PhD in Computer Science

PhD in Computer Science

Develop Your Expertise to Create a Bold New Future

A PhD in Computer Science from Clarkson University can help you become a lead researcher in academia, government agencies, the tech sector and other growing industries. Become an expert in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, virtual reality, quantum computing and other innovative developments in computing. Devote your studies to developing original, innovative research that can propel the field forward. This is the opportunity to make an impact on society through computer technology. Coursework can be completed on our Potsdam campus or online.

Why Earn an PhD in Computer Science From Clarkson University?

Considered one of the best graduate computer science programs by U.S. News & World Report, our curriculum is rigorous, interdisciplinary and portfolio-centered. At Clarkson University, you will have access to state-of-the-art facilities and a community of ambitious peers that will help take your research to new levels.

The program is offered jointly by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science. Our smalls department are collegial, and we encourage collaboration among peers who might have different academic backgrounds. Our faculty mentors will offer personalized guidance as you dig deeper into your area of focus.

The departments have a particular strength in the general area of artificial intelligence, including automated reasoning, computer vision, machine learning, virtual reality, robotics, human-robot interaction and the social implications of AI. Other areas of expertise include cybersecurity, virtualization, natural language processing, human-computer interaction, quantum computing and computational complexity.

Through our corporate partnerships, Clarkson has cultivated strong industry connections, which helps open the door to career opportunities for our students. Our program is also well-regarded in academia and by other research centers. 

What You'll Learn

The program consists of a minimum of 90 credit hours earned from graduate courses. The credit hours are distributed as follows:

  • 36 credit hours of classroom and instructional laboratory coursework.
  • Four foundation courses.
  •  Four research-oriented courses.
  • One course per group:
    • Group A – Theory and Algorithms.
    • Group B – Computer Systems and Networks.
    • Group C – Languages and Software Development.
    • Group D – Artificial Intelligence and Applications.
  • 36 credit hours of electives.

You will also take six semesters of seminar courses and prepare a portfolio consisting of a written statement of research interest and representative work to advance to candidacy. Once this has been approved, you will complete your degree with a dissertation and defense.

University Requirements:

  • A minimum of 90 credit hours earned for graduate courses numbered 500 and higher, including at least 36 credit hours of classroom and instructional laboratory coursework (this is above the university minimum of 24)
  • A minimum of 6 credit hours of research seminar.
  • A maximum of 30 credit hours of graduate transfer credit from an MS degree with grades of a B or higher may be accepted toward the PhD degree.
  • At least three full academic years of study beyond the baccalaureate degree.
  • A cumulative GPA of 3.0 in courses used to meet graduation requirements.
  • Graduate students must complete the PhD candidacy procedure within two years of full-time study after admission to the PhD program.
  • Doctoral candidates must complete an original research project submitted as a written thesis to be orally presented and approved before a committee of at least five faculty members. At least four members must be Clarkson faculty, of assistant professor rank or higher, and possess a doctoral degree. At least one committee member must be from a department other than the candidate’s major department. An external examiner with appropriate credentials from outside the university may serve as one of the five committee members. The thesis must also be approved by the dean of the graduate school and a copy deposited in the university library.
  • All work for the PhD degree must be completed within seven years after admission to candidacy.

Additional Program Requirements and Procedures


Students must complete a minimum of 36 credits of computer science-related coursework, including the following:

Foundations. Students must take four required courses across three areas: CS541 (theory), CS547 (theory), CS544 (systems) and CS545 (languages). A grade of B+ or better is required in each of these courses. A written exam option is offered for students who have taken equivalent courses at other institutions and for students who did not receive a B+ in the Clarkson course. Students who have taken equivalent courses at other institutions and pass the exam with a grade of B+ or better can replace the corresponding course with another CS course.

Research-Oriented Courses. Students must also complete a minimum of four 3-credit research-oriented 600-level CS courses. Research-oriented courses include a substantial research literature review and a research project/presentation component. The Computer Science PhD Committee will maintain a list of acceptable research-oriented courses. The 600-level CS Directed Study Courses are acceptable by permission of the Computer Science PhD Committee only when such courses satisfy the same standards as regular 600-level CS courses and include a substantial research literature review and a research project/presentation component. A grade of B+ or higher is required in two 600-level CS courses in order to advance to candidacy, and one of these must be a research-oriented 600-level course.

Breadth Requirement. Beyond the four required courses listed in Foundations, students must take one course from each of the following four groups. Courses used to satisfy this breadth requirement may also be used to satisfy the research requirements. The specific lists of courses may change, and students may petition the Computer Science PhD Committee to accept additional courses, including courses outside the department, in these groups:

  • Group A (theory and algorithms): 542, 546, 549, 556, 642, 656
  • Group B (computer systems and networks): 553, 555, 557, 563, 644, 654
  • Group C (languages and software development): 543, 550, 558, 560, 658
  • Group D (artificial intelligence and applications): 551, 552, 559, 561, 562, 659

Electives. Students must take additional courses as necessary to reach 36 course credits. Students are expected to take at least one graduate course in computer science or a related field each semester that they are enrolled in the computer science PhD program. This requirement may be waived in consultation with the student’s advisor or if the Computer Science PhD Committee decides it is in the student’s best interest to focus on completion of the thesis work.

