Overview of Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Computer Science at The University of Georgia is an advanced, intensive program offered by the Computer Science Department and designed to take students to the frontiers of knowledge in one of a number of key areas of Computer Science.  The Ph.D. in Computer Science combines theory and practice in complementary, yet flexible, ways.  The program has been designed to prepare students for careers in research (at universities, or government or industrial research laboratories), teaching (at colleges or universities), or advanced development (at hardware and software companies).

The Department presently has active research groups in the following areas:

  • Theory (combinatorics, algorithms and theory of computing).
  • Distributed Information Systems (database systems, information systems, Web information systems, workflow management, software engineering, service-oriented computing, semantic web and semantic web processes, and applications in areas such as life sciences including bioinformatics and health care),
  • Image Processing and Vision (high and low level image processing, computer vision, and graphics),
  • Human-Computer Interaction (usability of web sites, visualizations, notations and tools),
  • Parallel Processing (advanced algorithms and architectures, operating system support, and programming languages and techniques),
  • Computational Science (numerical, algorithmic and heuristic approaches to problem solving for the sciences, and advanced presentation and visualization techniques),
  • Artificial Intelligence (knowledge based systems, expert systems, logic and logic programming, natural language processing, robotics, genetic algorithms, simulated annealing, and neural nets),
  • Computer Architecture (advanced computer architectures, VLSI and CAD),
  • Bioinformatics (tools and visualizations, RNA informatics, and web services),
  • Compilers (link-time optimization, run-time optimizations),
  • Modeling and Simulation (analytic modeling, simulation, animation, and virtual reality), and
  • Real-Time Systems (multiprocessor real-time scheduling algorithms, schedulability and feasibility analysis, power-aware real-time scheduling).

Prospective students are advised to consult The University of Georgia Graduate Bulletin for institutional information and requirements.


Admission Requirements

In addition to the general policies set forth in the Graduate Bulletin, the following departmental policies apply to all applicants:

  1. bachelor degree or masters degree is required with a major in Computer Science or a closely allied discipline.  Please consult the admission requirements section of the MS degree for prerequisite undergraduate courses.
  2. Admission to this program is highly selective; students with a record of academic excellence have a better chance for acceptance.  Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores are required for admission consideration, ideally including the Subject Test in Computer Science. International applicants need TOEFL or IELTS official test scores.
  3. Three letters of recommendation are required, preferably written by university professors familiar with the student's academic work and potential.  If the student has work experience, one letter may be from his/her supervisor.  Letters should be sent directly from the letter writer electronically to the UGA Graduate School Admissions office.
  4. A one or two page personal statement outlining the student's background, achievements and future goals is required.
  5. A recent copy of his/her resume stating education/ degrees obtained, employment experiences, research and/or other interests.

Graduate School Requirements

Additional requirements are specified by the Graduate School (application fee, general application forms, all transcripts, etc.).  Please see the University of Georgia Bulletin for further information.  Detailed admissions information may be found at Graduate School Admissions.  Printed information may be obtained by contacting the

Office of Graduate Admissions

210 S. Jackson St.

Athens, GA 30602-1633


706-542-6330 (Fax)


e-mail: gradadm@uga.edu

Applications are processed on a year round basis.  Students can be admitted for either semester (Fall or Spring).  Please visit the Graduate School for application submission deadlines.

Summary of Basic Degree Requirements

There are a number of requirements for the PhD degree.  Two of the requirements, the preliminary focus and the primary focus, are coursework related.  Core Competency Certification, Research Skills, and Doctoral Minor are requirements managed by the student’s advisory committee.  Other requirements deal with advisory committee formation, procedural, and Graduate School requirements.

1) Preliminary Focus

The preliminary focus may consist of up to 12 semester hours of resident graduate coursework depending on the student’s prior preparation.  Students who have already earned an M.S. degree in Computer Science may petition the Graduate Coordinator to waive this requirement if their previous coursework covers the requirement.  Students with no previous graduate coursework or with graduate coursework that only partially covers the requirement will need to fulfill the preliminary focus requirement.  Examples of situations  in which a student would need to fulfill the preliminary focus requirement include: (a) students with graduate work in another discipline, (b) students with graduate coursework that does not cover all areas of the core listed below, and (c) students without previous graduate coursework.  Regardless of the method used to satisfy the preliminary focus requirement, students are still responsible for Core Competency certification.

The preliminary focus requirement is designed to provide a common baseline for all students seeking to earn their PhD degree at UGA.  It is recommended that this requirement be met prior to moving into the primary focus area but it is possible for students to work concurrently on these two requirements.  In any case, the preliminary focus requirement is in addition to the primary focus requirement.  In particular, coursework taken to satisfy the preliminary focus requirement may not be used to satisfy any portion of the primary focus requirement, and vice versa.  Coursework necessary for the preliminary focus requirement equates to core competency and consists of at least one course (or their equivalent) from each of the following three groups:


Group 1: Theory
  CSCI 6470 Algorithms
  CSCI 6480 Approximation Algorithms
  CSCI 6610 Automata and Formal Languages
Group 2: Software Design
  CSCI 6050 Software Engineering
  CSCI 6370 Database Management
  CSCI 6570 Compilers
Group 3: System Design
  CSCI 6720 Computer Architecture and Organization
  CSCI 6730 Operating Systems
  CSCI 6760 Computer Networks: Technology and Application


2) Primary Focus

The primary focus consists of at least 37 semester hours of resident graduate coursework. This includes

at least 8 hours of CSCI graduate coursework which includes 4 hours of graduate student only coursework,
at least 16 hours of CSCI 8000-level coursework,
at least 1 hour of CSCI 8990 Research Seminar,
at least 6 hours of coursework in a doctoral minor, or additional CSCI graduate coursework, and
at least 6 hours of CSCI 9300 Doctoral Dissertation.

