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Computers and computing – and by extension, the computer science field – have become firmly embedded in modern society. Personal computers, tablets, smartphones, and wearable technology have become ubiquitous in our lives. The sustained increase in the global computer hardware market also means more career opportunities for computer scientists.
And what exciting trends there are in computer science, too! Big data and analytics, nanotechnology, machine learning, intelligent systems, quantum computing, and multicore are a few examples.
The bottom line: Students in online Doctor of Computer Science degree programs study advanced concepts related to hardware and software, theory and algorithm, and information processing in computers.
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Furthermore, the computer science field is among the most exciting disciplines because of its constant flux. Fast obsolescence is the name of the game, and thus, computer scientists must always be on their toes. Keeping up with the trends – or better yet, leading the trends – is the best way to stay relevant. Earning a doctorate degree in computer science is one way to do so.
Are you pursuing a Doctorate in Computer Science? Doing so makes you an expert in the larger family of five computing disciplines – the other four being computer engineering, software engineering, information systems, and information technology.
Keep in mind that pursuing a doctorate degree involves a significant commitment of time, effort, and money, and thus, making the right choice is crucial to your success. We help you with these ten recommended graduate degree programs in the field–each of which has these salient features:
- Rigorous Computer Science doctorate coursework similar to a traditional program but delivered mostly in a blended distance learning format with academic requirements that are accomplished online and on-campus,
- Features advanced courses and state-of-the-art technologies in the many facets of Computer Science, enabling students to obtain high-level skills in various concentrations and qualifying them for executive, research-intensive positions,
- Emphasizes the enhancement of interpersonal and soft skills for readiness in the workplace where doctorate-level aptitude is required,
- Faculty and workplace offer financial aid options, easy-to-use Learning Management Systems, 24/7 access to Student Help Centers, ease of Credit Transfers, and Networking Opportunities,
- Instructed by members of the faculty with unique expertise in Computer Science, most of them hold terminal degrees in the field,
- Properly accredited by agencies that establish the academic standards in doctoral programs delivered online,
- Acknowledged by organizations promoting Computer and Information Science as a profession.
Please read our Methodology to find out more about our ranking process.
Best Online Doctor of Computer Science Programs
University of North Dakota
The fully online Ph.D. in Computer Science program at UND combines asynchronous and synchronous online courses in computer science. This is an affordable computer science program because UND has lower tuition costs than other four-year universities. Both in-state and out-of-state students also enjoy the same per-credit tuition and other fees.
Graduate students in the computer science online program receive the same excellent higher education as their on-campus counterparts. The online and on-campus graduate programs feature the same classes taught by the same professors. There is also no distinction between on-campus and online diplomas and transcripts.
Yet another point that makes UND’s computer science degree program among the best is the productive student-professor interactions, as well as experts in the field. Every student also has an academic advisor who’s invested in their academic success.
Students also benefit from free online tutoring, academic coaching, and full access to the university’s libraries, writing center, and career services. Financial aid counseling and veteran and military services are also available.
Students in the computer science Ph.D. program must complete 60 credit hours to earn the degree. Passing the graduate qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, and oral final exam is also a must. An approved dissertation is required for graduation.
Prospective students must have a satisfactory score in the Graduate Record Examination. Basic knowledge of data structures, computer systems, and advanced math is a must.
Colorado Technical University
The online Doctor of Computer Science program at CTU attracts current professionals in the computer sciences. Academics, consultants, and computer scientists are welcome to apply and choose from concentrations. Aside from the core graduate degree, doctoral students can choose between the Cybersecurity and Information Assurance concentration and the Big Data Analytics concentration.
The computer science degree program features a 100-credit-hour curriculum. The credit hours are divided into core management courses (40), electives (20), symposium-related courses (4), and doctoral research courses (36).
Students must complete an approved dissertation in conjunction with the research courses. The doctoral research courses cover every phase of the process, from research methods to findings, discussion, and conclusion.
Students in the computer science program must comply with a residency requirement and can earn the degree in three years. In-person symposiums are also part of the program of study. Prospective students choose from multiple start dates.
Tuition discounts are available for active-duty military personnel. Transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions are accepted. Tuition reimbursements, Corporate Alliances Grant, and CTU scholarships and grants are also available.
