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PhD in Computer Science

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Admission Information

Requirement Summary

The admissions committee will consider the following in their decisions: Current degree (B.S., M.S.) and the reputation of the programs where the degree was obtained, GPA, GRE scores, TOEFL/IELTS scores, curriculum vitae, research statement, research/industry experience, publications, recommendations, and whether a faculty member agrees to advise.

*PhD candidates should reach out to a faculty member for recommendation prior to applying

Minimum Requirements

  • MS or BS in Computer Science (or related areas)
  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.25 or graduate GPA of 3.5
  • GRE scores above the 40th percentile on the verbal section and 80th percentile on the quantitative section. Those whose Quantitative score on the GRE General Test is less than the 80th percentile will need to show compensating strength in their background to be considered.
  • TOEFL score of 79 or IELTS overall score of 6.0 and a minimum score of 5 on each subscale
  • Extensive experience in computing, programming experience in C++, and a course in Data Structures and Algorithms (CS 2420), as well as a working grasp of calculus and statistics
  • Faculty recommendation heavily emphasized

Application Materials

  • Official Transcripts

    • Each previously attended college and/or university, including Utah State University, must be listed on the application form, and the applicant must have an official transcript from each institution (except Utah State University) sent directly to the Utah State University School of Graduate Studies. Transcripts accumulated on one record are not acceptable. Transcripts must be submitted for all coursework above the high-school level and all prior degrees. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a notarized translation. Transcripts submitted as application credentials become the property of the School of Graduate Studies and will not be copied for or returned to the applicant.
  • GRE Scores

    • Applicants should request that their test report be sent directly to the School of Graduate Studies.
  • Three (3) Letters of Recommendation

    • Three letters of recommendation are required; each must address the applicant's potential for success in the proposed graduate degree program. At least two of the letters must come from persons from whom the applicant has taken academic coursework. The letters must be sent directly to the School of Graduate Studies. The request is sent out electronically through the online application.
  • TOEFL or IELTS Scores

    • International applicants from non-English-speaking countries must demonstrate competency in the English language by taking either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Dulingo does not provide sufficient proof of English proficiency. The minimum required scores are as follows:
      • TOEFL internet-based test: 79
      • IELTS exam: overall score of 6.0 and a minimum score of 5 on each subscale.
    • Scores that are more than 2 years old are not accepted. If an international applicant has a degree from a university in an English-speaking country, the TOEFL or IELTS is not required.
    • International applicants may apply to Utah State University as an undergraduate student in the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) and:
      • Take and pass the IELI placement exam, or
      • Take the IELI placement exam and complete the required classes.
    • Note: IELI does not offer level 0 or low-beginning English classes. IELI offers level 1, which is high-beginning. Students entering IELI must have a basic knowledge of English in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Passing the IELI placement exam or completing the required IELI classes does not guarantee matriculation into a graduate program.
  • Portfolio

    • A curriculum vitae and a two-page research statement are required for Computer Science Ph.D. students. The research statement should contain at least the following: research experience and interests, short-term research agenda, long-term research agenda, and CS faculty members to work with. Include whether a faculty member has agreed to advise, as faculty recommendation is heavily emphasized for Computer Science Ph.D. applicants.

Note: Application materials may be submitted after paying the $55 nonrefundable application fee. For more information on application materials, visit the School of Graduate Studies' Admissions Overview.

Application Deadlines

Semester All Students
Fall February 1
Spring October 15

*Please note that to be considered for Departmental Funding (Teaching Assistantships) you must apply in the FALL.

Coursework Information

Program Pathway

  1. Be accepted to the Computer Science PhD program and work with your temporary advisor: Caitlin Thaxton
  2. Register for courses. CS 6900 Seminar must be completed during your first Fall semester
  3. Second Semester (due Apr. 1st or Nov. 1st): Form your graduate committee and complete the Supervisory Committee Approval Form (SCAF)
  4. Second or Third Semester (due Apr. 1st or Nov. 1st): Submit your Program of Study (POS) by emailing Caitlin Thaxton to let her know it is ready for approval
  5. Within two years: Complete your Qualifying Exam and complete the Application for Candidacy (ACDD) form
  6. Take 18+ credits of CS 7970 and conduct your research. Take remaining credits of coursework, as listed on your POS.
  7. Write your dissertation and submit it to your major professor then committee. 
  8. Tentatively schedule your defense with your committee and complete your Appointment for Examination (AFE) at least 2 weeks prior
  9. Defend your dissertation then complete any edits requested by your major professor
  10. Complete post-defense forms: Format and Style, Authorship and Copyright, and Title Pages. Send finalized dissertation and title page to Caitlin Thaxton, who will send them to the Graduate School for approval
  11. Complete the program when you have completed the coursework on your POS and your successfully defended dissertation has been approved

Supervisory Committee

  • New students are assigned a temporary advisor.
  • After having attended CS6900, students should know their research area and have identified a professor to supervise said research.
  • Students formulate a research idea/topic and approach the identified professor.
  • If the identified professor agrees to accept the new student, the professor becomes the student’s permanent advisor for your PhD Supervisory Committee (also called your Major Professor).
  • Together, the student and the Major Professor decide the other members of the student’s Graduate Supervisory Committee. See the webpage for your specific degree for information on who is eligible to serve on a committee.
  • The CS Department Head and the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies must approve the committee list.
  • For students joining the department in Fall semester, they will need to submit a Supervisory Committee Form (SCAF) by November 1st. For students joining the department in Spring semester, they will need to submit a SCAF by April 1st.

