Online PhD in Computer Science

At the doctorate level, computer science goes beyond basic programming and problem solving. Student pursuing an online doctorate in computer science will delve deeply into specialized areas, such as software design, systems evaluation and data modeling, which will hone their abilities to articulate essential technical information within the workplace and to make informed decisions that impact productivity and efficiency. A student enrolled in an online computer science PhD program will acquire the research and analytical skills necessary to understand the flux of this rapidly evolving field and to practically apply existing and new knowledge in ways that enhance an array of industries.
Online doctorate degrees in computer science usually require between two and three years of coursework, which is then followed by a comprehensive examination over the topics covered, such as Network Security and Cryptography. After the exam, students work on their dissertations, which is a thorough research project dedicated to a relevant topic in contemporary computer science studies. The dissertation takes between 18 months and two years to complete. Once it is complete, students receive their online computer science PhD. Students will then be prepared to think, act and plan strategically as professionals whose expertise strengthens the technical processes of organizations.

About Online PhD Programs in Computer Science

The curriculum for online doctorate programs in computer science provides advanced instruction to ensure a deep understanding of the discipline, including how technology can best be utilized to develop and to implement sustainable solutions for societal challenges. Unlike campus programs, online doctoral programs in computer science provide most of the curriculum over the internet. Coursework in computer science can be easily completed from students’ personal computers, as computers are the medium being studied. Usually, there are no laboratory requirements. However, most online PhD programs in computer science require a quarterly residential symposium that takes place over the course of a few days, during which a student will attend campus classes and meet with dissertation advisors in person. The goal behind these campus visits is to assist the student with research and dissertation progress. Aside from the online component, the coursework of online doctoral degrees in computer science is very similar to campus programs, as Nova Southeastern University’s online computer science doctorate program, outlined with examples below, illustrates.

Year One:

  • Theory and Principles of Programming. This course provides a close study of current trends in programming, as well as a deep look into programming languages and semantics, such as control structures and parameter passing variations.
  • Operating Systems. This course explores the architecture of operating systems, including the most recent and state-of-the-art methods employed. In addition, the real-time issues of systems development and future directions in the field are discussed.
  • Data Communications and Computer Networking. Students study topics such as wireless communication, mobile networking, layering and resource discovery, in order to stay informed of the most recent trends in these areas of the computer science field. In addition to an emphasis on current practices, emerging trends are examined.

Year Two:

  • Database Security. Online PhD degrees in computer science equip learners with an understanding of database security models, access and authorization control functions, database intrusion prevention and database sabotage methods, as well as delve into related issues that they will encounter as practitioners.
  • Artificial Intelligence. This course explores recent trends in machine learning, knowledge representation and reasoning, as well as the applications of artificial intelligence in today’s society.
  • Cryptography. This course studies emerging research trends in coding and provides a deep looking into the building and analysis of code.

Year Three:

  • Network Security. Establishing secure networks is challenging, as new methods of security breaching are constantly emerging. This course tackles these challenges by providing insight into the techniques used for securing computer networks.
  • Computer Graphics. Principles around three-dimensional graphics, e.g., transformations, scene graphs and various modeling methods, are explored. Recent and projected trends in these areas, as well as in related topics such as computer animation and visualization, are addressed.
  • Knowledge Discovery in Databases. This course delves into current research topics in the field of data bases, such as mining data and analyzing changes. Databases are an ever-evolving field, and this course explores the current – and projected future – developments within the field.

Specializations and Concentrations:

Individuals seeking an online doctorate in computer science may opt to pursue a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with an applied computer science specialization. The DBA track is targeted towards those who want to practice within business institutions in executive roles that necessitate specialized training in technology. Online doctoral programs in computer science can also be tailored for a concentration in computer and information security, which provides dedicated training in cyber-terrorism, computer forensics and computer security.

