PhD in Computer Science

What Do You Learn in a PhD in Computer Science?

A PhD in Computer Science is a terminal degree in the field. That means it is the last level of education students have available to them in this field. As such, it tends to offers some of the more difficult and challenging topics in computer science, preparing students for a wide range of career opportunities. Those completing a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science may spend a good amount of time learning topics that are interesting to them while also completing a range of core courses.

Each university and degree program may be a bit different in terms of what type of content is provided. Many students have the ability to choose from electives that interest them or may offer information in areas that interest them.

PhD in Computer Science

Featured Online Programs in Computer Science

Computer Science Courses May Include

As with many PhD programs, a good portion of the work in a PhD in computer science centers around research. Many schools offer research projects to help students solve real-world problems in the industry or to gain insight into key areas of innovation. Some students may be able to embark on their own research programs based on topics that are interesting to them or to resolve problems in their work environment.

The PhD in Computer Science may afford students a range of topics to consider. This may include both computer science and engineering courses through some universities. Below are some of the courses a student may take to complete this course, though there are many others that may be available.

1st course Principles of Computer Science

Principles of Computer Science

This course typically covers the foundations of the field of computer science. An introduction to the mathematics necessary for computer science as well as programming are a common component of this course. Algorithm design and analysis may also be covered.

2nd course Programming Languages and Algorithms

Programming Languages and Algorithms

This course may cover topics such as programming languages and algorithms that are new. How to use less storage and research strategies may also be a component of this course. Practical and theoretical principles may also be covered as a part of this course.

3rd course Computer networks and mobile computing

Computer Networks and Mobile Computing

This course typically covers issues concerning network management and design. Mobile computing and how it has affected networks may be a major portion of this course.

4th course distributed systems

Distributed Systems

This course may cover topics such as mobile technology and super high speed networks. Coordinating systems and having them work over distances may also be covered. Topics may include emerging technologies and techniques to use them.

5th Course database and business intelligence

Database and Business Intelligence

Typically, in this course, students cover advanced concepts of databases. They may also look at research trends. How databases are used in conjunction with business intelligence may also be covered.

6th Course data mining

Data Mining

Typically, this course goes in depth into the extraction of meaningful information. Both structured and unstructured data may be topics as well as examining the theories and concepts of data.

5 Most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about a PhD in Computer Science

Completing a doctoral degree in compouter science may allow students to gain additional skills and insight into this field. Students may find that some employers perfer canndiates that have these skills. Others may wish to take on this degree program to research in the field.

Completing a PhD in computer science may take between 3 and 5 years. This depends on factors such as the amount of work the student plans to do, research studies, and the overall amount of time the student dedicates to their educaiton.

GRE scores may be required by some colleges and universities. Not all schools require a GRE for a computer science program.

Students completing a PhD may have some ability to choose topics that interest them or are in a field they want to study. This may include database systems, information security, computational theory, software engineering, or compilers, among others.

Many doctoral programs are challenging. It may be difficult to complete a PhD for those who are looking for a higher level of knowledge in this field without taking challenging courses.

Top 25 Schools Graduating Students with a PhD in Computer Science

The following are the top 25 schools for a PhD in computer science, based on the number of students graduating from the programs in 2020, sourced with data from NCES.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign4859%
Colorado Technical University-Colorado Springs47N/A
Massachusetts Institute of Technology417%
University of California-Berkeley3816%
University of California-San Diego3831%
Arizona State University Campus Immersion3386%
Stanford University324%
University of Maryland-College Park3244%
University of Southern California3011%
North Carolina State University at Raleigh2845%
Purdue University-Main Campus2860%
University of California-Irvine2727%
University of Massachusetts-Amherst2764%
Stony Brook University2444%
Carnegie Mellon University2315%
University of California-Santa Barbara2330%
University of California-Riverside2257%
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities2257%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill2223%
Columbia University in the City of New York215%
University of California-Davis2139%
George Washington University2041%
Cornell University1911%
University of California-Los Angeles1812%
Oregon State University1782%

Find Funding

The average cost of graduate school in 2019 – 2020 was $19,792 according to NCES. Paying for a doctoral program may require the use of multiple funding options, all with the goal of helping students to gain the type of education they need. There are various types of funding available, and many students should consider all of the options available to them. Here are some of those funding options to consider.


A scholarship is one of the most common types of financial tools for students. These are typically funds that students do not have to repay. Many scholarships require students complete an application and prove they fit the scholarship’s requirements. They then need to be awarded the scholarship formally, which may mean competing with others to do so. Once obtained, students may need to continue to meet specific goals as a part of the educational process.

There may be options available in many cases. Look for PhD scholarships for computer science to determine what some options may be.

SHPE Graduate Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award is for graduate students enrolled full time in a degree program in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field. Students must be members of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Students of Hispanic descent will be given priority.

Amount: $3,000

Deadline: April 30

SHPE Dissertation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award is for graduate students enrolled full time in a Ph.D. or Ed.D. degree program in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field who have advanced to candidacy. Students must be members of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Students of Hispanic descent will be given priority.

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: April 30

Washington American Indian Endowed Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award is available to Washington undergraduate and graduate students who are currently attending or planning to attend a postsecondary institution in Washington. The student must have close cultural and social ties to an American Indian community in Washington.

Amount: $30,000

Deadline: March 1

Federal Loans

Federal student loans are one of the options some students have for paying for their graduate degree. These are loans often backed by the U.S. federal government. That means these lenders have to stick with the federal government’s rules for lending to college students. These loans are a bit different at the graduate level than they are at the undergraduate level. However, they may still be accessible to those working on grade school. Here are a few options to consider.

