Doctor of Philosophy in computer science

Mission statement

The mission of the Ph.D. program in the Department of Computer Science at Wayne State University is to prepare students to become leading researchers and educators, both in academia and in industry. First, we expect students to obtain a broad knowledge of computer science by taking graduate-level courses in a variety of sub-areas in computer science, such as artificial intelligence, networking, databases, algorithms, complexity, hardware, human-computer interaction, graphics or bioinformatics. Second, since the Ph.D. is a scholarly degree, a core objective of the program is to prepare computer science professionals who are able to conduct research of exceptional quality. By working closely with a faculty advisor, a Ph.D. student is expected to develop a research project in one of the several sub-disciplines of computer science supported by the department. In addition, the departmental research laboratories possess state-of-the-art computational resources that enable students to tackle a wide range of computationally intensive problems as part of a research team. Upon completion of the Ph.D. program, a student will be able to pursue a career as a computer science professional in academic research, computer science education, industrial applications, and related management positions. 

Program learning objectives

  • Students must demonstrate the ability to engage in advanced study and research.
  • Students must demonstrate the ability to understand the major research questions and fundamental tools needed to solve problems in a given sub-field of computer science.
  • Students must produce original and scholarly research that contributes to one or more of the sub-fields of computer science.
  • Students are expected to have made a significant contribution to research in their sub-field and as a result, have become integrated into their various professional communities. They will then be in a position to address large-scale issues of both national and global concern.

Stakeholders reports for the Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science


The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires 90 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree, 30 of which must be earned as dissertation credit. All course work must be completed in accordance with the academic procedures of the college and the Graduate School governing graduate scholarship and degrees. The computer science doctoral program is designed to be flexible, in order to meet the individual student's interests and to reflect the dynamic nature of the field. The program is comprised of seven major stages:

Advisor/program selection

The first stage is devoted to the selection of a faculty advisor, taking course work and the production of a Plan of Work. Students are encouraged to investigate the different areas of research available by meeting various graduate faculty to decide on an advisor. Advisor selection should be done within the first semester of admission. Once the selection of an advisor has been made and approved, the student will then begin course work selection and outlining the Plan of Work. The approved Plan of Work must designate a primary area of research and a minor field outside of the department. The student is encouraged, in consultation with the advisor, to define his/her primary and minor fields of interest by forming a cohesive grouping of available graduate courses.  The Plan of Work must include at least thirty credits in course work at, or above, the 7000 level. Twenty-one of these credits must be in coursework other than directed study (CSC 7990). Both CSC 6500 and CSC 6580 must be part of the student's plan of work.

Proficiency examination

In order to demonstrate knowledge of computer science fundamentals, Ph.D. students are required to fulfill the Core Course Requirements within the first three semesters of the admission, e.g., Fall 2023/Winter 2024/Fall 2024. This includes one course from each group with a letter grade of 'B' or better: (1) CSC 6500; (2) CSC 6580; and (3) CSC 6110 or CSC 5430/5431 or CSC 6430/6431 or CSC 6220 or CSC 6710. The final pass/fail decision will be made by the graduate committee, which considers core course requirements, GPA after admission to the graduate program, the letter from the research adviser and other evidence as determined appropriate by the graduate committee. Otherwise, the student will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program.

FAQs on proficiency exam

Q: Are students allowed to retake one of the Core Course Requirements if they earned a grade below B?  
A: No. The student may request a letter of support from the adviser that support the student's capability to be successful in the program. 

Q: Do we accept any of the Core Course Requirements taken in another University?
A: Yes. But it must be a comparable course as determined by the GPD and with a grade of B or Better. That is the standard criterion for transfer credit in general.

Q: Do we accept any of the Core Course Requirements taken by UG students in our AGRADE program?
A: Yes with agrade of B or better. If the course was taken as an UG and the grade is not a B or better it needs to be retaken. However, it is University policy that UG students be graded differently from Grad students. In that case a letter of support from the advisor would be necessary even if the grade is a B or better.

Q: In the past, CSC 6500 and CSC 6580 were required courses for master's degree; Do students, who took these courses years ago and interested in the PhD program, need to retake these courses again? If no, how do we know they still have good knowledge of what is covered in these two courses after years of taking them?
A: No, if the courses are taken within the last 6 years. 

Q: In the past few years, CSC 6500 and CSC 6580 were taught by different faculty; the grading scales used in these classes depend on who teaches the course. Are there standards-based scales set by the Graduate Committee or are they left to the faculty who teach the course?
A: No matter who teaches the courses, it is expected that grading will be based on the standard set of expectations for the course.. 

