Skip to main content

General Information for PhD Students

Foreign Language Requirements 

There is no departmental language requirement for the MS or PhD degrees.  The student is expected to be able to acquire an understanding of the relevant literature in their area as directed by their committee.


1. You have been assigned a beginning advisor who can assist you with questions concerning your program, etc. You may change your advisor at any time.

2. The PhD Written Qualifying Examination consists of written exams in three subjects selected by the student from a list of thirteen possibilities. The purpose of the exam is to ensure that each PhD student studies three subjects to a depth that represents adequate preliminary background to begin a PhD project. Each subject is represented by a two-semester sequence of courses. 

3. The following guidelines hold.

- Students entering the program without a masters in pure or applied mathematics must take the three examinations within 2 years of entry.

- Students entering the program with a masters in pure or applied mathematics must take the three examinations within one year.

- For each of the three examinations taken the student is allowed one retake. The retake must be done within 12 months of the time the examination is first taken. If a student fails an examination twice they are considered to have failed qualifiers. The retake does not have to be the same exam as the one initially failed.

- The 3 qualifying examinations do not have to be taken at the same time. A student could conceivably take one immediately upon entering, one after year one, and one after year two.

- If the student takes less than three qualifying examinations on the first try, and if they do not pass one of those examinations, then the student must inform the graduate program director in writing on subsequent examinations which examinations are to be considered as being taken for the first time and which are to be considered as being taken as retakes of an earlier failed test. This information is required before the test is taken.

- The number of examinations taken at any given exam cannot be greater than the remaining number of passes need to reach a total of 3.

- If an examination is failed and retaken later, the second examination must be counted as a retake of the first.

NOTE: For part time students years will be in term of credit hours with one year = 18 credit hours. For all students who are considered full time, calendar years are used.

NOTE: Students who start the graduate program in the Spring semester should get a statement from the DGP put into their file as to when their exams are to be taken by. Depending on prior coursework, whether they are a transfer student, etc., it will be either 3, 4, or 5 semesters.

4.You should choose a dissertation advisor either before taking the qualifying examination, or as soon as possible after passing the exam. Students who take 3 years to pass qualifiers (two years for students arriving with a masters) are expected to have their advisor decided on by the time they complete qualifiers. Your dissertation advisor need not be the same faculty member who has been your advisor up to this point. In consultation with your dissertation advisor, you choose three additional faculty members for your advisory committee. If you have a minor, one member of your committee must come from the minor department or program. (A minor is optional in mathematics department PhD programs.) Name and signatures of committee members are submitted on the Doctoral Plans of Graduate Work, This form is available in the Mathematics Graduate Program Office and a fill-able form is available in the index of the Graduate School Administrative Handbook at .

5. In your second or third year , you must develop a Plan of Graduate Work in consultation with your dissertation advisor and advisory committee. It should include the additional course work needed to prepare you for the future that you envision. For example: 

- Students who envision a career with a strong mathematics research component will benefit from advanced courses in several related areas, possibly including courses in other departments.

- Students who plan a career focused on college teaching will benefit from courses in other mathematical sciences, especially statistics and computer science. Bear in mind that in many colleges mathematics faculty are expected to teach these subjects. Experience with applications of mathematics is also beneficial for college teaching.

- Students who plan a non-academic career will benefit from substantial course work in the related fields of science and engineering that interest them.

In some cases the student, in consultation with the advisory committee, may decide to minor in another department or program. In these cases, the minor department or program should be consulted to determine its requirements, and a representative of the minor department must serve on the advisory committee.

-At the time the Plan of Graduate Work is prepared, the student and advisory committee should also agree on other appropriate projects that do not appear on this document.

Examples are:
- Participation in the Industrial Applied Mathematics Program .
- Training and experience in university teaching beyond the usual TA experience, such as participation in the NC State Preparing the Professoriate program.

When the Plan of Graduate Work has been approved by your advisory committee,you submit it to the Mathematics Graduate Program Office. Before the plan is sent to the Graduate School, you must have signed and submitted a Patent Agreement form.

6. Schedule the Preliminary Oral Examination with your advisory committee, and submit a Request for Approval to Schedule Doctoral Oral Examination form to the Mathematics Graduate Program Office at least three weeks in advance . The Graduate Program Office will reserve a room for your exam. This exam must be scheduled at least four months before the final oral exam. At the Preliminary Oral Examination you present your thesis topic and preliminary research to the advisory committee. The committee members will ask questions about the thesis topic to judge the suitability of the proposed research and your ability to carry it out. They may also ask questions about related areas of mathematics.

7. Schedule the Final Oral Examination with your advisory committee, and submit a Request for Approval to Schedule Doctoral Oral Examination form to the Mathematics Graduate Program Office at least four weeks in advance . The Graduate Program Office will reserve a room for your exam. Each member of the advisory committee must receive a copy of your thesis at least two weeks before the final oral exam . To graduate in a given semester, you must pass the exam before the Graduate School deadline for that semester, approximately six weeks before graduation .

