PhD in Computer Science

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering offers a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science, after completion of the following degree requirements. It provides a research-oriented education in preparation for a career in research, industry, or academia and explores the fundamental aspects of computer science and engineering as well as their applications.

Satisfactory completion of CS 287 (Colloquium in Computer Science) each quarter of enrollment.


Course Work

The course requirements for the Ph.D. degree ensure that Ph.D. students are exposed to fundamental concepts and tools (core requirement), a deep up-to-date view of their research specialty area (depth requirement), and an advanced, up-to-date view of some topics outside their area (breadth requirement). Students are expected to complete all of these course requirements in the first two years of the program. These requirements consist of 44 quarter units of approved graduate or upper-division undergraduate courses, satisfying all four of the following coursework categories. All of these courses must be taken for a letter grade, and no course can be counted toward more than one category. Students who have completed similar courses elsewhere may petition for a waiver of a required course or for substitution of an alternative course.

Please refer to the UCR catalog for specific requirements.


Program Requirements

Core Requirements (12 units)

Choose 3 courses from at least 2 of the 3 Core Areas described above, with no grade lower than a B- and an overall core course GPA of at least 3.2.

Depth Requirement (8 units)

Choose two courses listed above under the same Major Area (A to H). This requirement ensures that Ph.D. students, early on in their careers, acquire some depth of knowledge in a particular research area.

Breadth Requirement (12 units)

Choose three courses from at least two different Major Areas (A to H) outside the student’s depth area. No course that is listed in the student’s depth area can be used to fulfill the breadth requirement, even if it is cross-listed in another area. Students, with the consent of the major professor, may petition for a non-CSE course to be counted toward the breadth requirement.

Electives (12 units)

The remaining courses can be selected from additional CS graduate lecture courses, up to 8 units of graduate seminars in CS 260-269, and up to 8 units of approved undergraduate technical electives. Students, with the consent of the major petition for a non-CSE course to be counted as an elective.



The Department has established three milestones to mark progress toward the Ph.D. degree in Computer Science: advancements to candidacy, presentation to the dissertation proposal, and final oral examination. A Ph.D. student must also satisfy all applicable Graduate Division requirements for each milestone.

Milestone 1: Advancement to Candidacy

A student advances to candidacy after he/she has completed all the Ph.D. course requirements described above, and passed both the qualifying examinations described below.

The exams are intended to verify three components of the student’s preparation for Ph.D. research:

  • Breadth of comprehensive sufficient to enable Computer Science research in areas beyond the topic(s) of the research exam and dissertation
  • Ability to perform critical study, analysis, and writing in a focused
  • Demonstrated research experience or ability to do research

After advancing to candidacy, the student must form a Doctoral Examination Committee chaired by his or her major professor.

Please refer to the CSE Graduate Handbook for detailed information.

Milestone II: Dissertation Proposal Examination

After advancement to candidacy, the student prepares a dissertation proposal that describes the dissertation topic, summarizes the relevant background literature, and presents a comprehensive research plan for the doctoral dissertation.

The Dissertation Proposal Examination evaluates the appropriateness of the research topic and the feasibility of the research plan. It also establishes a realistic timeline for the completion of the Dissertation.

The Dissertation Committee administers this exam.

The normative time for the Dissertation Proposal Exam is by the end of the third year.

The Dissertation Proposal exam must be taken at least six months prior to the Final Doctoral Examination.

Milestone III: Final Doctoral Examination

The student is required to write a dissertation in accordance with the Graduate Division requirements and may be required to defend it in a public oral final doctoral examination to the Dissertation Committee Division requirements and may be required to defend it in a public oral final doctoral examination to the Dissertation Committee (4 members).

After a satisfactory performance on the final doctoral examination, the Dissertation Committee recommends granting the Ph.D. degree.

The student’s research and the dissertation must both meet the highest standards of originality and scholarship.

The normative time for the completion of a Ph.D. in CS is five years.

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