Mississippi State University for Agriculture & Applied Science
The online Ph.D. in Computer Science program at Mississippi State University prepares students for successful careers in theoretical research in the academe and other workplaces. The faculty members in the highly ranked computer science program are recognized for their significant contributions to their fields of expertise. The students benefit from the transfer of knowledge and skills.
Students in the computer science degree program complete 32 credits with 20 credits dedicated to research and dissertation courses. Every student must develop a program of study that covers the core, elective, and specialization courses as well as their research focus.
Students in the computer science Ph.D. program must achieve satisfactory scores on three exams: qualifying exam, preliminary exam, and dissertation defense. These exams are used as measurement tools for the breadth and depth of knowledge and scholarship of and contributions to computer science.
Doctoral students tackle advanced graduate courses, including:
- Graduate Seminar
- Artificial Intelligence
- Machine Learning
- Principles of Computer Graphics
Only prospective students with a master’s degree are considered for admission; there’s no bachelor’s degree-to-PhD track. Applicants must also identify their preferred specialization in computer science. The Graduate Record Examination scores aren’t required, but the demonstration of academic excellence is considered.
Wright State University
The online Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering program at Wright State awards the highest degree in the field. Students work with faculty members to add to the body of knowledge in the computer sciences.
Graduates who are awarded a computer science Ph.D. degree can demonstrate the ability to contribute to the computer science field via independent research projects. Communication skills, particularly in discussions of technical concepts, are among their strongest suits.
The Online Doctorate in Computer Science program allows students to choose between part-time and full-time enrollment. Access to state-of-the-art laboratories is allowed. Its curriculum strikes a balance between theory and practice, as well as software and hardware.
Doctoral students in the Ph.D. degree program must comply with the dissertation requirements before being considered for graduation. The requirements include residency research of at least 18 hours, a proposal defense, and completion of the dissertation research.
Applicants are evaluated based on their core computer science skills, academic background and potential, and possible contributions. Applicants must have solid skills in computer programming and organization, data structures and algorithms, and operating systems, among others.
Applicants with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering, computer science, or related disciplines are considered. A master of science degree can make applicants more competitive.
University of the Potomac
The online Doctor of Computer Science program at the University of the Potomac prepares students for leadership positions in research and development in computer science. Students gain advanced research skills that will enable them to contribute innovative and effective solutions to society. Graduates become computer scientists, academic administrators, educators, and research professionals.
Students in the computer science program must earn 60 credit hours to earn the terminal degree. A maximum of 36 transfer credits are allowed, thus, reducing time-to-completion. Note that the cost per class is among the lowest – about $1,550 – meaning graduate students can earn the degree without crippling student debt.
Doctoral students can earn the degree in three years, but actual time-to-completion varies based on course load and dissertation progress, among other factors. The graduate courses in the computer science online degree program include:
- Theory of Computer Science
- Programming systems
- Intelligent systems
- Dissertation and dissertation defense
Applicants must demonstrate graduate-level knowledge and skills in computer science, mathematics, and research.
Capitol Technology University
The online Ph.D. in Computer Science program at Capitol Technology University is offered at its Department of Computer Science along with its Artificial Intelligence and Data Science concentrations. Students don’t have to meet residency requirements and attend on-campus classes.
The computer science Ph.D. program has two completion options, namely:
- The dissertation option requires students to comply with doctoral dissertation requirements; and
- The publication option where students produce doctoral research for publication as articles in journals (i.e., three articles are required)
Transfer students with prior earned credits may be accepted into the computer science program. The computer science online degree program requires students to complete 60 credits for graduation purposes.
Of these 60 credits, 30 credits are in core courses, including Research Background, Research Methodologies, and Research Proposal. There are also four doctoral writing courses and a doctoral defense course. Faculty members serve as academic advisors who provide guidance during the students’ dissertation process.
Students in the doctoral program learn best practices in the integration of theory and applications; demonstrate advanced mastery of computer science, and contribute to its body of knowledge. Academic excellence is expected of all students.
Both in-state and out-of-state students enjoy the same tuition rate. Retired and active military personnel receive tuition discounts. Full-time faculty and staff members at high schools and community colleges receive a 20% tuition discount, too.
Florida Atlantic University
The online Ph.D. in Computer Science program at FAU is known for graduates who enjoy successful careers in the academe, government, and industry, usually in leadership positions. Their online education covered advanced topics in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things, among others.
