Ph.D. in Computer Science
About the Ph.D. in computer science
We are a dynamic and growing department with a strong Ph.D. program in the theory and design of computer programs and computing systems. We have 19 faculty, and in the last 10 years, our department has been awarded $14.4 million in research grants. Faculty research spans interdisciplinary science and engineering problems, including cutting-edge projects in expanding fields such as advanced manufacturing, autonomous systems, big data and cyber security. Learn more about our faculty.
Our graduates see strong demand for their skills, and our proximity to high-tech hubs such as San Francisco and Seattle mean our department has forged strong connections with major employers. Our graduates have gone on to work for companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle. Our graduates have also gone on to academic careers in universities around the nation.
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Research in computer science
Our department has research strengths in three main areas:
Faculty in this area research wireline and wireless networking areas to improve the Internet and accommodate growing demand for high-speed mobile networking. Faculty also investigate cyber security and forensics to protect the digital world and explore social and biological networks in order to identify patterns in those complex systems.
Our research focuses on developing systems that are able to perceive, understand and respond to the world around them. This area of research has a wide range of applications, from vision-based surveillance to assistive robotics, autonomous systems and advanced manufacturing.
Researchers in this area are developing infrastructure and software solutions to scale and support the collection and use of big data for scientific research. Recent projects have involved real-time climate data collection and developing a framework for model and data interoperability.
Requirements for the Ph.D. in computer science
There are three main requirements for the doctoral degree: required and elective coursework, comprehensive exams, and a research-based dissertation. In addition, doctoral students are expected to attend department colloquia, participate in proposal writing and present their research.
You can view official degree requirements on the University course catalog.
Doctoral students are required to complete 72 credits of coursework beyond that of their bachelor's degree. Of this coursework, the Graduate School requires that 700-level courses must account for 30 credits, while 24 credits are earned through dissertation work.
If you have completed a master's degree, a total of 24 course credits can be transferred (with grades B or better) to the Ph.D. degree program. No more than 18 of these credits can be from 700-level courses.
Further, doctoral students must complete 3 credits of CS 792 Graduate Seminar, which requires attendance at department colloquia. These 3 credits of CS 792 count towards the requirement for 30 credits of 700-level coursework.
Up to two independent studies are allowed at the Ph.D. level.
While your Ph.D. program allows you to specialize in one area of computer science and engineering, graduates of the program should be broadly familiar with key topics within the field. You must show that you have taken at least one graduate-level course in each of the areas listed below:
- Operating systems
- Computer architecture
- Computer networks
- Artificial intelligence
- Analysis of algorithms
- Software engineering
- Theory of computing
Your dissertation committee should be formed within a year of admission to the Ph.D. program. You will work closely with your dissertation committee to develop a program of study that suits your goals and interests. Your committee will also play a key role in guiding your progress through your comprehensive exams and dissertation.
Before you can become a Ph.D. candidate, you must pass a set of comprehensive exams. The exam has two requirements: written and oral.
- Thorough review of the literature from the student's research area
- Research proposal (goals, methodology, research plan)
- Work in progress
- Public colloquium covering the written exam
- Q&A by the student's dissertation committee, covering the written exam
Your dissertation committee will decide whether you pass the written and oral portions of the comprehensive exam. Students can take the exam up to two times.
You must enroll in CPE 795 the semester you take your comprehensive exams. Applicants to the Ph.D. program are expected to have a bachelor's degree in engineering, mathematics, or science and have minimum experience that includes the equivalent of the computer science minor. Exceptions to these criteria may be made for applicants who show exceptional promise.
Admission and Application Requirements
Applicants to the doctoral degree program should have a bachelor's degree in engineering, mathematics, or science and have minimum experience that includes the equivalent of a computer science and engineering minor. Exceptions to these criteria may be made for applicants who show exceptional promise.
Applicants should further meet the following minimum requirements for admission:
- A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 for applicants with an M.S. degree
- A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.25 for applicants without an M.S. degree
- A minimum TOEFL of 80 or IELTS of 6.5 for international applicants
- Combined GRE verbal and quantitative score of at least 302. Students who score below 155 in the quantitative section will find it difficult to complete our graduate program
- A one-page personal statement describing research interests and career goals. Candidates are expected to clearly indicate their research interests as well as the faculty members they are interested in working with.
- Three letters of recommendation (either from academic or industry advisors)
What are my chances of being admitted?
Acceptance depends on various factors, including your scores (higher scores generally increase your changes of acceptance), the pool of applicants, your research interests, etc. Unfortunately, due to the large number of graduate applicants, we are unable to provide individual feedback on your chance of being accepted. We do encourage everyone to apply even if one of your scores doesn't meet the requirements, as exceptions are made for applicants who show exceptional promise.
Domestic students that have a quantitative GRE score ≥ 165 and international students that additionally have a TOEFL ibt score ≥ 102 (or equivalently, TOEFL pbt score ≥ 609 or IELTS score ≥ 7.5) are eligible to have their application fee paid by the College of Engineering. Complete information and instructions are available on the fee-waiver program for highly qualified Ph.D. applicants page.
You can start your application through The Graduate School website, which also provides detailed instructions on The Graduate School's application and admission requirements.
Paying for graduate school
Information about graduate student tuition and fees is available on The Graduate School website.
Many of our full-time Ph.D. students are currently fully supported, and the department expects to have sufficient funding to support additional students in the upcoming years. You are encouraged to check out the funding sources below and apply for any funding for which you are eligible.
The University offers two kinds of graduate assistantships:
- Teaching assistants work under the supervision of department faculty and are expected to teach recitation sections or laboratories, help with grading and develop course materials and exams.
- Research assistants conduct innovative research in cooperation with and under the supervision of department faculty. They are expected to conduct experiments, implement prototype systems, develop new theories, and attend conferences or publish work in scholarly journals.
Graduate assistantships are valued at an estimated $34,000 and include a monthly stipend of $1,650, a per credit grant-in-aid, health insurance, and in-state resident status for tuition purposes. If you are selected for an assistantship, you will receive additional details about your funding package at that time. Individual academic departments make decisions on awarding the graduate assistantships and students should contact the department directly or the faculty supervisor they are interested in working with. Assistantships do not have to be from the department you are studying in.
To be considered for graduate assistantships in the CSE Department, you must officially apply to the Ph.D. program. All official applicants will be automatically considered for both teaching and research assistantships. All currently enrolled students are eligible for TA positions and should send an e-mail Lisa Cody (email@example.com) to be considered.
Details on graduate research assistantships funded by the College of Engineering are available on the College website.
Related Degrees and Programs
- Computer Science and Engineering, Minor
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering
- Master of Science in Computer Science and Engineering
- Ph.D. in Computer Science
Contact Computer Science and Engineering
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University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557