Skip to main content

CS Graduate - Ph.D.

Program Information

The Computer Science program offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Computer Science. The Ph.D. degree is designed to help address the global need for research and education in computer science. Note that the Ph.D. program at SDSU is offered jointly with Dakota State University (DSU).

Areas of research interest within the department currently include:

  • Applied computing
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning
  • Computer network and Cyber security
  • Computer vision and image processing
  • Precision agriculture

Program Objectives

The objectives of the CS graduate program are to:   

  • Contribute to the advancement of the fundamentals of computer science
  • Discover and disseminate knowledge germane to the discipline of computer science.  
  • Provide leadership for increasingly complex roles in computer science and industry.  
  • Serve the needs of the region and the nation in the field of computer science.

Additional Admission Requirement

  • GRE: Not required
  • English: Minimum requirement of 550 PBT (79-80 IBT) or IELTS 6.5 for Ph.D.

Placement Exam

A course placement exam may be given to incoming students.

For the candidates in the CS graduate program, we evaluate the candidate's transcript(s) and make a recommendation on prerequisite courses listed below for the new incoming graduate student. This effort is intended to provide the best chances for a successful pursuit of our graduate program by the incumbent. 

  • CSc 317 - Computer Organization and Architecture
  • CSc 354 - Introduction to Systems Programming
  • CSc 445 - Introduction to the Theory of Computation
  • CSc 446 - Compiler Construction
  • CSc 456 - Operating Systems

We will provide a course placement examination for each prerequisite course that a student requests to waive from the recommendation. We advise the student to work with a graduate advisor in the department to pursue this option. The placement policy based on the examination follows:

  • prerequisite course is waived for a score of 80% or above in the above-mentioned exam
  • prerequisite course is not waived for a score between 70—79% in the above-mentioned exam
  • prerequisite course is not waived and further remedial coursework from the undergraduate curriculum is required for a score of 69% or below in the above-mentioned exam.

If a student requests this exam, it is administered anytime within the first month of their first semester in the program.

Graduate Courses

Once enrolled in the program, students will select from the following courses. For more information on the CS Ph.D. Program and core courses, see the most recent Graduate Catalog.

Core Requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Computer Science

All students must take the following core courses for 18 credit hours

  • CSC 705 Design and Analysis of Computer Algorithms
  • CSC 710 Structure and Design of Programming Languages
  • CSC 718 Operating Systems & Parallel Programming
  • CSC 720 Theory of Computation
  • CSC 722 Machine Learning Fundamentals
  • CSC 770 Software Engineering Management

Electives 24-30 Credit Hours – See the list

Dissertation 24-30 credit hours

  1. Comprehensive Written Exam – See detail in Comprehensive Written Exam section.
  2. Qualifying Exam – See detail in Qualifying Exam section
  3. Comprehensive Exam (Dissertation Proposal Exam) – See detail in Dissertation Proposal Exam section
  4. Final Dissertation Defense – Submit the completed Dissertation document, in the current format of the SDSU Graduate School, to the dissertation committee for review at least 10 working days prior to the final dissertation defense date– See details in Final Dissertation Defense Section.

Assistantships

Funded Projects

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs), which typically support the research of Ph.D. students in the department, are available in many areas of CS. These assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis and on the discretion of the individual faculty member that serves as the principal investigator (PI) for the project. Students seeking a GRA are encouraged to contact the research-active faculty in the department for potential appointment. GRA positions provide the graduate student with a significant reduction in tuition costs and a monthly stipend.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs)

Assistantships are very competitive and require excellent all-around records. The department usually does not offer GTAs for an incoming student for the first semester. Our graduate students can have a GTA position in the department, as well as another department on campus. The number of GRA positions are varying for every academic year. 

Qualifying Exam Requirements

All CS Ph.D. candidates must pass a qualifying exam. The examination is offered twice in an academic year, usually in the third week of the fall and spring semesters. A student must register to take the exam by the deadline. The qualifying exam consists of a written qualifying part and an oral qualifying examination.

Eligibility: The student must complete the following core courses and receive at least a B in the each course.

