Daytona Beach Campus

Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering



The objective of the Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering is to provide an opportunity for highly motivated students with a strong science and engineering background to participate in a program of research and course work in the areas of aerospace structures, propulsion and aerodynamic systems, and dynamics and control, while earning their doctoral degree. 

The degree is conferred primarily in recognition of original research and completion of a dissertation — under the guidance of the faculty of aerospace engineering — resulting in journal publication. In addition, a minimum number of advanced courses that help students build a solid foundation for Ph.D. level research is required. 

Although the program is designed for delivery through traditional residential format, provisions are in place to allow highly qualified working individuals in industry or government to participate, when appropriate arrangements can be made.

Areas of Concentration 

There are three areas of concentration in the Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering: Aerodynamics & Propulsion, Structures & Materials, and Dynamics & Control.

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The Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering program targets domestic and international students, as well as working professionals with bachelors or masters degrees in aerospace engineering (or closely related engineering disciplines), who have exemplary track records of academic achievement in their course work, and demonstrated keen interest and ability for engaging in research and independent inquiry.

The three areas of concentration in the Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering are Aerodynamics and Propulsion, Structures, and Dynamics and Control. The areas of research include, but are not limited to:

  • Computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
  • Aeroacoustics
  • Air-breathing propulsion
  • Rocket propulsion
  • Combustion
  • Experimental thermo-fluid sciences
  • Simulation of aerodynamics & propulsion systems
  • Health monitoring of aerospace structures
  • Smart materials and structures
  • Adaptive structures
  • Composite materials
  • Functionally graded materials
  • Dynamics and control of manned and unmanned aircraft
  • Parameter identification of aircraft
  • Space mission design
  • Design and control of spacecraft
  • Orbital debris remediation
  • Spacecraft rendezvous and proximity operations
  • Control of chaotic systems


Applicants to the Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering must:

  • have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree in aerospace engineering or closely related engineering discipline, and have adequate preparation in areas of science and mathematics, fundamental to their field of study. Students entering the doctoral degree program with a bachelor’s degree must follow the master of science degree requirements to complete the master’s degree before starting Ph.D. studies.
  • have superior academic records with a minimum cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.5.
  • have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and have an acceptable score on both quantitative and verbal sections.
  • submit a complete application package before the deadline specified in the University catalog.
  • International applicants whose primary language is not English must also achieve the minimum score requirement of TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Test System) as required by the University. The minimum acceptable scores are 79 TOEFL or 6.0 IELTS.

While the typical time for completing the Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering will be three (3) years for students with a master’s degree and five (5) years with a bachelor’s degree, it is the policy of the Department of Aerospace that the total duration of the doctoral study should not exceed five (5) years beyond the masters degree. Exceptions will be allowed when justified.

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering will be conferred primarily in recognition of creative accomplishment and the ability to investigate scientific or engineering problems independently. The doctoral program also requires completion of advanced coursework, that helps students build a solid foundation for Ph.D. level research.

A student in the Ph.D. program is expected to:

  1. complete an approved plan of study during the first semester
  2. pass the qualifying examinations to achieve advancement to candidacy
  3. pass the preliminary examination (present a dissertation proposal acceptable to his/her dissertation committee)
  4. complete a program of significant original research
  5. prepare and defend a dissertation concerning the research work
  6. complete the credit hours requirement listed below

A Ph.D. student must have an aerospace engineering faculty member as his/her research advisor and chair of dissertation committee. The student and advisor will work collaboratively to define the research topic, to determine the courses of study. Working under the auspices and direction of the advisor, the Ph.D. candidate will be responsible for developing a research plan and the dissertation proposal.

Credit Hours Requirement

A minimum of 18 credit hours of course work (typically six (6) three (3)-credit-hour courses) beyond a master’s degree is required for the Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. Selection of courses is done in consultation with the candidate’s advisor. The goal of the course work is primarily to support the student’s research endeavors; therefore, courses outside the concentration area or outside the AE department are allowed, as deemed appropriate by the advisor. At least one, three-credit-hour advanced mathematics course is required.

All courses must be graduate level (500 or 600), and must be approved by the student’s advisor. A Ph.D. student must maintain a minimum of a 3.0 GPA for each semester enrolled in the program, and a 3.0 CGPA throughout his/her doctoral studies.

