Department of Computer Science


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Doctor of Philosophy

Program Overview

The doctoral program in computer science prepares students for research and teaching careers in academia and for research and technical careers in industry and government. The primary areas of concentration of the program are:

  • computer and network security
  • information search and retrieval
  • machine learning and data mining
  • networking and distributed systems
  • parallel and distributed algorithms
The department's faculty work in the areas of algorithms, artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, computer and network security, database systems, data mining, distributed algorithms, distributed systems, information assurance, information retrieval, machine learning, networking, non-standard parallel computing, and parallel algorithms.

Application Deadlines

January 15 (for fall admission)
Apply Online


Lisa Singh
Director of Graduate Studies
E: singh at cs dot georgetown dot edu

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the Doctor of Philosophy program must have a strong academic background and hold a Bachelor's or Master's degree from an accredited academic institution in computer science, computer engineering, information systems, electrical engineering, or a closely related field. Candidates must have taken undergraduate courses on data structures, hardware, architecture, algorithms, and mathematics, such as discrete structures, calculus, linear algebra, probability, and statistics. Ideally, applicants will have also conducted and published research through experiences at work or in undergraduate or graduate studies.

Applicants must provide the following documents:

  1. graduate school application forms
  2. research statement (academic statement of purpose)
  3. three letters of recommendation from professors who can comment authoritatively on the applicant's academic, intellectual, and scholarly ability and potential in computer science
  4. official transcripts from all previous academic institutions
  5. official GRE scores
  6. official TOEFL or IELTS scores, if necessary (see Item 7 of the Graduate School's checklist for required minimum scores)

Applicants to the Ph.D. program can apply online. All applicants regardless of their qualifications must submit current, official GRE scores; scores for the subject test in computer science are not required. Please take note of the Graduate School's application procedures and requirements checklist, and our answers to frequently asked questions. In addition to sending required official transcripts and test scores, we strongly encourage applicants to upload unofficial copies of transcripts and test scores with their application.

Financial Aid

Doctoral students have full support during the academic year through scholarships and research assistantships. We encourage prospective applicants to apply for their own external funding through programs such as the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship, the Department of Energy's Office of Science Graduate Fellowship, or the AFCEA Doctoral Fellowship.

Degree Requirements

There are six main requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy program:

  1. complete the requirements for the Master's degree
  2. take three doctoral seminars
  3. pass a qualifying examination
  4. complete the Apprenticeship in Teaching Program
  5. complete and defend a proposal
  6. complete and defend a dissertation

The normative time to complete the program for students with a Bachelor's degree in computer science is four to five years. The program requires full-time enrollment.

Note: The information on this page is intended for prospective students. Current students should refer to the Graduate Program Handbook for requirements, procedures, and policies.

Requirements for the Master's Degree

Doctoral students must first complete the requirements for the Master's program, which involves taking ten courses (30 credits) or taking eight courses (24 credits) and writing a thesis. Instead of two core courses, doctoral students must take three: Algorithms (COSC-540), Architecture (COSC-520), and Theory (COSC-545). The rules for graduate electives, external electives, and the thesis option apply without modification to doctoral students.

Doctoral Seminars

Doctoral students must take three, two-credit seminars in three different topic areas. The purpose of the doctoral seminars is to expose students to the current literature and to research problems and practice in different areas of computer science. Students take these seminars after taking Master's-level course work in the area and before the defense of their proposal.

Qualifying Examination

Once students have successfully completed the requirements for the Master's degree, they must pass a written qualifying exam consisting of three components: one core component and two area components.

The core component of the qualifying exam assesses a student's understanding of foundational concepts in the fundamental areas of algorithms, theory, and systems. The area components assesses a student's understanding in their area of research and in one allied area. There is one exam component in each of the program's areas of concentration, such as information retrieval, machine learning and data mining, and computer and network security. Students must select and pass components in two areas.

Apprenticeship in Teaching Program

Doctoral students must complete the Apprenticeship in Teaching (AT) Program administered through the Center of New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. The AT Program requires seven workshops that are a few hours in length. Five are required: Introduction to Teaching Resources, Assessment and Grading, Syllabus Design, Effective Classroom Interaction, and The Teaching Portfolio.

