Transportation Systems (PhD)

Program Description

The PhD in Transportation is a research-oriented degree intended for those whose goal is a career in basic transportation research and/or teaching at the Institute level or in private research organizations.

Program Requirements

Students pursuing the PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering generally specialize in one of the following subject areas:

  • Transportation planning
  • Traffic engineering
  • Intelligent transportation systems
  • Transportation safety

Other focus areas are possible and can be developed with the help of faculty advisers. All subject areas, of course, must be relevant to the degree sought and have a faculty member willing and able to guide the student’s research.

Program Administration

All graduate applications are processed through the civil engineering departmental office, which distributes applications to the graduate coordinator. Graduate program coordinators formally implement admission decisions, in accordance with departmental regulations.

The graduate coordinators consult with the departmental Graduate Committee. All PhD applications are reviewed by the committee, and admissions decisions are made by the committee and implemented by the graduate coordinator.

For each registration, the student’s program must be approved by their individual academic adviser.


Admission to graduate programs in the Tandon School of Engineering requires the following minimum components:

  • Résumé/CV
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • Proficiency in English

The NYU Tandon Graduate Admissions website has additional information on school-wide admission.

Some programs may require additional components for admissions.

See the program's How to Apply for department-specific admission requirements and instructions.

Admission Criteria to PhD Program

Admission to the PhD in Transportation Planning and Engineering requires an MS in Transportation Planning and Engineering or equivalent, with a GPA of 3.5 or better (on a 0-4 scale).

All applicants are required to submit GRE scores for consideration. Foreign applicants must take the TOEFL examination and submit the results for consideration.

The “equivalent” of the MS degree can be achieved in several ways. The candidate may have an MS degree with a different title that covers substantially the same material. More generally, applicants must demonstrate that they have the equivalent of all undergraduate and master’s level course work in order to pursue doctoral level work in the major area. Further, “equivalence” is evaluated based on the totality of the student’s undergraduate and graduate record, not course-by-course.

Because admission to a PhD program requires a related MS (or equivalent), those applicants who have not yet achieved a master’s degree would normally be admitted as MS students. They are expected to earn an MS degree while completing their major and minor course requirements. In rare cases, an applicant with only a BS degree may be directly admitted into the PhD program with the written approval of the department head and will be required to take all courses needed for the MS degree with an overall GPA of 3.5.

Doctoral Committees

Upon admission, every PhD student is assigned an academic adviser, who is selected by the PhD committee. Any member of the civil engineering faculty can be an academic adviser to a graduate student. In cases where a student is supported on a research contract, the principal investigator of the contract would normally be appointed as the academic adviser for the student. Where a student has a particular research interest and is working with a particular faculty member, the student may request that the faculty member be appointed as academic adviser. In rare cases where a PhD student enters the program without a prior selection of a major area of study, the initial academic adviser will be the Graduate Coordinator of the transportation program.

In fulfilling their academic requirements, PhD candidates will deal with two advisory committees:

Academic Advisory Committee

The student’s academic adviser works out a program of courses to fulfill major and minor requirements for the PhD. The Academic Advisory Committee generally will comprise the academic adviser and one faculty member for each minor area of study. The Academic Advisory Committee guides the PhD student’s work through the successful completion of a qualifying examination. A letter signed by the academic adviser and approved by the department head is placed in the student’s file, indicating the composition of the Academic Advisory Committee.

Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee is formed immediately after the student passes the qualifying examination. It comprises a major adviser, a dissertation adviser and a minor adviser for each minor the student has pursued. Additional faculty members may also be on the Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee may be the same as the Academic Advisory Committee, or may be different. The Dissertation Committee guides the student’s course and research work after the student has passed the qualifying examination. The Dissertation Committee must be formally assigned and approved by the department head and filed with the Office of Graduate Academics. The major adviser must be a fulltime faculty member of the Department of Civil and Urban Engineering. The major and dissertation adviser may be the same individual.