Jun 17, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Computer Science and Engineering, Ph.D.

College of Engineering  
Department: Computer Science and Engineering 


The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is conferred in recognition of a candidate’s highest level of scholarly competence and demonstrated capability to independently conduct and report significant research in computer science and engineering. This achievement requires more than an accumulation of course credits over a stated period of residence. Scholarly competence is achieved through systematic study and investigation in the chosen discipline at an advanced level.

The major professor and at least two committee members will be from the Computer Science and Engineering department. Research capability is developed during the course of study and is achieved through the completion of significant and independent research. The results of this research must be formally presented in a written dissertation and successfully defended before an examining committee. The dissertation must demonstrate the significance of the research as well as the candidate’s ability to organize and present her/his results in a professional manner.

Major Research Areas:
An excellent selection of courses and laboratories support graduate studies in algorithms, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, computer architecture, graphics, networks, computer vision, distributed systems, embedded systems, expert systems, formal verification, image processing, pattern recognition, robotics, databases, software engineering, computer security, compilers, programming languages, VLSI design, and CAD.

Admission Information

Must meet University Admission and English Proficiency requirements as well as requirements for admission to the major, listed below.

  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume/CV
  • PDF of unofficial or official transcripts
  • PDF of English proficiency, if needed
  • Applicants typically have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, a related field, or a STEM field, broadly construed, with a GPA well above 3.00 on a 4.00 scale.  Applicants are encouraged to have basic knowledge of programming, data structures, logic design, computer architecture, operating systems, and algorithms.
  • The GRE is suggested but not required.  Applicants may provide a PDF of unofficial GRE scores.

Curriculum Requirements

Total Program hours:
72 minimum (post-bachelor’s)
42 minimum (post-master’s)

A minimum of 72 semester hours including dissertation hours beyond the baccalaureate degree are required of all Ph.D. students

Post-Bachelor’s: 72 hours minimum

  • Core – 9 credit hours
  • Electives – 24 credit hours minimum
  • Independent Study/Dir Research – Up to 15 credit hours
  • Dissertation – At least 20 credit hours
  • Remaining hours taken in dissertation or electives - 4 credit hours

Students with an MS degree from USF or another university in computer science and engineering or a related field can be admitted as post-master’s if the degree is approved by their major professor. This should be documented on the student’s plan of work. 

Post-Master’s: 42 hours minimum

  • Core – 9 credit hours
  • Electives/Independent Study/Dir Research – 13 credit hours
  • Dissertation – At least 20 credit hours minimum

Core Requirements (9 Credit Hours)

Electives (24 Credit Hours)

At least 24 credit hours minimum in elective coursework excluding independent study and directed research. The exact distribution of these hours in the Computer Science and Engineering discipline will be determined by the student and the supervisory committee to provide the student with a stimulating educational experience.

Elective Options


Independent Study/Directed Research (1-15 Credit Hours)

Students may take up to 15 credit hours of independent study/directed research or they may take additional elective or dissertation hours beyond the specified minimums.

Qualifying Examination

Students must pass the Ph.D. Qualifying examinations in Computer Architecture, Operating Systems, and Theory of Algorithms. The qualifying examination is a two-step process. First, students must get a GPA of 3.60 or better in these three courses within one year of enrollment, otherwise they will have to re-take only the necessary course(s) and get a GPA of 3.60 or better using the best three grades If a student does not meet these requirements by the end of the second year, he or she will be withdrawn from the Ph.D. program. Second, students must take the qualifying exam and pass it. Students are required to take the exam as soon as they meet the requirements of the first step.

Major Research-Area Paper and Future Research Directions

To fulfil this milestone, students are required to write a survey or research paper on his/her area of research as the lead author. A journal or conference paper already published will count towards this requirement. The student is then required to give an oral presentation on the subject to his/her major professor and a doctoral evaluating committee. The oral presentation must also contain a section on future research directions, a draft plan of research activities towards graduation. The presentation will be open to the public. The paper and presentation is to be completed within one year of passing the Qualifying Examinations and will have to be formally approved by his/her major professor the doctoral evaluating committee before applying for Candidacy.

Admission to Candidacy

A student will not be admitted to candidacy until a Doctoral committee has been appointed, and the committee has certified that the student has successfully completed the qualifying examination and the Major Research Area Paper and Future Research Directions presentation, and demonstrated the qualifications necessary to successfully complete the requirements for the degree. The admission to Candidacy form must be approved by the Dean of the college and forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval. The student may elect to enroll in dissertation credits in the semester following approval of the Admission to Candidacy form by Graduate Studies.

The student’s progress in the program is monitored by a supervisory doctoral committee, which is usually appointed at an early stage in the student’s major. This committee consists of at least five members, one of whom is outside the College of Engineering. The Major Professor will be a member of the Computer Science and Engineering Department. Normally, two more Computer Science and Engineering faculty serve on the committee with a member in another department in the college.

The student must conduct research of sufficient quality that demonstrates an independent and original contribution to the field of computer science and engineering. Students must take at least 20 semester hours of doctoral dissertation credits;the exact number of credits is determined by the candidate’s supervisory committee. It is strongly recommended that doctoral students submit journal articles for publication relevant to dissertation research.

Dissertation Hours (At Least 20 Credit Hours)

Student are required to take at least 20 hours of dissertation hours until they accumulate a minimum number of 72 hours in the major. If a student takes more than 15 credits of directed research, up to 10 hours of the additional credits may be counted as part of the dissertation hour requirement.

Dissertation Defense

A doctoral candidate must defend her/his research before her/his committee. The defense is usually open to the university community and conducted in accordance with the university’s general rules and regulations. The defense involves a formal presentation of the dissertation followed by a critical exchange between the candidate and the committee. The committee chairman moderates the proceedings and determines procedure, originality of the research, and contributions made by the candidate.

Major Ph.D. Milestones

  1. Complete the 3 core courses with a 3.60 GPA or better
  2. Pass the Ph.D. qualifying exam with a 24 or better
  3. Submit your Ph.D. Supervisory Committee Form 
  4. Schedule your Major Area Presentation
  5. Complete your Major Area Presentation and submit your application for candidacy
  6. Once admitted to candidacy, start taking dissertation hours
  7. Complete at least 20 hours of dissertation
  8. Schedule your dissertation defense and apply for graduation
  9. You MUST have a final plan of work on file the semester before you plan to graduate, but it is recommended you submit one the semester you plan to finish your 33 hours of coursework. An approved plan of work confirms that you have met this requirement and all your classes will count towards your degree. If you are post-master’s then you should submit the plan of work once you finish the core courses and note on it that you are post-master’s.