Timelines, Programs and Resources for Computer Science Students
Computer science is a burgeoning academic and career field. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of PhD graduates in computer science more than doubled between 1995 and 2011. An online doctoral level degree path is designed to afford graduates flexibility both in their academic and career pursuits. Learn more about the online PhD in computer science, what to expect during the application process, how degree programs are structured and what graduates can do after receiving their degree on this page.
Top Online Programs
Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.
Best Online PhD’s in Computer Science Degrees
||Columbia University in the City of New York
||New York City, NY
||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide
||Daytona Beach, FL
||Mississippi State University
||Mississippi State, MS
||Nova Southeastern University
||Fort Lauderdale, FL
||Pennsylvania State University
||University Park, PA
||Southern Methodist University
||University of North Texas
||University of South Carolina-Columbia
||University of Southern California
||Los Angeles, CA
Best Online PhD’s in Computer Science Degrees
To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:
- Accredited at the institutional level
- Private nonprofit or public school
- Minimum of 1 online bachelor’s degree in subject area
Schools were then scored on factors such as:
- Cost & Financial Aid
- Number and variety of online program offerings
- Student-teacher ratios
- Graduation rates
- Placement and support services offered
- Academic/Career counseling services
- Employment services
- Loan default rates
These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or “bang for your buck” of a college or degree program.
Although computer science is one of the most popular degree areas, not every university and computer science department is created equal. It is important to understand what differentiates each online PhD program in computer science, and our rankings are a helpful jumping off point in the decision making process.
Columbia University in the City of New York
New York City, NY
Columbia University in the City of New York offers doctoral students a choice of a PhD in computer science or Doctor of Engineering Science (DES) degree. Graduate students begin as apprentices and junior colleagues and spend at least half of their studies as active participants in mentored research. During the first two years of the program, students are expected to perform community service within the department. Prerequisite requirements include completion of the foundation course, Analysis of Algorithms. The breadth requirements include coursework in areas of artificial intelligence and applications, systems, and theory.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide
Daytona Beach, FL
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, MS
Graduate students interested in furthering their education may be interested in considering Mississippi State University’s online computational engineering doctoral program. The distance learning programs offered at MSU allow students with busy schedules to find time for academic advancement. Financial aid is available to MSU student in the form of scholarships, grants, and student loans. MSU offers a number of student services—including academic advising, tutoring, and career help—to ensure students are on track to achieve their life goals. MSU is an active community and is proud to host over 100 student-operated clubs and organizations.
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Nova Southeastern University’s prestigious doctoral program in computer science allows students to receive their PhD through a minimum of 64 credit hours. NSU’s “cluster format” for courses gives students the opportunity to complete their program through online courses and four in-person sessions. Graduates of the program will learn the skills necessary to research, analyze, understand and advance their comprehensive knowledge in computer science. To help students achieve their academic goals, NSU provides updated computer labs and research facilities including laboratories and libraries. NSU also encourages doctoral students to participate in hands-on internships to apply their academics in a professional setting.
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA
Students attending Pennsylvania State University may earn their doctoral degree in computer science and engineer. Like many of Penn State’s programs, this degree track allows for hybrid course scheduling, with both online and on-campus classes. Paying for college is made easy at Penn State with the thousands of dollars in scholarships, grants, and financial aid that is awarded to students every year. All of Penn State’s campuses feature modern and comfortable student housing and dining facilities. On-campus activities include intramural and club sports, arts performances, and participation in one of Penn State’s many student-run organizations.
Southern Methodist University
At Southern Methodist University, Lyle School, students are provided with an extensive doctoral degree program in computer science. This institution focuses on engineering and technology which gives students the most current and comprehensive PhD curricula to advance their research and professional application of the field. With small class sizes, faculty are able to give specialized attention to individuals. Virtual classrooms are also widely offered which allows students to partake in the program through interactive online platforms and digitally-recorded instruction. Scholarships and financial aid are also available for eligible students.
Syracuse University offered its first engineering courses in 1877. The university established the Center for Advanced Technology in Computer Applications and Software Engineering in 1984 and the Center for Information and Systems Assurance and Trust (CISAT) in 2010. The PhD degree in Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) requires completion of 52 credit hours beyond the BS degree. Students sit for the written qualifying exam at the end of the first year, with the oral exam scheduled in the second year. They must pass a proposal defense by the end of the fourth year and the defense of their dissertation within four more years.