Seminar. Students are required to attend and participate in the CS707 or 708 Seminar in Computer Science (1 credit) series during at least six semesters in residence in the PhD program. Participation is recommended during each semester in residence in the PhD program.

Candidacy. The doctoral candidacy procedure for the computer science program is portfolio-based.

Before advancing to candidacy, students must have completed the four required courses (CS541, CS547, CS544 and CS545) and two of the 600-level CS courses, at least one of which must be a research-oriented course. A grade of B+ or higher is required in each course.

Students prepare a portfolio consisting of a written statement of research interest and representative work from courses and seminars (e.g., exams, research papers, presentation materials). Student appear before the Computer Science PhD Committee for an oral defense of their portfolio. This oral defense and portfolio examination constitutes the comprehensive exam for candidacy in computer science.

To advance to candidacy, students must have also chosen a faculty advisor who believes they are prepared to begin original research in a mutually acceptable field of specialization.

Students must advance to candidacy within two years of full-time study after admission to the PhD program or be granted an extension by the Computer Science PhD Committee.

Thesis Proposal. Students must write a thesis proposal outlining their research plan and discussing related work and defend this proposal in an oral exam before the thesis committee.

In addition to the university requirements, at least three members of the committee must be from the Department of Computer Science.

Students must form their committee and pass the thesis proposal defense exam by the end of their third year of full-time study after admission to the PhD program or be granted an extension by the Computer Science PhD Committee.

Thesis Defense. The final step in completion of the doctoral program is the submission of a written thesis in conjunction with an oral thesis defense.

Candidates will normally present a 50-minute oral presentation of the thesis work at an advertised campus event followed by at least 10 minutes of public questions. After the end of the public session, candidates and their five-member thesis committee will gather in a closed session for final questions and presentation of corrections to thesis. Candidates will be then asked to leave the room for a final vote of approval. Following approval, candidates must complete the requested corrections to the written thesis and obtain final signatures. Candidates must provide all five thesis committee members with a copy of the thesis at least four full weeks before the public defense.

The thesis committee for the final defense is the same as that for the proposal defense. Any changes must be approved by the Computer Science PhD Committee in advance of the final defense.

Solving real-world problems based on cutting-edge research is at the core of what we do. Our 18 research centers and laboratories include the Biomedical Signal Analysis Laboratory, the Clarkson Center for Complex Systems Science, and the Smart Power Systems and Controls Lab. We also count more than 380 partners in industry, government agencies, chambers of commerce and research organizations also offer graduate students a wealth of opportunities to continue doing their important work.


Our faculty are recognized as leaders in their respective fields and are at the helm of cutting-edge projects. They collaborate closely with each other to provide innovative solutions for complex problems. Our faculty members also value the talents of students and serve as active and engaged mentors.

Faculty and Staff

A completed application consists of the following:

  • Online Application Form.
  • Résumé.
  • Statement of purpose.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Official transcripts.
  • GRE test scores.
    • Required. Waivers will be considered.
  • For international applicants, an English proficiency test is required.
    • Minimum test score requirements: TOEFL (80) and TOEFL Essentials (8.5), IELTS (6.5), PTE (56) or Duolingo English Test (115).
    • The English language-testing requirement is not waived based on language of instruction, nor do we accept university certificates. English testing is waived if an applicant has a degree from a country where English is the Native Language. Click here to see the list of these countries.

Prerequisites: A BS or equivalent degree in computer science or another closely related subject. Admission to the computer science program depends upon the Computer Science Graduate Committee's approval.

PhD applicants are eligible for fully funded research or teaching assistantships. They may also receive merit-based scholarships that cover part of their tuition.

Career Possibilities

Computer science professionals are in high demand and will continue to be for quite some time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects in the field are expected to grow much faster than average in the next decade. With a doctorate degree, you will have the intensive research background that is required for academia, research centers, leadership roles in the tech industry and other opportunities.

Potential job titles and roles include:

  • Computer network architect
  • Computer research scientist
  • Computer science instructor
  • Computer systems engineer
  • Professor or assistant professor of computer science

Recent Employers

  • Department of the Air Force
  • LMI Technologies

Contact Us

Graduate Admissions
Phone: 518-631-9831

Interested in learning more about the PhD in Computer Science? Contact us today with your questions.

Find out more about the Computer Science Department.

Have You Heard of TARS?

The Terascale All-sensing Research Studio (TARS) at Clarkson University is a research center that focuses on human-driven artificial intelligence, using capture and analysis of dense multi-person interactions in online and real-world environments. Every year, they recruit graduate students to form part of the team.

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