Students can choose from two degree completion options in the computer science program, namely:
- The Master of Science to Ph.D. in Computer Science option requires applicants to possess a master’s degree; and
- The Bachelor of Science to Ph.D. in Computer Science option accepts students with at least 72 graduate credits beyond a bachelor’s degree.
All graduate students must complete Computer Science and Engineering courses, dissertation courses, and Graduate Seminars, among others. Students should get a minimum grade or score of “C” in the courses.
Admission to the computer science Ph.D. program is competitive. Doctoral candidates must pass the qualifying exam to be formally admitted into the program.
The online Ph.D. in Computer Science and Software Engineering program at Auburn University emphasizes advanced research skills in these twin disciplines. Students must submit an approved dissertation as a demonstration of their knowledge and skills in the fields. The time-to-completion varies, however, between four calendar years beyond a bachelor’s degree and three years beyond a master’s degree.
Eligibility requirements for admission into the computer science online program include either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity engineering, or software engineering, among others. A minimum of a 3.0 GPA, 300 GRE general exam scores, and a minimum score of 3 on the written part are also required.
Students earn the computer science Ph.D. degree by completing 66 credit hours of graduate courses beyond a bachelor’s degree. The courses include computer science courses, electives, directed study, and research and dissertation courses.
The doctoral program also has a general doctoral examination consisting of a qualifying exam and a general oral exam. Completion of the computer science online program requires submission of an approved dissertation and satisfactory performance during a final dissertation defense.
Kennesaw State University
The hybrid Ph.D. in Computer Science program offered at Kennesaw enables students to integrate theory and applications in computer science, particularly in solving real-world issues. Graduates become leading researchers, educators, and leaders in the computer science field.
The computer science Ph.D. program features selected classes in an online or hybrid format. Students complete 72 credit hours and can earn the degree in 4-5 years. There’s only one start date – the fall semester.
Applicants must have a strong foundation in computer science, software engineering, or information technology through their undergraduate and graduate courses. Applicants with little to no computer science background must complete foundational courses before being considered for admission.
The computer science online program is known for its emphasis on theoretical research with possible real-world applications. Students gain advanced research skills in network security, project development, and artificial intelligence.
Graduate research assistantships are available but subject to fund availability. Applicants must submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and resumes.
Nova Southeastern University
The hybrid Ph.D. in Computer Science program offered at Nova Southeastern University, a private research university, is designed for current professionals. Students already have strong knowledge and skills of computer science and its related disciplines before being admitted to the degree program.
Students choose from two pathways in earning the computer science Ph.D. degree, namely:
- The bachelor’s degree pathway where students must complete 66 credits; and
- The master’s degree pathway with its 51-credit program of study
Both pathways focus on programming languages, software engineering, and database management systems, among other computer science-related topics.
The computer science Ph.D. degree program offers fellowship opportunities. Fellows are provided with tuition assistance benefits until degree completion.
Online Doctorate in Computer Science: Program Types and Admission Requirements
There are two types of doctoral programs in the computer science discipline.
- The Doctor of Computer Science program is an applied research doctorate awarded based on advanced study and research. The doctoral degree is designed for completion in three years.
- The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Computer Science is an advanced research degree with more focus on theoretical research. These doctoral programs prepare students for research, advanced development, and teaching careers at universities, government agencies, and computer-related companies. The typical time-to-completion for a Ph.D. in Computer Science degree is 4 to 5 years. But most programs allow a longer time-to-completion of up to 6-7 years.
Both the Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science degree programs are terminal degrees – meaning it’s the highest degree level – in Computer Science. However, their respective curriculum, research emphases, and workplace applications have significant differences that prospective students must carefully consider.
Depending on the online doctorate in computer science degree program, prospective students must possess either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in computer science or related disciplines. However, applicants with insufficient computer science backgrounds may also apply after completing prerequisites.
Prospective doctoral students must have a sufficient graduate-level background in these areas, among others:
- Theory of computing
- Differential and integral calculus
- Discrete mathematics for computer science
- Software programming
- Systems programming
- Data structures
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores may or may not be required depending on the doctoral degree program policies. International students are required to submit satisfactory IELTS or TOEFL official test scores.
Other common admission requirements include:
- Letters of recommendation from university professors and workplace supervisors familiar with your research work and professional work ethic
- Personal statements outlining your academic background, research achievements, and career goals
- Current resume
- Cover letter
As previously mentioned, online Ph.D. programs have between four and five years for completion; however, students can extend their stay up to 6-7 years. Online Doctor of Computer Science programs have a shorter time to complete but also allow for extended stays.
