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Best Doctorates in Computer Science: Top PhD Programs, Career Paths, and Salaries

Sunayana Samantaray - May 27, 2022


Getting a PhD in the field of computer science is the best way to influence the future of technological innovation and research. If you are interested in getting a computer science doctoral degree, then our list of the best PhDs in Computer Science will help you find the program that caters most to your goals.

A PhD in Computer Science can branch out into a wide variety of science and tech fields. Be it information assurance, computational science theory, or cyber operations, you can specialize your computer science PhD to suit your interests. In our guide, we’ve also gone into detail about the average PhD in Computer Science salary and the best computer science jobs PhD students can get.

What Is a PhD in Computer Science?

A PhD in Computer Science is a doctoral degree where graduate students perform research and submit original dissertations covering advanced computing systems topics. Computer science is a broad field that covers artificial intelligence, operating systems, software engineering, and data science.

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Your doctoral dissertation will include a research proposal, coursework in advanced topics related to computer science, and a thesis presentation. The wide span of this field allows you to choose a PhD program that can cover topics in any high-performance computing systems area.

How to Get Into a Computer Science PhD Program: Admission Requirements

The admissions requirements to get into a computer science PhD program include submitting your official transcripts from your undergraduate or graduate programs and resume. Your previous university coursework should showcase a strong background in software development, popular programming languages , and scientific computing.

Universities also usually require the submission of your GRE score. A combined score of 1,100 is typically where you want to be when applying to PhD programs. You’ll also usually be required to submit three or more letters of recommendation and a personal essay stating your thesis or research proposal. Keep in mind that each university’s admissions requirements will vary.

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcript from your undergraduate degree or your graduate degree
  • Prerequisite courses covering computer science academic programs
  • Resume
  • Personal statement highlighting proposal of thesis or research topic
  • GRE scores

Computer Science PhD Acceptance Rates: How Hard Is It to Get Into a PhD Program in Computer Science?

It is very hard to get into a PhD program in computer science. This is because prospective students need to meet a very competitive GPA, have an excellent academic background, and fulfill other advanced program requirements. Your chances of getting accepted into a computer science doctorate degree program will typically range between 10 to 20 percent.

In fact, less than 10 percent of computer science graduate applicants are accepted at the University of California. Similarly, Duke University reports that only around 15.7 percent of applicants were selected for its 2021 to 2022 computer science PhD program. Your acceptance relies on submitting a compelling thesis proposal statement that displays your passion and high academic competency.

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Best PhDs in Computer Science: In Brief

School Program Online Option
Arizona State University PhD in Computer Science No
Boston University PhD in Computer Science No
Carnegie Mellon University PhD in Computer Science No
Duke University PhD in Computer Science No
Harvard University PhD in Computer Science No
Oregon State University PhD in Computer Science No
Syracuse University PhD in Computer and Information Science and Engineering No
The University of Oklahoma PhD in Computer Science No
University of Arizona PhD in Computer Science No
University of Maryland PhD in Computer Science No

Best Universities for Computer Science PhDs: Where to Get a PhD in Computer Science

The best universities for computer science PhDs are Arizona State University, Boston University, Harvard University, Duke University, and Carnegie Mellon University. Each of these universities will help you advance your research and eventually get you a job in artificial intelligence , software development, or computing systems. We’ve also broken down the application process and other details for each program.

1

Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ

According to the US News & World Report, Arizona State University ranks number one on the list of the most innovative schools and number 36 in the best undergraduate engineering programs. It was founded in 1885 and currently offers over 450 graduate programs and employs more than 340 PhD fellows.

PhD in Computer Science

Arizona State University offers research opportunities in the fields of artificial intelligence, cyber security, big data, or statistical modeling under the umbrella of this computer science program. In this 84-credit program, you’ll tackle your dissertation, prospectus, and oral and written exams. You’ll also take courses on computational processes, information assurance, and network architecture.

