of at least four individuals, with an optional fifth member. The committee shall be constituted subject to the following constraints:
    • 1.  The Chair of the Dissertation Committee (the Major Professor) cannot be the Chair of the Qualifying Examination Committee
      2.  At least three members of the QE committee must be members of the CEE Graduate Program (including Graduate Group members)
      3.  At least one person on each QE committee shall not be a member of the CEE Graduate Program
      Please see the Guidance Manual and/or degree requirements for more information about eligibility to serve on the QE committee, or check in with Graduate Program Coordinator

      *Note: Individuals who hold EWOS status are not members of the CEE Graduate program; if their regular appointment is in CEE, they also do not qualify as external to the CEE Graduate program, and can only serve as the optional fifth committee member. 

      Individuals from outside the University of California are considered External Members and may be approved with additional review. External members include faculty, researchers, or other professionals who are not employed by the University of California, and who possess special expertise and/or experience not matched by eligible UC committee members. Please be prepared to upload their current CV/Resume and justification of expertise not available within the UC System. Note that External Members can only serve on a UC Davis Committee one time.
  • Reserving a Room
  • It is the student's responsibility to reserve a room for in-person QEs (and create a zoom link as needed).

    Space in Ghausi/Academic Surge: Please email and include your date and time to see if they can assist in finding space for your QE.  I highly recommending reserving the space for 30 minutes before and after your QE so you don't feel rushed (as possible). 
    ** Check out our new space in 2010 Ghausi!  Seats 10 and has a zoom capable TV and white boards. 

    You can also reserve space in Walker Hall (1212, 1004, 1003, 1136). 
    Visit the Grad Studies Facility Reservations website to learn more about the Walker Hall Rooms, and also find the link to reserve rooms online
  • Additional Resources

  • Graduate Studies Qualifying Exam website
    Graduate Council Policy - Doctoral Qualifying Examinations GC2005-02 (rev. 13)
    Acing your Qualifying Exam
    Additional Hints to Help You Succeed on Your QE
    QE Regulations (Graduate Studies document)
    Graduate Studies Remote Participation in Graduate Examinations

    CEE QE Info Session from 6/2/21 
    **NOTE: the QE Policy has changed since this presentation
    PowerPoint Slides 
    Recorded Presentation

Outcome of the Exam

The committee will reach a decision on the student’s performance immediately after the oral exam. Read more about the QE exam and its outcome on the Grad Studies site. 

Read more on the Graduate Studies QE Site

5 - Advance to Candidacy

Congratulations on Passing your QE!  The next step is to Advance to Candidacy.

If you are an international student, Advancing to Candidacy will start a three year Waiver of the Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition (NRST).  To be eligible for this, the Candidacy paperwork must be submitted to Graduate Studies by the business day prior to the start of the next term (generally you should allow about one week for processing).

To Advance to Candidacy: Please complete the Candidacy form in GradSphere.  Here are some notes to help you fill out the form:

Upload the Candidacy Receipt: Pay the fee from the GS Forms Store online, or the Cashier's Office in Dutton Hall for an in-person option. 
Expected term and year of Completion: this is a guess, and you will not be held to this date - you will be able to graduate earlier or later. 
Coursework Required: Please leave in the default text - you do not need to fill in all our coursework. 
Transfer Coursework: all students should select "no", even if you listed coursework from another institution on your PhD Program of Study form.

Students should advance to candidacy within the same quarter they pass the QE. 

6 - Graduation

After you completed the QE, you should have Advanced to Candidacy.  You declared your Dissertation Committee on you Candidacy form.  If your committee has changed, you will need to Reconstitute your Committee

Schedule and present your exit seminar

  • Requirement
  • Degree Requirements, Page 23: The dissertation follows Plan B with a required exit seminar. Satisfaction of the Exit Seminar requirement must be verified by the Dissertation Committee Chair. The Exit Seminar is a formal public presentation of the student’s research before the program faculty and students. It is recommended that this presentation take place during the final quarter of the program. Adequate scheduling of the exit seminar is the responsibility of the student and the Major Professor. The student will provide the Major Professor with the seminar title, date, time, and location of the seminar. An abstract of the seminar is to be widely advertised, and circulated via all appropriate email lists, and must be submitted for inclusion on the CEE department online calendar. Announcement shall be made at least two weeks before the seminar. 
  • Format
  • The format should be discussed with your Dissertation Committee Chair. It can be in person, remote, or hybrid. 
  • Scheduling 
  • The student must schedule the seminar and secure the location (or set up the zoom). The seminar title, date, time, location/zoom link, and abstract must be sent to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the seminar for advertisement.  

    The student can contact the CEE Main Office for assistance in reserving a room in Ghausi/Academic Surge/Kemper for the exit seminar. 

CEE Program Graduation Requirement

CEE MS and PhD Graduation Checklist: Complete items on list and obtain necessary signatures


Filing to Graduate with Graduate Studies

Refer to the Filing your Thesis or Dissertation Graduate Studies page: Review all the information on this website about how to file your Dissertation. Let Lauren know if you want her to email your signed title page in - this needs to come from either Lauren or your Committee Chair. 

Graduate Program Exit Information: Complete to the best of your ability, this is due with your other filing paperwork. Lauren will sign as the "Graduate Program Coordinator". 

Filing Deadlines: Check the Filing Deadlines website to see when the date you should complete the filing process by for each term degree list.  

Diploma Mailing Address Change Form (optional): Complete the online form with the Registrar's office to have your diploma mailed to you. 

Order Official Transcript(s) (optional): Official transcripts are a good thing to keep on file.  There is an option to have the transcript sent after your degree posts, so order them now so you don't forget later.


  • Commencement

  • The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering does not host a commencement celebration.  Graduate Students can participate in the Graduate Studies Commencement.  The commencement ceremony is optional and does not mean you have officially graduated. The Graduate Studies Commencement is only in June (there is no winter ceremony). 

    Generally speaking, students should start reviewing information about commencement in late February.

    To be eligible for the Graduate Studies Commencement, please pay attention to the dates on the website regarding Advancing to Candidacy and/or being filed to graduate.  Students may participate in the Commencement Ceremony prior to actually graduating if they Advance to Candidacy by the appropriate deadline (see "steps to graduate" above for more about Advancing to Candidacy).

    Please also be sure to pay attention to the registration deadline, which is generally early May, and the deadline to to rent your cap/gown without a late fee.

    Questions? Check out their FAQ website, or contact 

Questions? Visit the Grad Studies site on general PhD Program information.