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Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science (Ph.D.)

Program Overview

This graduate program was developed to meet the needs of working professionals, so classes will be held online and in-person at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in North Charleston during the late afternoons and evenings. Class dates and times will vary. Students will not be required to travel to Clemson’s main campus.

Classes will be offered each semester by Clemson faculty in a traditional face-to-face classroom format in North Charleston and in “real time” streaming to and from Clemson’s main campus. Recorded lectures may be recorded and cloud archived for 24/7 retrieval, allowing students to make progress and view class lectures regardless of job or personal obligations. Faculty will be available for both in-person and online office hours, at scheduled times and by appointment.

The Ph.D. in computer science prepares individuals for research careers in industry or academia. Students will graduate with a strong foundation in computer science, practical experience in implementing software systems and the ability to perform original research. 

Students must demonstrate superior mastery of the material in four of seven core areas of computer science. The core areas are identified as follows:

Ph.D. Core Areas Courses
Algorithms and Theory 8380, 8390, 8400
Graphics and Visualization 8050, 8170, 8190
Computer Networks 8510, 8520, 8530
Information Management 8620, 8630, 8650
Languages and Translators 8270, 8280, 8290
Software Engineering 8720, 8730, 8750
Systems 8200, 8220, 8240, 8550

One course should be selected from each of four core areas. At least one of the four selected core courses must be from the Formal Thinking course grouping, which consists of 8280, 8380, 8390, 8400, and 8730. At least one of the four selected core courses must be from the Implementation grouping, which consists of 8050, 8170, 8190, 8220, 8270, 8290, 8520, 8530, 8550, 8620, and 8650.

Full-time students in the Ph.D. program are encouraged to take one seminar (CPSC 95x0 and 9810) per semester until passing the comprehensive exam and one per year until completion of the program.

Entry with Master's Degree in Computer Science

A Ph.D. program of study consists of:

  • 1 credit hour of Introduction to Faculty Research (typically in your first semester),
  • 3 credit hours of Research Experience (typically in your second semester as 888 or 95x credits),
  • at least 12 credit hours of coursework beyond the Master's degree,
  • at least 6 additional credit hours of Ph.D. seminar courses (CPSC 95x0), and
  • 18 credit hours of doctoral research (CPSC 9910). 

The required 12 credit hours of coursework beyond the Master's degree may be satisfied by taking four 800-level courses (exclusive of 8810, 888, 95x0, 9810, and 9910). However, one CPSC 8810 course or one 3-credit-hour 8000-level course from outside the School of Computing may be included in the 12 credit hours with the approval of both the student's advisor and the Director of Graduate Affairs.

Direct Entry after Bachelor's Degree
Ph.D. students without a Master's degree in Computer Science or equivalent are required to complete at least 30 credit hours of approved graduate-level computer science courses, at least 12 of which must be taken at Clemson to satisfy the 12 credit hours of coursework beyond the Master's.

Up to 6 credit hours of 6000-level coursework at Clemson may be counted toward the required 30 credit hours. Up to 6 credit hours of 8810 may also be counted.  All other requirements listed in the Ph.D. program of study above must also be met. A Ph.D. program of study for a direct-entry student would, therefore, consist of

  • 1 credit hour of Introduction to Faculty Research (typically in your first semester),
  • 3 credit hours of Research Experience (typically in your second semester as 8880 or 95x0 credits),
  • at least 30 credit hours of coursework (at least 24 of which must be taken at the 8000-level),
  • at least 6 additional credit hours of Ph.D. seminar courses (CPSC 95x0),
  • 18 credit hours of doctoral research (CPSC 9910), and
  • 2 additional credit hours to meet the university's 60-credit-hour minimum for direct-entry

A successful applicant should have successfully completed courses in data structures; computer organization; algorithms or theory of computation; operating systems; and programming systems or compilers. If one or two courses are missing in an applicant's background, they may be taken in the first semester.

If course deficiencies are specified as a condition of your admission, it is important that you take the necessary courses early in your program in order to provide you with a background for graduate-level courses. Normally, you remove these deficiencies by taking and passing the required courses during a regularly scheduled course offering. These courses do not count toward the total number of semester hours of graduate credit required for graduation.

Transfer Credit
University policy does not allow automatic transfer of graduate credit. Students with graduate credit earned at another institution, or earned before admission to this program must have prior work evaluated for transfer credit. Requests for transfer credit to the program must be recommended by your Advisory Committee and approved by the Director of Graduate Affairs, the School Director, and the Dean of the Graduate School. You should make your request for each course or credited activity to be transferred at the time of filling your GS-2 (Plan of Study). Your request must be accompanied by an official transcript, catalog description, and syllabus or other supporting documentation. All transfer credits must be verified by an official transcript from the institution at which the work was completed. It is your responsibility to request that an official transcript is sent directly to the Graduate School. See the Graduate School Announcements for more information regarding transfer credits.

School of Computing Graduate Student Handbook

Students enrolled in this program may optionally have the opportunity to conduct research in Clemson University’s SCE&G Energy Innovation Center (EIC), which is among the world’s most advanced energy systems testing and research facilities. The Wind Turbine Drive Train Test Facility at the EIC is capable of full-scale highly accelerated mechanical and electrical testing of advanced drivetrain systems for wind turbines. The EIC also houses the Duke Energy eGRID, a 15-megawatt grid simulator that allows an electrical device to perform as it would under actual conditions anywhere in the world. A wide range of additional research opportunities may also be available through the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

Prospective students are strongly encouraged to meet with a computer science graduate program coordinator to discuss the program requirements, curriculum, expectations, and the admissions process.

Graduate assistantships for both research and teaching within the School of Computing are highly competitive. Admitted students should contact the graduate adviser if interested in an assistantship.

To access the Graduate School application, visit Graduate Admissions.

Cost information can be obtained by visiting the Tuition and Fees section of the Clemson Graduate School website.  Computer Science is a Tier 2 program.

For More Information


For more information regarding the Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science (Ph.D.), visit the departmental website.