PhD in Industrial Engineering

PhD degree program


  • Fall: January 1
  • Spring: October 1
  • Summer: January 1

Reentry applicants: August 1 (fall), December 1 (spring), and must notify an academic advisor.

Additional reentry information

Note: Although we accept summer applications we recommend applying for fall or spring as there are not many courses offered in the summer.

Admissions/Apply Now

Why pursue a graduate degree in industrial and systems engineering?

Graduate student involvement in cutting-edge research is part of the DNA of the UW-Madison. Doctoral students work closely and establish personal relationships with their advisers. Our world class faculty are the current national leaders in research funding, recognized for our strength and leadership in industrial and systems engineering. Our faculty are funded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, National Institute for Standards and Technology, National Institutes of Health, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and many others.

The UW-Madison fosters a highly interdisciplinary culture where graduate students and faculty members form numerous collaborations with students and faculty members. Our unique spirit of interdisciplinary research is reflected in the numerous collaborators with researchers throughout the campus.

Focus Areas

  • Decision Science and Operations Research
  • Health Systems Engineering
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Manufacturing and Production Systems
  • Quality Engineering

More information available on our Research Page.

Degree & Prospective Student Information

Information for Current Students

Qualifying Exam Requirements

Students must register for the ISyE Qualifying Exams for all focus areas by 4:00pm on the first Friday of September.

Qualifying Exam Registration Form

  • Policy and Guidelines: Each student wishing to be a PhD candidate in the ISyE Department must select an area group and satisfy the Qualifying Examination Requirement in that area. The detailed reading list and exam format of each area group can be found at the department office. Students can change area groups without re-taking the QE with the permission of their PhD advisors.
  • Breadth Requirement: The breadth requirement is to make the PhD student achieve minimum competence in multiple areas of industrial and systems engineering. It consists of taking at least two courses (6 credits) from a list of ISyE courses and attaining a grade of B or above in both courses. The courses selected by the student must be approved by the student’s advisor and must be in at least two areas that are different from the area group in which the student’s qualifying exam is taken.
  • Focus Areas: Qualifying Exams are offered in the following focus areas and are written and graded by the area group:

Decision Sciences and Operations Research

  1. Policy: Decision Science/Operations Research Qualifying Exam Policy
  2. Type of Exam: Closed Book
  3. Example: DS/OR Qualifying Exam
  4. Convenor: Professor Vicki Bier

Health Systems Engineering

  1. Policy: Healthcare Systems Engineering Policy
  2. Type of Exam: Closed Book
  3. Example: HSE Qualifier Question 2016
  4. Convenor: Professor Oguzhan Alagoz

Human Factors and Ergonomics

  1. Policy: HFE Qualifying Exam Policy
  2. Type of Exam: Oral Presentation
  3. Evaluation: HFE Qualifying Exam Scoring Rubic
  4. Registration Form: Students should work with their major advisor to determine the scope of their preparation. Written & Oral examination dates and times to be determined by ISyE faculty advisors.
  5. Convenor: Professor Rob Radwin

Manufacturing and Production Systems

  1. Policy: MPS Qualifying Exam Policy
  2. Type of Exam: Open Book and Open Note
  3. Example: MPS Qualifying Exam
  4. Convenor: Professor Leyuan Shi

*Please note that for the Sept. 2018 MPS exam, there will be no problem directly from ISyE 605. Instead, a category of 605 replacement problem will be given. This category consists of one problem from ISyE 510 and one problem from ISyE 415. Students can take one of them as a replacement for the ISyE 605 problem. However, they cannot take problems in this category toward their seven selected problems.


  1. Policy: Optimization qualifying exams are offered by the Department of Computer Sciences. Please contact Angela Thorp.
  2. Optimization Topics List and Recommended Reading
  3. Convenor: Professor Jeffrey T. Linderoth

Financial Support

At UW-Madison there are four types of financial support, which include: fellowship, project/ program assistant, research assistant, and teaching assistant.

