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 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!

EPFL regards the doctorate as your first professional steps as a researcher destined for the public or private sector. 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 twelve credit units (one credit unit 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 should find out more from the program that interests you.

Every doctoral candidate has the opportunity to take part in teaching activities, from the lecture hall to one-on-one. 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 transferable 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 transferable skills for doctoral students.

EPFL doctoral students are usually enrolled with a dual status as employees of the school. You 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 your doctoral program) is charged as follows:

  • For students with a Master degree of a foreign university, EPFL will charge a fee of CHF 150.00
  • For students with a Master degree of a Swiss university, EPFL will charge a fee of CHF 50.00
  • For students with a Master degree of an EPF, EPFL will not charge any fee.

In addition, a CHF 1,350.00 doctoral tax is charged at the completion of your studies.*

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

*In July 2018, the ETH Board decided to raise the doctoral fee by CHF 300.00. The increase has started taking effect on 1 September 2019 and will be phased in over two years, with a CHF 150.00 increase in 2019 and a CHF 150.00 increase in 2020. As of 1 September 2020 (thus for oral thesis exams that take place from this date) the doctoral fee will therefore be CHF 1,500.00.

Some of our frequently asked questions are answered 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.