Ph.D. Program in Computer Science


Computer science is offered as an area of concentration in the Ph.D. program in engineering. An applicant must meet the general graduate school admission requirements, and must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or engineering. Students with a bachelor’s degree only from a non-U.S. university will not be admitted directly to the PhD program but must enroll first in a master’s program. Applicants with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in an area outside of computer science or engineering may be admitted provided they meet the following minimal requirements expected of all applicants.

  1. At least four mathematics courses covering calculus and linear algebra.
  2. At least 27 credits of course work in computer science with a minimum of six credits in each of these three areas: (1) Programming; (2) Computer architecture and systems; and (3) Theoretical computer science, including analysis and design of algorithms.
  3. Recent GRE score.  (Our institutional code is 1473.)
  4. Two letters of recommendation sent directly to
    Graduate Program Representative, Computer Science Program/CEAS,
    University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, PO Box 784,
    Milwaukee, WI – 53201.
    (Street address: 3200 N Cramer Street, Milwaukee, WI 53211.)

Program Requirements

The minimum degree requirement is 66 graduate credits beyond the bachelor’s degree. A minimum of 26 credits (excluding thesis) must be at the 700 level or higher. The 66 credits shall be distributed as follows:

  • 21 credits in the major area of concentration
  • 9 credits in an approved minor area
  • 6 credits in mathematics and/or quantitative methods
  • 18 credits of thesis
  • 12 credits of approved electives

The six-credit requirement in mathematics and/or quantitative methods may be met by taking the minor in mathematics. In general, the minor may be in an area offered by the College of Engineering and Applied Science, in the physical sciences, mathematics or in management sciences. Any other area of minor requires prior approval by the graduate program subcommittee (GPSC) of the College.

A maximum of 33 credits can be considered for transfer credits for prior graduate work, including a master’s degree earned at UWM or elsewhere, provided the course work falls within the appropriate areas. Students entering the program without a prior applicable master’s degree will be limited to a total maximum transfer of 9 credits for course taken elsewhere.

Up to 6 credits of independent study courses (CompSci 699 and 999) may be included in the minimum course requirements provided prior approval is obtained from the department and the GPSC. These independent study courses may involve supervised industrial internships.

Major Professor as Advisor

The student must have a major professor to advise, supervise and approve the program of study before registering for courses. Every incoming student is assigned a program advisor at the time of admission. Prior to completion of 12 credits (nine credits for part-time students), the student must select a major professor who will normally also be the thesis advisor. The student, in consultation with the major professor, shall develop a program of study that will be submitted to the graduate program subcommittee of the college for approval. For subsequent changes, the student must file a revised program of study for approval.

Qualifying Examination

A qualifying examination must be taken to determine whether the individual is qualified for doctoral-level work before the earning of 12 credits of course work in the program (30 credits of course work, if the student’s highest degree is at the bachelor’s level). Normally, the examination will be given twice a year. A student may take the examination twice. If the student does not pass on the second attempt, s/he will not normally be permitted to proceed in this doctoral program. The examination will consist of two parts:

Part I: There will be three components: hardware, software and theory (here is the syllabus.)

Part II: Before the exam, the student will choose two research areas in which to be examined. The research areas must be chosen from the following list (here is the syllabus.):

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Hardware, Architecture and Performance Evaluation
  • Computer Graphics & Visualization
  • Computer Networks
  • Computer Security
  • Human Computer Interaction & User Interfaces
  • Programming Languages & Compilers
  • Theory & Algorithms.

A copy of the guidelines can be found here.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination and the Doctoral Program Committee

A student will be admitted to candidacy only after the successful completion of the doctoral preliminary examination. This examination, which normally will be oral, must be attempted prior to the completion of 48 credits of graduate work toward the PhD degree. Prior to the examination, the student must present a proposal for a PhD thesis. The examination may cover both graduate course material and items related to the proposed thesis. The examination will be conducted by the student’s doctoral program committee that shall consist of at least five graduate faculty members with at least three from computer science (including the major professor), one from the minor area, and one from another area.

Dissertation (Thesis)

Registration for dissertation requires successful completion of the doctoral preliminary examination and prior approval of the student’s doctoral program committee and the GPSC of a dissertation proposal that outlines the scope of the project, the method of approach and the goals to be achieved. Total dissertation registration is for a minimum of 18 credits, and any student registering for thesis must continue to register for a minimum of 3 dissertation credits per semester during the academic year until the dissertation is completed.

Upon completion of the dissertation, the student must take an oral final examination consisting of the defense of the thesis. This examination can be taken only after all other requirements have been completed.

Time Limit

All degree requirements must be completed within 10 years from the date of initial enrollment in the doctoral program.

For additional information on the Ph.D. requirements, contact your major professor or departmental office.

If you have any further questions, please send us an e-mail.
Send e-mail to Graduate Program Representative.