The University of Arizona

Graduate Info

Doctoral Program

Table of Contents

  1. Program of study
    1. Major
    2. Minor
    3. Examinations
    4. Dissertation Defense
    5. Dissertation
  2. Ph.D. Satisfactory Progress Policy
  3. Ph.D. Graduation Requirements
  4. Milestones

You complete course work, research, and examinations, culminating in your dissertation and its defense. This program is supervised by your doctoral committee. The committee must consist of at least three faculty from the Department of Computer Science, all of whom must be University of Arizona tenured, tenure-track, or approved as equivalent, and one faculty from the minor department. See Graduate College policy on committee membership.

Program of Study

PhD Course Planning Tool: Fall 2012- (PDF)

PhD Course Planning Tool: Pre-Fall 2012 (PDF)
Graduate Prerequisite Forest (PDF)

Select your course work in consultation with your research advisor and doctoral committee; this allows you to tailor your degree to your interests and needs.Required course work consists of 66 units divided into the following components:


The course requirements of the major consist of 6 core courses, 2 additional CSC graduate courses, 4 research courses, and 1 colloquium. You are expected to complete all the major course requirements before your 5th semester portfolio (the Qualifying Exam).

Core Courses

The core curriculum required for PhD students depends on when you entered the program. Students who begin the program in Fall 2012 or later must complete the new core curriculum. Students who entered the PhD program prior to the Fall 2012 have the option of either following the old curriculum or the new curriculum.


Fall 2012 and later

Take 1 core course from each of the two "Foundations" areas, plus 4 core courses from any area (6 courses total)

Foundations of Systems

525 Principles of Computer Networking

552 Advanced Operating Systems

553 Principles of Compilation

576 Computer Architecture

Foundations of Theory

545  Design and Analysis of Algorithms

573 Theory of Computation

Applications of Computing

520 Principles of Programming Languages

522  Parallel and Distributed Programming

533 Computer Graphics

547 Green Computing

560 Database Systems Implementation

566 Computer Security

550 Algorithms in Bioinformatics

537 Computational Geometry

577 Introduction to Computer Vision

Pre-Fall 2012

Take 2 courses from each of two different areas, and one each from 2 additional areas (6 courses total)

Computing Systems
 525 Principles of Computer Networking

 547 Green Computing
 552 Advanced Operating Systems
 553 Principles of Compilation
 576 Computer Architecture

Software Systems
 520 Principles of Programming Languages
 522 Parallel and Distributed Computing
 560 Database Systems Implementation

 566 Computer Security

Theory and Algorithms
 545 Design and Analysis of Algorithms

 550 Algorithms in Bioinformatics
 573 Theory of Computation

 533 Computer Graphics
 537 Computational Geometry
 577 Introduction to Computer Vision

Artificial Intelligence
 577 Introduction to Computer Vision

 ISTA 521 Introduction to Machine Learning


Research Projects, Colloquia and other Graduate Courses

In addition to core courses, you must take two other CS graduate courses, twelve units of Research Project work (CSC695C taken four times, each time for three units) and 1 colloquium course (CSC695A, one unit).

The colloquium course (CSC 695A) consists of attending a minimum of 10 colloquia. Registration for CSC 695A should take place when your are close to finishing attending 10 colloquia. Attendance is counted when you submit the required colloquia form made available during the talk.


A minor program typically consists of 9-12 units of course work. The minor department determines minor course work and the extent to which they participate in PhD examinations. The minor and course work must be approved by the doctoral committee. You may also choose to minor in computer science (an "internal minor"). Minor courses should be completed before you take your Comprehensive Exam.


You are required to pass the following examinations:

Qualifying Examination (Portfolio)

The Qualifying Exam takes the form of submitting a student portfolio for review. The student-generated material for the portfolio should provide evidence of your ability to successfully complete a PhD; a preliminary portfolio is submitted by the end of the 3rd semester and the official portfolio is due by the end of the 5th semester.

You may also be required to pass a qualifying examination in their minor field, with requirements determined by the minor department.

Comprehensive Examination (Thesis proposal)

The Comprehensive Exam takes the form of thesis proposal and consists of written and oral parts in both the major and minor fields. This exam should be taken by the end of your 7th semester in the program. The written exam consists  of a written account of research and results to date and a proposal for the remainder of your research activity. The oral exam consistes of a presentation of the proposal. This exam is closed to the public; only you and your dissertation committee may be in attendance. You advance to PhD candidacy after passing this exam.