Your PhD dissertation includes 12 credit hours of experience culmination that can be planned alongside your research and elective credits. This degree is best suited for computer scientists wanting to build a career in machine learning or an academic career.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 4 to 6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Tuition and Fees: $6,007/semester, nine credits or more (in state); $1,663/hour, under 12 credits or $16,328 per semester, 12 credits or more (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Teaching assistantships, research assistantships

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • Three letters of recommendations from former professors or employers
  • One to two-page statement of purpose that covers previous research experiences and reasoning behind your interest in one to two doctoral programs
  • Optional submission of GRE scores. Preferred scores are 146 verbal, 159 quantitative, and 4.0 analytical writing
  • Resume
  • Official transcripts
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or computer engineering. Applicants with a master’s degree in a relevant field are preferred
  • Minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA
2

Boston University

Boston, MA

Founded in 1839, Boston University is a top private research university with a reputable engineering and technology program. It offers over 350 graduate programs and PhDs in topics such as neurobiology, biostatistics, computer engineering, mathematical finance, and systems engineering.

PhD in Computer Science

If you are interested in advancing in research and academia, then this PhD program is worth looking into. Its curriculum trains you to build a successful professional background in the intelligent control systems, cloud infrastructures, and cryptography fields. Candidates need to clear its qualification, dissertation, and milestone requirements to complete this degree.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 5 to 6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 10%
  • Tuition and Fees: $61,924/year
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Computer Science Fellowship, Teaching Excellence Award, Research Excellence Award, Teaching Fellow Expectations

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • GRE scores normally mandatory, but are optional for fall 2022
  • Official transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement stating your interest in the program
  • Resume
3

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburg, PA

Carnegie Mellon University is a globally recognized university with more than 14,500 students and over 109,900 alumni. The school was founded in the year 1900 and offers over 80 majors and minors. According to the US News & World Report, Carnegie Mellon University ranks number one on the best undergraduate computer science program in the country.

PhD in Computer Science

This on-campus PhD program focuses on computing research, software informatics, and communication technologies. Completing this doctoral degree program will open you up to a wide range of career prospects across the data science, computing technology, and information technology research fields.

This degree includes 24 units of advanced computing research, 72 units of graduate courses, and the dissertation process of an original research thesis. This PhD is apt for those looking to establish their career in research and academia. During this program, you’ll also serve as a teaching assistant in the computer science department twice as per the degree requirement.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 5 to 6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 5% to 10%
  • Tuition and Fees: $75,272/year
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Internal funding, external funding, dependency allowance, fellowships

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • GRE scores optional but encouraged
  • Most recent transcript of the university attended
  • CV
  • One to two-page statement of purpose stating your interest in the program, research interests, PhD objective, and relevant experience
  • Three letters of recommendation from previous faculty or employers
4

Duke University

Durham, NC

Duke University was established in 1924 and counts among the top universities in the world. It has an undergraduate population of 6,789 and a graduate population of 9,991 students and is most recognized for its computer science, biology, public policy, and economics departments. It offers over 80 doctoral and master’s degrees covering STEM, social sciences, and humanities.

PhD in Computer Science

This computer science PhD is definitely worth it for doctorate students looking to embark on an advanced computer science research path. In it, students tackle a research initiation project, preliminary exam, dissertation process, and core qualification credits. Doctoral candidates are also required to partake in the department’s teaching assistantship program.

Its curriculum includes core courses in computation theory, artificial intelligence, algorithms, numerical analysis, and computer architecture. Graduates of the program open themselves up to numerous career opportunities across a wide range of computing systems academic and research fields.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 3 to 4 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 15.7%
  • Tuition and Fees: $70,185/year for the first three years and $18,165/year each subsequent year
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Teaching assistantships, research assistantships, fellowships

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • Official transcripts from all attended universities
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume
  • GRE scores are optional for 2022 but recommended
  • No minimum GPA requirements but high GPA scores are preferred
5

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Harvard University is a top Ivy League institution that has amassed global recognition and top rankings in many of its departments. Founded in 1636, the university is home to many excellent programs across the fields of law, medicine, economics, and computer science. It has more than 400,000 alumni and a total enrollment of 35,276 students.

According to the US News & World Report, Harvard University ranked number one among the best global universities in 2022 . Its graduate schools offer doctorate programs in the applied sciences, biology, literature, environmental sciences, business, and healthcare fields.

PhD in Computer Science

Attending a computer science PhD program at Harvard University brings high credibility and accolades to your professional candidacy. This program is offered by the university’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and provides focus opportunities across the engineering science, applied physics, computer science, and applied mathematics areas.