Independent study, dissertation, and research credit hours may not count towards requirements #1, #2, and #4 above.  Also, no course used to fulfill part of the requirements for item #1, #2, or #4 may be used to fulfill part of another requirement (for example, item #1 hours are separate and different from item #2 hours, item #4 hours are separate and different from item #1 hours and item #2 hours).

Typically, full-time students will take 9 to 15 hours per semester.  See the CSCI section of the University of Georgia Bulletin for course descriptions.  A program of study is filed with the Graduate School, and should be a coherent and logical whole; it requires the approval of the student's major professor, the student's advisory committee, and the departmental graduate coordinator.  Primary focus, preliminary focus (if needed), core competency, minor, and area specialization typically amount to more than the minimum 37-semester hour course requirement.  Note: no course with a grade of C+ or lower may be included on the student’s program of study (see the Graduate Bulletin for other GPA constraints).

Exclusions and Limitations

At most one of the 8000-level courses may be repeated once.  That course must be listed in the catalog as repeatable and syllabi from both offerings of the course must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator with the Program of Study, showing that the two offerings differ in content.

Research Seminar

All students must take 1 hour of CSCI 8990 Research Seminar, in which they must attend weekly meetings of a research seminar and give presentations. 

Doctoral Minor Or Additional CSCI Concentration

A minor, if chosen, must be composed, in conjunction with the student, by the student's major professor and advisory committee and approved by the graduate coordinator.  A minor must consist of at least 6 hours of graduate-level coursework from another department.  Our department is particularly interested in encouraging students to pursue minors in Computational Science, Artificial Intelligence, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geography, Management Information Systems, Mathematics, Physics, or Statistics.  Students wishing to forego the minor must take at least 6 hours of additional CSCI graduate coursework.

3) Core Competency

Basic computer science knowledge (core competency) in the core areas (Groups 1, 2, and 3, above) must be exhibited by each student and certified by the student’s advisory committee.  This may take the form of a written exam, an oral exam, an essay exam, graded coursework, or some other mechanism deemed appropriate by the student's advisory committee.  Students entering the PhD program with a previous graduate degree sufficient to cover this basic knowledge will need to work with their advisory committee to certify their core competency.  Students entering the PhD program without sufficient graduate background to certify core competency must fulfill the preliminary focus requirement, and then pursue certification with their advisory committee.

The student’s advisory committee must unanimously certify core competency prior to approval by the Graduate Coordinator.  The student’s advisory committee manages these components in cooperation with the student.  Students are expected to meet the core competency requirement within their first three enrolled academic semesters (excluding summer semester).

Prior to Graduate Coordinator approval, each student's core competency certification must undergo full departmental faculty review.  Comments and concerns from the department faculty will be taken into consideration by the Graduate Coordinator and used to determine whether or not the certification is approved.  In the case where the certification is not approved, the Graduate Coordinator will work with the student's advisory committee to specify any remedial action.

4) Research Skills

The department has no formal research skills requirement, at this time.  However, a student’s advisory committee may require the student to satisfy a research skill requirement if it is pertinent to the student’s research.  Examples include the taking of statistical analysis coursework or foreign language coursework (again, this would be in addition to other coursework requirements).

5) Advisory Committee

A doctoral student's advisory committee shall consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty, including the student's major professor who will chair the committee, and a minor professor from the student's doctoral minor (if the minor option is selected).  A fourth member of the graduate faculty may be appointed as co-major professor.  At least half of the committee must be non-adjunct members of the Computer Science Department.  Either the major professor or the co-major professor (if there is one) must be a non-adjunct member of the Department.  Both the major and co-major professors must be regular members of the graduate faculty.  A committee may have at most one non-UGA-affiliated voting member, who must hold the terminal degree in their field of study and certify their credentials with a letter and vita.  The maximum size of a committee is six, a majority of whom must be members of the graduate faculty.

6) Comprehensive Examination

The student must pass the Ph.D. comprehensive examination that covers the student's major and minor areas of study.  The examination consists of two parts: a written part and an oral part.  Students have at most two attempts to pass the written part.  The oral part may not be attempted unless the written part has been passed.  The written part may not be attempted unless the student’s core competency has been certified.  The exams are administered by the student's advisory committee.  For more information see Ph.D. Exams: Form and Timing.

7) Admission to Candidacy

The student is responsible for initiating an application for admission to candidacy once all requirements, except the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation, have been completed.

8) Dissertation Planning and Prospectus

Dissertation planning will involve exploratory research leading to the preparation of a dissertation prospectus.  CSCI 9000 Doctoral Research may be taken at this time. The prospectus must be presented to the advisory committee for approval.

9) Dissertation Approval and Defense

The student's dissertation must represent originality in research, independent thinking, scholarly ability, and technical mastery of a field of study.  The dissertation must also demonstrate competent style and organization (see Guidelines for Theses and Dissertations).  While working on his/her dissertation, the student must enroll for a minimum of 6 hours of CSCI 9300 Doctoral Dissertation spread over at least 2 semesters.  Students may not register for this course until they have been admitted to candidacy.  Once the student's major professor has approved the final version of the dissertation, it will be distributed to the other members of the advisory committee, and a dissertation defense scheduled no sooner than three weeks after the distribution.  Given a committee of size n, a student’s dissertation and defense are considered approved by the department if approval has been received from at least n-1 committee members.


Non-Departmental Requirements

Non-departmental requirements are set forth by the Graduate School (see the Graduate Bulletin).  They concern residence, time limits, programs of study, acceptance of transfer credits, admission to candidacy, minimum GPA's, dissertation, and examinations.