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Road to Graduation

Requirements regarding courses and qualifying exams are described here.

Progress Assessment

Our Ph.D. programs typically require five years. Progress assessment is an important avenue of communication with our students. It is discussed at yearly one-on-one meetings with the director of graduate programs. The following table shows good (green), satisfactory (yellow), and unsatisfactory (red) progress toward graduation for a full-time student.

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The boxes in the table indicate work that has been completed (not just attempted) by the end of the corresponding academic year (the last day of summer).

The colors have the following meanings.

  • Green: good progress; for departmental TAs, continued funding is expected
  • Yellow: satisfactory progress; for departmental TAs, continued funding is expected
  • Red: unsatisfactory progress

Green and yellow designations are feedback to the student. A red designation, on the other hand, triggers a review by the Graduate Advisory Committee, which may result in loss of financial support. Red status also results from academic probation, which is imposed by the Graduate School if the student fails to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better.

Financial Support

Most of our Ph.D. students receive financial support. Continued support is contingent on

  • Satisfactory academic progress as defined above
  • Satisfactory performance of your assistantship duties.

Students who are offered a TA upon acceptance, and at some point accept an RA, may move back to a TA if they are satisfying these two conditions. Students who come to NC State without a TA offer and at some point accept an RA are not guaranteed a TA if they wish to leave the RA. They may request TA support.

The Mathematics Department sometimes offers limited term TAs for one or two semesters. These TAs carry no commitment on the part of the department to renew.

Support beyond the fifth year (fourth year for students who started with a master’s degree) will only be granted in exceptional cases.

Summer TAs may be available. Priority is given to students in good academic standing who have conscientiously fulfilled their assistantship duties.


You will be assigned an advisor who can assist you with questions concerning your program, etc. You may change your advisor at any time.

At the latest, you should choose a dissertation advisor soon after passing the qualifying exams. You may choose a dissertation advisor sooner. Your dissertation advisor need not be the same faculty member who has been your advisor previously. 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.

Plan of Work

The Plan of Graduate Work is a list of the courses you have taken or plan to take. It is completed online (through MyPack Portal) after consultation with your advisor and advisory committee. Your plan should include whatever course work is 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.

You may decide, in consultation with your advisory committee, to minor in another department or program. In that case 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, such as participation in the NC State Preparing the Professoriate program.

Before the Plan of Work is submitted, you must have signed and submitted a patent agreement form.

Oral Examinations

Schedule the Preliminary Oral Examination with your advisory committee, and submit the request to the Mathematics Department 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 prelim, 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.

It is required that the student develop a syllabus, typically 2-4 page long, explaining the thesis research proposal including

  • problem statement,
  • known results,
  • possible approaches and methods,
  • partial progres,

and share this with the advisory committee and the Graduate Service Coordinator at least two weeks before the exam.

Schedule the Final Oral Examination with your advisory committee, and submit a request to the Mathematics Department 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.

Additional University Rules

  • 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 and the Graduate School. If you graduate in the second summer session, then you must be enrolled for either the first or second summer session.
  • 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.
  • A 3.0 grade point average is required for graduation.