Program Overview

Offered through the Department of Computer Science, the Ph.D. program in Computer Science is designed to equip students with excellent skills at the forefront of computing. Through research and teaching, the Department contributes to computing breakthroughs that are fueling advances in medicine, communications, transportation, security, and other areas vital to society and the world.

The doctoral degree is based on coursework as well as research that leads to a dissertation. It is recommended that students interested in the doctoral degree contact the faculty whose interests best fit his/her interest. Areas of research focus center around these topics: computer security and information assurance, software engineering and systems, bioinformatics and biomedical computing, networking and mobile computing, pervasive computing and embedded systems, machine intelligence, robotics, and algorithms and theory.

Courses focus on the following areas:

  • Algorithms and theory
  • Computer architecture, networks, parallel and distributed computing
  • Computer security and information assurance
  • Database and information retrieval systems
  • Machine intelligence and cognition
  • Multimedia, animation, graphics, and user interface
  • Software engineering and systems

The program is designed to prepare students for exciting and rewarding careers in information technology, medicine, film, business, government, and engineering. With the unique location of Washington, D.C., students have access one of the highest concentrations of high-tech companies in the country and federal institutes, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Naval Research Laboratory.

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science (Ph.D.)


  • Credit hours (for those with a master's degree): 30
  • Credit hours (for those without a master's degree): 54
  • Other requirements:
  • Course requirements: Students must take one course from each of the three areas: theory, systems, and applications. Students must also take one advanced topics course. For students without a prior master's degree, 15 credit hours may be taken outside of the department; for those with a prior master's degree, nine credit hours may be taken.
  • Preliminary exam: Students must pass the exam within four semesters of starting the program
  • Dissertation committee: Students are responsible for forming a dissertation committee comprised of three members in addition to the advisor and co-advisor(s).
  • Dissertation proposal exam: Students must first pass the preliminary exam prior to the dissertation proposal exam. The student must then submit a written proposal for evaluation and undergo an oral exam.
  • Peer-reviewed papers: Students are expected to have at least two or three conference or journal papers accepted for publication prior to the dissertation defense.
  • Colloquium requirement: Students must attend a minimum of two seminars, workshops, or symposia sponsored by the department in order to fulfill this zero-credit requirement.


Doctoral Degree Program Requirements

A number of credit hours:

  • For direct Ph.D. degree students: 54 credit hours (minimum of 18 credit hours of coursework available for graduate credit and minimum of 12 credit hours of dissertation research credits (CSCI 8999))
  • For post-Master’s Ph.D. students: 18 credit hours of coursework available for graduate credit and 12 credit hours of dissertation research credits (CSCI 8999)

Specific course requirements:

  • At least one course from each of the following three areas: 1) theory, 2) systems; and 3) applications. The purpose is to introduce students to the major methods of computer science research at the graduate level. Theory research involves constructing formal models of computation; validation is primarily by mathematical proof. Systems research involves improving computing infrastructure to make it faster, more reliable, more secure, etc.; validation is primarily empirical or analytical. Applied research involves using computers to solve problems of interest. Validation is primarily through demonstration that a method is effective in solving a problem.
  • At least one advanced topics course. CSci courses at the 8000 level with “Advanced” in the title satisfy this requirement. With the approval of the student’s advisor, a CSci 6907 course may also satisfy this requirement.
  • A maximum of 15 credits outside of the department for direct Ph.D. students; a maximum of 9 credits outside of the department for post-Master’s Ph.D. students.

Ph.D. Admissions Requirements

Applicants must submit the following materials in order to be considered for admission into a master's program at SEAS. All materials except test scores must be uploaded to the online application form:

Online Application


  • Scanned copies of unofficial transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned; the program was not completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript.
  • Please ensure that all transcripts are properly scanned and attached to the online application form. Otherwise, applicants will receive notifications requesting legible transcripts, which may delay review of their application.
  • Please do not mail official transcripts unless you are instructed to do so by a SEAS admissions officer. Admissions decisions are based on unofficial transcripts.
  • For international applicants, please see additional requirements for attaching foreign transcripts to the online application.

GRE scores

  • The Graduate Records Examination (GRE) is required of all applicants, except for those applying for a Combined Five-Year Program.
  • GRE scores must be sent to institution code 5246 through the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
  • There is no minimum score required on the GRE for admission. However, applicants are encouraged to score within the 90th percentile of the Quantitative section of the exam in order to be considered competitive. To see average GRE scores from the most recent incoming class, visit the Graduate Student Profile.

English proficiency exam scores (international applicants)

  • International applicants who did not receive a degree from an institution situated in the United States or English-speaking country must also submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic exams.
  • Please view the International Admissions section for information on English language exam score requirements and sending scores to GW.

Letters of Recommendation

  • A minimum of three (3) letters of recommendation is required to be submitted with the online application form.
  • At least one recommendation should be from an advisor and/or faculty member(s) at the institution from which you earned your highest degree.

Statement of Purpose

  • Applicants must include an essay of 400-600 words that clearly state their purpose in undertaking graduate study at the George Washington University; explains their academic objectives, research interests, and career plans; and discusses related qualifications including collegiate, professional, and community activities, as well as any other substantial accomplishments not already mentioned.
  • It is strongly encouraged that essays stay within the 600-word limit. While applicants are not penalized for submitting longer essays, concise essays are more effective in demonstrating an applicant's motivation.
  • The Statement of Purpose must be written by the applicant. Any essay found to have been written by anyone other than the applicant, or plagiarized from other published materials, will be withdrawn from consideration.


  • A current résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) should be uploaded to the online application form.
  • If you have published articles in peer-reviewed publications, please include them as a hyperlink.

Ph.D. applicants must also demonstrate the following requirements in order to be considered for admission:

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant area from an accredited institution
    • If an applicant has obtained a master’s degree, a minimum grade point average of 3.5 (on a scale of 4.0) is required, as well as coursework in advanced software paradigms, computer architectures, design and analysis of algorithms.
    • If an applicant has only obtained a bachelor’s degree, the minimum grade point average must be a 3.3 (on a scale of 4.0).
  • Completion of two math courses beyond pre-calculus
  • Strong academic background that includes courses in structured programming language, discrete structures, and data structures
Program taught in:
The George Washington University - School of Engineering & Applied Science

See 6 more programs offered by The George Washington University - School of Engineering & Applied Science »

Last updated November 13, 2018
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Sep 2019
Feb 2020
4 - 6 years
Request Info
Sep 2, 2019
By locations
By date
Start Date
Sep 2019
End Date
Application deadline
Start Date
Feb 2020
End Date
Application deadline
Sep 2, 2019

Sep 2019

Application deadline
End Date

Feb 2020

Application deadline
Sep 2, 2019
End Date

Graduate Student Research: Computer Science at GW