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Theses and PhDs
Home / Theses and PhDs at the CEA  /  Preparing your thesis at the CEA

Preparing your thesis at the CEA

The thesis process at the CEA

A thesis is prepared on average over 3 years (duration recommended by the regulatory texts).

Each year, doctoral students are required to write an activity report for submittal to the scientific Department of their unit, the INSTN and any industrial or regional partners for co-funded theses.

The activity report must be uploaded at the end of the calendar year. The thesis supervisor and director will supply doctoral students with the template needed to write this report.

Supervision of theses at the CEA

The preparation and completion of the doctoral student’s thesis project at the CEA are supervised by an experienced engineer/researcher, together with a thesis director holding research direction accreditation (HDR).

For theses funded by a CEA-industry thesis contract (CTCI), a company engineer participates in the scientific and technical follow-up of the research work.

For CEA-Region thesis contracts (CTCR), a regional lead may also participate in thesis follow-up.

The INSTN also offers training courses specifically aimed at doctoral students and young researchers. (Link to search engines filtering to doctoral student training courses)


To be awarded a CEA thesis contract, the applicants, whether they are university students or from a French Graduate School or Engineering School, must hold a Master 2 issued by a university or a diploma enabling them to obtain permission to enrol as a thesis student for the doctoral school.

The Master 2 diploma and the permission to enrol as a thesis student issued by the University must be obtained before the start of the contract.

The CEA thesis contract is awarded after approval by the Selection Committee chaired by the High Commissioner for Atomic Energy.

The applications are received throughout the year by the supervisors, whose personal details are given on the thesis subject forms. However, for some subjects, applications are accepted as and when they are received, and these subjects may be filled without prior notice.  All information needed may be supplied by the CEA laboratories.


Different types of funding are raised by the CEA for the thesis contracts. Depending on circumstances, the CEA may or may not be the doctoral student’s employer.

  • CFR (Research-based training contract): contract 100% funded by the CEA.
    (Thesis contract on unit budget): contract 100% funded by the doctoral student’s host unit

    The CFR and CTBU contracts are awarded after approval by the High Commissioner for Atomic Energy and the partnering doctoral school. 
  • CTCI (CEA/Industry thesis contract) and CTCR (CEA/Region thesis contract): contracts co-funded 50% by the CEA and 50% by the industrial partner or the Region

    The CTCI and CTCR are awarded subject to approval by the High Commissioner for Atomic Energy and the partner (industrial operator or Region) after reviewing the candidate’s application, as well as the partnering doctoral school.

For these two types of contract, a partnership agreement is signed between the industrial operator or the Region, and the CEA. This agreement sets out the terms and conditions of the collaboration and the undertakings made by the parties (specifications, thesis follow-up, program funding, intellectual property, responsibility, etc.). Standard agreements are offered to the host units on request submitted to INSTN/SFRES.

CFR, CTBU CTCI and CTCR funding :

  • The thesis contract is a 3-year fixed-term employment contract, for which the CEA is the employer;
  • The doctoral student’s gross monthly compensation is 2043.54 in the 1st and 2nd years. It is 2104.62 in the 3rd year (January 1st 2020 values - 1 point = € 5.52);
  • Successful candidates are individually informed of the award of their thesis contract by INSTN/SFRES. 
  • CCNE (Non-employer CEA contract): CCNE contracts are for theses whose funding is managed by an external body (CNRS, Ademe, Inrae, Inria, Cern, etc.) and the CEA pays 50% of the doctoral student’s salary.

    Selection of the thesis applications for a CCNE contract is carried out according to the same excellence criteria as for all the CEA thesis contracts (assessment by the Selection Committee chaired by the High Commissioner for Atomic Energy).

NUMERICS European Program

The NUMERICS program is a CEA-run international doctoral program in the fields of numerical simulation, modeling and management of Big data. The program lasts five years and covers three classes of doctoral students recruited over the 2018-2021, 2019-2022 and 2020-2023 periods. A fourth round of selections will be organized in 2021, depending on the outcome of a request to extend the current program.

To find out more, consult the site of the NUMERICS program.


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