PhD Program

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing

The interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy degree in Computing integrates coursework and research projects from three related disciplines: computer science, information systems, and information technology. The program emphasizes advanced discovery and the development of solutions to research-focused problems in the areas of cyber assurance, risk assessment, forensics, and data analytics. Ph.D. graduates are eligible for research positions in academia, industry, and government.

The Ph.D. degree is awarded to candidates who have demonstrated a capacity for conducting original research, have made a meaningful contribution to knowledge in the computing discipline, and have successfully defended a dissertation.

To apply to the PhD in Computing degree program, please visit the University of South Alabama (USA) Graduate School website. Applications are initially reviewed by the Graduate School and then forwarded to the School of Computing for additional review.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the USA Graduate School, admission requirements for the Computing Ph.D. program are:

  • A statement of purpose indicating the student’s personal goals and research interests. Because prospective students are matched with a faculty mentor, competitive applications align with the research areas of School of Computing graduate faculty.
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons able to speak directly to the applicant’s ability to engage in advanced discovery and contribute new knowledge to the discipline. 
  • Curriculum vita.
  • An official transcript from each college or university attended.
  • A baccalaureate or graduate degree in Computer Science, Information Systems, Information Technology or a closely related field. A graduate degree is not required for admission.
  • A minimum GPA of 3.3 (4.0 scale) for all completed post-secondary coursework or a 3.5 overall (4.0 scale) for a completed graduate program.
  • Official scores for the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) including the AW portion. Applicants whose highest degree is a graduate degree from an accredited institution of higher education will not be required to provide GRE scores since these applicants may qualify for Regular Admission based upon their previous graduate work.
  • For international students, an official TOEFL, IELTS, ITEP, or PET score. See the policy of the Graduate School:
  • A completed application for admission to the Graduate School.

Admission may be granted by the Director of Graduate Studies, when supported by a vote of the Graduate Faculty, in special cases where a holistic evaluation of the applicant’s credentials is appropriate.

Admission is competitive and the decision is based on a review of all submitted admission materials. A personal interview may be requested. Applicants are encouraged to submitted samples of prior work. All admissions materials should submitted online.

Program Requirements

To qualify for the Ph.D. in Computing, a minimum of 72 semester hours of approved graduate credit is required and the following program of study must be completed with a grade of “B” or better in all course work.

Required Coursework (18 Hours)

Course Number  Credit Hours
CSC 612 Cybersecurity 3
CSC 626 Tools for Analyzing Big Data 3
ISC 629 Computing Ecosystems 3
ISC 673 Digital Investigations - Theory and Practice 3
ISC 675 Advanced Topics in Information Systems 3
ISC 686 Advanced Topics in Risk Analysis 3

Electives (24 hours)

Student will complete 24 semester hours of 500-level or higher approved graduate coursework. A maximum of 6 semester hours of CIS 694  CIS 694 Directed Study may be counted towards fulfilling the electives requirement.

Dissertation (30 hours)

A primary educational objective of the Ph.D. program is for students to develop the ability to conduct advanced research and contribute new knowledge to the discipline. To that end, the student will complete 30 hours of CIS 799 Dissertation.

Academic Standards

Student must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in order to be in good standing. Failure to maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA will result in the student being placed on academic probation. 

High Flex Option Available

The six courses that make up the 18 hours of required coursework are currently being offered in the High Flex format. This format allows students to choose whether to attend the course either face-to-face in the classroom with the professor or synchronously, as scheduled, online remotely via Zoom.  This option will allow students who have a master’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution in a computing discipline when they enroll in the Ph.D. program to complete the program remotely, if desired, as our dissertation hours are offered as directed study hours.

Graduate Assistantships

A limited number of graduate assistantships are available on a competitive basis and are awarded on the recommendation of the School of Computing. Applications are available on-line at: Applications must be received by April 1st for fall applicants or November 1st for spring applicants.

Comprehensive Examinations

Doctoral students must pass a comprehensive examination. The format of the examination will be determined by the comprehensive examination committee. Normally the examination is based on the required coursework. Failure to pass the comprehensive examination within two attempts will result in dismissal from the program.

PhD Qualifying Exams policy


A doctoral student is admitted to candidacy upon successful completion of a comprehensive examination. Candidacy indicates the student has completed the required coursework and is eligible to begin the dissertation research project.

Dissertation Hours And Defense

Doctoral candidacy is required to enroll in CIS 799 Dissertation. At the discretion of the Director of Graduate programs, directed study credit constituting preliminary preparation for the dissertation study may be substituted for CIS 799

A doctoral candidate must successfully defend a dissertation prospectus. The final oral defense of the dissertation is scheduled after the dissertation study has been completed and prepared in written form. Revisions to the written dissertation may be required for final approval by the dissertation committee and as a result of a review by the Graduate School. Students are required to be enrolled in at least one semester hour of CIS 799 during the semester of their defense.

Transfer Credit

A maximum of 24 semester hours of graduate credit earned at an approved graduate school may be counted toward the Ph.D. program. Transfer credit may be approved after the completion of nine (9) semester hours of credit at the University of South Alabama. Transfer credit must be approved by the School of Computing Director of Graduate programs and the Dean of the USA Graduate School with the recommendation of the student’s advisor.

Time Limit

All requirements for the PhD in Computing degree must be completed within ten (10) calendar years from the date of matriculation as a School of Computing PhD student. This ten calendar year constraint also applies to all transfer credit.

PhD Program Guide