Skip to main content

Doctor of Philosophy in Petroleum Engineering (Ph.D.)


Admission to the University of Houston Ph.D. Program in Petroleum Engineering will require the following:

  1. GRE — An acceptable score within the Cullen College of Engineering standard on the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical portions of the Graduate Record Examination. 
  2. LETTERS — Three letters of recommendation from recognized academic or industyr professionals who can attest to the applicant’s capability for independent and creative thinking for the graduate level research in petroleum engineering.
  3. STATEMENT — A written statement of the applicant’s professional goals.
  4. APPROVAL — Approval by the Petroleum Engineering Graduate Committee.

In addition, students required to submit a valid TOEFL/IELTS score, must achieve the minimum Cullen College of Engineering requirement. Click here to learn more about the English Language Proficiency Requirements.


Degree Requirements

Paths to PhD — There are two Paths to the PhD Degree:

  • B.S. to Ph.D. — Direct from B.S. to Ph.D., bypassing the M.S. degree, or by
  • M.S. to Ph.D. — Obtaining an M.S. degree first at UH (or elsewhere).

Both B.S. and M.S. degrees must have been obtained from an accredited institution in Petroleum Engineering or a relevant engineering or scientific discipline. The applicants must maintain a Grade Point Average of 3.5/4.0.

The chart below demonstrates course requirements for either path to PhD.

Category Semester Credit Hours
Semester Credit Hours
Required Courses 18 6
Seminar 6 6
Advanced Electives 12 12
Research  18 18
Dissertation 12 12
TOTAL 66 54

Students without sufficient background for the required courses must complete leveling courses that will not count toward the degree. Each Ph.D. student must maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) above 3.50 throughout the Ph.D. program.



The Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering will require a dissertation. 

  1. Ph.D. Dissertation Committee: During the third semester after the student is enrolled in the Ph.D. program, a dissertation committee will be formed by the student and advisor with approval of the Chair of the Petroleum Engineering Department. The Chair of the Dissertation Committee will be a tenured, tenure-track or research faculty member associated with the Petroleum Engineering Department. The committee shall consist of at least five members including the Chair of the Committee. Among the committee members, a minimum of three members should be associated with Petroleum Engineering Department and two members can be from outside the Department. Members selected from industry should be actively involved in research and will require the approval of the Associate Dean of the College of Engineering to become a committee member.
  2. Qualifying Examination: The student must pass the qualifying examination before they will be given candidate status.
    Petroleum Engineering Department Qualifying  Exam (QE)  Policy
    1. Students will be asked to choose 3 out of four exams- exams are offered the week before classes start in the Spring term and Fall term (only twice a year)
      • Drilling & Completion
      • Production Engineering
      • Reservoir Engineering
      • Formation Evaluation & Reservoir Characterization
    2. Students will be asked to officially select their 3 exams and give notification by email approximately 3 months prior  to the QE.
    3. Authors of the exams will provide study guide materials to all exam takers as soon as the students commit to the QE for a certain date. There may be review sessions scheduled by the examiners.
    4. Students must pass all 3 exams: (typically taking the QE, 2 semesters after starting the PHD Program- but no later than 3 semesters after beginning the PHD Program)
      • Students may not take all 4 exams
      • If a student passes all 3 exams — they become a Candidate
      • If a student passes 2 exams and receives Conditional for the 3rd exam — they do not become a Candidate until the stipulations of the QE Committee are completed. Official notice will be sent to each exam taker.
      • If a student passes 2 out of 3 exams and fails one exam — they need only re-take one exam by either sitting for an oral exam 2 weeks after the original exam or taking the written exam at the next available QE testing date. Students may not switch subjects after failing a QE.
      • If a student fails 2 exams out of 3 — they are considered to fail. They must take all 3 of the written exam at the next available QE testing date. Students may not switch subjects after failing a QE.
      • If a student fails any one QE exam twice — they are subject to dismissal from the PHD program. Sometimes the option to become a Master Degree Student may be offered after dismissal from the PHD program — this is not a guaranteed offer.
    5. QE exams will be graded and reviewed by committee and results given to students by the first day of class  following the term the exam preceded.
    6. Exams will be archived by the department according to the UH Records and Retention Policy.
  3. Proposal Defense: is the ititial dissertation proposal defense/oral presentation given after the student passes the Qualifying Exam and becomes a candidate. The student is required to write a dissertation proposal of his/her proposed research to the dissertation committee members. After the submission of the dissertation proposal, the student must give a public oral presentation of the proposed research to the dissertation committee. Each committee member must indicate acceptance of the preliminary examination with “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory”. Typically, it is held no later than two semesters before a students plan to graduate.  A unanimous “Satisfactory” by the committee members is required.
  4. Dissertation Defense: The Ph.D. candidate must provide the committee members with the final version of the dissertation after the completion of his or her research. After consultation with the committee members, the Ph.D. candidate will defend his or her dissertation at a public oral defense.  The dissertation committee will make the final judgment of the acceptance of the dissertation defense and the contribution of the work to the existing knowledge base of petroleum engineering.



Prefix and Number REQUIRED & Elective Courses SCH
*PETR 6368 Drilling and Completion I 3
PETR 6316 Drilling and Completion II 3
PETR 6318 Horizontal Wells 3
PETR 7322 Advanced Formation Evaluation 3
PETR 7324 Geo-mechanics 3
*PETR 6372 Petroleum Production Operations 3
PETR 6308 Advanced Petroleum Production Operations 3
*PETR 6312 Well Logging 3
 PETR  6374 Artificial Lift 3
*PETR 6302 Reservoir Engineering II 3
PETR 6314 Pressure Transient Testing 3
PETR 7304 Advanced Numerical Analysis 3
PETR 7342 Advanced Reservoir Engineering 3
NOTE 1 *Denotes 4 of the 6 Required Courses for the BS to PhD students. (Courses can also be taken as electives by MS to PhD students.)  
NOTE 2 There are four courses in the 7000 level series. Degree requirements for both the BS to PhD and MS to PhD path, requires choosing a minimum of 2 of the 7000 level series courses for their degree. (Students may take other 7000 level series courses as electives.)  

Of the Total Courses needed for degree, two can be selected outside of the Petroleum Engineering Department Course Offerings. Students will need their advisors consent.

Prefix and Number Leveling Courses- May be Taken, but are not for credit toward degree SCH
PETR 6328 Petroleum Fluid Properties and Phase Equilibria 3
PETR 6351 Introduction to Petroleum Engineering 3
PETR 6362 Reservoir Engineering I 3
PETR 6364 Origin and Development of Oil and Gas Reservoirs 3