The Doctor of Philosophy in computer science requires completion of a minimum number of 72 s.h. of graduate credit, satisfactory performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam and the proposal. and the production and formal defense of a written dissertation describing original research results. Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00.

The Ph.D. program in computer science is a research-oriented degree. Students pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science (CS) are required to do original research in a subarea of CS with mentoring from a CS faculty advisor. Ph.D. students are expected to disseminate their research via conference and journal publications and presentations.The Ph.D. in CS emphasizes preparation for research and teaching in academic settings or for research in private, industrial, or government laboratories. If you are a prospective Ph.D. student, interested in applying to our Ph.D. program, visit the Graduate Admissions Process page.

Students should consult the Computer Science Graduate Student Handbook, for detailed information about Ph.D. requirements, such as required courses, examinations, and dissertation requirements.

Listed below are the general categories of coursework required to earn the degree; for more specific information on courses, curriculum, and requirements of the Doctor of Philosophy in computer science, visit the UI General Catalog.

Degree Requirements
Title Hours
Core Courses 6
Breadth Courses 9
Practice Course 3
Colloquium Series 4
Cognate Area Courses 9
Additional Upper-Level Electives 40
Responsible Conduct of Research 1
Total Hours 72

Important Deadlines

Application Deadline: January 1st (for Fall semester enrollment)


Admission decisions are based on prior academic performance, letters of reference, the applicant's statement about background and purpose. Students need not have a master's degree to begin the Ph.D. program or to be granted the doctoral degree. A student admitted without a master's degree may choose to be granted an M.S. or the M.C.S. while working toward the doctorate.

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College on the Graduate College website. For more information, see the Graduate Admissions Process page.

Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the qualifying exam is to demonstrate the ability to read, analyze, synthesize, and communicate current research results. Qualifying exams are given twice a year, approximately mid-September and mid-February. Ph.D. students should take the qualifying exam at the beginning of their second year. Ph.D. students should start interacting with their initial advisor as soon as possible—preferably early in the fall semester—to set up a plan for starting research that will lead to success in the qualifying exam. Students must pass the qualifying exam by the end of their second year. A qualifying exam is based on a small number (3-5) of research articles selected in consultation with the student's advisor. The candidate prepares a 15-20 page synthesis/discussion of this material. It is okay for a paper co-authored by the student to be one of the research articles covered by the qualifying exam report, however such a paper, by itself, cannot serve as a qualifying exam report. A panel of three faculty will be selected by the Department and a date and time will be assigned during the scheduled exam period for the candidate's 20-40 minute oral presentation. The three-member faculty panel, along with the student's advisor acting in an advisory (non-voting) capacity, will decide the outcome of the exam by majority vote.

Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive examination is an evaluation of a student's mastery of a research area near completion of formal course work, and before preparation of the dissertation. The exam may be written, oral, or both, at the department's discretion, and is administered by a faculty committee. The comprehensive exam typically should be completed by the end of a student's third year and no later than the end of the fourth year in the Ph.D. program.

Dissertation Proposal

At least six months prior to the final exam, a student must form a dissertation committee and circulate a formal thesis proposal to the committee.  The proposal should describe the research performed to date, related work, and outline the expected thesis results.  The student must, in essence, argue the originality and significance of the expected results to the committee in a manner consistent with their advisor's counsel (this may or may not include an oral presentation). Possible outcomes of a thesis proposal are (i) the committee finds the proposal satisfactory, or (ii) the committee suggests modifications and in a few weeks after the proposal the student and committee reach a consensus (via e-mail or face-to-face meetings) on a modified set of expected thesis results, or (iii) the committee asks the student to redo their proposal, likely with a fresh proposal document and oral presentation, giving the student enough time to address the committee’s concerns.


Each student must write a dissertation, a significant, original contribution to the field of computer science. Once students obtain some preliminary results and can identify and describe the boundaries of their dissertation, they prepare a written proposal for their committee's review. The dissertation must be prepared in accordance with the format specified in the Graduate College Thesis Manual.

Final Oral Examination

Once the dissertation is complete and has been reviewed by the student's committee, a final oral examination is administered on campus. This examination must take place no sooner than the semester following successful completion of the comprehensive examination and no later than five years after completion of the comprehensive exam.