University of North Texas
University of North Texas is located in Denton, just over 30 miles from Dallas/Ft. Worth. It is home to more than 30 doctoral programs in the arts and sciences. Offered by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, the PhD in Computer Science degree program requires completion of 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor degree or 42 credit hours beyond the master's. In addition to undertaking the credit hours of coursework, PhD students are required to pass an oral exam on their research topic and complete a scholarly research dissertation to complete the degree.
University of South Carolina-Columbia
University of Southern California
Once accepted into the University of Southern California PhD program, students will learn the necessary skills to pursue a career in advanced computer science. This prestigious program allows students to work and network alongside professors and scholars in this field. Students can earn funding towards their degree through USC-approved fellowships Resources for this program include scholarly writing assistance through their American Language Institute where peers edit scholarly writing specifically for the PhD students. With many award-winning alumni, USC seeks to prepare students to excel in their career paths through expert education, networking, fellowships and leadership.
Search Online PhD Programs in Computer Science
For those considering a doctoral degree in computer science, it can be challenging to compare institutions to and get a true understanding of all the options. Use our search tool below to narrow down a list of potential target schools by PhD degree level, tuition and fees, institution type and student enrollment.
The Online Computer Science PhD Timeline
A PhD in computer science does not limit students to careers solely in academia. It is a credential that is in growing demand in both public and private spheres, which may be why more people are pursuing this doctoral level degree. Find out more about what it takes to earn a PhD in computer science, from the process of applying to all the way to graduation requirements with the timeline below.
- Northcentral University
PHD – Computer Science
- Walden University
Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) – Information Systems Management
- University of the Southwest
Doctorate of Business Administration – Self-Design
Generally speaking, there are limited openings in computer science PhD programs each year, as more and more qualified applicants attempt to enter the field. It is a competitive space, which means prospective students should have a firm understanding of the admission requirements prior to applying to graduate programs for computer science.
Minimum GPA Requirements
Students must meet minimum GPA requirements for admission into a PhD in computer science program, with many programs listing a 3.5 out of a 4.0 scale as a competitive GPA.
Students should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university with preparatory coursework in computer science and related fields.
Graduate Record Examination Scores
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for the verbal, quantitative and analytical sections are required for doctoral level computer science programs. Most programs have a score threshold, such as 304 and 3.5 or higher on analytical writing.
TOEFL Scores (International Students)
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test is required for PhD level computer science applicants who have either not studied in the United States for at least one school year or whose native language is not English.
Letters of Recommendation
Applications should include three letters of recommendation, including two from former professors who are familiar with the student’s academic background and potential as a PhD student and professional researcher in computer science.
Statement of Purpose
The statement of purpose expresses the student’s academic plans and interests in computer science and explains why the student is a strong PhD candidate.
YEAR 1 MILESTONES
The first year of an online PhD in computer science program establishes the student’s program of study and sets the foundation for the next three to four years of doctoral level study. During the first year, students are integrated into the research activities of the department and become oriented to being a doctoral student.
YEAR 2 MILESTONES
Year two consists of accomplishing three major milestone: completing core course requirements for the computer science PhD, transitioning into formal PhD candidacy and preparing for independent dissertation research. During this time, students learn the basics of becoming a researcher.
YEAR 3 MILESTONES
The third year of a computer science PhD program revolves around elective coursework on the student’s academic track and starting the process for writing a formal dissertation. Students will also formally apply for PhD candidacy.
YEAR 4 MILESTONES
The fourth year of the online PhD in computer science program is dedicated to scholarly research and work on the student’s dissertation. This year culminates in preparing to submit and defend the dissertation.
Start Dissertation Research
After completing coursework and comprehensive examinations and defending a thesis proposal, computer science PhD students can start their dissertation research under the guidance of the research committee.
Scholarly Communication Activities
As they start work on their dissertation research, doctoral level computer science students actively present their research to internal (departmental) and external audiences through doctoral research seminars, conferences and workshop talks.