Similar to most mainstream PhDs, this program requires the completion of 10 semester-long graduate courses, a dissertation topic, oral and written qualifying exams, a teaching assistantship, and a defense process. After graduating, you’ll easily qualify for some of the most prestigious research and career opportunities available.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 3 or more years
  • Acceptance Rate: 6%
  • Tuition and Fees: $50,928 for the first two years and $13,240 reduced tuition for the third and fourth year
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Teaching fellowships, research assistantships, GSAS fellowships, external funding

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Supplemental form for PhD
  • Transcripts from all post-secondary education
  • Statement of purpose stating your interest in the program
6

Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

Oregon State University is a public research university founded in 1868 with over 210,000 alumni. The school is home to more than 28,607 undergraduate and 5,833 graduate students and offers over 300 academic programs as well as a robust research department. Its doctoral programs can be found in the business, agricultural science, education, engineering, or medicine departments.

PhD in Computer Science

This PhD is offered by the university’s electrical engineering and computer science department and is perfect for doctoral candidates wanting to work in IT research in the governmental or educational sectors. The program offers research opportunities in topics such as data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and human-computer interaction.

The program’s curriculum includes graduate-level courses in theoretical computer science and requires the completion of your research thesis. You’ll also be required to maintain an overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 and pass all preliminary and oral exams to receive your PhD.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Tuition and Fees: $557/credit (in state); $1,105/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate teaching assistantship, research assistantship, Outstanding Scholars Program

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • Three letters of recommendation from previous professors or employers familiar with your technical skills
  • Resume
  • Transcripts and academic history of all attended universities
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA in the last two years of your undergraduate or graduate work
  • Statement of objective listing your interest in the program, career goals, research interests, and relevant experience
7

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY

Syracuse University is a private institution that was established in 1870 and is most popular for its research and professional training academic programs. It has more than 40 research centers focusing on the STEM, social sciences, and humanities fields. The university has over 400 majors, minors, and advanced degrees its students can choose from.

It had a total enrollment of 14,479 undergraduate students and 6,193 graduate students in the fall of 2020. Prospective students can pick a PhD focus from many of its applied topics, including data science, statistics, human development, and bioengineering.

PhD in Computer and Information Science and Engineering

A PhD focused in computer and information science and engineering from Syracuse University can help you advance your career in the information technology, software engineering, or information assurance fields. This program is best suited for computing technology research buffs looking to land senior-level positions in the field.

The program’s curriculum is an amalgamation of graduate coursework, your dissertation and research presentation, and exams. Your coursework will cover technical topics ranging from algorithms and artificial intelligence to operating systems and hardware systems.

PhD in Computer and Information Science and Engineering Overview

  • Program Length: 4 to 5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 14.28%
  • Tuition and Fees: $32,110/year
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Research assistantships, departmental teaching assistantships, university fellowships

PhD in Computer and Information Science and Engineering Admission Requirements

  • Minimum GRE scores: Verbal 153, Quantitative 155, and analytical writing 4.5
  • Bachelor of Science or Master of Science in computer engineering, electrical engineering, or computer and information science
  • Two or more letters of recommendation from previous faculty or employers
  • Official transcripts of all attended universities
  • Resume
  • 500-word personal statement concerning your interest in the program
8

The University of Oklahoma

Norman, OK

The University of Oklahoma is a public school best known for its business, journalism, and petroleum engineering programs. Founded in 1890, it currently has an undergraduate student population of 21,844 and offers over 170 academic programs and graduate degrees in a wide range of subject areas.

The school’s doctoral topics are numerous and can be found within its business, architecture, fine arts, education, engineering, journalism, or geographics science departments. The University of Oklahoma is also incredibly well known for its athletic programs, having won many national championships.

PhD in Computer Science

The university’s computer science PhD has courses in machine learning, data science, computer security, visual analytics, database management, and neural networking subjects. If you’re interested in a data science, network security, artificial intelligence, or cyber security career, then this PhD is for you.

The program allows you to propose a research topic covering anything in the field of advanced computing systems and theories. During your program, you’ll undergo an annual research progress review along with general examinations until your defense. The program also requires you to submit a minimum of two publications before you complete your degree.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Tuition and Fees: $591.90/credit (in state); $1,219.50/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships, research assistantships, fellowships, scholarships, research grants

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • Official transcripts from all attended universities
  • Prerequisite coursework covering computer science, data structures, and math subjects
  • Bachelor’s degree or master’s degree
  • Minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA
  • Resume
  • 250-word statement of purpose concerning your interest and goals in the program
  • Three letters of recommendation, with two of them preferably from previous professors
9

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

The University of Arizona was founded in 1885 and is a public research institution with over 300 major programs. The school is home to 36,503 undergraduate and 10,429 graduate students and offers PhD programs in over 150 areas of study, including information science, statistics, mechanical engineering, biomedical science, medicine, communication, and economics.

