Our objective is to prepare our students to identify, analyze, and solve complex transportation problems.Our objective is to prepare our students to identify, analyze, and solve complex transportation problems.

Graduate Study
  /  
Transportation Systems Analysis & Planning
Curriculum & Requirements

Jump to a Section

Eligibility and admissions (MS)

While our approach is rigorous and quantitative, it is not oriented exclusively toward students with engineering backgrounds. Transportation affects and is affected by major social and economic trends, and its problems are best addressed by professionals with broad backgrounds. Thus, we invite applications from quantitatively oriented students with backgrounds in economics, management, industrial engineering, mathematics, political science, and related fields in addition to students in Civil Engineering.

Students studying transportation systems analysis and planning earn a master of science in civil engineering through Northwestern University's Graduate School. Building each student's ability to integrate quantitative skills and transportation knowledge is a fundamental goal of the master of science program. To be admitted to the MS program in transportation systems analysis and planning, the student must meet one of the following requirements: 

  1. A BS degree in engineering or

  2. A non-engineering degree emphasizing quantitative coursework in mathematics, operations research, computer science, statistics, or econometrics.

In addition, each applicant must meet the usual requirements of The Graduate School and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Return to Top

Master of science requirements

The total course requirements for a MS degree is 12 course units: seven core courses (listed below) and five electives. In addition, enrolled students are expected to register and attend the transportation systems analysis and planning seminar each quarter. Finally, to complete the MS degree students are required to write a research analysis paper on some aspect of transportation that demonstrates the student's domain knowledge, investigative and/or analytic ability, and writing skills.

The seven core courses required for an MS degree in transportation systems analysis and planning are as follows:

Choose two of the following:

Choose one of the following:

  • Civ_Env 472-1 - Transportation Operations and Control: Scheduled Modes and Real Time Systems
  • Civ_Env 472-2 - Transportation Systems Operations and Control: Urban Networks
  • Civ_Env 495-31 - Advances in Travel Demand Analysis and Forecast
  • Civ_Env 495-18 - Advanced Theories of Traffic Flow

The five electives can be selected to fulfill the requirements of one of the following tracks: transportation science and logistics, operation research, travel demand analysis, and urban planning and policy. See curriculum plan for detail.

2017 MS Curriculum Plan

MS Handbook 2017

Return to Top

Eligibility and admissions (PhD)

To be admitted to the PhD program in transportation systems analysis and planning, the student must meet one of the following requirements:

  1. A BS or MS degree in engineering or

  2. Non-engineering degrees emphasizing quantitative coursework in mathematics, operations research, computer science, statistics, or econometrics.

Applications from candidates completing or having earned MS degrees are expected to display evidence of strong research promise.

Return to Top

PhD requirements

Students' programs are tailored to their individual backgrounds and interests. A typical study plan includes two years of coursework followed by at least one year of intensive research under faculty supervision.

The first year of coursework is similar to that pursued by master of science students. In subsequent years, PhD students delve more deeply into methodological areas related to their research interests through courses in such fields as urban planning, operations research, economics, psychology, marketing, and computer science.

The program culminates in PhD dissertation research, which advances the student’s knowledge, perspective, and intellectual maturity, and contributes to the state of the art in transportation.

PhD students engage in additional seminars guided by faculty teams specifically directed at advanced problem identification, formulation and solution. This close interaction with faculty members provides the PhD student with experiences similar to those faced by professors at research universities or analysts with major research firms and laboratories.

Emphasis on problem formulation, quantitative skills and communications distinguishes the Northwestern PhD program from those at other universities.

PhD Handbook 2017

Return to Top

Satisfactory academic progress

Student must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5 and a good performance on graduate coursework, based on subjective assessment by all transportation systems analysis and planning faculty members.  Student must also have support of at least one faculty member to serve as the research advisor.

Return to Top

Candidacy

The initial offer of admission to the PhD program does not guarantee admission to candidacy.

  1. A PhD student should be considered for Admission to PhD Candidacy no earlier than the end of the first academic year (3 quarters) and no later than the end of the second academic year. PhD students must have a research advisor who has agreed to supervise their PhD studies before consideration.
  2. For each PhD student, the Program Areas conduct a Qualifying Exam that the student must pass before consideration. The Program Areas are free to choose the form of the Qualifying Exam.
  3. Once a quarter, the Program Areas forward a list of the PhD students to be considered for Admission to PhD Candidacy by the CEE Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee will review the records of all students, and discuss their research potential, and issue approvals. PhD students will be admitted to PhD Candidacy only upon this final approval by the Graduate Committee.

PROSPECTUS

The prospectus process typically involves development of a written research proposal that will culminate in the dissertation. This research proposal is also typically delivered in oral form to the prospectus committee.

Return to Top

Dissertation defense

The program culminates in PhD dissertation research, which advances the student's knowledge, perspective, and intellectual maturity, and contributes to the state of the art in transportation systems analysis and planning. Significant milestones in the completion of a dissertation include a proposal defense taking place 1-2 years prior to completion, as well as an oral defense, which occurs upon completion of the work. The average completion time for a dissertation is four to five years.