Doctoral studies structure

Each doctoral program brings together the resources of research units around a specific scientific interest. The program organizes the recruitment of its doctoral candidates, provides them with an administrative and intellectual community on campus, and offers them a menu of advanced courses.

Each doctoral program is headed by a director, and is run by a secretariat and a committee. In order to encourage the transdisciplinarity and cross-fertilization of ideas that EPFL is famous for, the doctoral programs are independent of research institutes and schools.

The graphic here under shows the general structure of doctoral studies at EPFL. However, keep in mind that each curriculum can contain specific aspects.

The doctorate is your first professional steps as a researcher destined for academia or industry. Your original doctoral research is at the core of your PhD and is written up in your doctoral thesis. Your research is carried out under the guidance and supervision of your thesis director (and sometimes a co-director) and your progress is regularly monitored by your doctoral program.

To graduate, each doctoral candidate takes a minimum of 12 credits (one credit corresponds to 28 hours of instruction and independent work), in addition to completing and successfully defending their doctoral thesis. The minimum number of credits required by some programs may be higher: you will find further information on the pages of each program.

Every doctoral candidate takes part in teaching activities, from the lecture hall to one-on-one by supervising Master thesis. Teaching is an essential part of learning and develops skills with application in all walks of life.

EPFL places a strong emphasis on the development of your transversal skills and preparing you for your future career. As a doctoral student and research assistant, a huge range of courses are available to you to broaden your skills in everything from languages and communication to management and leadership. For more information, see our pages on transversal skills for doctoral students.

EPFL doctoral students are usually enrolled with a dual status as employees of the school. They are paid a monthly salary as a research assistant and receive employee benefits such as professional training courses and social security. A registration fee (upon enrollment in the doctoral program) is charged as follows:

  • For students with a Master’s degree of a foreign university, EPFL charges a fee of CHF 150.-
  • For students with a Master’s degree of a Swiss university, EPFL charges a fee of CHF 50.-
  • For students with a Master’s degree of an EPF, EPFL does not charge any fee.

In addition, a CHF 1500.- doctoral tax is charged at the completion of the studies.

EPFL salaries are competitive with the best of Europe’s research universities and reflect Swiss standards of living.

Some of our frequently asked questions are answered here.

During your PhD studies, you will face with a different amount of stress and your motivation will vary throughout the years. It is very probable that you will experience multiple ups and downs, and that’s completely normal.

However, whilst some level of stress is acceptable, distress and anxiety due to stressful situations are not. You have rights, and respect and tolerance are the basis of a good working environment. And there are people to assist you in finding solutions regarding your well-being.

PolyDoc, the EPFL doctoral candidates’ association, has compiled those information in a document that you can download here.

Doctoral studies at EPFL

Doctoral courses

Information about the courses offered to PhD students.

Doctoral students’ salary

The vast majority of doctoral candidates are employed and paid as doctoral assistants. They therefore benefit from a dual status of student and employee.

Customized curricula

The Doctoral School promotes interdisciplinarity and initiatives crossing laboratory and institutional boundaries.

Useful links

Study management

Detailed information about the services and assistance offered to students, the rules and guidelines to follow while at EPFL, as well as the new student orientation program.

EPFL campus

At EPFL, students dive into a dynamic world driven by curiosity. Emphasis is given to collaboration and hands-on learning, all this in a harmonious and productive environment.


Deputy to the Associate Vice President for Postgraduate Education for the Doctoral School:
Dr Philip Mair

Project Officers for the Doctoral School:
Juliane Kuntschen

Lucia Baldi

Julie Mazard

Communication specialist for the Doctoral School:
Anikó Borbély

Team Head of Doctoral Program Administrative Assistants:
Stéphanie Thoma

[email protected]

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CH-1015 Lausanne

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