Skip to main content

Ph.D. Course Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science is, above all else, a degree of quality. Simply completing a number of graduate courses or years of study is not sufficient to receive the degree. The successful candidate must demonstrate a breadth of understanding in computer science and a depth of understanding in their chosen area(s) of emphasis.

Students must also show an ability to do creative research. Thus, each successful Ph.D. candidate will produce a significant piece of original research presented in a written dissertation and defended in an oral examination. This work should be of such quality that one or more journal or conference articles can be derived from it.

  • All Ph.D. students must turn in a Program of Study by the end of their third semester. If you are on an assistantship, you must turn in your Program of Study by the end of your second semester.
  • Completion of at least 70 credits of graduate course work beyond a BS-CS or at least 40 credits beyond a MS-CS with a minimum class grade of B.
  • Must complete nine credits of courses at CS 6000-level or above. CS 6900, CS 6250, and CS 7970 are not included in the nine required 6000-level or above CS courses.
  • Must take three additional course credits or 21 without a MS. (CS 6900 does not count as one of these credits)
  • A Ph.D. student cannot take more than 9 credits outside of the CS Department. Any outside credits must be approved by your committee.
  • Independent Studies courses taken outside the Computer Science Department will not be approved.
  • CS 5950 or CS 6950 or CS 7950 can be taken only with advisor's prior permission and only for three credits at a time. The maximum total number of credits allowed for these courses are three (with previous MS) or six (without previous MS).
  • CS 6990, CS 7990 and CS 5060 CANNOT be counted on the Program of Study for Ph.D. students.
  • CS 6250 can be taken only with advisor's prior permission and for 1-3 credits at a time. A maximum of three credits will be allowed on your Program of Study.
  • No more then 15 credits of 5000 level can be included (with a previous MS) or 21 credits (without a previous MS).
  • IELI 7920 cannot be included on the POS.
  • Ph.D. students are required to take the 1-credit CS 6900 in their first year to introduce them to the research in the department.

GPA Policy Before Fall 2020

For students who began their CS graduate program before Fall 2020, the department's GPA and grade requirements are:

  • 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.

GPA Policy Beginning Fall 2020

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.

Exam Requirements for Ph.D. Candidates

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 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 Ph.D. Exams Policy

Research Requirements

  • Successfully complete a research proposal.
  • Successfully complete and defend a dissertation.
  • Responsible Conduct of Research training is required of all doctoral students who started Fall 2013 or later.
  • The research proposal and dissertation must be at least 18 semester credits.
  • Consistent Progress in Research: All PhD students are required to conduct research leading to a dissertation. Some students experience difficulty in making consistent and timely progress in this research and in writing their dissertations, theses, or reports. Not only does this make their work harder, but their advisors and other students may be depending on them to finish their work rapidly. A student’s advisor and the Department Head may, in consultation, decide that a graduate student is not making consistent progress in research, and may decide to dismiss the student from his or her degree program. A student who has been registered for ( or should have been registered for) 3 or more semesters (12 months) of CS7990 is expected to be ready to defend his or her dissertation/thesis/report. If, after such a period, significant progress toward completion is not shown, the student will be terminated in the program.

 Table 7: Course and Credit Requirements for Ph.D. degree. "Without MS" denotes students without a MS-CS degree, "with MS" denotes students already holding a MS-CS degree. Unless otherwise noted, a credit hour value denotes the number that must be included in the degree. No more and no less than this number may be included.

  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 / Dissertation 21 39 (hours awarded from MS)
Minimum Total 70 70

Please Note: Research Integrity is a required course, even though it is 0 credits

Tuition Awards Limitations



Nonresident Portion


70 Credits

70 Credits


70 Credits

70 Credits


70 Credits

70 Credits


70 Credits

70 Credits

*The student's major professor should work with the student to write a justification letter to map the courses on the student's M.S. transcript to equivalent CS courses offered in the USU CS MS program.  This justification letter will be reviewed and approved by the student's graduate committee. Finally, the Department Head will review the justification letter and decide how many credits can be transferred.

Notice of Non-discrimination

In its programs and activities, including in admissions and employment, Utah State University does not discriminate or tolerate discrimination, including harassment, based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, status as a protected veteran, or any other status protected by University policy, Title IX, or any other federal, state, or local law. The following individuals have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the application of Title IX and its implementing regulations and/or USU’s non-discrimination policies:


Executive Director of the Office of Equity
Alison Adams-Perlac
Old Main Rm. 161


Title IX Coordinator
Hilary Renshaw
Old Main Rm. 161


For further information regarding non-discrimination, please visit, or contact:

U.S. Department of Education
Office of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

U.S. Department of Education
Denver Regional Office

(updated 9/3/2020)