Dissertation Defense

This is an technical presentation, before the doctoral committee and public, in defense of the completed dissertation.


The dissertation represents an original and scholarly contribution to the discipline, approved by and defended before the doctoral committee. A minimum of eighteen units of dissertation credit are required. Neither The University of Arizona nor the Department of Computer Science has a foreign language requirement for the PhD degree.

Ph.D. Satisfactory Progress Policy

You are evaluated for satisfactory progress at least once every 12 months (part-time students are handled on a case-by-case basis). Below, a "year" means two successive semesters, not counting the summer term. Semesters are counted from when you enter the PhD program. The table below indicates when evaluations take place, along with what benchmarks are used to determine satisfactory progress. Semesters are counted from when you enter the PhD program.

After Semester General Benchmarks Action if Unsatisfactory
Two GPA above 3.3 and passed at least one 695C Warning and recommendations
Three GPA above 3.3, passed at least two 695Cs, and has doctoral advisor Warning and recommendations; if unsatisfactory after both semesters two and three, possible dismissal from PhD program
Five Portfolio decision Dismissed from PhD program after sixth semester
Six Through Completion Progress towards dissertation If not satisfactory by next review, dismissed from PhD program at end of that semester

Further notes follow below.

  1. The doctoral advisor is defined as a faculty member who has committed to supervising a student's PhD dissertation.
  2. Any Computer Science course in which a grade of C or lower is earned will not count toward satisfying core course requirements. A course with a grade of C can be used towards your electives. A course with a grade of D or lower cannot be included in the plan of study. All grades are counted, however, in the cumulative GPA.
  3. After two semesters, the student must have taken at least one CSc 695c and have earned the grade of at least P, maintained a 3.3 GPA, attended the UA Graduate Assistantship in Teaching Orientation, and passed either the TOEFL (26 or better) or the UA SPEAK Test (7 or better).
  4. After three semesters, the student must have taken at least two CSc 695c courses with a grade of at least P, maintained a 3.3 GPA, and submitted a portfolio deemed satisfactory by the graduate committee. If a student is unsatisfactory after both the two- and three-semester review, they can be dismissed from the PhD program.
  5. After five semesters, the student must pass the Qualifying Exam by submitting a portfolio deemed to pass by the graduate committee. If the portfolio is deemed to fail, then the student is dismissed from the PhD program.
  6. After seven semesters, the student must have taken the Comprehensive Exam, which consists of submitting a written thesis proposal and giving a presentation on the thesis proposal to the student's dissertation committee. The student passes the exam if there are zero or one negative votes; no appeals will be considered. If the student fails the exam, the matter is forwarded to the graduate committee. The graduate committee may, at its discretion, give the student a second attempt. A student who fails to pass the Comprehensive Exam (after the first or second attempt, depending on the decision of the graduate committee) will be dismissed from the PhD program.

Ph.D. Graduation Requirements

To graduate with a PhD in Computer Science, students need to have met the following requirements.

  1. Earn A's and B's in all core courses
  2. 3.5 cumulative grade point average in core classes
  3. 3.33 cumulative grade point average overall in all coursework
  4. Enroll in CSC 695A and complete 10 Colloquium requirement
  5. Take CSC 695C four times in first five semester and receive grade of at least P.
  6. Complete and pass the Qualifying Exam, Comprehensive Exam, and the Final Defense.
  7. Complete needed number of units required for degree
    (63-66 units minimum):

Form Requirements

To graduate you must have filed a series of forms with the Graduate College (log in to MyGradColl to access those forms). Pay attention to the deadlines for the semester for the last day you may submit these forms and take the exam.

  1. PhD Plan of Study: To be submitted during last semester of coursework. Please fill it out online, have your faculty advisor sign it and then bring it to the Graduate Advisor.
  2. When ready to take your Oral Comprehensive Exam, fill out the "Application for Oral Comprehensive Examination for Doctoral Candidacy" through the Graduate College Website. Route signed form to the Graduate Advisor for submission to Grad College.
  3. File with Graduate College a "Committee Appointment Form" (formerly called Advancement to Candidacy)immediately after successfully passing your Oral Comprehensive Exam.
  4. When you are ready to set the date for your final defense, file an"Announcement of Final Oral Examination" with Graduate College. As with all forms, fill out online at Graduate College and bring final form to the Graduate Advisor for submission to Grad College.
  5. Verify via UAccess Student Center the address you want your diploma to be sent.