Doctor of Philosophy

As a doctoral student in the computer science program, you'll be expected to pass a comprehensive oral and written examination, as well as complete a research dissertation.

Entrance requirements

When applying for the program, you will have to submit a letter outlining tentative research interests and career goals along with GRE verbal, quantitative and analytical writing test scores. Admission into the Ph.D. program in Computer Science is granted by majority vote of the computer science graduate faculty, demonstration of supervisory interest by a faculty member, and approval of the vice provost of graduate s tudies.

If you do not already have a graduate degree, in most cases you will be required to complete a Master of Science in computer science before entering the Ph.D. program. In select cases, you may be admitted into the Ph.D. program with just a undergraduate degree, but only at the discretion of department faculty. You will be expected to meet all requirements for both the M.S. and Ph.D. programs. Examination schedules for the Ph.D. program will apply.

Minimum requirements for admission:

  • A minimum GRE verbal score of 370 - New system 144 effective November 2011
  • A minimum GRE Quantitative >= 750 - New system 159 effective November 2014
  • A minimum GRE AWA score >=4.0
  • A minimum TOEFL score of 570 (CBT >=230 OR IBT >=89 OR IELTS 7 or above), for those students not speaking English as their native language
  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.2/4.0 or better over the last two years, or successful completion of 12 graduate hours in computersScience as a "conditional" graduate student at Missouri S&T with at least a 3.2 GPA.

Knowledge of the following:

     1. Strong math skills
           2. Competency in a modern programming language
           3. Computer science core including:
                   * Algorithms & Data Structures
                   * Computer Organization/Architecture
                   * Database & File Structures
                   * Discrete Mathematics & Automata
                   * Operating Systems
                   * Software Engineering

Qualifying examination

To pass the Ph.D. qualifying examination, you must pass both a written and oral examination. The written and oral portions of the qualifying examination may each be taken no more than twice.

The Ph.D. qualifier consists of two parts.

Written portion

You are required to take the first attempt of the written portion of the Ph.D. qualifier examination within one year of starting the program. If you fail the exam on the first attempt, you are required to retake it the following semester. If you pass any subjects, you will not need to take the same subjects again. The examination is scheduled regularly at the start of fall and spring semesters. In lieu of the written portion of the qualifier, if you score above the 80th percentile on the Computer Science Subject Test of the Graduate Record Examination, this will satisfy the qualifying examination.

Effective Spring 2016

Our department has recently approved a new format for the Ph.D. qualifying exam. The description of the new format is attached. Please understand the new format and read the following information carefully:

  • The new format is mandatory for Ph.D. students who start their program in spring 2016 or later.
  • The current Ph.D. students who enrolled in their program before spring 2016 can follow either format.
  • If the current Ph.D. students opt-in to the new format, the students cannot opt-out later
  • Transition period: If the current Ph.D. students cannot pass part 1 of the Ph.D. qualifiers under the new format because of the three-semester limit, the students are given one-semester transition period (i.e., spring 2016) to complete the needed requirements.

If you have any questions regarding the qualifying exam, please contact your advisor.

Part 1 – Broad Knowledge

  • Student selects five 5000/6000-level CS lecture courses
    • Mandatory course: CS 5200 – Algorithms (unless CS 5200 was waived by the GPPC)
    • At least two additional 5000-level courses
  • Non-qualified courses
    • CS 5001 courses are not allowed since they are considered as experimental courses
    • Courses taught by non-CS faculty are not allowed (faculty with courtesy appointments in the CS department are counted as CS faculty for this purpose)
  • Passing Criterion
    • A minimum GPA of 3.5 averaged on the five selected courses, taken during or before the first three semesters of the student’s Ph.D. program

Out of the PhD program if the student fails the GPA requirement

Oral portion

The oral examination consists of a research readiness examination. The Ph.D. research readiness exam should be finished within two years of Ph.D. admission. As a Ph.D. student, you have two options for taking it: (1) You submit a referred paper (published or accepted for publication) and a summary of your research activities, including your contribution to the paper, with your advisor's approval, to the graduate committee for evaluation. (2)You select a topic of personal interest in computer science and review recent literature on the subject. Under the guidance of the advisor, an in-depth comparative paper will be prepared and presented to the departmental Graduate Policies and Procedures Committee.  You may be questioned on the paper and other closely related topics. It is not necessary that the subject have any bearing on your proposed research, however, in the interest of efficiency, relevance is desired.

Effective Spring 2016

Part 2 – Research Readiness

  • The student must declare a dissertation advisor
  • Dissertation advisor
    • Provide a list of 10-15 papers fundamental to the student’s future research
    • This list is customized to the student’s research interest
  • GPPC
    • Provide feedback to the advisor regarding the quality of the papers (note that this is merely meant to ensure a high standard, not to second guess the advisor in regard appropriate papers)
  • Approve the final list

Research Qualifier Exam Committee

  • At least 3 faculty members including:
    • Dissertation advisor
    • At least one faculty member from GPPC
    • At least one faculty member who has closely related research expertise
    • All members must be graduate faculty
  • Dissertation advisor forms the exam committee
  • GPPC approves the final selection of the exam committee members
  • Written exam
    • Each committee member provides 2-3 questions based on the reading list
    • The questions need to be reviewed and agreed by the exam committee
  • Oral exam
    • A follow-up Q&A session where the committee members may ask any questions related to the selected papers and the written exam
  • The number of attempts: 2
  • Deadline
    • Must be completed by the end of the second year 
    • If the first attempt fails, the second attempt must wait for at least three months
  • Scheduling
    • The reading list is given to the student as early as possible
    • Within the deadline, a student can schedule the exam with the exam committee at any time
    • Once the questions are given to the student, the student has one week to complete the written exam
    • The oral exam will take place ideally within the first two weeks after the completion of the written exam

    Research Readiness Request Form: Click Here
    Research Readiness Form and Rubric: Click Here

Research proposal

You must present and receive approval of your research proposal before beginning research for your dissertation. An appropriate time for the presentation would be during the oral portion of the comprehensive exam. More information about this exam can be found in the comprehensive exam rubric.

You will also need to request permission at least two weeks prior to presenting your final dissertation so an announcement can be sent to the program's graduate faculty. More information about how dissertations are graded can be found in the dissertation rubric.

Program and application information

Assistantship and fellowship opportunities


72 hours (effective fall 2012)

  • 18 hours 6000 (400) level courses
  • Three hour out-of-department course
  • Three semesters of seminar course CS 6010 (410)
  • CS 5200 (325) – Algorithms
  • At least 24 hours of research
  • At least 24 hours of courses
  • Other courses prescribed by Ph.D. Committee
  • Qualifier exam
  • Research Readiness Presentation.

72 hours (before fall 2012)

  • 18 hours 6000 (400) level courses
  • Three hour out-of-department course
  • CS 5200 (325) – Algorithms
  • At least 24 hours of research
  • At least 24 hours of courses
  • Other courses prescribed by Ph.D. Committee
  • Qualifier examination
  • Research Readiness Presentation.

Contact information:

Graduate coordinator

Computer Science Department
Missouri University of Science and Technology
500 West 15th Street
333 Computer Science Building
Rolla, MO 65409-0350
Phone: 573-341-6642

Dawn Davis, senior secretary for graduate studies

Computer Science Department
Missouri University of Science and Technology
500 West 15th Street
342 Computer Science Bldg.
Rolla, MO 65409-0350
Phone: 573-341-6642