  • Fellowship: enables a graduate student to pursue a degree full-time. Fellowship recipients are chosen through a competitive process in the national, university, school/college, or department/program level. Currently, the ISyE department does not have any fellowships available for incoming graduate students.
  • Project/Program Assistantship (PA): graduate students employed to assist with research, training or other academic programs or projects. Project/Program Assistants are included in the labor agreement between the state of Wisconsin and the Teaching Assistants Association. These appointments are offered to students by individual faculty.
  • Research Assistant (RA): must be a graduate student working toward a master.s or PhD degree. The work performed is primarily to further the education and training of the student. These appointments are offered to students by individual faculty.
  • Teaching Assistant (TA): graduate students who have been assigned teaching responsibilities in an instructional department under the supervision of a faculty member. Teaching Assistants are included in a labor agreement between the state of Wisconsin and the Teaching Assistants Association. These are awarded to students by the department or individual faculty.

You can apply for funding (RA, PA, TA positions or fellowships) by contacting individual faculty members directly. The admissions office does not know if a particular professor has funds for assistantships. Those inquiries, and all other inquiries regarding funding opportunities, should be directed to the faculty directly.

About 95% of ISyE applicants request financial aid and unfortunately there is very little assistance available, especially to incoming Industrial and Systems Engineering graduate students. Funding is awarded to students based on the qualifications of the student, the amount of available funding, and the number of continuing students receiving support. As these components carry term to term, we cannot answer this question directly. However, approximately 48% of current ISyE graduate students have some type of funding (either from within or outside of the department). It is unlikely that first semester graduate students will receive funding, but the odds increase in later semesters, once students are able to meet faculty and make connections on campus.

Project, research, and teaching assistantships are given by individual faculty who have funding to pay for this type of position; however, professors are generally unwilling to hire students for assistantships based strictly on their resumes and applications. It is too difficult to gauge a person.s work ethic this way and has often led to inharmonious working relationships. The chances of getting funding usually increase after a student is on campus, performs well, and establishes a relationship with a faculty adviser.

If you choose to attend UW-Madison and plan to pursue funding on your own, the following sites could be very helpful:



To Apply:


Application Process:

Teaching Assistant and Grader positions are appointed each semester. New TAs must submit an application each semester in order to be considered. If you currently are a TA in Industrial and Systems Engineering, you do not need to complete an application each semester.

The number of positions is limited, and the application process is highly competitive. Priority is given to those with current positions who are in good standing and would like to continue teaching. Only after these positions are filled do we look at other applicants. The number of new positions available each semester is generally low, especially in the spring. While this should not deter you from applying, please keep it in mind when planning for the semester.

The Department will consider graduate students from other departments only when there are no qualified applicants from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Expected timing for appointments:

Appointments for Teaching Assistants are generally made in August for the fall semester and in early December for the spring semester. Grader appointments are appointed along a similar timeline, but often a few weeks later.

Once Hired:

Students hired into a TA position are required to attend the New Educator Orientation (NAO) training in late August. Please see the website for more details:


Speaking requirements for international students:

All international students applying for teaching assistant positions must meet the UW-Madison Graduate School’s requirement for spoken English BEFORE they can be considered as a TA. This requirement can be fulfilled in two ways:

  1. Pass the SPEAK You can register for the SPEAK test through Aaron Webster in Room 3180 ME,
  2. Receive a 26 or higher on the speaking portion of the TOEFL test (or equivalent). Provide a copy of your score to Aaron Webster in Room 3180 ME,

Students continuing as TAs/PAs:

Please be aware that Teaching Assistants cannot be reappointed for more than one semester unless they have completed Graduate Assistant Equity Workshops.

These workshops provide information about relevant laws, policies, regulations and resources; explore the practical application of these policies to classroom and learning environments; and engage in conversations designed to promote interdisciplinary dialogue and excellence through diversity. The workshop segment presented by the Office for Equity and Diversity is delivered in person and requires registration. The session schedule, electronic copies of the materials referenced during each in-person presentation, and the registration link are available at

The McBurney Disability Resource Center segment of the workshop is presented through Learn@UW. Participants who attend and complete the in-person presentation by the Office of Equity and Diversity, will be automatically on a roster for the McBurney online training and should see the modules listed in their Student View.

Please note that Teaching Assistants need to attend the in-person presentation and complete the online training in order to comply with the UW-Madison reappointment expectations. TAs or PAs who have attended one of these sessions at UW-Madison in the past, need not attend again.