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Ph.D. Computer Science

The Computer Science Department offers a program of study leading to the degree, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). A graduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Idaho prepares a student for a lifetime of discovery. It enables the graduate to advance the state of the art in computing, not merely to keep up with it. The graduate program develops the student's critical thinking, investigatory, and expository skills. The student will learn the foundations of computer science theory and application, and the interaction between the two. By understanding the extent and limitation of current knowledge in computer science, the graduate will learn to understand what issues are important and why. He or she will acquire the methodological skills to resolve important open problems and tackle challenging new ones. The student will learn to present problems and solutions, both orally and in writing.

Preparation and Admission

Admission to this program is highly competitive. Although an undergraduate degree in Computer Science is not a requirement, students who wish to enter the PhD program must demonstrate competence in specific areas equivalent to the material covered in several of the undergraduate computer science core courses. The study of computer science at the graduate level requires mathematical maturity, skill in the use of high-level and machine-level programming languages, and basic knowledge of computer hardware.

Admission decisions are made by the department's Graduate Program Committee. In addition to specific knowledge area prerequisites, normally a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and a Graduate Record Examination general (aptitude) score in the 60th percentile are the minimum admission requirements. Actual admission is based on a combination of knowledge area preparation and undergraduate GPA. CS is no longer requiring GRE scores.

International students for whom English is a second language must demonstrate English language proficiency as evidenced by achieving a TOEFL score that meets or exceeds one of the following minimum requirements:

Exam Type Potential Score Minimum Score for Admission
Internet 0 - 120 79
Computer 0 - 300 213
Written 310 - 677 550

Prerequisites for Admission

Before being accepted into the PhD program, a prospective student must provide demonstrated evidence that he or she has mastery of certain basic mathematical and computer science skills. Courses covering the following subject are the minimum prerequisites necessary for admission: a structured, high-level programming language (CS 120); data structures (CS 121); computer organization and architecture (CS 150); a full year of calculus (MATH 170 and 175); and discrete mathematics (Math 176). The University of Idaho courses identified above will satisfy the prerequisite requirements. Equivalent courses taken at other educational institutions will also be accepted. An official record, such as a college or university transcript, that substantiates the preparation, is expected.

Admission With Deficiencies

A student who meets the general requirements and prerequisite requirements identified above may be admitted, but his or her academic credentials will be reviewed to ensure adequate preparation that will support study at the graduate level. A student who does not have an adequate background in specific foundational areas of Computer Science will be required to complete additional undergraduate courses in areas in which he or she is considered to be deficient. Potential deficiency areas for graduate work in computer science are: computing languages (CS 210); computer operating systems (CS 240); system software (CS 270); software engineering (CS 383); theory of computation (CS 385); and analysis of algorithms (CS 395). The University of Idaho courses identified above will satisfy the deficiency requirements. Equivalent courses taken at other educational institutions will also be accepted. An official record, such as a college or university transcript, that substantiates the preparation, is expected. Credit for deficiency courses cannot be counted toward the total credits required for the graduate degree. Deficiency courses will generally be prerequisites for more advanced courses in the program, consequently, a student with identified deficiencies is expected to complete course work that removes the deficiencies as rapidly as possible.

College of Graduate Studies Requirements

In addition to satisfying departmental requirements, candidates must fulfill the requirements of the College of Graduate Studies. See the College of Graduate Studies section in Part 4 of the University of Idaho catalog for the general requirements applicable to each degree. No 300-level course that is required in the BSCS curriculum may be used to satisfy the requirements of the graduate degree.

Credit Requirements

The PhD represents a continuation in the mastery of the theory underlying computer science. A doctoral student develops a graduate program of at least 78 semester hours beyond the bachelor's degree, selected in consultation with his or her major professor and supervisory committee. Of these, at least 52 credits must be numbered 500 and above, and at least 33 of the 78 credits must be in courses other than CS 600 (Doctoral Research and Dissertation). Courses numbered below 300 may not be used to fulfill the requirements for the degree. Courses from other disciplines numbered 300-399 may be used only in supporting areas.

Breadth Requirement

A graduate degree represents mastery of the theory and concepts underlying one's discipline. This is the foundation on which further study should be based. The PhD graduate candidate’s major professor and committee will, as part of approving the study plan, help select courses that include the breadth of computer science.

Teaching Requirement

The student must have at least one full semester of teaching experience, with the teaching assignment determined by the student's supervisory committee.

Foreign Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement.

Residency Requirement

The student must satisfy the residency requirement by spending at least two terms at the Moscow campus or a University of Idaho Residence Center. The purpose of the residency requirement is to provide the student with access to faculty, colleagues, and facilities.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is a written and/or oral examination, administered by the student's graduate committee, which covers fundamental areas of Computer Science.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is an examination with separate sections covering the material presented in the student's program of study.


The student must produce a dissertation, presenting an original, significant contribution to computer science. The dissertation should be publishable, in whole or in part, and should demonstrate the ability of the candidate to successfully initiate and pursue a significant, original research project. A public presentation and defense of the final dissertation is required.

Contact Us

Computer Science

Physical Address:
Janssen Engineering Building 236

Mailing Address:

Computer Science
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1010
Moscow, ID 83844-1010

Phone: 208-885-6592

Fax: 208-885-9052


Web: Computer Science