Doctor of Philosophy

(Last Revised April 2014)

The Computer Science Department at Colorado State University offers a program of study leading to the Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science. Possible areas of interest are detailed on our Research Page.

Entrance Requirements

The doctoral program is available to students who have compiled outstanding academic records in completing requirements for a Bachelor of Science or a Master of Science degree in computer science. Students with degrees in related disciplines may be admitted after demonstrating strong capabilities to do graduate work in computer science.

Admission Procedures

Apply to the Computer Science Graduate Program

Once the Department receives a complete application, the admissions committee reviews the application and promptly notifies the applicant of their decision.

Students may be admitted for fall or spring semesters.

Financial Support and Fees

Information about financial support can be found by clicking on the link here.

Regulations for the Ph.D. Degree

For the Ph.D. program, the following regulations apply:

Course Requirements:

1. Exactly 2 credit hours of CS692 (Department Seminar).

2. 3 credit hours (500 level or higher) outside of the CS department (see restrictions below).

3. At least 8 credits of CS793 or 8 regular credit hours at the 600 level within the CS department (see restrictions below).

4. At least 4 regular credit hours at the 500 level in each of the three course groups (12 credit hours total; see course groups and restrictions below).

5. A minimum of 37 credits numbered 500 or above are required for the Ph.D. degree.

6. Teaching requirement: 1 course. (Note: The graduate committee may waive requirement based on a student's previous experience or current teaching opportunities.

7. Research exam: Each Ph.D. student is required to take the written Research Examination. This examination determines critical thinking skills and background knowledge.

8. Thesis proposal defense (preliminary exam): Each Ph.D. student is required to take the oral Preliminary Examination (see below). This exam centers on, but is not limited to, the student's proposal for dissertation research. Passing this examination admits the student to Ph.D. candidacy.

9. Thesis defense: The final examination (see below) of a Ph.D. candidate is the defense of the dissertation and related subject areas. Regulations concerning the format and conduct of the final examination are contained in the Colorado State University Bulletin.

Course Restrictions:

Course groups:

To encourage breadth, courses are grouped into three groups as follows:

Group I (AI & Theory):

Group II (Systems):

Group III (Software Engineering & Information Assurance):

Other Restrictions:


Research Examination

The Research Examination is intended to be a strong predictor of success in Ph.D. research. The student will meet with his/her advisor to develop a topic and prepare an initial bibliography for the exam. The student will prepare a written report on the selected topic, including a critical review of related literature. The student will also have an oral exam, based on the written report.

A detailed description of the PhD Research Examination can be found by clicking on the link here. Students prepared to take the Research Examination can find an MS Word version of the exam request form by clicking the link here. This form should be completed and returned to the department secretary. The form used by faculty to evaluate Research Exam performance is available by clicking the link here.

Preliminary Examination

Following successful completion of the Research Examination, each student will prepare a dissertation proposal and take the Preliminary Examination.

Passing this examination admits the student to Ph.D. candidacy. The dissertation proposal should be prepared in close consultation with the student's advisor, and should be available to all committee members at least one week prior to the examination. It should reflect an extensive critical literature survey, and contain an accurate assessment of the state-of-the-art in the area of research, a precise statement of the problem to be solved, motivation for pursuing the research, and evidence to the effect that there is a good likelihood the problem is solvable with reasonable effort.

It is expected that a student will take the Preliminary Examination within 2 1/2 years of passing the Research Examination. To extend beyond 2 1/2 years, the student must request a waiver from the Graduate Program Committee.

Successful completion of the Preliminary Examination results in agreement between the student and the committee as to what will constitute successful completion of the dissertation research. The committee may choose to reconvene the examination to allow the student to further research the problem, complete additional course work, or revise the dissertation proposal document.

Graduate School regulations govern the Preliminary Examination. The GS Form 16 is used to report the examination results to the Graduate School. Failure to successfully complete the examination on the second trial mandates dismissal from the program.

Defense of Dissertation (Final Examination)

The Defense of Dissertation must be held in accordance with the Graduate School deadlines. At least one month before the final examination, the advisor will inform the student and the committee members of the nature and scope of the examination. The student must notify the Department at least two weeks prior to the Defense to ensure that the Defense is publicly announced so that all interested faculty and graduate students may attend.

The Defense of Dissertation, which primarily concerns the results described in the dissertation, is conducted by the student's Graduate Advisory Committee with the advisor as chair. It is open to the public, and typically follows the format of a seminar presentation, followed by questions and answers. A part of the exam and the deliberations of the committee may then be conducted in private.

Candidates who fail their Defense of Dissertation may present themselves, with permission of the committee, for one additional reexamination not earlier than two months, nor later than twelve months, after the date of the failure.

Rough Schedule Guidelines

The time required to complete a Ph.D. is highly dependent upon the candidate. Thus, it not possible, nor even desirable, to establish a strict time line. That said, timely progress toward the degree is essential and is the responsibility of the candidate. In order to assist in planning, here is a guideline for when critical milestones toward the degree might be completed.

Students entering without a Masters first earn a Masters and their schedule might be:

Students entering with a Masters:

There are two important deadlines to keep in mind when assessing progress toward a Ph.D. First, as stated above, the Computer Science Department ordinarily imposes a limit upon the number of semesters a graduate student can receive financial support. The second deadline is one that should never come into play, but nonetheless, it has arisen as an issue in the past. It is Colorado State policy that after ten years, course credits expire and may no longer be used toward a degree.

Ph.D. Requirements with an External Masters

Students who enter with an M.S. degree from another (accredited) institution receive credit for 30 regular credit hours toward total credits and requirement of 36 regular graduate credits. Students may petition the graduate committee to have specific courses from their transcript count toward the outside course requirement and the breadth requirement (from the three groups). Such students must still meet all of the other requirements at CSU, and must take at least 21 hours of 500-level or above courses at CSU.