To complete the requirements, students participate in two elective workshops that vary from semester to semester. Examples include Learning Styles, Online Writing, and What does "Diversity in the Classroom" Mean? Students complete the requirements for the program by completing authentic teaching tasks, which include classroom observation, syllabus design, and a video-taped teaching practice.


Students must write a dissertation proposal, defend (or present) the proposal in a seminar open to the public, and obtain their committee's unanimous approval. The proposal is a serious scholarly work that identifies the problem of interest, related work, how existing approaches are inadequate, the proposed approach, the plan of study, how progress and success is to be measured, and preliminary results. The proposal must be of publishable quality and should be supported with the student's high-quality, peer-reviewed conference or journal publications.


Students must write a dissertation, defend the dissertation in a seminar open to the public, and obtain their committee's unanimous approval. The dissertation should be supported with the student's high-quality, peer-reviewed conference or journal publications.

Advanced Standing

Students with Master's degrees in computer science or a related discipline may qualify for advanced standing in the program, whereby they receive credit for some or all of the Master-level course work required for the program. After students have been accepted to the doctoral program and have indicated their intent to matriculate, the DGS will contact eligible students before the start of the fall semester and explain the process for applying for advanced standing.

Transfer Credit

Students who have graduate-level course work that has not been applied toward an earned degree may be able to transfer up to 25% of the required credits of Master-level course work. After students have joined the program, they can apply to transfer these credits.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are questions that prospective applicants ask frequently. Please read these carefully before sending email.

Am I eligible to apply?

Strictly speaking, everyone is eligible to apply. As a minimum, applicants must have taken undergraduate courses in computer science and mathematics so they are prepared to take the program's required and elective courses. Please do not send e-mail asking if you are eligible for admission. Prospective applicants and their advisors and mentors should be able to determine the prospects for admission based on the information on our Web pages. The purpose of the formal application process is for determining an applicant's eligibility for admission.

I am an international student and have a three-year degree in computer science. Can I apply?

Yes, provided that a three-year degree is the standard post-secondary degree in the applicant's country. In this case, we are more concerned about courses and grades than the duration of the program.

I don't have an undergraduate degree in computer science. Can I apply?

Yes, apply, but applicants must have taken undergraduate computer science courses on programming, data structures, architecture, algorithms, and mathematics beyond calculus. If they have not taken these courses, then they must take them at another institution before applying to our graduate program, or consider applying to our post-bac certificate program. If applicants are missing a course on, say, algorithms, the Graduate Committee may admit them and require them to take our undergraduate course on algorithms as an additional requirement. Our program is not structured in a way that we can admit applicants who have taken only introductory courses in programming and computer science.

How long will it take for Georgetown to make a decision about my application?

Applicants should learn the Graduate School's decision no later than six to eight weeks after the deadline.

Will you accept me conditionally or provisionally?

No. Georgetown does not accept graduate students conditionally or provisionally.

Whom can I contact about my application?

For questions about the program and the application process, contact the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Before contacting the DGS, please review the information on this page and on the pages to which it links. Please do not send application materials by e-mail. Please do not attempt to apply by e-mail.

Should I contact professors about my application?

The best option is for applicants to discuss their interest in working with specific professors in their statement. The Graduate Admissions Committee will ensure that professors named in statements will see competitive applications. Before contacting professors, please check their Web site to determine if they welcome such inquiries. Applicants can contact individual professors about their research and whether they are taking students. Please do not send professors application materials by e-mail. Please do not attempt to apply by e-mail.

Do you provide financial assistance?

Yes. We provide only merit-based financial assistance. We provide full support for doctoral students, and provide partial support for exceptional Master's students. For doctoral students, we provide merit-based scholarships that cover all tuition, research assistantships for the academic year, and health insurance. Doctoral students can also apply for summer support and travel awards. For Master's students, we provide merit-based scholarships that cover up to one-third of the program's tuition. The Graduate School communicates offers of financial aid with the letter offering admission. See the Graduate School's Web page on Financial Support, which also includes information about need-based aid.