Q: One of the new requirements is to provide a support letter by the student's research adviser. Usually, students focus on course work at the beginning of their PhD program. If they must provide this letter within the required time (three terms), they need to work on a research project with their advisors from day one; however, some students may not have any research background (for example: our master students with plan B).
A: It is expected for PhD students, regardless of funding sources, spend significant time in research from day one besides their coursework's and service responsibilities. Also, they are expected to take courses in their area of research interest as part of their contract as GRA and GTA. 

Qualifying examination

The Qualifying Exam is designed to determine the student's capacity for critical thinking as evident in both written and oral presentations. By the end of the second year in the program, students are required to make their first attempt at this exam. Students are eligible for taking the qualifying exam after they pass the proficiency exam in the first three semesters of the admission. In the exam, the competency of the student in their major area of the research is to be demonstrated in the form of a written document and accompanying oral presentation. The exam is offered in March and November, and the student will have two opportunities to pass both parts. Failure to pass both parts of the qualifying examination by the end of the fifth semester will result in the student's removal from the Ph.D. program. Upon successful completion of this requirement, a Report on Doctor of Philosophy Oral Examination form is submitted to the Graduate School.

  1. Dissertation committee formation: With the approval of the Department of Computer Science Graduate Committee, the student establishes a Dissertation Committee that consists of four members. If there are co-chairs, the committee will consist of five members. At least two committee members are from the student's home department. The chair and one additional member must hold a regular graduate faculty appointment in the Department of Computer Science. The committee also will include an external member from outside the department. All committee members must have a Ph.D. in a field relevant to the student's research area. This committee is responsible for administering the prospectus and the dissertation defense of the candidate.
  2. Candidacy: Candidacy is reached after the Plan of Work has been approved, the written and oral portions of the qualifying examination have been passed, approximately 50 credit hours of course work have been completed, and the dissertation committee has been formed. Upon completion of those requirements, a Recommendation for Doctor of Philosophy Candidacy Status form is submitted to the Graduate School in order to advance the Ph.D. applicant to Candidate Status.
  3. Prospectus: After completion of the written qualifying exam, the student will continue to develop the dissertation prospectus, a document that provides evidence that the prospective doctoral candidate has completed adequate preliminary research on the topic of the proposed doctoral dissertation. The principles for determining the scope of the prospectus are detailed in the Doctoral Dissertation Outline and Record of Approval form.
  4. Dissertation: The final stage is devoted primarily to research and preparation of the dissertation. The dissertation research is presented and defended before the Dissertation Committee in a public lecture presentation. Visit the Graduate School Ph.D. page for further information and graduation deadlines, and view Computer Science Department dissertations in Wayne State's Digital Commons archive

Admission information

Master of Science degree applicants are expected to have attained a level of scholarship in the baccalaureate program equal to a grade point average of 3.0 or better, including adequate preparation in computer science and supporting courses in mathematics (see below for prerequisite requirements).

Ph.D. applicants should possess a bachelor's or master's degree with a major in computer science or a related field. In addition, applicants are expected to have attained a level of scholarship equal to a 3.3 grade point average or better in the most recent degree, including adequate preparation in computer science and supporting courses in mathematics.

Please complete a Ph.D. application by February 17th to ensure admissions and funding consideration for the Fall semester.

All applicants should use the following checklist:

  • Official transcripts from each college or university attended.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • The GRE-Graduate Record Examination scores are required for the Ph.D. program.  The department expects a combined score of 305 for verbal and quantitative and a score of at least 3.5 for analytical writing.
  • A statement of approximately 300 words describing the applicant's academic and professional goals.
  • International applicants must meet the Graduate School's minimum English proficiency requirements.
  • The Department of Computer Science does not accept any paper documents. The application is online.

Prerequisite coursework

Students who do not have adequate background in computer science should complete the course work as listed below. It is recommended that these students apply for undergraduate admission as a second major. Graduate courses taken while in this program will not transfer to the master's or Ph.D. program. Some courses may be waived by the Graduate Program Director, if the student demonstrates sufficient background knowledge in the subject.

View course descriptions

  • CSC 1100 Problem Solving and Programming (4 Credits)
  • CSC 1500 Fundamental Structures in Computer Science (4 Credits)
  • CSC 2110 Computer Science I (4 Credits)
  • CSC 2200 Computer Science II (4 Credits)
  • CSC 3100 Computer Architecture and Organization (4 Credits)
  • CSC 3110 Algorithm Design and Analysis (3 Credits)
  • CSC 4420 Computer Operating Systems (4 Credits)
  • CSC 4500 Introduction to Theoretical Computer Science (3 Credits)
  • MAT 2010 Calculus I (4 Credits)
  • MAT 2020 Calculus II (4 Credits)
  • MAT 2250 Elementary Linear Algebra (3 Credits)
  • BE 2100 Basic Engineering III: Probability and Statistics in Engineering (3 Credits)