PhD in Computer Science

If you want to become an applications architect or pursue a career in academia focusing on computing or business intelligence technologies, then this PhD is for you. It offers courses in computer networking, system architecture, database systems, machine learning theory, natural processing language, and computer vision.

The program’s curriculum requires the completion of 12 units of advanced computer science research and 18 units of dissertation presentation and defense. You’ll also need to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.33 to receive your PhD.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 5.5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 17.73%
  • Tuition and Fees: $989.12/unit (in state); $1,918.12/unit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate assistantships, graduate associate fund, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, graduate college fellowship

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • Official transcripts from all attended universities
  • Minimum of two letters of recommendation by previous faculty or employers
  • A statement of purpose stating your interest in the school and the program faculty, your career goals, preferred research areas, and research background
  • Resume detailing previous research work, published papers, conference presentations, and computer science background
  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field
  • A background in operating systems, programming languages, discrete mathematics, data structures, and theory of computation
  • Minimum 3.5 undergraduate GPA and 3.7 graduate GPA
10

University of Maryland

College Park, MD

The University of Maryland is a research-focused institution that was founded in 1856. It hosts more than 41,200 students and offers over 217 undergraduate and master’s programs. It also offers 84 doctoral programs and has an extensive research department. According to the US News & World Report, the school ranks number 20 among the top public schools in the country .

PhD in Computer Science

This PhD program offers research opportunities in subjects such as robotics, big data, scientific computing, machine learning, geographic information systems, and quantum computing. Doctoral students can participate in a collaborative research journey at any of the school’s research specialized institutions. The program curriculum includes graduate coursework, a research proposal, and a dissertation defense.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

  • Program Length: 4 to 6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Tuition and Fees: $11,586/year (in state); $24,718/year (out of state) 2022-2023
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Research assistantships, departmental teaching assistantships, National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships, Fulbright Fellowships

PhD in Computer Science Admission Requirements

  • Transcripts from all attended universities
  • Resume
  • Minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA
  • Writing sample and optional publications or presentations
  • Statement of purpose concerning your interests in the field and program
  • Three letters of recommendation

Can You Get a PhD in Computer Science Online?

Yes, you can get a PhD in Computer Science online. An online doctoral degree will be more course-based instead of research-based due to the lack of laboratory facilities. Computer science is a broad field that offers doctoral opportunities across a wide range of tech topics. You can get an online PhD in information science, data science, data analytics, or information systems.

Know that online PhDs are rare across most fields, including computer science. Obtaining a non-research-focused doctoral degree won’t be as respected as a traditional computer science PhD. The online PhD programs listed below are best suited for candidates looking to advance into managerial, theoretical research, and academic positions in the technology sector.

Best Online PhD Programs in Computer Science

School Program Length
Capella University Online PhD in Information Technology 4 years 9 months
City University of Seattle Online PhD in Information Technology 3 years but can be extended to 5 years
Colorado Technical University Online PhD in Computer Science 3 years
Iowa State University Online PhD in Information Systems and Business Analytics 5 years
Northcentral University Online PhD in Data Science 3.3 years

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Computer Science?

It takes an average of four years to get a PhD in Computer Science. However, the actual duration is entirely dependent on the candidate’s research proposal approval and defense success, and depending on your research pace, it can take up to five or six years to complete. The graduate course portion of your degree is the most straightforward and typically takes around 2.5 years to complete.

Your dissertation topic selection, research journey, publication submissions, and defense presentations will take the most amount of time, usually between three to five years. Some universities also require their PhD students to complete a minimum of two years of graduate teaching assistantship. An online PhD in Computer Science usually only takes three years to finish, as it mostly includes advanced coursework.

Is a PhD in Computer Science Hard?

Yes, a PhD in Computer Science is hard. Computer science is a complex field that incorporates an array of advanced technical topics. Your PhD will require you to submit an original research proposal on an advanced information technology subject such as data science, machine learning, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and network security topics.

