PhD in Systems Engineering Online


Traditional PhD programs are designed to support full-time, primarily on-campus students. WPI’s Online PhD in Systems Engineering program is different. We expect the majority of our students to be part-time, off-campus professionals who have full-time jobs and have been or are involved in systems engineering related work.

The implications of this expectation are that the WPI systems engineering program faculty and administrators will:

  • Offer all program courses online, without a traditional on-campus residency requirement.
  • Offer the required research seminars in a virtual classroom setting where all participants can readily interact with each other.
  • Support student research by strongly encouraging our students to submit papers and presentations to national conferences.
  • Expect regular, well-documented, research advisor(s) interactions.
  • Utilize best-practice methods to enhance student engagement and encourage professional development.

While we accept applications at any time, faculty review applicants for this program only twice per year – March 1 and November 1. Click here to apply now.

On-Demand Webinar: Systems Engineering and SE Leadership Info Session

View our on-demand webinar to be introduced to WPI's online Systems Engineering graduate programs. Get an overview of program logistics, what online learning looks like, the application process, and more!


PROGRAM OVERVIEW (a minimum of 60 credits beyond MS)


Selected in consultation with the Research Advisor

Focus Area 1: A minimum of 12 credit hours of thematically related graduate courses selected from the areas of Science (including Computer Science), Mathematics, and Engineering excluding Systems Engineering (which can be waived for students with an MS in Science, as defined above)

Focus Area 2: A minimum of 9 credit hours of thematically related courses, as defined above and different from the first Focus Area


A minimum of 30 credits registered as SYS 699. Dissertation Research


Qualifying Exam: Successfully completed no later than 18 credits beyond the MS degree

Area Examination: Successfully completed after the Qualifying Exam and no later than 42 graduate credit hours after matriculation into the PhD program

Defense: A public defense after certification of the final PhD dissertation research is required. The defense can be scheduled any time after the end of the semester in which the Area Examination was completed


Students must establish residency by being a full-time online graduate student for at least one continuous academic year. Full-time graduate students are required to take a minimum of 6 credits per semester.

Admissions Qualifications

Preferred Program Applicant

The preferred program applicant will have an MS in systems engineering with a minimum GPA of 3.5. Applicants who have earned an engineering master's degree, but not in systems engineering, and who have demonstrated systems engineering work experience, are also strongly encouraged to apply. All applicants will be considered for admission into the PhD program based on a thorough review of their application materials.

Students who have not yet earned an MS degree will not be considered for the WPI Systems Engineering PhD program until completion of the MS program.

PhD Application Process

We are now accepting applications for the online part-time SE PhD program. If you are interested in a full-time SE PhD, please contact Prof. Shams Bhada.
  • Non-refundable $70 application fee (waived for WPI alumni and current WPI students)
  • Official transcripts in English from accredited institutions
  • Three letters of recommendation (can be done through the application portal)
  • Statement of purpose (to be submitted with the online application)
  • A statement of relevant and related SE work experiences
  • Proof of English language proficiency from all applicants for whom English is not their first language: TOEFL or IELTS

Note: GRE scores are not required; we strongly encourage applicants to submit their GRE scores though if they are still current (3 years or less)

For specific application requirements, visit our admissions for online programs page.

Also Available

Experiential PhD: Working Full-Time While Pursuing Your PhD Degree

WPI supports individuals working full-time in industry to pursue PhD degrees either part-time or full-time on topics related to their employment. Want to learn more about this opportunity and how to obtain this industry-based PhD degree, visit the WPI Experiential PhD program page.

Other online graduate programs in Systems Engineering: 

See all the events and webinars that the Graduate Studies team are hosting and attending.

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