Degrees and Requirements

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For PhD Students

The ISE PhD degree program prepares students to be research leaders in academic and applied laboratory or industry settings. Our students work with internationally recognized faculty in areas of operations research, production systems, manufacturing, and human factors. The program combines rigorous coursework with supervised research experiences culminating in a significant, independent research project (the PhD dissertation). By the end of the degree program, students have become independent scholars, presenting and publishing their work in peer-reviewed conferences and journals.

Our faculty have expertise in the following areas, which serve to focus student coursework and research: 

Significant PhD milestones include completion of a qualifying ("B") exam, formation of an advisory committee, completion of an advanced research ("A") exam, completion and defense of a dissertation proposal, and final dissertation defense. Department degree requirements (which are in addition to the degree requirements specified by the UB Graduate School and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) are as follows:

Course and Credit Hour Requirements

The PhD program requires a minimum of 72 credit hours. 

Generally, coursework is completed in 2 to 3 years. Courses should be selected by the student with the approval of their advisor (or the graduate director for first year students) and vary based on the primary research interests of the student (operations research, human factors, or production systems/manufacturing), and student research interests. Students should insure they take an appropriate set of courses to prepare for the B-exam in one of three areas. 

A minimum of 12 and a maximum of 24 credit hours of dissertation research are required. The variable credit dissertation exists to allow students flexibility to take additional content courses. It does not impact the expectations for the scope and effort of the dissertation.

A maximum of 36 credit hours from a Master's degree(s) may be applied toward the 72 credit hour requirement for the PhD degree. Of these, no more than six credit hours may be derived from a master’s thesis. Students may apply transfer credits to waive the course requirements for the specialty area. However, students are still responsible for course content in those courses included on the PhD core examination (the B-exam). Please see the Graduate Director or your academic advisor to discuss transfer courses. 


This examination tests the candidate’s ability in the core courses and selected elective courses. It is required for formal acceptance into PhD candidacy, and is taken at the end of the first year of study (in May).

The B-exam consists of 5 questions focused on operations research, production systems/manufacturing, or human factors. 

The examination is closed-book. Each questions is allotted 45 minutes. Exam questions are set and graded by the faculty member who most recently offered the course. The department faculty determine a pass/fail/undecided grade for each student. Students in the undecided category are offered an oral exam (either overall, or focusing on specific courses) and a subsequent pass/fail decision is made based on their performance. Students who fail the exam have one opportunity to retake the exam, in August. 

Advisor and PhD Committee

After passing the B-exam, students should select an advisor based on their research interests. The student-advisor match is one of mutual choice: both the student, and the faculty member, must agree. Students work with their advisor to choose at least two additional faculty members to be a part of the student’s committee. The core committee members must be part of the UB Graduate Faculty. Additional committee members beyond three are possible and can be from outside of the University. It is possible to change committee members and advisors during the program. Please consult the Graduate Director for guidance.

Advanced Examination (A-Exam)

The A-exam is scheduled sometime after the majority of course work is completed and the student has selected a dissertation topic (generally before the end of the 3rd year). Content is based on the student’s dissertation topic to gauge the student’s capability for research in the chosen area. There is a written examination followed by an oral examination. The questions, timing, and format of the exam are determined by the advisor and committee but typically students have 2 to 3 weeks to complete the written portion of the exam. Students can pass, provisionally pass (with requirements for revisions, completion of additional coursework, or other measures set by the committee) or be asked to retake the exam at a later date (only one retake is allowed). 

Application to Candidacy

Students should to complete their Application to Candidacy as soon as possible after forming a committee and completing a plan for finishing coursework and their dissertation. Students should seek assistance from the academic coordinator with this form and additional paperwork required.

Dissertation Proposal and Proposal Defense

Students should work closely with their advisor and committee to write a formal dissertation proposal prior to beginning research which the student intends to serve as the dissertation work. The proposal is presented to the committee and defended in through oral examination to determine preparedness and significance of the proposed topic and to insure agreement among the student and committee members regarding the plan of the ultimate dissertation research.

Defense of Dissertation

PhD students are required to defend their dissertation in a seminar attended by the PhD committee and which is open to department faculty, students and the public. Students must notify the academic coordinator a minimum of two weeks prior to schedule the defense and provide an abstract and title.

For Master of Science and Master of Engineering Students

The MS IE and ME degrees provide advanced study beyond the baccalaureate degree for those with initial degrees in IE as well as for those from other disciplines who wish to enter the field. Students admitted to the MS IE program who choose an all course option may select from a variety of broad courses in Industrial Engineering, while students who wish to pursue independent research do so in the areas of human factors, operations research, or production systems/manufacturing (see descriptions below). 

In addition to the degree requirements specified by the UB Graduate School and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, specific program and degree requirements for MS/ME students are as follows:

Course and Credit Hour Requirements

The MS and ME program require a minimum of 30 credit hours. 

Generally, coursework is completed in 1 to 2 years. Courses should be selected by the student with the approval of their advisor (or the graduate director ) and vary based on the primary interests of the student (general IE, operations research, human factors, or production systems/manufacturing). and whether they will complete a thesis. 

A maximum of 6 MS thesis hours or 6 credits of ME project may be applied to the degree. Students must have the approval of an advisor to register for and conduct an MS thesis. 

Culminating Experience

The MS program may be completed in one of two ways:

  1. By a formal research thesis representing 3 or 6 credits, satisfactory performance in an oral defense of thesis examination, and completion of 24 or 27 credits of nonthesis course work.
  2. By passing a written comprehensive examination (C-exam) based on a degree program consisting of at least 30 hours of course work.

The ME degree is completed through the ME project.