Along with advanced research and a dissertation, you’ll also need to complete advanced graduate courses with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Other requirements often include submitting one or more publications, working in graduate teaching positions, and successfully defending your thesis topic. The combination of all of these academic requirements makes getting a PhD in Computer Science a hard process.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a PhD in Computer Science?

It costs $19,314 per year to get a PhD in Computer Science, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). However, your total PhD tuition can vary depending on a number of factors, including the university’s ranking, the program’s timeline, and the PhD funding opportunities you’ll have available.

The NCES further categorizes the graduate program tuition according to the institution type and reports that the average fee for public institutions was $12,171 from 2018 to 2019. It also states that private for-profit institutions charged an average of $27,776, and non-profit schools charged $14,208 those same years.

How to Pay for a PhD in Computer Science: PhD Funding Options

The PhD funding options that students can use to pay for a PhD in Computer Science include graduate research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and fellowship opportunities. Your funding options will vary from school to school and can include both external and internal funding.

Some of the popular ways to fund your PhDs include research grants, federal work-study programs, teaching or graduate assistantships, tuition waivers, and graduate research fellowships. You can also apply for scholarships or tuition reimbursement options at your current job. Your graduate advisor and computer science faculty can help you find more funding options.

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What Is the Difference Between a Computer Science Master’s Degree and PhD?

The difference between a computer science master’s degree and a PhD is the level of each degree. A Master’s Degree in Computer Science is a typical precursor to a PhD and covers the technical field less extensively than a doctoral program. It will last around two to three years and can be fully course-based or thesis-based.

A PhD in Computer Science provides you with higher qualifications and more research and dissertation autonomy. It can last anywhere between four to six years and gives you original publication and research credibility. Both of these computer science degrees are considered graduate degrees, but a PhD provides you with a higher educational accolade.

Master’s vs PhD in Computer Science Job Outlook

The job outlook for a professional with a master’s vs PhD in Computer Science will generally coincide as most senior-level careers can be achieved with a master’s degree. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for computer and information research scientists is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2020 and 2030.

This job typically requires a master’s degree meaning PhD holders also qualify and can apply for it. The commonality of these job growth statistics also applies to other tech positions, including information security scientists and network architects. That being said, the specific growth rate of your job will also vary depending on your career choice.

For example, university computer science professor positions, which typically only computer science PhD holders are eligible for, have a projected growth rate of 12 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS. With computer science professionals being high in demand, most PhD in Computer Science jobs have a positive projected growth rate.

Difference in Salary for Computer Science Master’s vs PhD

The difference in salary for computer science master’s vs PhD grads can vary depending on their position and place of employment. According to PayScale, the average salary for a computer science PhD holder is $131,000 per year , which is higher than the average salary of a master’s degree graduate.

According to PayScale, the average salary for a computer science master’s graduate is $105,000 per year . The salary disparity with these degrees stems from the differences in their level of seniority, industry experience, and educational accolades.

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Why You Should Get a PhD in Computer Science

You should get a PhD in Computer Science because it is an advanced and highly reputable degree that will help you land senior technical, academic, and research roles. A PhD is a gateway to a lucrative and innovative technology career, allowing you to follow your research passion across the fields of artificial intelligence, data science, or computing theory.

Reasons for Getting a PhD in Computer Science

  • Extensive and advanced research opportunities. A PhD in Computer Science covers many advanced computing science fields. You can learn specialized skills through your research opportunities and eventually work in advanced data science, artificial intelligence, neural networking, information technology, or computing theory.
  • Higher salary. PhD graduates qualify for career opportunities working in senior positions as scientists, professors, managers, or heads of departments. These senior positions come with high compensation and job security.
  • Rewarding education. A computer science PhD is perfect for those who are interested in contributing toward leading innovation and technology research. As a doctoral student, you can propose and conduct advanced research in the field while contributing to today’s technological growth.
  • Increased job candidacy. Having a computer science PhD on your resume and portfolio will enhance your candidacy when applying to tech positions across all industries. A PhD is a highly reputable degree that demonstrates your expertise in the field and ultimately makes you a highly sought-after candidate.

Getting a PhD in Computer Science: Computer Science PhD Coursework

A person wearing a gray cardigan, a light blue shirt, and glasses working on a black laptop in a room full of electronic and computer equipment. 
A computer science doctoral student can easily establish a lucrative career in technology management, data science, artificial intelligence, or network security.

