How to Apply to a PhD in Computer Science Program

A PhD is a terminal degree – a final and professional degree in whatever education track you are pursuing. It’s a great option for those who are passionate about research and new technology, as well as those who might want to become professors. Those with a doctorate in computer science stand to make substantially more than their peers who hold an undergraduate degree – upwards of $100,000 dollars a year.

There are, however, several criteria in the application process.


A transcript is the list of grades and classes from any previous degrees and schools. Things like specific classes taken (are they relevant to the PhD field you’re pursuing?) and final grades will be considered.

GRE Scores

The GRE is a standardized test that is meant to measure someone’s preparedness to enter into graduate school. Broken into sections – English, Math, and Writing – this test assesses what has been learned so far through undergraduate education and also evaluates the possibility of moving forward in a more advanced degree.

Personal Statement

A personal statement is a very important part of the PhD application. Here, it’s important to focus on why you want or need a PhD (work? personal or professional improvement?) and share any experience you already have through work or search projects that have helped you realize why a further education is important. It will also be important to share what areas of computer science interest you, and what you will specifically want to research and become an expert in – PhD graduates are, after all, essentially experts in their field. It’s also helpful to explain why you want to attend that specific university – what programs or resources do they have that appeal to you?

Previous Work and Research

This section would contain work and research that are relevant to the program that you’re applying to. If you know that you want to apply for a PhD program right out of your undergraduate program, start researching right away. Professors can point you in the right direction to research projects. If you’re already on the job, try to find projects that reflect your strong suits and interests.

Recommendation Letters

Most applications will ask for three or four letters of recommendation. These can be requested from professors, other connections at a former university or program, and employers. Make sure to approach them making it known that your intention is to attend and complete a PhD program, and outline all the reasons you think you’d be a good candidate, as well as why you’d like their support and referral.

Awards and Extracurricular Activities

Usually applications will include space to share appropriate activities that you’re involved in, but if not, consider including a page of summary. Things like teaching experience, tutoring, or assisting at the undergraduate or master’s level should definitely be included.

These items will be weighed differently at different schools, but be sure to take each of them seriously and work on them thoroughly.

There will be other things involved in the application, such as fees for the application to be submitted and possibly fees to get transcripts transferred. Make sure to create or follow a checklist so that nothing is missed during the process.

Applying for a computer science degree at the doctorate level is a long process, and earning it takes even longer – sometimes up to six years. However, with technology research stable and growing, it’s still a great option for someone willing to put in the work and enthusiastic about cutting edge study and technology as a career.

Top Online PhD Computer Science Programs

Northcentral University DBA: Applied Comp Sci PhD: Business Admin - Applied Comp Sci MBA: Applied Comp Sci Northcentral University › Established in 1996 in Prescott Valley, Arizona, Northcentral University is a private, accredited college with online master and doctoral programs. Students can choose from a DBA or PhD in Applied Computer Science or earn their master's degree if they have not already. All programs require the student to hold a bachelor's degree but transfer credits are accepted.
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