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Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science


The doctoral program is designed for those students who have an interest in pursuing an academic or industrial research career. To be awarded a Ph.D. in Computer Science, a student must demonstrate mastery in several areas of computer science and must make a significant original contribution to research in the field of computer science.

On entry into the program, a student is required to take coursework in a number of areas and pass written and oral qualifying exams. Next, the student must formulate a thesis research problem and present it and the proposed research to a committee of faculty at a comprehensive exam. Upon passing this examination, the student must carry out the research and write and defend a thesis, among other requirements.

Admission to the Ph.D. program is competitive and applicants must have high grade point averages, GRE scores, and (if required) TOEFL scores. Students who enter the program after completing a Master's degree (not necessarily in Computer Science) normally require three to four years of full-time work to complete the Ph.D. Part-time students take longer.

Students may also enter the program "directly," after completing only a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. The Direct program enables bright, highly-motivated students to participate in departmental research programs immediately after their Bachelor's degree. Students in the Direct program take extra coursework and normally require an additional year to complete the Ph.D. compared to students in the Post-Master's program.

» Admission


Program Requirements 

Core Course Groups

There are 6 core course groups; students must take at least one course in each of a number of groups. The required groups depend on which program a student enters under. (See Required Coursework below.) Advanced courses may be substituted, with approval.

Group 1: Theory of Computation

CS 530: Theory of Computation
CS 533: Computational Geometry
CS 535: Design and Analysis of Algorithms
CS 538: Combinatorial Optimization
CS 539: Game Theory: Algorithms and Applications

Group 2: Systems

CS 546: Parallel Processing
CS 550: Advanced Operating Systems
CS 570: Advanced Computer Architecture

Group 3: Programming Languages

CS 536: Science of Programming
CS 540: Foundations of Programming Language Design
CS 541: Topics in Compiler Construction
CS 545: Distributed Computing Landscape

Group 4: Networks and Security

CS 542: Computer Networks I: Fundamentals
CS 544: Computer Networks II: Network Services
CS 549: Cryptography and Network Security
CS 558: Advanced Computer Security

Group 5: Databases

CS 525: Advanced Database Organization

Group 6: Software Engineering

CS 586: Software System Architectures

Group 7: Computational Intelligence

CS 512: Computer Vision
CS 579: Online Social Network Analysis
CS 583: Probabilistic Graphical Models
CS 584: Machine Learning
CS 585: Natural Language Processing


Coursework Requirements

The table below lists the coursework that is required of all Ph.D. students. Some requirements depend on the degree with which a student enters the program.

Required Credit Hours For CS Ph.D. StudentsFor Students Entering The Ph.D. Program With A
Bachelor of Science in CSMaster's Degree not in CSMaster's Degree in CS
400-Level CS Courses   0 - 12 hours  
500- & 600-Level CS Courses ... 36 - 54 hours 24 - 30 hours 15 - 30 hours
...  with at least 1 Core Course from each of Groups 1, 2, 3 and any two
of the other Groups
Any three Groups
CS 597 (Reading & Special Problems) 6 - 12 hours* 3 - 12 hours*
CS 691 (Ph.D. Thesis/Research)   24 - 36 hours  
CS 695 (Ph.D. Seminar)   1 hour  
Minimum Total Required Credit Hours 72 hours 49 hours 40 hours


  • Only credit hours from courses passed with a grade of B or better can be used to satisfy coursework requirements.
  • To count as a core course, a course must be taken at IIT, as part of the Ph.D. program.
  • The 400-level CS courses cannot include CS 401402, or 403.
  • The 500- and 600-level CS courses:
    • Must include at least one course from each of the required core groups.
    • Can include CS 595 and can include up to 6 hours of credits from outside the department (as approved, case-by-case).
    • Cannot include CS 597CS 691CS 695, CS Professional courses, or Accelerated ("short") courses.
  • * At least 3 credit hours of CS 597 are required in the first year.

» Qualifying Exams

Additional Requirements

In addition to coursework and qualifying exams, Ph.D. students are also required to take a comprehensive exam and do a thesis defense. Students must meet a residence requirement and must apply for graduation within the time limit for the program. Students in the Direct program may exit the program early with a Master of Science degree.

Comprehensive Examination

The purpose of the Comprehensive Examination is to ensure that the student candidate has the background to carry out successful research in the chosen area and that the student's research problem is properly formulated and has sufficient scholarly merit. The student (in concert with the student's research advisor) must develop and orally present a written research proposal containing a literature review, a proposed research topic, and a program of research that addresses this topic.

The student must request appointment of an examination committee. The examination committee may consist of from four to seven members. It must include at least three full-time faculty members from the Computer Science Department and one full-time faculty member from another department in the university. Other committee members from inside or outside the university may be chosen. The student should consult with the student's research advisor concerning the makeup of the committee.

The examination is public and should be announced using the department mailing list. It is the responsibility of the student to send an abstract when submitting the examination form. It is the responsibility of the advisor to make sure that this is done. The presentation should take 40 minutes; this is a general guideline that be modified by the examination committee.

Thesis Defense

Each student must present an oral defense of the student's Ph.D. Thesis. The Thesis Review Committee is appointed in much the same way as the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination committee. The committee will examine the written thesis and examine the student during a public oral defense.

The examination is public and should be announced using the department mailing list. It is the responsibility of the student to send an abstract when submitting the examination form. It is the responsibility of the advisor to make sure that this is done. The presentation should take 40 minutes; this is a general guideline that be modified by the examination committee.

Residence Requirements

University regulations require that each Ph.D. student spend a minimum of two regular semesters in full-time study on campus. In special cases, two summers of research or other daytime graduate activity may be substituted for one of the two semesters. A full-time student is one who is registered for at least 9 credit hours in a regular semester or 6 credit hours in the summer.

Applying for Graduation

A student who expects to receive a graduate degree at the end of a given semester must file an application for graduation with the Graduate College within 2 weeks of the start of the intended semester of graduation. No application will be accepted after that date and no changes in a Program of Study are allowed after that date. An application for graduation is good for only one semester. If the student fails to graduate in the intended semester, a new application must be filled for a later semester (No additional fees will be charged for filling a second application.)

Time Limit

A student has six calendar years to complete the Ph.D. Program, starting from when the Ph.D. Program of Study (Form #401) is filed. Should this time limit expire, the student will be required to petition the Dean of the Graduate School to have the time limit extended. Such an extension will ordinarily entail additional examinations and fees.

Master of Science Exit

Students wishing to leave the Direct or Post-Masters Ph.D. program early with the degree of Master of Science in Computer Science must satisfy all the requirements of the Master's degree and in addition write a Master's Thesis or pass the Ph.D. qualifying exams. In special circumstances students may petition the department for consideration.

Last modified 3/26/2017