Jul 28, 2023
As employers in both the public and private sectors seek out holders of doctorate degrees in computer science to develop new products and services, the demand for computer and information technology professionals is predicted to grow much faster than average for all occupations. To meet this need, colleges and universities are increasing the availability of blended and online programs in computer science so that students can earn an advanced degree on a flexible schedule. With these modern options, pursuing a doctorate in computer science may be easier than ever.
But which doctorate is right for me? Is an online PhD in computer science worth the cost? Can I earn an online doctorate part-time?
The path to an online doctorate in computer science can be difficult to navigate and there are many questions that students and professionals have. We understand this, and here we provide comprehensive resources to help you find the best program for your career goals. We provide answers to commonly asked CS PhD questions, provide guidance on the degree, and offer personalized assistance finding the perfect DS degree for you. With our help, you can take control of your future and get the professional boost your need with a doctorate in computer science.
Best Online Computer Science Doctorate Programs for 2023
When it comes to finding the best program for you, there are many factors that should be taken into consideration. Cost, quality, convenience and available resources and support may all play a role in choosing which program is right for you. With so much variation, every student will have different needs – but there are programs out there that excel in numerous areas to provide high-quality, affordable, convenient education with the necessary resources and support for students to thrive. Finding the best option for your needs is possible with the right research and guidance. See which schools landed on our list of the best online computer science doctorates for 2023.
The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Computer Science from Capitol Technology University allows anyone to reach their full potential within the computer science field. As with any other PhD program, this program has a special emphasis on research. However, unlike many other comparable programs, students can choose between a dissertation or publication option. The latter option doesn't lack in research, as students must complete doctoral-level research and have it published in at least three articles in peer-reviewed journals. The program is mostly comprised of independent study, meaning students can graduate in as few as two years, although three years is more typical. To accommodate the fact that most students will be working while in school, the entire program is online, with no campus visits needed to graduate.
PhD in Computer Science
- Credits: 60
- Length: 2-3 years
- Cost: $950/credit
- Mode: 100% online
- Accreditation: MSCHE
Prospective graduate students who want to continue working while earning a doctoral degree will appreciate the fully online format of Mississippi State University's Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Computer Science program. This means no residencies, internships, or other on-campus or in-person requirements are necessary to graduate. However, to facilitate a more interactive learning process, online classes can be viewed live (or at any other time). Interested students should note a few things about the program before applying. First, they'll need a master's degree to be eligible to apply, as this is not a direct admissions doctoral program. Second, the application process doesn't require GRE or GMAT test scores. And lastly, 10 of the required 55 credits include classroom or dissertation coursework of the student's choosing, allowing for degree customization.
PhD in Computer Science
- Credits: 55
- Length: Varies
- Cost: $537/credit
- Mode: 100% online
- Accreditation: SACSCOC
Anyone seeking a terminal degree in a field relating to information technology or computers should consider the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program from Nova Southeastern University. The curriculum is set up so that graduates can use their degree for almost any area in computer science, whether it's working in government, private industry, or academia. The coursework focuses on core computer science topics, such as programming, operating systems, and database management systems. As for the dissertation, students will be encouraged to choose research subjects where they can not only apply their recently acquired knowledge but also can break new ground in cutting-edge topics, including data science and artificial intelligence. This program is flexible to accommodate the specific needs of each student. For example, the program is open to applicants with a master's or a bachelor's degree. While most coursework can be completed online, there are several on-campus academic activities to promote group learning and networking.
PhD in Computer Science
- Credits: 51-66
- Length: Varies
- Cost: $969/credit (lower-level courses) and $1,386/credit (upper-level courses)
- Mode: Partially online
- Accreditation: SACSCOC
Online CS Doctorate Spotlights
Northcentral University’s doctor of philosophy in computer science program is 100% online and gives students the flexibility to propose their own research and build a portfolio of work that best illustrates their abilities and focus. Flexibility is one of the main themes of NCU’s CS doctorate program. The program has ongoing admissions, meaning that students can jump in and start earning their degree every Monday. The program takes about 40 months, with 60 earned credits spread over 20 courses required to earn the degree. The school rewards two full-tuition scholarships and two $20,000 scholarships to new students. The total estimated cost of the program is $68,365, but you should check directly with the school for the most updated tuition and fee schedule.
