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Ph.D. in Computer Science

The Ph.D. in Computer Science is a joint program between the Schools of Computer Science, Interactive Computing, Computational Science & Engineering, and Cybersecurity & Privacy within the College of Computing.

All students in the program receive the same degree regardless of their interest area, specialization, research focus or school affiliation. New students are affiliated with the school in which their advisor resides, but none of the schools impose any special requirements compared to another.

As a research-oriented degree, the Ph.D. in Computer Science prepares exceptional students for careers at the cutting edge of academia, industry and government. Students are expected to demonstrate excellence in both defining and executing a substantial research project that forms a novel contribution to the state of the art in computing. With a highly individualized program of study, the degree provides students with depth in their chosen research area coupled with a rigorous breadth of knowledge across the discipline.

First granting the doctoral degree in 1969 (as a Ph.D. in Information and Computer Science), the College of Computing represents a continuation of one of the earliest and most well-established graduate Computing institutions in the United States, and in the world. This stature is reflected in our national and international rankings and, most importantly, in the quality of the students who have graduated from our program.

The CS Ph.D. Structure

The coursework component of the Computer Science Ph.D. consists of an introductory course on graduate studies (CS 7001), along with the separate breadth and minor requirements.

The breadth requirement is intended to give students a broad competency across the discipline of computing through coursework in a range of the College's different research areas. This requirement is satisfied by taking five classes from across the College's different research areas and must include a Programming Proficiency course and a Theory course.

The minor is a 9-hour sequence of courses from outside the College that constitutes a coherent program of study and is determined by the student and advisor. The minor builds non-Computing expertise in an area related to the student's core research area.

As students progress, they must select a primary area of research and pass a qualifier (comprehensive exam) in that area to demonstrate mastery of the field in their chosen area, and readiness to do research.

While coursework plays an important role in the Ph.D., by far the most important component of the degree is the student's individual dissertation research project. This project should contribute to new knowledge in the field of computing, and should demonstrate the student's proficiency in defining and executing a compelling research agenda.

The dissertation research plan is formalized in a written proposal followed by an oral presentation. When a student passes his or her proposal, the student is admitted to candidacy and proceeds with the dissertation research, which is completed with the successful defense and submission of the approved doctoral dissertation.

Program of Study

Want to know more details about the program of study for the Ph.D. in CS? Find out about breadth component areas and courses, minors, qualifying exams, and more on the Ph.D. CS - Program of Study page.

Explore the Program of Study for the Ph.D. in CS

Computer Science Research

The breadth of the College's research endeavors makes our doctorate degree in computer science unique: the research specializations in the College span what is typically found in a "traditional" CS department, along with elements found in EECS, robotics, or information schools in other universities. This diversity allows students to formulate a unique individual program of study all within the CS degree, which may be impossible at other universities.

Learn more about our Areas of Research

Admissions Requirements and Applications

If this kind of work interests you and fits with your career aspirations, why not go ahead and apply?

Apply now!

Need more information about our admissions requirements? Find an overview of these requirements on our Ph.D. CS - Admissions Requirements page.

Ph.D. CS - Admissions Requirements

Current Ph.D. in CS Student Information

If you are a current student in our Ph.D. in Computer Science program, you can find information on your qualifying exams on our website. If you still cannot find the information you are looking for, please reach out to your assigned program advisor. 

Ph.D. CS - Qualifier Exam Information

CS Ph.D. Student Handbook