Ph.D. Program Requirements

This is an elaboration of the official program description found in the University catalog.


90 credits are required for the degree including six core courses. Please refer to the PhD_Plan_of_Study.  The degree requirements also include successful completion of four milestones: course qualifying, a candidacy exam, a thesis proposal, and a thesis defense.

Core Requirement

The following mandatory core courses are required of all graduate students:

  • CS 521: Data Structures and Algorithms I
  • CS 525: Theory of Computation
  • CS 550: Programming Languages

Students can choose three courses from the following list to satisfy their flexible core requirements:

  • CS 510: Artificial Intelligence
  • CS 522: Data Structures and Algorithms II
  • CS 530: Developing User Interfaces
  • CS 536: Computer Graphics
  • CS 540: High Performance Computing
  • CS 543: Operating Systems
  • CS 544: Computer Networks
  • CS 567: Applied Symbolic Computation
  • CS 576: Dependable Software Systems
  • CS 583: Introduction to Computer Vision

Students may satisfy the Mandatory Core course requirements through transfer credit from another institution. If a student feels that they have experience comparable to a core course, they should consult with the Graduate Advisor. In that case, the Graduate Advisor may designate an alternative course as the way of satisfying core course requirements.

Breadth Requirement

In addition to the Mandatory Core and Flexible Core requirements stated above, students are required to take four intermediate or advanced courses from the remaining 500-level courses or any 600-level course from at least three of the eight areas of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Algorithms and Theory, Computer Graphics and Vision, Human Computer Interaction, Numeric and Symbolic Computation, Programming Languages and Compilers, Software Engineering, and Systems, as listed in the description of the department’s degree requirements for the Master of Computer Science. The Department’s Graduate Committee may add and remove courses from the list satisfying the breadth requirement, or change the placement of a course in this partition, as it deems necessary (for example, to respond to changes in course content or scheduling, or to incorporate new course offerings). Such changes will be reflected in these web pages as they are made.

Algorithms and Theory

  • CS 522: Data Structures and Algorithms II
  • CS 620: Advanced Data Structures and Algorithms
  • CS 621: Approximation Algorithms
  • CS 623: Computational Geometry
  • CS 676: Parallel Programming

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

  • CS 510: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
  • CS 511: Robot Lab
  • CS 610: Advanced Artificial Intelligence
  • CS 612: Knowledge-Based Agents
  • CS 613: Machine Learning

Computer Graphics and Vision

  • CS 536: Computer Graphics
  • CS 583: Introduction to Computer Vision
  • CS 634: Advanced Computer Vision
  • CS 636: Advanced Computer Graphics
  • CS 637: Interactive Computer Graphics

Human-Computer Interaction

  • CS 530: Developing User Interfaces
  • CS 630: Cognitive Systems
  • CS 631: HCI: Computing Off the Desktop

Numeric and Symbolic Computation

  • CS 540: High-Performance Computing
  • CS 567: Applied Symbolic Computation
  • CS 668: Computer Algebra I
  • CS 669: Computer Algebra II

Programming Languages and Compilers

  • CS 551: Compiler Construction I
  • CS 552: Compiler Construction II
  • CS 650: Program Generation & Optimization
  • CS 676: Parallel Programming

Software Engineering

  • CS 575: Software Design
  • CS 576: Dependable Software Systems
  • CS 675: Reverse Software Engineering


  • CS 543: Operating Systems
  • CS 544: Computer Networks
  • CS 643: Advanced Operating Systems
  • CS 645: Network Security
  • CS 647: Distributed Software Systems
  • CS 500: Database Theory

Depth Requirement

Ph.D. students are required to complete at least 18 credits of CS courses beyond the breadth requirement. These courses should be 600- or 700- level courses or topics courses covering current research in selected areas. Course selection must be approved by the student’s research advisor.

As part of the depth requirement, 3 out of the 18 credits but no more than 9 credits are to be Independent Study work (CS690). (Please review the Independent Study policy for more information.)

For the Ph.D. degree, 90 credits are required for graduation. Ordinarily, students will obtain an M.S. degree (45 credits) in the first two years of the program. This will satisfy the stated requirements for three core and three flex core courses and typically the breadth requirement and some of the depth requirement.

For students admitted already holding a master’s degree: Up to 45 credits of prior graduate work may be applied toward the doctoral degree requirements, which means that post-M.S. admittees may need to complete as few as 45 credit hours. Some or all of the breadth requirement may be satisfied through transfer credit from approved Graduate institutions. All transfer credit must have a grade of B or better, and must be approved by the department’s Graduate Advisor. A student with an M.S. degree from a university other than Drexel must officially apply to have those credits transferred in order to have the degree officially recognized. Core course requirements must be satisfied through coursework at Drexel, or through transfer credit of equivalent coursework elsewhere.