A minimum of 24 credit hours of dissertation research must be completed. Ph.D. students may register for no more than six (6) credit hours of dissertation each semester, after they pass the qualifying exam. The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 42 units beyond the master’s degree, including both coursework and dissertation units.

Qualifying Examinations

To demonstrate that students are qualified to pursue the Ph.D. degree, they are required to take and pass written qualifying examinations. Qualifying examinations are designed to evaluate candidates’ aptitude and mastery of the fundamentals of engineering and mathematics that support their research endeavor. A Ph.D. student must take two qualifying examinations: one in his/her area of concentration, and one in mathematics. The subject topics of qualifying exams in both concentrations and mathematics are listed below.

Aerodynamics / Propulsion Concentration

  • Compressible Flow
  • Incompressible Flow
  • Viscous Flow

A student is required to choose two of the three subjects.

Structures Concentration

  • Strength and Fatigue of Materials
  • Finite Element Method
  • Composite Materials

A student is required to choose two of the three subjects.

Dynamics and Control Concentration

  • Linear Dynamic Systems
  • Modern Control Systems
  • Airplane Dynamic Stability
    (for students with interest in aircraft dynamics control)
  • Spacecraft Dynamics & Control
    (for students with interest in spacecraft dynamics and control)

A student is required to choose two of the four subjects (but only one of the last two).


Required Topics

  • Mathematics for Engineers
  • Ordinary Differential Equations

Elective Topics (Select Two)

  • Partial Differential Equations
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Optimization
  • Complex Variables

The qualifying examinations are given once a year at the end of each spring semester. Students who fail one of the two qualifying exams may take make-up exams in the immediate following August before the fall semester. A student must pass the qualifying examination prior to presenting a dissertation proposal. A Ph.D. student who passes the qualifying examination is classified as a Ph.D. candidate.

Preliminary Examinations

The purpose of the preliminary examination is to evaluate students’ readiness for conducting their proposed research, assess their ability to use their knowledge to carry out independent and creative research and confirm their potential for successful completion of the Ph.D. dissertation. A Ph.D. student must take the preliminary examination within one year after completing the qualifying examinations.

The preliminary examination consists of a written research proposal (up to 25 pages) and an oral presentation, which is made to the examining committee. The preliminary examination is to evaluate student’s readiness for completing the proposed research.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is the candidate’s presentation of the work accomplished since the passing of the preliminary examination, and has been deemed sufficient and complete by the candidate’s advisor. The defense is administered by the student’s dissertation committee, in accordance with Department of Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering and University guidelines. The purpose of the examination is to evaluate the student's research efforts and written dissertation, to determine if the candidate is qualified to receive a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. The major areas of emphasis of this examination are the quality and originality of the candidate’s research, and his/her knowledge and understanding of the general areas of study related thereto.

Advisor and Dissertation Committee

Students must have an advisor from the faculty of the aerospace engineering department when he/she is admitted to the doctoral program in aerospace engineering. Any tenured or tenure-track engineering faculty with a Ph.D. degree and expertise in a research area closely related to aerospace engineering may serve as the advisor of a Ph.D. student.

A student must work with his/her major advisor to form a plan of study, a proposed calendar of events and a dissertation committee. Departmental approval is required for both plan of study and the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee is composed of four faculty members of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Campus, including at least two faculty members from the Aerospace Engineering Department. The other two may include faculty from outside the Aerospace Engineering Department and/or the College of Engineering (such as Mathematics, Physics and so on). In the event that a student is involved in collaborative research with an outside institution and/or company, one or more qualified members from these entities may serve on the dissertation committee, in addition to the four faculty members from the Daytona Beach Campus. The majority of the members must be from aerospace engineering department. The student’s advisor serves as the chair of the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee must be formed within two semesters of the student’s admission to the Ph.D. program and administers both the preliminary examination and the defense.

Annual Progress Review

The dissertation committee will review the progress of the Ph.D. student/candidate once a year. The purpose of the review is to ensure that students continue to make satisfactory progress toward their degree objective. All major recommendations from this annual review will be forwarded to the student, with an assessment of achievements and of areas where improvements are expected.

Application Deadlines

The following deadlines are used in the admission of Ph.D. AE students:

  • The deadline for admission with financial aid for Fall semester: January 15
  • The deadline for general admission for Fall semester: June 1
  • The deadline for admission with financial aid for Spring semester: July 15
  • The deadline for general admission for Spring semester: October 1