Who is eligible for financial assistance?

All applicants are eligible for financial assistance. This includes international applicants and applicants to the Master's program who want to attend part-time.

If you provide full financial support to doctoral students, then why should prospective applicants apply for their own external funding?

Programs that provide external funding for graduate studies are highly competitive and prestigious. We also encourage our current doctoral students to apply for these awards.

How much is tuition?

Georgetown's Office of Student Financial Services maintains current information about tuition, fees, and the cost of attendance.

My employer has a tuition assistance program, but it doesn't cover all of Georgetown's tuition. Am I eligible for financial assistance?

Yes, applicants with their own funding are eligible for merit-based aid. Applicants should discuss these details in their statement. For exceptional Master's students, we will cover up to one-third of their tuition. For doctoral students, we will cover anything the employer does not. However, since the doctoral program requires full-time enrollment, the employer benefit must also include an accommodation of time to participate fully in the program. This must be documented in the application.

Do you provide research or teaching assistantships to Master's students?

Master's students may be eligible for research or teaching assistantships after their first semester. These opportunities are subject to availability and are merit-based forms of aid. Consequently, students must maintain a grade-point average of 3.78 or higher to qualify and remain eligible for these positions.

What is the required grade-point average?

The Graduate School requires that applicants have in their undergraduate studies a grade-point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (i.e., 75%).

What are the minimum scores for the GRE test?

The department does not have required minimum scores for the GRE. Having said that, successful applicants have quantitative scores in the 90th percentile and verbal scores in the 80th percentile.

Will you waive the GRE test?

No. Current and official test results for the GRE General Test are required for all applicants regardless of their qualifications.

Can you use my old GRE scores?

We must have current and official test scores. If ETS will send them, then we will use them. If ETS will not send them because they are old, then applicants will have to retake the test.

Will you accept the GMAT instead of the GRE?

No. Current and official test results for the GRE General Test are required for all applicants.

Is the TOEFL (or IELTS) required?

Not necessarily. There are other ways of demonstrating proficiency in English. For more information, see the Graduate School's requirements for entrance exams for foreign applicants.

What is the minimum required TOEFL score?

The Graduate School stipulates that applicants must have a minimum TOEFL score of 550 (paper-based test) or 80 (Internet test). Please see the Graduate School's requirements for entrance exams for foreign applicants.

What are the required minimum scores for the sections of the TOEFL?

We use only the total score. We do not have required minimum scores for the sections.

Will you waive the TOEFL test?

No. Current and official test results for the TOEFL (or the IELTS) are required for all applicants who cannot otherwise demonstrate proficiency in English. For more information about demonstrating proficiency in English, see the Graduate School's requirements for entrance exams for foreign applicants.

What is Georgetown's ETS code?

The ETS code for Georgetown's Graduate School is 5244.

Do I send my scores to the department?

No. Send all official scores directly to the Graduate School using the ETS code 5244, as explained in the Graduate School's Application Procedures.

What is the minimum required IELTS score?

The Graduate School stipulates that applicants must have an IELTS score of 7.0. Please see the Graduate School's requirements for entrance exams for foreign applicants.

What is Georgetown's code for the IELTS?

There is no code for the IELTS. The IELTS is administered by Cambridge ESOL, British Council, and IDP:IELTS Australia. Official score reports should be sent to Georgetown directly from the testing agency. Please go to the IELTS website at www.ielts.org for more information.

What if my TOEFL score, IELTS score, or grade-point average is below the required minimum? Will you review my application?

We review all applications. If an applicant's score or grade-point average is below the Graduate School's required minimum, then if the department wants to admit such an applicant, it must request an exception from the Graduate School, which may or may not approve the request. Any aspect of an application that is less than ideal must be offset by other aspects that are exceptional. We encourage applicants to address any weaknesses in their statement.

Should international applicants use WES for foreign transcripts?

It is strongly encouraged. See the Graduate School's requirements for official transcripts.

