Ph.D. Program

Admission to the Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program accepts applications annually to begin study during the following Fall semester; we do not currently solicit applications to begin study in Spring semesters. Students may apply for the Ph.D. program before or after earning an M.S. degree.

Ph.D. students in good standing receive financial support during the first five academic years of their program, including tuition, health insurance, and a service stipend assistantship.

Information about the application process may be found below or by visiting our FAQ for Prospective Students.

Application Timeline

Applications are accepted online beginning in mid-July. Visit the Graduate School application page to begin an application.

Final submission deadline: January 15

Applications received by the final submission deadline are eligible for a full review including financial aid consideration.

The admissions committee begins reviewing applications after the priority submission deadline and notifies admitted students in early March.

Admissions Requirements

Successful Ph.D. applicants will hold a B.S. or M.S. degree in computer science or a closely-related field or will have significant coursework or professional experience in computer science. A strong background in computer science topics including data structures and algorithms, hardware and architecture, and computer programming; as well as mathematics including discrete mathematics, probability and statistics, linear algebra, and calculus is expected. Prior research experience and/or publication, either in an academic or professional setting is favored.

All applicants must meet the requirements specified by the Graduate School in their application FAQ. Additionally, our program requires a TOEFL score of at least 90 or an IELTS score of at least 7.0 to apply.

Cognitive Science Concentration

Students applying to our Ph.D. program can apply simultaneously to the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Cognitive Science program. This program is designed to enable Ph.D. students in Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Computer Science to pursue a concentration in Cognitive Science. Students accepted to the Cognitive Science concentration take courses and create an advisory committee of faculty members from multiple departments at the University, which can include the Departments of Psychology, Linguistics, Computer Science, Philosophy, Neurology, Biology, and/or Spanish and Portuguese. Students will graduate with a Ph.D. from their home department with a Concentration in Cognitive Science.

To apply for admission, select “yes” in response to the Cognitive Science question in the application portal and submit a short (1 page) essay describing your interest in cognitive science. Note that your application will be reviewed alongside the other applications in Computer Science. Applying to the Cognitive Science Concentration may open up additional funding sources, so it is to your advantage to do so if the concentration aligns with your goals. It is also possible to apply to the Concentration later, after starting the Ph.D. in Computer Science. You may direct questions about applying to the Concentration to

Ph.D. Program Requirements and Milestones

The Ph.D. program requirements include completing graduate-level coursework; passing a core and area qualifying exam; completing PhD seminar courses; completing an Apprenticeship in Teaching program; and proposing, writing, and defending a research dissertation.

The information below is an overview of these requirements. The official requirements, procedures, and policies are kept in the Graduate Student Handbook.

Ph.D. Coursework

Ph.D. students must complete coursework equivalent to the M.S. Computer Science requirements, consisting of either 30 credits (10 courses) or 24 credits (8 courses) plus the writing of a Master’s Thesis. Upon completion of this requirement, Ph.D. students who have not yet earned a Master’s degree may apply to receive an M.S. in Passing (equivalent to an M.S. Computer Science) from Georgetown.

Ph.D. students who complete an M.S. degree prior to joining the program may receive Advanced Standing credit equivalent to some or all of this requirement, effectively reducing the total number of courses needed.

Qualifying Examinations

Ph.D. students must satisfy two qualifying exam requirements: the core qualifying requirement and the area qualifying requirement.

The core qualifying requirement evaluates a student’s breadth of computer science knowledge and is completed by earning strong grades in three courses at Georgetown. This requirement can be (and often is) completed simultaneously with the coursework requirement above.

The area qualifying requirement evaluates a student’s depth of understanding in an area of their choice and consists of a written literature review to be read and assessed by a committee of faculty.

Ph.D. Seminars

Ph.D. students must take a total of three seminar courses designed to explore current literature and research across computer science disciplines. These seminars are taken after completing the coursework and qualifying requirements.

Apprenticeship in Teaching Workshop Program

Ph.D. students must complete the Apprenticeship in Teaching (AT) Program administered by Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. This program consists of a series of workshops on teaching pedagogy. It may be completed at any time in the program but it usually done after the qualifying process is complete.

Dissertation Proposal and Defense

Ph.D. students must propose, perform, and defend a novel research project of significant importance or impact in the form of a written dissertation.

Students must first select a research topic and write a proposal outlining the scope of the problem; prior work in the area; and a blueprint for performing research work and measuring success or completion. This proposal is presented to a committee of faculty who must approve the proposal.

Upon completion of the research work, a written dissertation detailing the results must be written and defended publicly before the faculty committee who must unanimously approve the work.

Timeline of Degree Milestones

Ph.D. students entering the program immediately after completing a B.S. typically complete the degree in five years; the timeline below is based on a five-year course of study.

2Select a Ph.D. research adviser
4Complete Ph.D. coursework
6Complete area qualifying exam
8Complete Dissertation Proposal
59Complete the AIT Workshop Program
10Complete Dissertation Final Exam