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These are often available to graduate schools and professional students. Unlike direct subsidized loans, which are made available to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need, direct unsubsidized loans often do not have a need based requirement. Many students may be eligible for them.
  • Direct PLUS Loans: These are usually made available to professional or graduate level students. They are designed to pay for educational expenses that are typically not paid for through other loans. Eligibility for these loans is not based on financial need. However, some require a credit check to be performed, and borrowers may not qualify without meeting other requirements in some cases.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans: These loans may enable a student to combine all of their undergraduate and graduate level federal debt into one new loan. This consolidation loan is typically provided after a student completes their education.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are a bit different than federal loans. They may help cover the cost of a doctoral education but they do not have the same rules and requirements that private student loans do. That means the terms and conditions for them may be different. Borrowers may wish to take into consideration all of the options available while also looking at all features of the loans before using them. Some key factors to keep in mind include:

  • The amount available to borrow
  • Any requirements of borrowers such as income requirements or credit history
  • Limitations on refinancing
  • When repayments start
  • The cost of borrowing through these loans

Is postsecondary computer science teacher a good career?

A postsecondary computer science teacher is a person that teaches courses in computer science. This may include a range of topics related to computer science such as design and the function of computers. They may also teach about research analysis and new innovations in the industry. These are teachers typically teach to college students.

Some of the tasks of these teachers include preparing course material such as homework assignments, sylliabi, and handouts. They may compile and administer examinations and grade student work. They often assign projects and other tasks to students. They may also prepare and deliver lectures to undergraduate students or, in some cases, graduate students. These topics may include data structures, programming, and software design. They could also maintain student needs, including grades, and evaluate work.

Their work activities may include evaluating student work and administering tests to assess the needs of students. They may develop instructional material to use within courses. They also prepare tests. Many work in other areas as well, including physical sciences or mathematics.

To complete this type of work, students often need to have a graduate degree, including a PhD in computer science. Employers typically expect students to have the necessary skills to teach in a college setting already, which is why little on-the-job education is provided. Some may require experience in the field as well.

PhD in Computer Science , Important skills for Information Security Analysts
  • Instructing – Teaching others how to do something.
  • Reading Comprehension – Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
  • Speaking – Talking to others to convey information effectively.

2020 Median Salary for a Postsecondary Computer Science Teacher

Those working as a postsecondary computer science in 2020 earned the following median wage in each state, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

New Jersey$87,670Missouri$81,810
New York$102,960Nebraska$89,250
North Dakota$84,290New Hampshire$92,290
Oklahoma$60,060New Mexico$67,790
Pennsylvania$89,570North Carolina$70,220
South Carolina$69,680Ohio$87,860
Utah$111,440Rhode Island$91,360
Virginia$77,430South Dakota$80,440
West Virginia$48,860Wyoming$66,780

Is computer scientist a good career?

A computer scientist is a person that conducts research related to fundamental computer and information science. They may do this as designers, theorists, inventors, or for other purposes. They often are tasked with developing solutions to problems within the field of computer science in both areas of computer hardware and software.

This type of work typically includes analyzing problems to develop solutions that involve software and hardware aspects. They often apply theoretical expertise and innovation to create and apply new technology. This may include adapting principles for applying computers to new uses and needs. Those working as a computer scientist may also assign or schedule tasks to meet work priorities and goals. They work in team environments, in some situations, as well as with managers, vendors, and others in the industry specifically to resolve problems and develop solutions. Often, they also design computers and software that runs specific to the tasks of their employers or organizations.

Some of the work activities for those working in this field include analyzing data to identify and resolve a range of operational problems as they arise. They may also apply information technology to solve business and other types of applied problems. They maintain computer hardware. Many people also assign duties to others and work with employees to accomplish tasks. They typically maintain computer hardware and monitor the performance of computer networks.

To do this type of work, many employers want their employees to have completed at least a graduate degree. This may include a master’s or a PhD program. Students may need to have some experience in the field before qualifying for these types of positions. Many times, employers in this field do not provide a lot of on-the-job training but rather hire individuals who already have some skills through their education and previous experience.

PhD in Computer Science , Computer Systems Analysts
  • Complex Problem Solving – Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Critical Thinking – Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
  • Judgment and Decision Making – Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

2020 Median Salary for a Computer Scientist

The following is the 2020 median salary for those working as a computer scientist according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

New Jersey$129,690MissouriN/A
New York$134,580Nebraska$71,070
North DakotaN/ANew Hampshire$123,930
OklahomaN/ANew Mexico$129,760
Pennsylvania$109,060North Carolina$94,310
South Carolina$106,680Ohio$110,780
Utah$89,870Rhode Island$118,930
Virginia$133,720South DakotaN/A
West Virginia$63,890WyomingN/A

Sandy Baker


Sandy has extensive experience writing educational articles for topics ranging from online education to college degrees. She’s worked with several Ivy League colleges to create blogs, newsletters, sales material for recruiting as well as “how to manage” college lifestyle pieces. Additionally, she’s written for well-respected study abroad programs helping students to find international opportunities spanning the globe from South America to Africa and Asia.

Sandy’s experience also includes writing about financial aid, FAFSA, scholarship searches, and managing college loans and grants. This includes aiding both students and parents in managing the application and financial aid process from start to finish. Her writing in this area has been featured in The New York Times, Cleveland Magazine, and several blogs.

Sponsored Result

Study anywhere. Study any time.

Join the millions earning their degrees online!

32.6% of graduate students were enrolled exclusively in online courses in 2019*.