8. Complete a Diploma Order Request from the Graduate Program Office at the beginning of the semester in which graduation is anticipated .

9. Schedule an appointment with the Graduate School Thesis Editor to go over the thesis to check form and grammar. This appointment is made after the Final Oral examination, and at least six weeks before the end of the semester in which graduation is sought. Please consult the Thesis and Dissertation Guide for details at

University Rules on Residence Requirements, Time Limits, and GPA 

1. Continuous Enrollment Policy: You are required to maintain continuous registration, i.e., be enrolled each semester, excluding summer sessions, until you graduate. You may request a leave of absence for up to a year. Such requests must be made at least one month before the start of the leave of absence, and must be approved by your advisory committee, the Mathematics Graduate Program Director, by the Graduate School. If you graduate in the second summer session, then you must be enrolled for either the first or second summer session.

2. Doctoral students are allowed a maximum of six calendar years from admission to the doctoral program to pass the Preliminary Oral Examination, and a maximum of ten calendar years to complete all degree requirements.

3. A 3.0 Grade Point Average is required for graduation.

4. Residence requirement: You must earn two “residence credits” in consecutive semesters. You earn one residence credit for a semester by registering for 9 credit hours of courses; 2/3 of a residence credit for a semester by taking 6-8 credit hours; and 1/3 of a residence credit for a semester by taking less then 6 credit hours. Thus, you can satisfy this requirement by enrolling for two consecutive semesters in which you take 9 credits each semester, or for three consecutive semesters in which you take 6 credits each semester. More information is in the Graduate Catalog .

5. Minimum number of credits for students who enter the PhD program in Summer 1997 and thereafter: 72. (This requirement may be waived for students who have completed all other requirements.)


If you are a mathematics graduate student supported by a half-time teaching assistantship, a research assistantship, or a fellowship, normally the Mathematics Department commits itself to continue to support you in one of these categories. If you are supported by a lecture assistantship or one-third-time teaching assistantship, normally the Mathematics Department commits itself to continue to support you in one of these categories. The Mathematics Department sometimes offers limited term TAs for one or two semesters in order to meet special needs. These TAs are clearly described as for a limited term and carry no commitment on the part of the Department to renew. Students who are offered a TA upon acceptance, but then take an RA may move back to a TA if they are satisfying the two conditions below. Students who come to NCSU without a TA offer and then move onto an RA are not guaranteed a TA if they wish to leave the RA. They may request TA support. Some entering students in Biomathematics or Operations Research are offered mathematics TAs. The length of these appointments ranges from 1 to 2 years.

Continued support is contingent upon: 
- maintaining satisfactory academic progress
- satisfactory performance of your assistantship duties.

Normally, PhD students are not supported as half-time teaching assistants after their sixth year of graduate study in the Mathematics Department (fourth year for students who come with the approximate equivalent of an NC State master’s degree). Students who exceed this time limit are sometimes offered positions as lecture assistants or one-third-time teaching assistants, with no commitment of future support. Unsupported students are sometimes offered positions on an as-needed basis, again with no commitment of future support.

Minimum Progress to Remain in Good Academic Standing 

1. All students must maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or better.

2. By the end of your first year, you should be eligible, according to University rules, to independently teach mathematics courses. This requirement may be met by a combination of graduate mathematics credits earned elsewhere, and credits toward the PhD earned at NC State, totaling 18 hours (six courses). In order to meet its teaching responsibilities, the Mathematics Department needs almost all teaching assistants beyond the first year to be able to teach courses. A few exceptions to the 18-hour requirement can be made for students for whom this requirement poses a hardship (for example, students who need to take one or more undergraduate courses). If you cannot meet the 18-hour requirement, you should consult the Graduate Program Director as early as possible.

3. You should take the written qualifying examination before the start of your third academic year (second academic year if you already have the approximate equivalent of an NC State master’s degree in mathematics or applied mathematics), and pass it following the guidelines under item 3 of the Timetable. Normally that means before the start of your seventh semester unless you entered with a masters in which case it is the start of your fifth semester.

4. You should pass the Preliminary Oral Examination within two years of passing the written qualifying examination .

5. At all times, you should have made sufficient progress so that it is reasonable to assume that the examinations will be passed on schedule, and that all requirements for the PhD will be completed by the end of your support period.

Summer Support 

Mathematics graduate student half-time TAs and RAs who are in good academic standing and have conscientiously fulfilled the duties of their position have first priority for summer teaching assistantships and grading positions. Within this group, first year students, students planning to take the PhD Written Qualifying Exam in August, and students planning to finish PhD dissertations or master’s projects over the summer have top priority. Others are given priority based on seniority.

After this group, unsupported mathematics graduate students, supported mathematics graduate students who are not in good standing, and then TAs from other departments are considered. First year students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, but are not North Carolina residents, generally need to spend their first summer in North Carolina to establish residency.