Colorado Technical University
CTU offers three computer science online doctorate programs, include the general doctorate of computer science. The school also offers a doctorate in big data analytics online and the online doctorate in cybersecurity. CTU has raised the bar when it comes to convenience for online computer science doctorates, offering three start times during the year, the option to complete the program in as little as three years, and dissertation development integrated into the program. While this program is online, there is an on-campus residency requirement for students and opportunities to attend in-person symposiums. Online doctoral candidates at CTU are required to complete 100 credits, and tuition costs run about $59,800, with fees and supplies costing extra.
Mississippi State University
MSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers an online Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering (ECE). The program prepares students for leadership roles and research in computer and electrical engineering, with a component that allows for students to create and develop their own specific areas of interest. One particular feature that helps this doctorate program stand out is that no matter what state students of Mississippi State University’s online education programs reside, they pay in-state tuition. This can represent a savings of thousands of dollars for out-of-state students. Online graduate students pay $514 per credit, with the total amount of credits required to graduate ranging from 48 to 66 credits, depending on which prerequisites have been completed prior to enrollment.
Benefits of the Online Doctorate in Computer Science
The doctorate in computer science is one of the most extensive advanced degrees available. Graduates can choose from a wide range of computing specializations, including big data, information systems, and artificial intelligence. With this skillset, graduates can go on to work as faculty or research scientists at leading universities, government consultants, or senior engineers at tech giants like Google and Facebook. The computer science doctorate is growing as a top degree for aspiring computer scientists who want to make an impact and advance their career. For those considering this path, there are many opportunities available to specialize and succeed in the world of technology.
Recognizing this growth, colleges across the U.S. are making computer science doctorates accessible to their students online. Distance learning programs and courses allow students to work toward their PhD or doctorate degrees in computer science in a flexible setting. This has two real and distinct benefits when it comes to earning a degree:
With the growth of online learning, computer science doctorates are becoming more accessible. It’s important to understand the different types of online programs available and how they can shape your journey to a computer science doctorate. From asynchronous learning to hybrid programs and everything in between, there are plenty of options for those seeking an online experience. Make sure you compare the pros and cons of each type of delivery system so you can make an informed decision about which program best matches your needs.
Types of Online PhD Degrees in Computer Science
High-quality online higher education is available in many forms, from fully online programs with no in-person requirements to blended programs with required campus visits for residencies, symposiums, or dissertation defense. With online doctorates, it’s crucial to research each potential program thoroughly, particularly those with campuses that are further away than a few hour’s drive. Even programs advertised as 100% online can have in-person requirements. Here’s what to look for when vetting online computer science programs at the doctorate level.
Timeline: Online Computer Science PhD
The duration of an online doctorate in computer science varies depending on the type of program and whether part-time study is allowed. Typically, a doctorate can be completed in three to seven years, with students aiming to complete candidacy examinations after two or three years and dissertation defense/project presentation by the end of year five or six. Part-time programs can often be tailored to individual student learning goals, allowing for more flexibility when it comes to completing the degree. With this variation in mind, let’s examine a standard timeline for the most popular online computer science doctorate: the PhD.
Each online doctorate in computer science has different options and requirements. Make sure you examine your academic and professional wants and needs carefully, and then see if they mesh with potential programs. If you’re ever uncertain, talk to an admissions advisor or program representative.
Online PhD vs. Doctor of Computer Science (DSci) and Doctor of Computer Engineering (DEng)
Advanced students in computer science have a number of doctorate-level degrees from which to choose. Each has guiding philosophies, qualifications, and academic and professional goals slightly different from the others. While the PhD is the most common, the DSci, DEng, and similar variations attract thousands of students each year. Here’s how the three main online doctorate options in computer science stack up.
Online CS Doctorate Program Learning Outcomes
Whether pursuing a PhD or one of the practical doctorates, nearly every program starts with a set of learning outcomes. These outcomes serve as a common denominator, with all courses, materials, and projects leading to the achievement of these learning goals. Do these learning outcomes really matter for future PhD students? Absolutely. They tell you what the program is all about, what it emphasizes, where it prepares graduates to work, and more. In essence, they’re the first and most clear-cut way to see if a program makes sense for your career path.
Students may see overlap in the stated learning outcomes for computer science PhDs. For example, most programs will have a combination of the following:
Advanced understanding of computer science fundamentals
Students may see similar core areas noted across programs, including data science, artificial intelligence, software, networking theory, and systems. If two programs have variation in their core areas, it could indicate a different focus or faculty expertise. Make sure you read through these carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask an advisor for details.
