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Doctor of Philosophy Program

The Ph.D. degree is intended for students planning to pursue a career in computer science research and education. The doctoral program normally requires four to six years of study. Ph.D. students must spend at least four semesters in full-time study at Rice, where full-time study is defined as enrollment in nine or more hours of coursework.

The following sections provide a high-level overview of the degree requirements for a computer science Ph.D.; the Graduate Student Handbook describes the degree requirements in detail. The Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the Rice General Announcements are definitive sources of general information related to obtaining a graduate degree from Rice.


Course Work

Ph.D. students must take six breadth courses and two elective courses. The Graduate Student Handbook lists breadth and elective courses that can be taken to satisfy this requirement. Ph.D students must complete four or more of the required courses, with a cumulative grade point average of B+, by the end of their second semester. By the end of their fifth semester, they must complete all eight required courses with a cumulative grade point average of B+.

Qualifying Exam

Ph.D. students must pass an oral qualifying examination before the end of their seventh semester in the Ph.D. program. The exam covers a syllabus of material related to the student's thesis area; the precise syllabus is determined by the student's research advisor. The required C Exam Record form is available from the Department Coordinator and should be returned to the Department Coordinator when it is complete.


COMP 590:  Ph.D. students must complete a supervised research project (COMP 590) by the end of their third semester. This requirement is intended to involve the student in the Department's research activity and to encourage the student to find a research advisor.

Master's Thesis:  Ph.D. students must complete a master's thesis by the end of their fifth semester. A student who has already completed a research master's degree may petition the graduate committee for a waiver by submitting a completed Request for Waiver of Rice M.S. Thesis form along with a copy of their master's thesis to the Department Coordinator.

Ph.D. Thesis and Defense:  Ph.D. students must submit and defend a thesis proposal that describes an original program of research. They must also submit an acceptable Ph.D. thesis that reports the results of their research program and defend that thesis in a final, public, oral defense.


As part of your graduate studies at Rice, you will become a leader in the department in both research and teaching. Ph.D. students are expected to assist in the teaching and administration of five courses. The typical workload is ten hours per week, averaged over the semester. Rice University's Center for Teaching Excellence offers resources for both actively improving your skills as an educator in the department and planning for your future as an educator in industry or academia.