Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree (2017)


Priority Admission Application Deadlines

Fall: February 15
Spring: October 15
Summer: No admit

International applicant deadlines

Minimum Total Hours

  • 72 post-bachelors
  • 42 post-master's

Level: Doctoral
CIP Code: 14.0901
Dept. Code: ESB
Major/College Codes: CSE EN
Approved: 1984


College: Engineering
Department: Computer Science and Engineering
Contact Information


The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is conferred in recognition of a candidate's highest level of scholarly competence and demonstrated capability to independently conduct and report significant research in computer science and engineering. This achievement requires more than an accumulation of course credits over a stated period of residence. Scholarly competence is achieved through systematic study and investigation in the chosen discipline at an advanced level. The major professor and at least two committee members will be from the Computer Science and Engineering department. Research capability is developed during the course of study and is achieved through the completion of significant and independent research. The results of this research must be formally presented in a written dissertation and successfully defended before an examining committee. The dissertation must demonstrate the significance of the research as well as the candidate's ability to organize and present her/his results in a professional manner.

Major Research Areas

An excellent selection of courses and laboratories support graduate studies in algorithms, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, computer architecture, graphics, networks, computer vision, distributed systems, embedded systems, expert systems, formal verification, image processing, pattern recognition, robotics, databases, software engineering, computer security, compilers, programming languages, VLSI design, and CAD.


Must meet University requirements (see Graduate Admissions) as well as requirements for admission to the major, listed below.

  • The GRE is required for all PhD applicants. The median GRE scores of recently admitted students include 770 on the Quantitative portion and a Verbal Total of 450. For GRE tests taken after August 1, we require a minimum of 161 on the Quantitative portion (81 percentile) and a minimum of 150 (44 percentile) on the Verbal.
  • Minimum grade point average (GPA) of "B" average (or equivalent) for all coursework completed during the last two (2) years of undergraduate major.
  • Submission of TOEFL scores with an Internet-based score of 79 or higher for applicants from non-English speaking countries. If consideration of an assistantship is desired, the speaking score component of the TOEFL must be 26 or above
  • The TOEFL requirements may be waived if the applicant meets one of the following conditions:
    • Has scored 500 or higher on the GRE Verbal Test (Old Scores) or 153 with the New GRE scoring.
    • Has earned a college degree at a U.S. institution of higher learning.
    • Has scored 6.5 on International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation.
  • Statement of purpose.
  • The applicant must also have mathematical preparation equivalent to that obtained from courses in Calculus through Differential Equations; knowledge of computer science and computer engineering, including logic design, computer architecture, data structures, operating systems, and analysis of algorithms. Students are assumed to have good programming skills. The majority of students accepted to the major possess an undergraduate degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or Mathematics; however, students who hold an undergraduate degree in a related field are encouraged to apply.


Total Program hours

  • 72 minimum (post-bachelor's)
  • 42 minimum (post-master's)

A minimum of 72 semester hours including dissertation hours beyond the baccalaureate degree are required of all Ph.D. students

Post-Bachelor's: 72 hours minimum

Core Requirements Hours: 9 hours
Coursework Requirement Hours: 24 hours
Independent Study/Dir Research Hours: up to 15 hours
Dissertation Hours: at least 20 credit hours

Post-Master's: 42 hours minimum

Core Requirements Hours: 9 hours
Independent Study/Dir Research Hours: up to 15 hours
Dissertation Hours: at least 20 credit hours

COP 6611 Operating Systems 3
EEL 6764 Principles of Computer Architecture 3
COT 6405 Introduction to the Theory of Algorithms 3


At least 33 credit hours in coursework excluding independent study and directed research. The exact distribution of these hours in the Computer Science and Engineering discipline will be determined by the student and the supervisory committee to provide the student with a stimulating educational experience.

Examples of Departmental Course Options 

CAP 5400 Digital Image Processing 3
CAP 5625 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence 3
CAP 5771 Data Mining 3
CAP 6415 Computer Vision 3
CAP 6455 Advanced Robotic Systems 3
CAP 6615 Neural Networks 3
CAP 6736 Geometric Modeling 3
CDA 5416 Computer System Verification 3
CNT 6215 Computer Networks 3
COP 6621 Programming Languages and Translation 3
EEL 5771 Introduction to Computer Graphics I 3
EEL 6706 Testing and Fault Tolerance in Digital Systems 3
CIS 6900 Independent Study 1-19
CIS 6930 Special Topics 1-5
CIS 6940 Graduate Instruction Methods 1-4
CIS 6946 Internships/Practicums/Clinical Practice 0-3
CIS 6971 Thesis: Master's 2-19

Independent Study/Directed Research

Up to 15 credit hours of independent study/directed research. 

CIS 6900 Independent Study 1-15
CIS 7910 Directed Research 1-15

Qualifying Examination

Students must pass the PhD Qualifying examinations in Computer Architecture, Operating Systems, and Theory of Algorithms. The qualifying examination is a two-step process. First, students must get a GPA of 3.60 or better in these three courses within one year of enrollment, otherwise they will have to re-take only the necessary course(s) and get a GPA of 3.60 or better using the best three grades If a student does not meet these requirements by the end of the second year, he or she will be withdrawn from the PhD program. Second, students must take the qualifying exam and pass it. Students are required to take the exam as soon as they meet the requirements of the first step.

Major Research-Area Paper and Future Research Directions

To fulfill this milestone, students are required to write a survey or research paper on his/her area of research as the lead author. A journal or conference paper already published will count towards this requirement. The student is then required to give an oral presentation on the subject to his/her major professor and a doctoral evaluating committee. The oral presentation must also contain a section on future research directions, a draft plan of research activities towards graduation. The presentation will be open to the public. The paper and presentation is to be completed within one year of passing the Qualifying Examinations and will have to be formally approved by his/her major professor the doctoral evaluating committee before applying for Candidacy.

Admission to Candidacy

A student will not be admitted to candidacy until a Doctoral committee has been appointed, and the committee has certified that the student has successfully completed the qualifying examination and the Major Research Area Paper and Future Research Directions presentation, and demonstrated the qualifications necessary to successfully complete the requirements for the degree. The admission to Candidacy form must be approved by the Dean of the college and forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval. The student may elect to enroll in dissertation credits in the semester following approval of the Admission to Candidacy form by Graduate Studies.

The student's progress in the program is monitored by a supervisory doctoral committee, which is usually appointed at an early stage in the student's major. This committee consists of at least five (5) members, one of whom is outside the College of Engineering. The Major Professor will be a member of the Computer Science and Engineering Department. Normally, two (2) more Computer Science and Engineering faculty serve on the committee with a member in another department in the college.

The student must conduct research of sufficient quality that demonstrates an independent and original contribution to the field of computer science and engineering. Students must take at least 20 semester hours of doctoral dissertation credits;the exact number of credits is determined by the candidate's supervisory committee. It is strongly recommended that doctoral students submit journal articles for publication relevant to dissertation research.

Dissertation Hours 

Student are required to take at least 20 hours of dissertation hours until they accumulate a minimum number of 72 hours in the major.

CIS 7980 Dissertation 2-19

Dissertation Defense

A doctoral candidate must defend her/his research before her/his committee. The defense is usually open to the university community and conducted in accordance with the university's general rules and regulations. The defense involves a formal presentation of the dissertation followed by a critical exchange between the candidate and the committee. The committee chairman moderates the proceedings and determines procedure, originality of the research, and contributions made by the candidate.

See USF Course Inventory