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Doctoral Degree

Nuclear Engineering PhD

Students in the field of nuclear engineering desiring to study for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must have a Bachelor of Science or Master of Science from a recognized university with a major in engineering, physics, chemistry, or mathematics. All candidates will be required to demonstrate general competence in a comprehensive examination in the areas of nuclear reactor engineering, radiological engineering, and a chosen specialty area.


Specific requirements for the PhD with a major in nuclear engineering include the following:

  • A minimum of 48 graduate coursework hours and 24 doctoral research (NE 600) hours beyond the bachelor’s degree. If the student has a master’s degree when entering the PhD program, then a minimum of 24 graduate coursework hours beyond all master’s work is required.
  • A minimum of 30 hours in nuclear engineering courses numbered 500 and above (or the equivalent). These are exclusive of thesis, practice project, or dissertation credit.
  • A minimum of 18 graduate hours of coursework in addition to the requirement of 30 hours of graduate nuclear engineering course hours. The 18 graduate hours are to be related to the student’s research, as approved by the student’s committee. No more than twelve 400-level graduate hours may be used to satisfy this requirement.
  • A minimum of 6 hours of 600-level courses. No more than 3 hours of the 600-level course hour requirement may come from a department other than nuclear engineering.

The first part of the comprehensive examination is prepared by the nuclear engineering faculty and consists of 6 hours of written examination that is administered over a two-day period. For review of previous year’s written exams, please email Students are invited to take the written examination after completing approximately 30 hours of graduate course work. A student who fails the written examination must take and pass the examination the next time it is offered to remain in the PhD program. Registration for NE 600 is not permitted until the written examination is passed. The second part of the comprehensive examination is completed with the successful oral defense of a written dissertation proposal.

A candidate must successfully defend, in an oral examination, all work presented for the degree (all course work and the dissertation).

Energy Science and Engineering Concentration

This concentration is offered in collaboration with the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. The Bredesen Center unites extensive and complementary resources at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research related to energy.

Students who wish to pursue this concentration will normally have completed 6 Core credit hours, 3 credit hours of Knowledge Breadth, and 6 credit hours of Knowledge Specialization coursework (minimum 15 hours) specified under the Energy Science and Engineering major, (PhD) program in the Graduate Catalog.

Radiation instrumentation Interdisciplinary Graduate Education

The Radiation instrumentation Interdisciplinary Graduate Education (RIDGE) program began in the 2015-2016 academic year in order to establish a closer connection between engineering departments that contribute to radiation instrumentation systems research and development. The program is geared toward education of PhD-seeking students through coursework and research. Through this program a student may earn either a MS degree in nuclear engineering, computer engineering, or materials science engineering along the way to the nuclear engineering PhD, while also receiving a certificate in Nuclear Security Science and Analysis. A sample curriculum along with other suggested milestones for a student seeking a PhD in nuclear engineering can be found on the RIDGE website. For more information about this program please contact Jason Hayward.