The graduate requirements for getting a PhD in Computer Science and most common PhD coursework are different from program to program and are heavily dependent on your specialization, but often have some commonalities. Here are some examples of courses you may take during your PhD.

System Architecture

A systems architecture course in a computer science PhD covers advanced operating systems, communication technologies, network security, and computer architecture. You’ll also take classes covering topics like network systems and software engineering.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a rapidly growing field that is integral to the field of computer science and data science. Your program will cover the latest artificial intelligence technologies and research areas such as deep learning, interactive systems, neural networking, and artificial intelligence infrastructure.

Information Assurance

Network security, information assurance, and cyber security are also part of an extensive education coverage of the computer science field. This course will cover vital knowledge concerning information security, system integrity, data privacy, and system authentication.

Data Science

Data science courses in a computer science PhD program cover topics such as big data, database management, data analytics, data mining, and machine learning subjects. You will learn about data science processes and methods as well as the tools and technologies used in advanced data engineering.

Theory of Computation

A theory of computation course will teach you advanced algorithms, computation models, Turing machines, quantum computing, and automata theories. You’ll also have lessons that cover the Godel Incompleteness theorem and molecular computing.

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How to Get a PhD in Computer Science: Doctoral Program Requirements

If you are wondering how to get a PhD in Computer Science and complete the doctoral program requirements, this section will provide you with the answers you’re looking for. The graduation and academic requirements will vary from one PhD program to another, but there are some common requirements across all computer science departments. Here are some of them.

1

Graduate Courses Across a Wide Range of Computer Science Disciplines

A computer science PhD is an amalgamation of graduate-level courses and research. All PhDs will require you to complete their graduate course requirements which cover topics like data science, computing systems, artificial intelligence, and information assurance. The required number of courses will vary depending on the program but is typically between 10 and 15.

2

Minimum Cumulative GPA

Maintaining a minimum required cumulative GPA in your courses is a requirement across all PhD programs. The GPA requirement can range anywhere from 3.0 to 3.5. This is one of the major ways your program department tracks your progress and whether or not you are struggling with the work.

3

Oral, Preliminary, and Written Qualifying Exams

Clearing the qualifying exams with a passing grade while maintaining the required GPA is another PhD graduation requirement. Your preliminary exam is a public presentation discussing your research topics with approval committees and other students. Written exams and oral exams come with each course and are a test of your computer science and tech abilities.

4

Research Proposal

You are typically required to present your research proposal or research initiation project within the first two years of your PhD. You must get your research idea approved by the approval committee and begin the research process within those two years.

5

Annual Research Progress Review

Once you embark on your computer science research process, you are required to present an annual progress report. This presentation is a review process where the approval committee will ask questions and provide feedback on your progression.

6

Peer-Reviewed Journals or Publications

Your PhD milestones may also include publication requirements. For these, you’ll be required to submit one or two peer-reviewed journal or publication entries covering the computer science topics you are researching.

7

Graduate Assistantship

Universities also require PhD candidates to complete two years of graduate teaching assistantships or research assistantships. These assistantships are one of the best ways to secure funding for your PhD program.

8

Dissertation Presentation and Approval

Getting your dissertation approved and completing your research and thesis is one of the most important milestones of your PhD. Your assigned research committee, thesis advisor, and approval committee will need to approve your research and dissertation for your to be able to graduate.

9

PhD Timeline

Computer science PhDs will have a timeline breakdown that candidates are expected to meet. You will typically need to complete the graduate coursework within two to three years and complete your dissertation and thesis within six years. You can request a timeline extension with your advisor’s approval.

10

Thesis for PhD in Computer Science

The thesis for your PhD in Computer Science will cover your chosen research subject area. It will include a thesis proposal submission, thesis presentation, and thesis approval process as well as an extensive written document covering your hypothesis, findings, and conclusions.

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PhD in Computer Science Salary and Job Outlook

The salary and job outlook for a PhD in Computer Science will vary according to your job designation but are generally positive. The average salary for some of the highest-paid jobs will range between $86,712 and $179,351. Below are some of the most lucrative career paths a computer science PhD holder can embark on.

What Can You Do With a PhD in Computer Science?