Computer Science Online Doctorate Format, Curriculum, and Courses
Most computer science programs have a 60-credit curriculum consisting of core courses, qualifying and comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation. Graduate students in Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science degree programs must coordinate with their academic advisors for their personalized program of study.
Most online computer science programs allow students to self-paced study but within reasonable limits. Students must be mindful of compliance with candidacy requirements, submission of dissertation requirements, and maximum time to completion.
Some computer science programs also offer options for prospective students for admission, with the most common being:
- Post-master’s degree track (Students are admitted with a master’s degree)
- Post-bachelor’s degree track (Students can apply with only a bachelor’s degree but must meet other admission requirements, such as work and research experience combined with academic excellence)
- Bachelor-to-PhD track (Students earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in an accelerated format with an emphasis on academic excellence and groundbreaking research)
While the graduate courses in computer science programs differ in format, learning outcomes, and sequence, these are the typical courses:
- Theories of Computer Science
- Software Engineering
- Computer Systems
- Programming Languages
- Artificial Intelligence
Dissertation Prospectus and Dissertation
Students formally accepted as candidates for online doctoral programs can then start work on their dissertation prospectus and dissertation. Many students in computer science online programs consider the dissertation phase to be the most challenging since original research contributions to computer and information science are expected.
Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science degree programs require dissertations to meet rigorous standards, including:
- Originality in research
- Scholarly ability and academic excellence
- Independent and innovative thinking
- Technical mastery of computer and information science
Online computer science programs also consider dissertation courses as for-credit courses. Students choose a dissertation advisory committee, usually consisting of faculty members, to provide guidance, criticisms, and support during the process.
The top research areas for dissertations will depend on the focus areas of the computer science department. The popular areas include:
- Computer architecture
- Software engineering
- Machine intelligence and cognition
- Cybersecurity and information assurance
- Algorithms and Theory
Graduate students may be allowed to combine research areas, too, in advancing the field of computer and information science.
Skills Obtained by Computer Science Doctorate Degree Holders
Online students in Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science programs develop similar, if not the same, technical and transferable skills. Students develop these skill sets via didactic coursework, hands-on learning experiences, and dissertation-related activities. Even students with fairly developed skill sets have room for improvement, not to mention that the computer science field demands a passion for lifelong learning.
The best computer scientists have exceptional technical skills that allow them to develop effective, efficient, and responsive software and other digital tools. The most desirable of these technical skills, which earned a doctorate in computer science will further develop, are:
- Mathematics proficiency, particularly in statistics, linear algebra, and calculus.
- Programming refers to coding skills in programming languages, as well as mastery of data structures and algorithms.
- Software development includes software engineering from conceptualization (i.e., coding and testing) to completion (i.e., implementation).
- Data visualization skills are vital in the translation of raw data into usable information.
- Data analysis skills are a must because of their crucial importance in predictive analysis and artificial intelligence, among other advanced practices in computer science
Students must learn about professional ethics as Computer Science experts. The impact of machine learning and artificial intelligence, among others, on society makes ethical practice a crucial part of the profession.
Online students in Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science programs also develop the soft skills that allow them to cross over to other computing disciplines. Computer scientists possess these transferable skills, most of which are developed over years of practice in the academe and workplace.
- Critical thinking skills
- Communication skills, both written and oral
- Attention to detail
- Active listening skills
- Collaboration skills
Contrary to popular opinion, computer scientists actually don’t work in isolation! Breakthrough advances in the computer sciences have been made by interdisciplinary teams, including computer scientists. Graduate students develop the collaboration and communication skills that make them effective team players.
Interview and Presentation Skills
Online students in Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science programs must develop excellent interview and presentation skills, too. Their work as students and researchers during their doctoral studies requires being on both sides of the fence – both as interviewer and interviewee. This continues until their work as computer scientists, educators, and professional researchers, too.
Presentation skills are of crucial importance among students of Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science programs because of the dissertation requirement. Graduate students must present and defend their dissertation prospectus and dissertation in front of a panel of professors and other experts in the computer science field. Being able to do so with fluency and proficiency increases the chances for approval and publication.
Online students in Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science programs must establish strong professional networks. Note that the majority of jobs filled in the computer science field are filled through networks! The positive connections made in graduate school can mean the difference between getting hired or bypassed.