What if my official scores or transcripts do not arrive by the deadline?

The department gives first priority to applications that are complete by the deadline. Applications are not complete without official test results and transcripts. If there is a chance that official documentation will not arrive by the deadline, then unofficial copies should be included with the electronic application. The department may review applications with unofficial documentation, but the Graduate School will not process acceptances without official test results and transcripts. For doctoral students, it is critical that applications are complete by the deadline because of the limited number of available slots. If an application is not complete, then the department puts it on hold while it processes complete applications. If the department fills its available slots, then applications on hold may not be reviewed. Once we make a decision not to review an incomplete application, our only option is to reject it.

Can I transfer courses into the graduate program?

Yes. After the first semester, students can apply for transfer credit. They can transfer up to 25% of the total credits required, which equates to three courses. These credits must not have been applied toward another degree. Doctoral students who have earned a relevant Master's degree may be eligible for advanced standing toward program's required Master-level course work.

Do you accept part-time students?

We accept part-time students for the Master's program, but the Ph.D. program requires full-time enrollment.

If I apply for the Ph.D. program, will you also consider me for the Master's program?

Yes. If we are unable to offer admission to applicants to the Ph.D. program, then we will consider them for the Master's program. We will send e-mail to such applicants asking if they wish to be considered for the Master's program. It is possible to apply for both programs, but this requires two separate application fees.

Can I start as a Master's student and transfer to the Ph.D. program?

Master's students can apply to the Ph.D. program. It is not possible to transfer to the Ph.D. program without a formal application. Master's students should apply to the Ph.D. program after their first year.

How long will it take me to complete the program?

The expected time to complete the Master's program is two years or four semesters. International students normally have two years to complete the program, whereas other students normally have three years. The expected time to complete the Ph.D. program is four years. Students who already have a Master's degree in computer science may be able to complete the Ph.D. program in less time. Students normally have no more than seven years to complete the Ph.D. program.

Do you assign doctoral students to advisors at the time of admission?

No. We do not assign doctoral students to advisors at the time of admission. Incoming students may have identified and communicated with a prospective advisor, but students have three semesters to find an advisor. Most students find advisors by the late part of their first semester or the early part of their second semester. We want students to have the opportunity to meet prospective advisors, take classes from them, and learn about their research projects.

Will you help me with my application?

No. We cannot provide advice to applicants on their application. Applicants should get advice about applying to graduate school from professors at their home institutions.

Can you tell my why you did not admit me?

Unfortunately, we cannot. The deliberations of the Graduate Admissions Committee are confidential. We also do not have the resources to give feedback to applicants. Applicants should get advice about applying to graduate school and strengthening their application from professors at their home institutions.

I applied previously. Can I reuse my application?

Unfortunately, no. We do not retain applications after our review. It is necessary to create and submit a new application.

I got in! But can I defer?

Successful applicants can request to defer their matriculation for up to one year. Requests may not be granted, and if granted, we cannot guarantee that awarded funding will be available when applicants decide to matriculate. To apply for a deferral, successful applicants must complete the Deferral of Admission Request Form and submit it to the Graduate School. For more information, see the Graduate School's policy on the admission of applicant's.

I missed the application deadline. Will you consider my application?

No. We do not consider new applications after the deadline. We do not have rolling admissions.

I missed the application deadline. What should I do?

Unfortunately, the only option is to wait until the next deadline to apply. People who take graduate-level courses at another university through a non-degree program may be able to transfer up to three courses to our program, assuming they are admitted and matriculate.

Can I take classes as a non-degree student?

No. To take our graduate courses, students must be in a degree program at Georgetown or at a Consortium University.

I am a graduate student at Georgetown, but not in computer science. Can I take CS classes?

Graduate students at Georgetown in other departments and programs can take up to two graduate courses in computer science subject to the permission of the instructor. Graduate students who want to take more than two courses must petition the department through its DGS with a proposal, which must be approved by the student's advisor and DGS and details how the courses support the student's overall plan of study. The requested courses are still subject to the permission of the instructor.