Computer Science: Doctoral Degree

A doctoral program in computer science is a research-oriented degree that investigates contemporary problems in the field. Find out about requirements to earn this degree and careers it could prepare you to enter. Schools offering Computer Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.) Program in Computer Science?

Ph.D. programs in computer science take approximately six years to complete, and you cannot earn them online. Emphasis in this course of study is not on classes; in fact, during your 6-year tenure, you may only take around ten classes. Instead, the focus is typically on research, and the degree culminates in a dissertation, a book-length work of original research. Additionally, after the first two years, you usually must pass a qualifying exam based on a reading list developed with the help of an academic advisor.

Program Length About six years
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree or higher is required; institutions may require applicants to submit a resume, letters of recommendation, writing samples, and/or standardized test scores
Common Courses Software systems, applied logic, algorithm analysis, computer architecture, database technologies
Median Salary (2018) $82,220* (for postsecondary computer science teachers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% growth* (for postsecondary computer science teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Admission Requirements?

You need at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission into Ph.D. programs in computer science, and many programs prefer applicants who have a degree in a related field, such as computer programming, software engineering, hardware engineering, network administration or robotics technology. Additionally, applicants with a graduate degree, teaching experience or research experience may have better chances of admission. You can expect to submit critical writing samples, a professional resume, letters of recommendation and Graduate Records Exam (GRE) scores. Professional experience in a computer science-related field could be beneficial preparation.

What Classes Could I Take?

Although research is often the focus in Ph.D. programs in computer science, you might still learn about advanced computing theory. For example, you could take classes like the following:

  • Algorithm analysis
  • Formal computing languages
  • Numerical analysis
  • Applied logic
  • Computer architecture
  • Software systems
  • Computer technology and values
  • Information systems research methods
  • Database technologies

What Jobs Can I Get?

With a Ph.D. in Computer Science, you could work as a postsecondary instructor. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that professors of computer science earned a median annual salary of $82,220 as of May 2018 ( Additionally, computer science postsecondary teachers were expected to experience a job growth rate of 15% between 2016 and 2026, per the BLS.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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