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
  • cryptography
  • information search and retrieval
  • machine learning, data mining, and natural language processing
  • networking and distributed systems
  • parallel and distributed algorithms

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

Application Deadlines

December 15, 2019 (preferred deadline for fall 2020 admission)
January 15, 2020 (final deadline for fall 2020 admissions)
Apply Online


Graduate Program Manager
E: gpm 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 to the Ph.D. program must apply online. Applicants are required to upload to the application system copies of official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended. Visit our How to Apply page for additional details and FAQs. Do not send electronic or paper copies of your transcripts before receiving an offer of admission. In addition, applicants must provide the following documents:

  • resume/cv uploaded to online application
  • research statement (academic statement of purpose) uploaded to online application
  • three letters of recommendation, via the online application, from individuals who can comment authoritatively on the applicant’s academic, intellectual, and scholarly ability and potential in computer science
  • official GRE scores (code: 5244)*
  • official TOEFL (code: 5244) or IELTS scores, if necessary**

*All applicants regardless of their qualifications must submit 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 our answers to frequently asked questions.

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, or the AFCEA Doctoral Fellowship.

Degree Requirements

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

  • complete the requirements for the Master’s degree
  • take three doctoral seminars
  • pass a qualifying examination
  • complete the workshop portion of the Apprenticeship in Teaching Program
  • complete and defend a proposal
  • 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 completing Master’s-level course work 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 a core component and an area component. The core component can be waived if grades in core courses are high. Please see Handbook for more details.

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 exam is designed to assess students’ ability to read, analyze, and communicate current research results. This is done by completing a literature review in an area the student and adviser agree on. 

Apprenticeship in Teaching Program

Doctoral students must complete the workshop component of 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? While not required, students may opt to 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 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 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 work with students during their first semester to 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.

If you have questions about the requirements or application process, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.