  • CSC 705 Design and Analysis of Computer Algorithms
  • CSC 710 Structure and Design of Programming Languages
  • CSC 718 Operating Systems & Parallel Programming
  • CSC 720 Theory of Computation
  • CSC 722 Machine Learning Fundamentals
  • CSC 770 Software Engineering Management

Written Qualifying Exam

The student receives the paper(s) from the committee and has 4 weeks to submit his/her research paper. The student writes an 8-10 page research paper (ACM or IEEE conference format, excluding references). The research paper must be submitted with the qualifying exam application. The research for this paper must be done by the student and must be accepted by the qualifying examination committee.

Oral Qualifying Exam

Upon successful completion of the written qualifying examination, the student will arrange with the qualifying exam committee members to take the oral qualifying examination within 2 weeks. The student arranges with the committee the time and location for the oral qualifying examination. The student will present his/her research paper for 50 minutes. The committee asks questions regarding the research, presentation, research paper and related topics from the six core courses.

Qualifying Exam Committee

The qualifying exam committee must have CS Graduate Faculty status. The CS Graduate Coordinator assigns a committee consisting of three members for a given student. The committee will administrate the exam and will provide written report on both written research paper and oral exam, and summary of discussion, and recommendations.

Dissertation Proposal Exam Requirements

All CS Ph.D. students must complete the dissertation proposal exam at least 6 6 months prior to the final dissertation defense. The dissertation proposal exam typically takes place 1-2 years after passing the qualifying exam. The dissertation proposal exam consists of two parts: written proposal submission and oral presentation.

The dissertation proposal must follow the dissertation proposal format and should be self-contained document providing an introduction of the research topic and objectives, related works and preliminary work that the student already completed, and the planed work and timeline. The suggested length is 20 – 30 pages. The proposal must be submitted to the committee at least 10 working days prior to the oral exam. The proposal must be approved by the student’s advisor and co-advisors prior to the submission.

The oral examination is to evaluate the student’s preparation for the proposed dissertation research. The student will present the research plan for 20-30 minutes. The committee asks questions to evaluate the suitability of the research plan and the student’s expertise in a given research area for the planned dissertation research. The student should consult with her/his advisor and the CS Graduate Coordinator to form an advisory committee for the dissertation proposal exam and final dissertation defense. The Dissertation Proposal Exam form must be submitted to the Graduate School at least two (2) weeks prior to the exam date. The submission of this form initiates the necessary paperwork to be provided by the Graduate School to the student and committee members. The Dissertation Proposal Exam must be completed at least three (6) months before the Final Dissertation Defense. Upon satisfactory completion of the Dissertation Proposal Exam, the student is formally admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. If the student does not receive the Ph.D. degree within three (3) years after becoming a candidate, Dissertation Proposal Exam must be repeated.

Copies of the written examinations must be kept on file in the major department. Upon successful completion of the comprehensive written examination, the student will arrange with his/her advisor and committee members to take the comprehensive oral examination. The comprehensive oral exam form must be submitted to the Graduate School at least two (2) weeks prior to the exam date. The submission of this form initiates the necessary paperwork to be provided by the Graduate School to the student and committee members. The comprehensive examinations must be completed at least three (3) months before the final oral examination. Upon satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student is formally admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. If the student does not receive the Ph.D. degree within three (3) years after becoming a candidate, comprehensive examinations must be repeated.

Final Dissertation Defense Requirements

The student arranges with his/her advisory committee the time and location for the Final Dissertation Defense, also known as the final oral exam. The student will submit the final oral exam form final oral exam form to the Graduate School no less than two (2) weeks prior to the defense date. While the advisory committee determines the character and length of the examination, sufficient time should be devoted to the dissertation, including literature review, to evaluate the ability of the student to defend the research. In addition, questions to test the student’s general knowledge, judgment and critical thinking powers are usually asked. The graduate faculty representative and all but one (1) of the graduate committee must vote to pass the student. The final oral examination cannot be taken earlier than three (6) months following successful completion of the Dissertation Proposal Exam comprehensive examinations and must be completed three (3) weeks prior to the end of the semester in order to graduate.

Remediation Opportunity: Students who fail an academic exercise will be afforded a remediation opportunity. The student should 1) be provided feedback regarding the deficiencies of his/her performance; 2) be provided resources useful to remediate his/her deficiencies; and 3) be allowed an appropriate length of time to prepare for the next attempt.