After all coursework has been completed, students are given a comprehensive examination, which is a thorough review of everything that students have learned over the course of their education as an online PhD computer science student. These exams are usually written, with an oral component, and cover all topics learned, including algorithm analysis, database systems, and network security. Once the comprehensive examination has been completed, students pursuing an online PhD in computer science begin work on their dissertations. A dissertation is a structured and written research project that thoroughly examines a topic in the field of computer science. Past topics that have been explored by computer science PhD students include Algorithms for Coalition Formation in Multi-agent Systems by Talal Rahwan and Formal Verification of Machine-code Programs by Magnus O. Myreen. As computer science is constantly evolving, there are many possible topics for research.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Computer Science

Pursuing an online PhD in computer science is an excellent choice for students that have an interest in the ever-shifting trends of programming, cryptography, and network security. Receiving a computer science PhD online will keep students ahead of the development of computing, as students will learn about projected future trends and areas of research in the field. Computer science is not recommended for students that have no interest in the logistics of computing, nor is it recommended for students without interest in pursuing software engineering, managerial or academic careers. Online PhD programs in computer science are an excellent option for students that work full-time or have other responsibilities that take up their day, as online courses provide learning without classroom attendance. As computer science deals with computers, programming, and the internet, pursuing computer science doctorate degrees online is a viable option, as students will use the medium which they are studying in order to access coursework and assignments. However, the residency requirement for most online Ph.D computer science programs can be problematic for students that cannot take time off from their jobs. For these students, night classes may be a better option.

Application&Admission Requirements

Individuals who apply for admission to computer science PhD programs online should be research-oriented problem-solvers with an interest in how technology drives change and improves workplace performance. They should possess a solid grasp of the field as the result of academic and professional experiences in computer science or information technology, and should seek to deepen that understanding through advanced coursework that blends theoretical concepts with real-world application techniques. Online PhD programs usually require a Masters level of education in either computer science or information technology, with knowledge in programming languages, algorithmic design, and computer programming. The best accredited universities will usually require the online PhD student to have maintained a certain GPA, usually 3.25 or higher, during their Masters program, and will request three recommendation letters and a curriculum vitae. Some schools require an admissions essay or a statement of purpose as part of the admissions package.

Career Options&Job Market

Students who pursue accredited online PhD degrees in computer science are able to assume leadership positions in various workplaces where their expertise will position them as authorities who can provide guidance and counsel to internal and external partners. The opportunity to practice as a software engineer, an information systems manager or a professor demonstrates the broad application that the online doctorate in computer science affords. All of these careers average a salary of over $77,000 annually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer science is a field where employment growth is expected to grow "much faster than the average, " with "excellent" job prospects. With a multitude of job prospects and a growing need for individuals with PhDs in computer science, online PhD programs in computer science provide an excellent foundation for the future.

Where to Find Information

  • Computing in Science and Engineering. A publication that examines current research trends in computational science and engineering, as well as related news and innovations in the field.
  • IEEE Computer Society. A professional association for computing professionals, with job postings, digital publications, and other opportunities for professional development.
  • Association for Computing Machinery. Another professional association for computing professionals, where membership grants access to publications, resources, and conferences.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wage and employment information for computer and mathematical occupations.

How to Get Funding

In general, online courses are more affordable than campus courses. Nova Southeastern University charges $825 per online credit hour. Despite being more affordable than most campus programs, an online education can still be very costly, especially when you take into consideration the quarterly visits to the physical campus that top universities require for computer science PhD students. Because of the accumulating costs of an education, applying for financial aid is an important step in the application process. Below is a list of financial resources specifically for computer science PhD students.

Essential Advice

  • Speak to current or former computer science PhD students to gain insight into the expectations you will face as a student. Research current job openings to get an idea of current openings in the field of computer science, and if possible, speak to employers to see what they expect from online PhD computer science graduates.
  • Join a professional organization to keep up with current research trends and developments, and to gain exposure to professional development opportunities that will set you ahead of the curve and look good on your curriculum vitae.
  • Admissions departments are there to help you. If you have any questions about online doctoral programs in computer science, call the university and request information. Contacting professors can also be very helpful, as they can give you insight into their specific research fields and expectations.
  • Keep your knowledge of programming, databases, networks, and other related topics up to date, to give you the edge on fellow prospective students.