Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Systems Design Engineering

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is ideal for students pursuing a career in fundamental or applied research in academia, government, or corporate environments. Applicants are not required to have a supervisor at the time of application. Review the below PhD program information before starting your application. Full details are available on the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.

Program details


  • 3 courses
  • Original research
  • Thesis
  • 4 years (12 terms)
  • Full-time and part-time study available

Direct Entry PhD (from a Bachelor's degree)

  • courses
  • Original research
  • Thesis
  • 5 years (15 terms)
  • Full-time and part-time study available

Admissions Requirements

  • Excellent background preparation and academic achievement in prior degrees, usually a relevant (i.e. thesis-based) Master's degree with an 80% average from a recognized university.
  • For degrees completed outside of Canada, refer to the international admission equivalencies web page.

Documents required

  • Resume
  • Supplementary information form (SIF)
    • The SIF contains questions specific to your program, typically about why you want to enrol and your experience in that field. Review the application documents web page for more information about this requirement
    • If a statement or letter is required by your program, review the writing your personal statement resources for helpful tips and tricks on completion
  • Transcript(s)
  • References
    • Three references, two from academic sources that are able to comment upon academic preparation and research ability
  • Proof of English language proficiency, if applicable
    • TOEFL 80 (writing 22, speaking 20, reading 20, listening 18) IELTS 6.5 (writing 6.0, speaking 6.0)

Application deadlines

Begin your application at least two weeks prior to the deadlines below to give your referees enough time to submit references on your behalf, and to ensure you have enough time to upload the documents required.

Application submission is currently open for the following start dates:

Program start Complete your application by
Fall term - September 1 December 1
Winter term - January 1 June 1
Spring term - May 1 October 1

ALL required documents must be uploaded by the deadline date. We recommend you upload your documents within two weeks of receiving your Waterloo ID Number so we can begin reviewing your application package.

Note: Admission decisions are not made on a first-come first-served basis.

Finding a supervisor

PhD applicants must be accepted by a faculty member in order to be recommended for admission. Applicants are not required to have a supervisor at the time of application.

Before submitting your application, review the faculty profiles to determine which faculty members research interests align with your own, and to familiarize yourself with their work.

When completing your application, please list the faculty you'd like to work with in the "Potential Supervisors" field on the application.

Once you've submitted your application package, contact potential academic supervisors conducting research in your area of interest. You are not limited to contacting supervisors listed on your application. It is your responsibility to bring your performance and record to the attention of those faculty members under whom you would like to work.