The best graduate programs offer students plenty of opportunities for networking with faculty members, industry experts, and fellow students. These university-hosted events include workshops, seminars, and conferences where real-world connections with prospective employers can be made.
Tuition and Financial Aid
Prospective students of Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science programs must apply with their eyes wide open to the total cost of attendance. Per-credit tuition in these graduate programs ranges from $450 to $1,000 and above. Check if the graduate program has a different per-tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students, too.
Factor in other costs like technology fees, which will add to the total annual cost of attendance. Traveling expenses, room and board, and other typical expenses of on-campus students will likely be lower for online students.
Students of online Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science programs are also eligible for federal financial aid. Scholarships, teaching and graduate assistantships, and grants as well as loans are among the financing options for graduate students, too.
Overview of Doctors of Computer Science: Careers, Salary, and Career Advancement
Being a graduate of one of these top 10 online doctors in computer science degree programs will open doors of opportunities in your career!
Average Salaries and Job Outlook
A Ph.D. in Computer Science or a Doctor of Computer Science degree is an excellent ticket to the wide range of computer and information technology occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in these occupations has a projected growth rate (2022-2032) that is a faster-than-average growth. This means approximately 682,800 new jobs will be created during the 10-year period, and the number is aside from the jobs that will require replacement workers.
Computer and information technology occupations are also among the highest-paid workers in the United States! The median annual wage was $150,199 (May 2022), and it is twice as high as the median annual wage for all occupations ($45,760).
With higher education likely comes higher pay, too! Professionals with doctoral degrees in computer science earn an average salary of $105,645 annually. This is aside from the additional pay consisting of commissions, profit sharing, and bonuses.
Diversity of Career Opportunities
The computer and information technology occupations are as diverse as the computer science courses in doctoral programs.
Computer and Information Research Scientists
These computer science professionals can earn $131,490 in median annual wage and enjoy a 21% projected growth rate in employment! Every year, on average, about 3,300 new jobs can be created every year. Their main duties include finding innovative applications for current and new technologies in diverse fields, from business to medicine.
Computer Science Professors
Being in the higher education sector is also a popular choice among doctoral degree holders in computer science. As a professor, these professionals guide students in gaining fundamental skills in computer science, computer engineering, and other allied disciplines. Their average annual salary is $89,803 – and it’s among the highest-paying jobs, too.
Computer Systems Engineers
These professionals implement the designs made by computer network architects, as well as solve the day-to-day issues related to network operations. Identifying security risks, testing system operations, and researching new processes and products are also part of their jobs. Their average pay is $76,534 per year.
Computer Network Architects
The design and construction of local area networks, wide area networks, and Intranets fall in the competent hands of computer network architects. Their duties also include network support, information security and assurance, and research into new technologies. Their median annual pay is $120,520, but it can be higher with more work experience.
Information Technology Managers
IT managers earn a median pay of $87,679 annually aside from bonuses and other perks. Their main duties include the planning, implementation, and administration of information technology-related programs, processes, and activities.
Keep in mind that these management-level positions may also require relevant work experience in addition to a doctoral degree.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should pursue a Computer Science Doctoral degree?
If you’re a determined and driven individual with a passion for computer science, you can be a good candidate! Note that doctoral degrees demand significant time, effort, and energy, even with self-paced study and asynchronous classes.
Why should you pursue a Computer Science Doctoral degree?
Note that many careers in computer science and other technology-related occupations don’t require a doctoral degree. You should pursue a doctoral degree in computer science if you believe that it will boost your career opportunities and meet your professional goals.
Are on-campus resources available for students in online programs?
Yes, most programs provide full access to their on-campus resources for online students. Online student support services are also available.
How difficult is it to manage the Doctoral degree workload?
Online programs offering doctoral degrees in computer science have challenging programs of study. But with effective time management and study habits, the workload is manageable. Perhaps the most challenging aspect is the absence of term times in doctoral degree programs, meaning taking deliberate breaks is a must for good mental health.
What makes a successful graduate student?
Self-motivation, problem-solving skills, and the willingness to take care of yourself are key to your success in graduate school.
- Online Doctor of Computer Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science programs feature intensive curricula that prepare students for leadership positions in the education, industry, and government sectors. Students must be prepared for academic excellence in every aspect, from their didactic courses to their dissertations.
- Earning a doctoral degree is a huge challenge in itself. But the rewards in the form of excellent career opportunities and advancement are well worth the time, cost, and effort.