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PhD in Human-Centered Computing

Applicants to the HCC PhD are encouraged to submit GRE scores when applying to the program. While not required, GRE scores are an opportunity for applicants to strengthen their application.

For international applicants without a US degree, the University requires official TOEFL, IELTS, PTE Academic or Duolingo exam scores. For accepted exemptions, click here.

The objective of the Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing is to prepare our graduates for advanced research positions in industry and the academy. The program is designed for students who offer evidence of exceptional scholastic ability, intellectual creativity, and research motivation. The HCC Ph.D. is viewed as a certification by the faculty that the student has a solid foundation in human-centered computing and has performed original research in the area.

Graduates of the program:

  1. Will possess a deep knowledge of computing, people, and research methods, as well as a cognate or specialty area.
  2. Will have extended, by way of innovative research, the frontier of knowledge in at least one area of computing as it relates to a human condition or concern.
  3. Will be able to express ideas adequately and professionally in spoken and written language.

Because the curriculum will be tailored to each student and students join the program with different degrees (e.g., bachelors, M.S.), the time needed to complete the degree will vary. In general, it is expected that students can complete the degree in five years or less. The HCC Ph.D. program includes opportunities for interdisciplinary and interdepartmental research.

HCC Ph.D. students typically study at Clemson University in Clemson, SC, but study at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in Charleston, SC and/or at One Research Drive in Greenville, SC may be possible.

This program cannot be completed online.

Coursework Requirements

The requirements for the Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing include 60 credit hours of coursework, of which 36 credit hours are graded coursework and 24 credit hours are research hours. The requirements for all HCC Ph.D. students, regardless of whether they enter the program with a bachelors’ or master’s, include the following categories:

Required Coursework
Coursework (graded) Credits
Fundamentals of HCC 3 credits
Graduate Level Computer Science Courses 12 credits
Courses in People/Human Condition/HCI 6 credits
Research Methods courses 6 credits
Cognate or Specialty Area Approved by Advisor 9 credits
Research Credits
Pre-dissertation Research (pre portfolio, HCC 8880) 6 credits
Dissertation Research Credits
Dissertation Research 18 credits

CPSC 6810/8810 MSCS Ready modules cannot be counted toward any HCC Ph.D. credit requirement.

In meeting the above requirements, students are also required to meet the Graduate School's minimum credit requirements, as outlined below:

Credit Requirements
Beginning Degree Non-Research Coursework Dissertation Research Total Credits
M.S. 12 18 30
B.S. 42 18 60

Because of the Graduate School's policy on the independence of degrees, credit hours applied to previously completed degrees cannot be used to meet the Graduate School's minimum credit requirements.

Consistent with SACSCOC guidelines, the Clemson Graduate School requires that a doctoral degree comprise a minimum of 30 credit hours beyond the master's degree and 60 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree. Therefore, the Graduate School's minimum credit hour requirements for the Ph.D. will vary depending on whether the student enters with a bachelor's degree or master's degree. 

Entering Without a Computing Background

The prerequisite computing requirement may be met by one of the following:

  • undergraduate degree in computing
  • master's degree in computing
  • MSCS ready modules 1, 2 and 4
  • DPA 6000 and 6010
  • CPSC 1010 and 1020
  • a letter of petition for alternative training approved by the student's Major Advisor and the HCC Program Coordinator; this letter must be presented at an HCC Faculty meeting by the student's Major Advisor and supported by a majority of HCC faculty; the student's Major Advisor will present evidence that the proposed alternative is high quality computing training; the proposed alternative must be approved prior to the student undertaking the training.

Note: no courses used to satisfy the computing requirement may be used to satisfy other HCC program requirements. For example, DPA 6000 or MSCS Ready courses (6810/8810) may NOT be used to satisfy the computing or cognate/specialty course requirements.


Full-time students in the HCC Ph.D. program are encouraged to take one seminar (HCC/CPSC 95x0 /9810) per semester.

Additional Coursework

Full-time students in the HCC Ph.D. program are encouraged to take one HCC course per semester until passing the comprehensive exam, and one per year until completion of the program.

