The degree requirements for the doctoral program are outlined below:


The following UTCS undergraduate courses, or equivalent, are required as background (these are not prerequisites and can be met after admission):

  • Discrete Math for Computer Science (CS 311)
  • Introduction to Programming (CS 312)
  • Data Structures (CS 314)
  • Algorithms and Complexity (CS 331)
  • Computer Organization and Architecture (CS 429)
  • Principles of Computer Systems (CS 439)

A student can satisfy the background requirement using one of the following options:

  • Complete a degree (undergraduate major or Master's) in Computer Science prior to joining our graduate program.
  • Coursework that covers the background topics through any combination of:
    • Courses taken prior to admission. If these are not the UTCS background courses listed above, certification by an appropriate member of the UTCS tenure-track faculty is required.
    • Background courses named above (or the equivalent honors courses) may be taken at UTCS as a graduate student. An overall GPA of 3.50 on courses taken at UTCS is required unless only 1 course is taken, in which case the requirement is for a 3.0 in that single class. A grade of B or better on the final exam in a background course may be substituted for a full course grade with certification by an appropriate member of the UTCS Tenure-track faculty.
    • Courses certified by appropriate UTCS tenure-track faculty as covering equivalent material may be taken at UTCS or elsewhere by our graduate students. Certification must be obtained prior to taking the course. Note that this does not empower students to register for UTCS graduate courses if they do not meet the prerequisites for admission to those courses.
  • UTCS faculty may certify a student as having covered required background material by interrogating the student’s knowledge of the material directly.

Students who first enrolled prior to Fall 2016 may choose to graduate under the new rules above or fulfill the previous background requirements.  Please see the pre-2016 background coursework form for a list of previous background coursework.

Research Immersion

Every PhD student is expected to spend a substantial amount of time on research, starting from the first semester. Doctoral students are required to enroll in a special research course CS 398T during their first semester in the program. (Students entering in Spring will be required to take this course the following Fall.) As part of this class, students will be expected to find a research supervisor with whom the student will work throughout the first year; each PhD student must always have a research supervisor.

In each subsequent semester, until admission to candidacy, a PhD student must enroll in and complete a CS 395 Conference Course (research course) with a research supervisor. Please submit the necessary form to the graduate office at the start of each semester.

Doctoral students may not enroll for 12 or more hours unless they receive special permission from the Graduate Advisor. Such permission is rarely granted.

Diversity Program

The goal of the Diversity program is to expose students to different research styles and methods from various areas of computer science. The Diversity program requirements are waived for students who either receives a Master's degree in computer science before enrolling at UT Austin, or who receives a Master's degree from UTCS during the course of their PhD program. All Diversity course waivers are subject to the approval of the UTCS GSC. All other students are required to take one Diversity course from each of three areas:

  • Theory
  • Systems
  • Applications

See "Diversity Courses" for a list of the approved courses that are offered in each area.

Courses used to satisfy the Diversity requirement should be completed with a grade of B- or better, and a combined grade point average of 3.5 must be achieved on the three (3) courses used to satisfy the Diversity requirement. An overall grade point average of 3.1 must be maintained on all Diversity courses taken. Additional Diversity courses may be taken as part of the Depth program. Diversity courses may not be taken CR/NC due to the GPA requirements.

Diversity Course Waivers may be used to fulfill the Diversity program requirements. A Diversity Course Waiver is granted when: (1) a student has taken a graduate-level course at another university and that course is equivalent to a UTCS Diversity course, and (2) the student is able to demonstrate a satisfactory understanding of this material to a Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) member who teaches the Diversity course. To request a Diversity Course Waiver, the student should contact the GSC member and provide them with the prior course syllabus and other supporting materials. The GSC member may choose any method to evaluate the student's knowledge: a written or an oral examination is possible. The GSC member sends an email with their approval of the Diversity Course Waiver to the CS program coordinator for final approval at the next GSC meeting. All Diversity Course Waivers are subject to the approval of the UTCS GSC.

Note: Doctoral students who first enrolled prior to Fall 2018 may choose to graduate under the new rules above or fulfill the previous Diversity program. Please see the pre-2018 PhD Program for a description of the earlier Diversity Program requirements.


Students satisfy this requirement by taking at least 3 graduate courses related to their particular research interests. At most one of these courses may be outside the Computer Sciences Department; they are usually chosen from the CS department's list of graduate classes. No course used to satisfy the minor requirement for the Master's may be used. Courses listed as Diversity courses may be used as part of a Depth program as long as they were not also used in the student's Diversity program. No CS 395 Conference Course or CS 398T course may be included in a Research Qualification (RQ) document. All courses used to satisfy this requirement must be completed with a grade of B or better. A grade point average of 3.6 over all Depth courses must be attained.

Research Preparation Exam

The Research Preparation Exam requires students to learn and demonstrate specific skills necessary to do research early in their careers.  Schedule a room for your RPE through the online calendar. When the administrator has approved your request, you will receive an email confirming the approval. After you have confirmed your room request please send the information for your RPE to in the format outlined below.  The CS faculty and students will then be notified.

Research Preparation Exam: [FULL NAME]
Committee Members:

For this exam, the student (in consultation with faculty) selects and conducts research on a topic, and presents a talk, to be approved by a committee of 3 UT GSC faculty members. The chair of the RPE committee should be a CS GSC member and one of the committee members should be from outside the student's research area. The committee will evaluate the student with respect to two questions:


A student should pass the exam by the end of their 3rd year in the PhD program (before filing the Research Qualification document). It is not necessary to complete all coursework before doing the RPE. Following the RPE, an email should be sent by the chair of the committee to the graduate adviser and the CS graduate program coordinator with a copy to all committee members indicating the student successfully completed the RPE requirement.

Research Qualification (RQ) Document

The RQ document may be downloaded from the Forms Bank.  In the RQ document, the student:

The RQ document must be filed by the end of the 3rd year in the PhD program.

Dissertation Proposal and Advancing to Candidacy

Each student must prepare a written dissertation proposal and then give an oral public presentation of the proposal. This will normally happen soon after the RQ document is filed.  Please see advancing to candidacy for more information on this requirement.

Dissertation Final Defense

Each student writes a dissertation that describes original research and submits it to the members of the dissertation committee. There are many resources available to assist in writing a dissertation. Please see final defense to read the steps for the defense.

Additional Requirements

A minimum grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained over all CS graduate courses. All course requirements must be completed within a six-year period. There is a two-semester requirement for PhD Candidacy. A student may enroll in a summer session as part of the 2 semester enrollment requirement. The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires a minimum of thirty semester hours of coursework, including dissertation hours.

The Requirements of the Graduate School

The Graduate School maintains additional academic & registration policies, which must be followed by all CS graduate students. These policies address such issues as grades & credit, courses taken in residence, transfer credit, and time limits. If you are unsure about a requirement, please speak with the CS graduate office.

Parallel Masters Study

Computer Science PhD students may also pursue the MSCS degree as long as it does not interfere with their pursuit of the doctorate. Additional coursework is required for the MSCS. See the Master's Program page for more information.

  • Has the student demonstrated scholarship and potential to conduct original research?
  • Has the student demonstrated ability to communicate technical content effectively to a general-CS audience?
  • provides evidence of satisfying the background requirements
  • submits coursework (3 Diversity courses completed and 3 Depth courses, some of which may remain to be taken) with satisfaction of the GPA requirements
  • provides evidence of completing the Research Preparation Exam
  • formalizes dissertation advisor(s)