Ph.D in Computer Science

The PhD in Computer Science is the highest professional degree awarded by the Rensselaer Computer Science Department, demonstrating the ability to do in-depth, original, and independent problem-solving at the highest level. RPI CS Ph.D. graduates go on to positions with great potential for leadership and contribution in the private sector, public sector, and higher education. Rensselaer CS faculty advise and train Ph.D. students in innovative and high-impact research areas and attract funding from a spectrum of federal Research and Development agencies and non-profits including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, MacArthur Foundation and the U.S. Army. Faculty and students collaborate on cutting-edge research problems, contributing to the scholarly literature and the professional growth of RPI's Ph.D. students.

Program Details

Emphasizing independent research in an area of specialization and working closely with one or more faculty advisors, students are required to complete at least 72 credits of advanced study above and beyond their undergraduate degree. Students must complete at least 36 credits of course work and at least 24 credits of research work. It is possible to obtain a PhD with or without an MS degree. To achieve professional-level status, a typical PhD study takes four to five years to complete. 

Students complete the following major milestones in the Ph.D. program during their tenure at Rensselaer:

  • Core Qualifying Exam (by the end of the third semester)
  • Research Qualifying Exam (by the end of the second year)
  • Candidacy Exam (by the end of the third year)
  • Thesis Defense (upon completion of the thesis).

Detailed Requirements

Admissions & Financial Aid

Admission to the graduate program is highly competitive and admitted students have strong academic backgrounds in Computer Science and demonstrated research potential.

Financial Aid

Most CS graduate students receive financial support as teaching or research assistants. These assistantships provide both tuition and a stipend, and guarantee funding for the duration of the PhD studies. In addition, there are a limited number of fellowships for outstanding applicants.

  • Financial awards are made on the basis of ability rather than need.
  • There is no separate application for financial aid (it is part of the Admissions Application).
  • To receive full consideration for financial aid, all application materials must be received by January 1 for fall admission or August 15 for spring admission.
  • The application review process will not start until all required documents are received.

Detailed Admissions & Financial Aid Information

Program Outcome

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to demonstrate:

  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct novel, high quality, independent research in computer science with tangible contributions to computer science evidenced by publication of the research results in high quality venues
  • Identify, investigate and articulate open research questions within their computer science sub-specialty.
  • Demonstrate solid knowledge of computer systems, algorithms and theory, and the application of computer science.