Examination Requirements

To earn the Ph.D. degree, a student must take and pass three examinations:

  • The Comprehensive Examination
  • The Dissertation Proposal
  • The Dissertation Defense

The Comprehensive Examination

To be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy a student must pass the Comprehensive Examination, which in the SOC is known as the Portfolio. The form of this examination is a portfolio review that is performed by the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) on behalf of the graduate faculty. This review is intended to certify competency in the core areas of Human-Centered Computing, which are computing, people and research methods. Also, the review is intended to promote scholarship, research, and professional skills.

Students entering the HCC PhD program with an MS must submit their portfolio before the beginning of their fourth semester; students entering without an MS, before the beginning of their sixth.

The student is solely responsible for the contents of the Portfolio, and so it is very important to begin the preparation of the Portfolio early and to solicit the help of your Major Advisor in its preparation. When the complete Portfolio is submitted it is reviewed by GAC, which serves as the examining committee for the comprehensive examination.

A student who is denied admission to candidacy may, at the discretion of the faculty, be given one additional chance to correct the deficiencies that were identified. Graduate School regulations require that a student who fails the Comprehensive Examination a second time be dismissed from the graduate program.

The Portfolio must demonstrate that the student has mastery of the HCC core areas and indicate that the student has the ability to conduct original research and make an acceptable written presentation of the results.

Required Elements of Portfolio

  1. Transcripts: minimum GPA will be 3.5
  2. Writing Sample: A research paper in which a significant component of the writing was done by the candidate must be included. The paper should be of sufficient quality to indicate that the student has the ability to conduct original research and make an acceptable written presentation of the results. Although not required, students are strongly encouraged to submit the paper to a conference or workshop. For such submissions, the student may be the sole author or may be the first co-author with other faculty and/or other students. However, if the paper has joint authorship, the other authors must submit written documentation identifying those sections of the paper that were written by the candidate. The paper does not have to be accepted or published to be included in a successful Portfolio. Although a published paper provides more convincing evidence for research potential, a rejected submission, along with peer reviews, can also be used by the Graduate Affairs Committee to evaluate potential in research. The paper may or may not be related to the student's eventual dissertation area. A candidate's M.S. research paper, thesis, or a derivative thereof may be used to satisfy this requirement.
  3. Statement of Purpose: The student must provide a brief description (limited to one page) of her/his research interests and intended topics in Human-Centered Computing.
  4. Plan of Study: The plan of study should be consistent with the student’s statement of purpose and include a list of courses that the student has taken or plans to take, if the student is not done with her/his coursework.
  5. Major Advisor's Letter of Support: The student will submit her/his portfolio under direction of her/his advisor. The advisor will provide a letter of support for the student.
  6. Student Curriculum Vitae: A copy of the student's CV is required.
  7. Optional Items: The committee will accept optional items such as:
    1. The committee will consider code or an implementation
    2. Other items that support readiness.

The GAC will be looking for evidence of specific research skills, including: the ability to identify a problem, evidence of scholarship, critical analysis, and communication skills (e.g., writing and speaking). Students are encouraged to include all such evidence in the Portfolio.

University Policy Regarding Length of Ph.D. Degree

The Ph.D. Advisory Committee aids the student in developing a degree curriculum, which includes the selection of specific courses and their sequence. At Clemson University, a minimum of 30 credits past the masters and 60 credits past the bachelor’s degree are required for the doctoral degree. A minimum of 18 credit hours of doctoral research is required. Should the direction of study or research interest change, the student may request the appointment of a new Major Advisor. Coursework leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree is planned to give the student a comprehensive knowledge of his/her field of specialization and a mastery of the methods of research. The degree is not awarded solely on the basis of coursework completed, residence, or other routine requirements. The final basis of granting the degree is the student's grasp of the subject matter of a broad field of study, competence in planning and conducting research, and ability to express him/herself adequately and professionally orally and in writing.


Dr. Kelly Caine, HCC Ph.D. Program Coordinator

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