Significant expertise in a research area of choice
Although a general degree is possible in some programs, some degree of specialization is necessary when in a dissertation-dependent program.
Produce original research
This comes in the form of primary research unique to the student and the computer science field, ideally in a manner that advances scholarship in their chosen specialty. In practical degree programs, this could be a specific project or portfolio of work that breaks new ground in the field.
Effective communication of research and findings orally and in writing.
In addition to these four outcomes, students may see others that indicate program emphasis on a certain aspect of computer science or advanced study in general. These can include (but are not limited to) the following:
Students gain experience teaching less-experienced students or peers in their area of interest.
Conducting, presenting, and publishing research in academic journals.
Regular participation at professional conferences or other gatherings to discuss large-scale issues in the field.
To understand and be able to describe the ethical issues related to computer science issues that involve humans and human interaction.
Specialization in Computer Science: What Focus Should I Target?
A specialization is an area of interest that guides academic research and coursework. While studies at the bachelor’s and master’s levels can be relatively broad — with more emphasis on understanding core concepts — specialization is critical when pursuing a PhD. It drives research, mentorship, and, most importantly, the selection and production of a capstone project or dissertation. It’s also a key step in charting a career path after graduation. Let’s view some of the most popular and up-and-coming areas in which advanced CS students can specialize.
Pursuing a doctorate in computer science is an excellent opportunity to focus on the areas of interest that you have already established. Whether your interests lie in academic or professional progress, you can use your master’s degree and experience in the field to hone those skills into something more formal. A doctorate in CS gives you the chance to delve deeply into the topics you find most interesting and pursue a professorship or leadership role in the industry. Before you make the leap, answer these two questions:
When choosing an online doctorate computer science program, it’s vital that you pick one that has the proper accreditation. There are two types of accreditation to look out for. The most important one you should look for is the institutional accreditation of the school you choose. Proper institutional accreditation helps ensure that the school you’ve chosen has been properly reviewed to meet curriculum requirements. The U.S. Department of Education oversees the institutional accrediting bodies to ensure they adhere to rigorous standards and offers a public database you can use to check if the schools you’re interested in are accredited.
A computer science program may also be accredited by ABET. ABET accredits postsecondary programs in applied and natural sciences, computing, and engineering. While there are no accrediting bodies for computer science PhD programs in the U.S., ABET accredits associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. If you’re pursuing a PhD in a computer science program with ABET accreditation at other levels, you’re attending a school with a rigorous computer science program in general. The accrediting commissions within ABET include the Applied and Natural Science Accreditation Commission, the Computing Accreditation Commission, the Engineering Accreditation Commission, and the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission.
Applying to a Computer Science Doctorate Online
Admissions requirements can be fairly standard across computer science doctorates. Applicants to PhD or DSci programs often need a bachelor’s or master’s from a regionally accredited institution, a GPA of 3.0 or higher in that degree program, three letters of recommendation, and a written statement about their interest in the program. Variation exists across programs, with some emphasizing standardize test scores and others looking more to a candidate’s professional experience. Here are the admissions requirements you should examine more closely when vetting potential schools and programs.
Tuition & Fees
Students considering a PhD in computer science should always ask themselves: can I afford it? Or, even more important, will the degree and salary boost warrant the cost? As with school and program selection, the answers will be unique to the student. However, a deeper understanding of tuition, fees, and salaries for PhD holders can help get you started. Here’s a quick look at in-state tuition for four online computer science doctorates today. They do not factor in additional fees such as registration fees, per-course fees, or technology fees that may occur.
NOTE: Some colleges and programs have tuition assistance, grants, and other payment help specifically for PhD students. This can drive down the cost of a program significantly. While it’s good to know the base tuition rate for a program before you apply, keep in mind that you might pay far less than advertised. Never hesitate to contact a financial aid representative or advisor at a college to see what options you have available. Read through our guide to scholarships and grants to see what’s available and how to apply.
Salaries for Computer Science Doctorates
Does a PhD pay? In computer science it can. According to data from PayScale.com, those with a PhD in computer science earn a mean annual salary of $127,000. This includes professionals with job titles such as senior software engineer, research scientist, computer scientist, and lead data scientist.
Payscale reports earnings for the following job titles that typically require a PhD in computer science:
PayScale.com data indicates that professionals who hold an M.S. in computer science earn $10,000 per year, a full $27,000 less than their doctorate-holding counterparts.