Program of Study 

  • The POS must include at least 70 credits
  • The POS must include at least 9 credits of CS 6000+ courses (excluding CS 6250, CS 6900, and CS 7970)
  • The POS must include at least 21 additional course credits
  • The POS may include up to 6 credits from the following group of courses: CS 5950, CS 6950, and CS 7950
  • The POS may include up to 3 credits of CS 6250
  • The POS must include 21 or fewer credits of 5000-level courses and no courses below 5000-level
  • The POS cannot include CS 5060, CS 6990, CS 7990, and IELI 7920
  • The POS must include 1 credit of CS 6900, passed in first Fall semester
  • The POS may include up to 9 credits outside the CS department. Any outside credits must be approved by the student’s committee
  • The POS cannot include independent study courses outside the CS department
  • The POS can only include LAEP 7800 in the remaining courses/dissertation category (see chart below)
  • If CS 5250 (1 credit) and CS 5260 (2 credits) are included, they must be taken the same semester

Program of Study with MS Requirements

  • The POS must include at least 70 credits minus the number of credits that transfer from prior MS
  • The POS must include at least 9 credits of CS 6000+ courses (excluding CS 6250, CS 6900, and CS 7970)
  • The POS must include at least 3 additional course credits
  • The POS may include up to 3 credits from the following group of courses: CS 5950, CS 6950, and CS 7950
  • The POS may include up to 3 credits of CS 6250
  • The POS must include 15 or fewer credits of 5000-level courses and no courses below 5000-level
  • The POS cannot include CS 5060, CS 6990, CS 7990, and IELI 7920
  • The POS must include 1 credit of CS 6900, passed in first Fall semester
  • The POS may include up to 9 credits outside the CS department. Any outside credits must be approved by the student’s committee
  • The POS cannot include independent study courses outside the CS department
  • The POS can only include LAEP 7800 in the remaining courses/dissertation category (see Table 1)
  • If CS 5250 (1 credit) and CS 5260 (2 credits) are included, they must be taken the same semester

Table 1: Course and Credit Requirements for Ph.D. degree

  Ph.D. without MS Ph.D. with MS
6000-level or 7000-level 9 9
Credits from MS
0 0 to 30
Seminar CS 6900 1 1
Dissertation
18 18
Additional Courses 21 3
Remaining Courses 21 39 (includes credits transfered from MS)
Minimum total 70 70

GPA Policy

Before Fall 2020 Fall 2020 and After
  • Students must maintain a 3.50 GPA on all courses shown on his or her Program of Study Form
  • Students must maintain a 3.0 on all courses taken as a matriculated graduate student and all CS courses numbered 5000 or above.
  • Ph.D. students are required to maintain at least a 3.5 GPA for degree-program courses. Grades of B- or lower will not be accepted for a graduate degree.

Qualifying Exam

Pass a set of written examinations and an oral examination showing depth and breadth of knowledge in computer science and their area(s) of emphasis. While there is some flexibility in the scheduling of the qualifier, it is important that it be completed early in one’s program. For that reason, the following timelines are given:

  • Those without an MS must have completed 18 credits and have a 3.5 GPA in order to take the qualifier.
  • Those with an MS must have completed 12 credits and have a 3.5 GPA in order to take the qualifier.
  • Students may complete (register for) a maximum of six credits of CS 7970 (dissertation credits) before successfully completing the qualifier.

Students must complete this exam within a maximum of 24 credits or two years. Extensions beyond the 24 credits or two years require approval of the student’s graduate committee.

Click here for more information about the Qualifying Exam Policy. (also maybe make this a document instead of a webpage?)

Financial Aid Information

Graduate students frequently wonder whether they can get financial assistance from the Department. This is available to qualified students in a variety of forms:

  • Fellowships provide a stipend to our best entering students.
  • Teaching assistantships provide a stipend in return for 20 hours work per week.
  • Research assistantships are awarded by individual professors who have research funds to support graduate students; consult the web pages of individual faculty to determine whether they are seeking research assistants.

In addition to the stipend, students receiving financial aid usually qualify for a waiver of a portion of the out-of-state portion of tuition. All applications need to be submitted by March 10.

Students who accept the offer of admissions by April 15 will be eligible to apply for financial aid for the following Fall semester.

Some students are able to find campus employment with other departments or research groups.

Computer Science Tuition Award Policy

Policies for the competitive awarding of tuition waivers to MS and Ph.D. students are as follows:
Priorities for tuition awards are:

  1. First priority will be given to students who are supported by research grants.
  2. Second priority will be given to students selected for specific tasks by the Department.
  3. Third priority will be given to MS Plan A students who are recommended by their major professor.
  4. If any tuition waivers remain, they will be assigned based on the discretion of the Department.

The following restrictions apply:

  1. No student may receive a tuition waiver if they have been found to have violated the Computer Science Code of Conduct or the Computer Science Cheating Policy and been reported to Student Services.
  2. Students who have received a tuition waiver previously as a GTA must receive a satisfactory review from their previous supervisor in order to be considered for an additional award.
  3. Students who are employed outside of the Department will not be awarded tuition waivers from the Computer Science Department. They will need to petition the Department where they are working.

Constraints on Teaching and Research Assistantships
Department support is not unlimited or unconditional. The following constraints apply for both MS and Ph.D. students.

  1. If you are a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), you must do well as a GTA. Consistently poor GTA reports may result in end of support.
  2. You must have a CS faculty advisor (excluding adjuncts). Department support does not go to students supervised by faculty in other departments.
  3. You must have a current CS faculty advisor. If your advisor leaves, get a new one. The advisor cannot, in general, direct from another university (exceptions are made for students who have passed the Ph.D. proposal or are otherwise nearing completion of their degree).
  4. You must continuously be making progress towards your degree in classes and research.