Best Online Ph.D. in Computer Science Programs

Tessa CooperASO Rankings Team
Updated September 15, 2023
Edited by
Reviewed by
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Computer science is a popular major, especially among graduate students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of graduate students enrolled in computer science programs more than doubled between 2007 and 2019, from 48,000 to 101,000.

A Ph.D. in computer science can prepare you for a variety of high-paying tech jobs — and you can even earn the degree online. Discover the ins and outs of getting an online Ph.D. in computer science and what you can do with this valuable degree.

Reasons to Get an Online Ph.D. in Computer Science

  • You can advance the computer science field by researching or teaching about complex computer science concepts.
  • The flexibility of an online Ph.D. in computer science means you can continue working full time while studying.
  • This advanced degree can help you network and build connections with other computer science professionals.
  • A Ph.D. demonstrates your credibility and commitment to furthering the field to your peers and future employers.
  • A computer science Ph.D. can help you land a role that pays more for your expertise.

Top Online Ph.D. in Computer Science Programs

Read About Our Methodology Herearrow-circle-right

#1 Best Online Ph.D. in Computer Science Programs

Mississippi State University

  • Location-markerMississippi State, MS
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,800
  • Out-of-state$23,840
  • Retention Rate82%
  • Acceptance Rate54%
  • Students Enrolled22,226
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment18%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Ph.D. in Computer Science Programs

Nova Southeastern University

  • Location-markerFort Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$31,150
  • Out-of-state$31,150
  • Retention Rate81%
  • Acceptance Rate80%
  • Students Enrolled20,576
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment45%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Ph.D. in Computer Science Programs

University of South Carolina-Columbia

  • Location-markerColumbia, SC
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$12,288
  • Out-of-state$33,528
  • Retention Rate89%
  • Acceptance Rate69%
  • Students Enrolled35,364
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment32%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Ph.D. in Computer Science Programs

University of Southern California

  • Location-markerLos Angeles, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$57,256
  • Out-of-state$57,256
  • Retention Rate96%
  • Acceptance Rate11%
  • Students Enrolled48,321
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment17%
  • AccreditationYes

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Why Accreditation Matters for a Ph.D. in Computer Science

Accreditation holds a lot of weight in higher education. An accredited college or program holds accountability and credibility for its educational offerings. In the U.S., recognized accrediting agencies evaluate institutions based on quality standards.

Schools can earn institutional accreditation from a national or regional accrediting agency. All legitimate accreditors will be recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and/or the Department of Education.

You should also check for programmatic accreditation when researching computer science Ph.D. programs. The best Ph.D. in computer science degrees are usually accredited by ABET.

Did You Know?

  • chevron-rightAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top 10% of earners in computer and information research science made more than $208,000 in May 2021.
  • chevron-rightThe National Science Foundation lists four computer science pillars you can specialize in, like information and intelligent systems.
  • chevron-rightThe BLS projects that computer and IT jobs will grow by 15% between 2021 and 2031.

Computer Science Ph.D. Admission Requirements

  • checkCompleted application form
  • checkMinimum GPA, often at least a 3.5
  • checkBachelor’s degree, usually in computer science or a related field
  • checkGRE scores
  • check2-3 letters of recommendation
  • checkStatement of purpose
  • checkResume or CV

What Classes Do You Take in an Online Ph.D. in Computer Science Program?

Computer science courses translate well to an online format due to their technical nature. As a result, many computer science Ph.D. programs take place entirely online.

The classes you take as part of your program will help you develop key soft skills like strategic problem-solving and logical analysis, in addition to hard skills like computer programming. You’ll also learn how to communicate research findings to diverse audiences.

Here are some sample courses you may take for an online doctorate in computer science:

  • Research methods in computer science
  • Accessibility through cloud computing
  • Modern cybersecurity threats
  • Programming languages and optimization
  • Machine learning and language processing
  • Quantum information theory

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Computer Science?

A Ph.D. in computer science can raise your salary potential and qualify you for more leadership opportunities in tech. Many computer science Ph.D.-holders make six figures working as computer scientists, computer systems analysts, and computer network architects.

The table below highlights some career paths you can follow with this degree. Note that jobs in research and business boast some of the highest salaries for computer science graduates.

Computer Science Ph.D. Jobs
JobMedian Annual Salary (May 2021)Job Growth Rate (2021-2031)
Computer and Information Research Scientists$131,49021%
Computer Network Architects$120,5204%
Computer Systems Analysts$99,2709%
Computer Programmers$93,000-10%
Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary$77,9107%

Source: BLS

Computer Science Resources

American Society for Engineering Educationarrow-circle-right

ASEE is a membership-based nonprofit that works to promote technology education.

Association for Women in Computingarrow-circle-right

Founded in 1978, AWC is a professional organization geared toward women working in technology. The group offers networking opportunities and local chapters throughout the U.S.

Computing Research Associationarrow-circle-right

A membership-based organization, CRA is active in computer science departments at over 200 U.S. colleges.

Frequently Asked Questions About Computer Science Ph.D. Programs

question-mark-circleIs it worth getting a Ph.D. in computer science?

Whether it’s worth getting a Ph.D. in computer science will depend on factors like your budget, your goals, and what you want your daily life to look like.

If you want to pursue a tech career that provides you with opportunities to contribute new ideas and research, this degree may be a good fit. But you might opt for a different path if you’d rather work in a tech job with fewer responsibilities and more work-life balance for less pay.

question-mark-circleHow hard is a Ph.D. in computer science?

How difficult a computer science Ph.D. program is will depend on the program, your experience, and your preexisting knowledge and skill set.

To get a feel for how much mental energy and time this degree takes, talk to someone who completed the program you’re interested in doing. Ask whether it’s possible to work while taking courses and still maintain a healthy work-school-life balance.

question-mark-circleHow long does a computer science Ph.D. take?

Expect to spend 4-5 years on a computer science Ph.D. This estimate includes the time it takes to write a dissertation. You might consider an accelerated program if you want to earn your doctorate faster.

question-mark-circleDo you need a master’s to get a Ph.D. in computer science?

Most computer science Ph.D. programs don’t cover computer science foundations. For this reason, you’ll likely need a master’s in computer science or a related field. Alternatively, some programs may allow you to take prerequisite courses and then enroll.

question-mark-circleHow many people have a Ph.D. in computer science?

Thousands of people have a Ph.D. in computer science. The National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates found that 2,361 people earned a doctorate in computer and information science in 2021 alone.

All rankings and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by the ASO Rankings Team.

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