You can work in a wide range of advanced technical positions with a PhD in Computer Science. This doctoral degree qualifies you for positions as a manager, scientist, college professor, and researcher. You could lead an information assurance department or become a computer science professor, chief data scientist, or artificial intelligence researcher.

Best Jobs with a PhD in Computer Science

  • Computer Research Scientist
  • Computer Science Professor
  • Research and Development Lead
  • Computer Systems Engineer
  • Information Technology Manager

What Is the Average Salary for a PhD in Computer Science?

The average salary for someone with a PhD in Computer Science is $131,000 per year , according to PayScale. Your actual salary will vary depending on your specific position, location, and experience. In fact, with a PhD, you could work as a chief data scientist and make between $136,000 and $272,000 or as a senior software engineer and make $104,000 to $195,000.

Highest-Paying Computer Science Jobs for PhD Grads

Computer Science PhD Jobs Average Salary
Chief Data Scientist $179,351
Chief Information Officer $168,680
Senior Computer Scientist $153,972
IT Security Architect $128,414
Computer Science Professor $86,712

Best Computer Science Jobs with a Doctorate

The best computer science jobs with a doctorate degree all earn a high salary and have high projected growth in the next few years. These jobs cover a wide range of computer science disciplines, meaning that you’ll easily be able to find a position doing something you enjoy.

1

Chief Data Scientist

PhD Salary: $179,351

A chief data scientist is in charge of the data analytics and data science departments of an organization. They are responsible for the approval of new database system designs, data strategies, and data management decisions.

2

Chief Information Officer

PhD Salary: $168,680

A chief information officer is an IT executive responsible for managing and overseeing the computer and information technology departments of a company. Also known as CTOs, they are responsible for delegating tasks and approving innovation and technology upgrade ideas proposed by their teams.

3

Senior Computer Scientist

PhD Salary: $153,972

A senior computer scientist heads the research department of a computer science, artificial intelligence, or computer engineering field. These professionals, along with their research team, are tasked with developing efficient and optimal computer solutions across a wide range of sectors.

4

IT Security Architect

PhD Salary: $128,414

An IT security architect is a cyber and information security professional responsible for developing, maintaining, and upgrading the IT and network security infrastructure of a business or organization. Additionally, they oversee an organization’s data, communication systems, and software systems security aspects.

5

Computer Science Professor

PhD Salary: $86,712

A computer science professor is a university professor who educates college students concerning basic and advanced computer science subjects. They are responsible for creating and instructing a course curriculum as well as testing their students. Some computer science professors also work as research faculty at a university.

Is a PhD in Computer Science Worth It?

Yes, a PhD in Computer Science is worth it for anyone wanting to work in senior professions in the field of technology. This doctoral degree opens its recipients up to numerous career opportunities across academia, research and development, technology management, and chief technical positions.

Getting a computer science PhD equips you with specialized skills and extensive research capabilities. During your studies, you’ll get the opportunity to contribute to the rapidly developing world of technology with your original dissertation and specialize in data science, network security, or computing systems.

Additional Reading About Computer Science

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PhD in Computer Science FAQ

What is the preferred GPA for a computer science PhD?

The preferred GPA for a computer science PhD is 3.5 or above. Keep in mind that meeting the minimum requirement doesn’t guarantee acceptance. The higher you can get your GPA during your bachelor’s and master’s, the more likely it is you will be accepted to the PhD program of your choice.

What standardized exams do I need to take to get a PhD in Computer Science?

The standardized exam you need to take to get a PhD in Computer Science is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The GRE score requirements will vary from university to university and several schools have currently waived GRE requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What potential research subjects can I choose for my computer science PhD?

You can choose from a wide range of potential research subjects for your computer science PhD, including computer algorithms, data science, artificial intelligence , or cyber security. You can also research business process modeling, robotics, quantum computing, machine learning, or other big data topics.

How can I get into a computer science PhD program?

You can get into a computer science PhD program by impressing the admissions committee and the school’s computer science graduate department with your skills, experience, grades, and desired research topic. Students with a 3.5 or higher GPA, a high GRE score, extensive IT skills, and an impressive research topic have a higher chance of admission.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Sunayana Samantaray

About the author: Sunayana is an experienced content writer. She has written about topics such as career changes, education, tech, sustainability, business, and data science. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in International Business and Human Resource Management from the University of Oklahoma.

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