Complete Computing Project
In some programs, computer science PhD students must demonstrate their technical skills by writing a piece of software. This project requirement can be satisfied through independent research, a class project or part of an internships.
YEAR 5 MILESTONES
The final year of an online PhD in computer science program is dedicated to completing, submitting and defending the dissertation.
The PhD student must present original research to the research committee and schedule an oral defense. Typically, the defense is open to the public and includes a thorough set of questions that ask the student to demonstrate the significance of the research.
After being reviewed by the research committee, a doctoral level computer science student makes revisions to the dissertation and submits it for final approval. Once approved, the student may apply for graduation.
Apply for Graduation
The student receives a PhD in computer science once the completed dissertation is filed with the university’s graduate school. Typically, the application to graduate and final dissertation must be filed at least 30 days prior to graduation.
The goal of online doctoral programs in computer science is to produce well-rounded graduates who demonstrate a depth of understanding in their specialized area of study. Although these programs are flexible and allow for a great level of independence, students must complete several requirements in order to graduate.
Core Principles & Skills Learned in an Online Computer Science PhD Program
The primary goal of online PhD in computer science programs is to graduate students who are prepared for computation-based careers — in academia, government and the private sector. Graduate students develop analytical skills, foundational knowledge of computing theory and advanced computation abilities in systems, programming languages and technical tools.
PhD in Computer Science
- Broad computer science research styles
- Demonstrate knowledge, understanding, applications, analysis and evaluation of the three different value systems of the three PhD level computer science research styles that differ in how they evaluate and validate research results. The three different research styles are theory, systems and applications.
- Depth of computing competency
- Computer science PhD students gain an understanding of the core areas of computing science, including programming languages, computation theory, algorithms and computing systems and applications. They have an ability to craft critical solutions to challenging computing solutions, design software systems to tackle problems and apply advanced mathematical concepts to computing application and software development.
- Advanced mathematical foundations
- PhD students develop the ability to use a variety of mathematical concepts, such as discrete mathematics, to drive new thinking in computer science. By leveraging advanced mathematical tools, computer science PhD graduates can develop original approaches to programming and build upon existing technical theories to create new solutions to problems in arenas ranging from automation to software development.
Master’s in Computer Science
Learn More About Online Master's in Computer Science
Bachelor’s in Computer Science
Learn More About Online Bachelor's in Computer Science
What to do with a PhD in Computer Science
There is only one way to describe career prospects in computer science: growing. PhD graduates can pursue career opportunities across academia, private industry and government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects double digit growth nationally between 2014 and 2024 in a range of technology-based career fields, including for computer scientists and software developers. Explore four potential employment avenues a PhD in computer science could lead to in the table below.
Computer scientists use their programming and analytical skills to solve problems in nearly every field, from environmental engineering to video game design. They may write algorithms to mine financial data, design robots to tackle manufacturing issues, or write new software used by a navigation system in a vehicle.
Job Growth (2014-2024): 11 %
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $110,620
Computer Systems Engineer
Using skills in data modeling and knowledge of computing systems, computer systems engineers design efficient and effective computing information systems for universities, K-12 schools, government organizations and private organizations.
Job Growth (2014-2024): 21 %
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $88,130
Computer Science Professor
Computer science professors conduct original research into specialized fields, such as robotics or artificial intelligence. In this role, they also teach undergraduate and graduate courses to prepare the next generation of developers, programmers and computer scientists.
Job Growth (2014-2024): 9 %
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $74,840
Computer Network Architect
Network architects are the people who design, developer and build data communication networks. These might include the networks businesses use for internet and intranets, data connections between multiple companies and locations, or cloud infrastructures that serve a multitude of users.
Job Growth (2014-2024): 9 %
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $100,240
Computer science is a dynamic field with numerous educational and career choices to consider. Prior to enrolling in a graduate program, students may want to use the resources below to learn more about the field, networking opportunities or professional paths after graduation.
American Society for Engineering Education
The American Society for Engineering Education is a membership-based nonprofit organization that works to promote technology education.
Association for Women in Computing
The Association for Women in Computing is a professional organization for women working in technology and offers local chapters throughout the country.
Computer Research Association
The Computer Research Association is a membership-based organization that is active in computer science departments at more than 200 colleges in the U.S.