PhD Degree


The PhD degree in Computer Science requires 72 credit hours of course work and research credits. Students who have previously completed a BS and/or MS are eligible to apply to the PhD program. Additional information on Computer Science degree requirements, including a list of all CS graduate courses, can be found in the CS Graduate Catalog.

The following five courses are required of all students. Students who have taken equivalent courses at another institution may satisfy these requirements by transfer.

  • CSCI406 Algorithms (offered every semester)
  • CSCI442 Operating Systems (offered every semester)
  • CSCI561 Theory of Computation (offered every fall)
  • CSCI564 Advanced Computer Architecture (offered every spring)
  • SYGN502 Introduction to Research Ethics

Students in the PhD program will be required to pass a qualifying examination, thesis proposal, and dissertation defense. More details can be found in the CS Graduate Catalog.

Qualifying Exam, Thesis Proposal, and Thesis Defense

Students in the PhD program will be required to pass a qualifying examination, thesis proposal, and dissertation defense.

Qualifying Exam

The PhD Qualifying Exam must be passed no later than the fourth semester of study. Exceptions must be formally requested via email to the Qualifying Exam Committee Chair and approved by the Graduate Committee.

The PhD Qualifying Exam is offered once a semester. Each PhD Qualifying Exam comprises of two research areas, chosen by the student. The exam consists of the following steps:

1. A student indicates intention to take the CS PhD Qualifying Exam by choosing two research interest areas. Students must inform the CS Qualifying Committee Chair of their intention to take the exam by a specific date provided by the Chair in the prior semester.

2. The Qualifying Exam Committee Chair creates an exam committee of (at least) four appropriate faculty. The exam committee assigns the student specific tasks with corresponding deliverables for both research areas chosen. More details regarding research interest areas and exam tasks can be found in the CS Graduate Catalog.

3. The student must complete all deliverables by the specified deadline. Failure to meet the deadline is considered a failed attempt.

a. The oral presentation will be scheduled during Finals Week. The student will access exam problems and submit deliverables through a specified system such as Canvas course/module. Additionally, the specified system will be used to deliver feedback from the committee to the student outlining strengths, weaknesses, recommendations and exam results.

4. Each member of the exam committee makes a recommendation on the deliverables from the following list: strongly support, support, and do not support. To pass the PhD Qualifying Exam, the student must have at least two “strongly supports” and no more than one “do not support”. If a student receives two or more “do not support” votes by the committee members, the student fails the exam.

PhD Thesis Proposal 

After passing the Qualifying Examination, the PhD student is allowed up to 18 months to prepare a written Thesis Proposal and present it formally to the student’s Thesis Committee and other interested faculty.

PhD Thesis Defense

At the conclusion of the student’s PhD program, the student will be required to make a formal presentation and defense of her/his thesis research. A student must “pass” this defense to earn a PhD degree.