Online PhD in Computer Science Guide

The field of computer science has seen exponential growth in the last decade as web-based apps and media platforms continue to grow. An online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Computer Science prepares graduates for some of the highest-paying positions in the nation with technology firms of varying sizes.  

As industries continue to adopt digital technologies, the demand for graduates with postsecondary degrees in the field of computer science remains steady. Businesses like Google and Microsoft continue to hire web developers, coders, and other computer science specialists to manage their web-based platforms/services. 

What Is Information Technology?

As a computer science professional, your job is to: 

  • Observe, listen to, and communicate with clients
  • Understand various computer languages such as
    • Python, HTML, Java, C++ and more
  • Offer strategies to ensure the functionality of web-based platforms
  • Collaborate with UX specialists to ensure website functionality 

Depending on the industry or client, computer science specialists may work in-house or be contracted externally. 

What Can I Do With An Online PhD in Computer Science?

There are many viable career options for professionals with an online PhD in Computer Science. At tech corporations, start-ups, and in higher education, computer science professionals:

  • Develop software
  • Maintain data systems 
  • Teach students coding theory
  • Complete programmatic updates
  • Maintain server security

Professionals with an online PhD in Computer Science provide in-demand services that continue to increase in value as countless entities adopt web-based platforms for business and internal use. 

Others who graduate with a PhD in Computer Science end up working in academia as a PhD satisfies minimum requirements for many colleges and universities. 

PhD in Computer Science Salaries and Career Outlook

Graduates with a PhD in Computer Science may pursue careers as:

  • College Professors
  • Computer Science Specialists
  • Engineers
  • Database Managers
  • Research & Development 

Job growth in the computer science career field can vary depending on the position, and graduates should note that these statistics are reflections of the current job market that can fluctuate over time. 

Computer Science PhD Career Paths 

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Computer Science Professor$80,7909%Professors that teach computer science at the university level conduct courses in coding, software design, and database management.
Computer and Information Research Scientists$126,83015%Professionals in this field to develop new software and improve on existing platforms to improve user experience and efficiency.
Computer Network Architects$116,7805%Network architects help organizations manage their local-area networks and wide-area networks.
Software Developers$110,14022%Software developers create computer programs/applications and work closely with UX specialists to provide iterative updates that address bugs/create efficiencies. 
Source: BLS

Earning A PhD in Computer Science

An online PhD in Computer Science typically takes between 4-5 years to complete. It’s always smart to research in-person and online formats to find the program that fits your schedule. 

Aspiring PhD students should consider admissions requirements, areas of specialization, and cost to ensure the program they choose fits their goals and lifestyle.

Pros And Cons Of PhD in Computer Science

Time, cost, and job placement are important factors to review when looking for a PhD program. Compared to a master’s degree in computer science, a PhD in Computer Science allows graduate students to gain access to higher paying, upper-level positions in the tech and academic fields.

Due to the flexibility offered with an online program, doctoral students have the opportunity to complete their degree with sometimes little to no impact on their current day job.

Coursework In PhD in Computer Science Programs

Most classes included in computer science programs align with industry standards. Classes like Computer Languages, and Database Design, and Machine Learning provide students with a wide range of knowledge and skills to help them operate in a variety of roles post-graduation. 

Courses often include topics like data management, robotics, artificial intelligence, and software development. As a prerequisite to many of these classes, general knowledge of computer science and hardware can help students prepare for PhD-level coursework. 

CourseAbout the Course
AlgorithmsThis class explores the mathematical aspect of program operation and database structure. 
Computer SystemsIn this course, students learn about physical computer assemblies and their use. 
Artificial IntelligenceThis class draws parallels between computer and human brain functionality through the observation of predictive analytics and language processing. 
RoboticsThis course serves as an intro to web development and code to help students learn how to create landing pages and websites. 

Computer science graduate programs typically culminate in a research project. 

Skills Learned In PhD in Computer Science

With a PhD in Computer Science, graduates enter the workforce with a wide range of industry-specific skills. These programs build skills such as:

  • Writing and improving code
  • Website generation
  • Advanced software engineering
  • Communication
  • Troubleshooting
  • Operational functionality 
  • Systems maintenance

How Long Does It Take To Get A PhD in Computer Science?

Some PhD programs take four years to complete, while others take up to five years. Most programs usually require 90 credit hours, including electives and the Teaching Assistantship requirement.

Factors that impact the length of a degree program include:

  • Prior education (Master’s in Computer Science preferred)
  • Accelerated course availability
  • Synchronous vs asynchronous learning
  • Part-time vs. full-time course loads

Choosing The Best PhD in Computer Science

There are many ways to earn a PhD in Computer Science. For example, you can choose to study online, in-person, or through a hybrid of both options. You may want to earn additional certifications and licenses, depending on your specialization or field of interest. This section explores the different options available for future computer science students. 

Online vs In-Person Graduate Degrees

Potential computer science PhD applicants have options depending on their current schedule and employment status. Applicants should be aware that there are many online programs to choose from. 

Online learning offers flexibility, though on-campus learning can provide additional networking opportunities that may improve the job search post-graduation. 

On-campus, students learn interpersonal skills that benefit them in professional settings. 

If students choose to study online, this can be a great way to balance a job while completing the doctoral program. 

There is no right option between the two, though most doctoral students likely prefer one option over the other.

How Long Does It Take To Complete An Online Course? 

Depending on the type of online course, student experiences can vary. If courses are taught synchronously, then students must attend online lectures and labs at set times. Hybrid courses offer a combination of online lectures and in-person lab time, ideal for students looking to acquire skills needed to work post-graduation. 

If a course is taught asynchronously, students can watch lectures and study with flexibility. Alternatively, certificate programs offer accelerated online courses that condense the subject matter into 3-6 week increments. 

Licensure and Certification

Many computer science positions prefer and potentially require applicants to have a license and/or certification (especially for PhD grads). Prospective students should be sure to research their intended job prospects to ensure they acquire the appropriate credentials depending on the region and type of position they may hold. 

Admissions Requirements 

The first step to applying to any program is to check the admissions requirements to confirm the prerequisite experience needed to qualify. Most information technology programs require:

  • Proof of completion of a 4-year bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Minimum GPA requirements – These vary depending on the program
  • Official Transcript
  • GRE test score 
  • Application fee
  • Letter of Intent
  • Letters of recommendation 

It is always a good idea to submit applications to schools with varying rates of acceptance. You should also diversify your application list and include schools with high and low rates of admission.  

Paying For A PhD in Computer Science

The cost of an online PhD in Computer Science varies depending on a range of factors. In-state tuition tends to be much cheaper than out-of-state, so be sure to apply to programs locally if cost is a determining factor. 

Online programs can be more cost-effective and accessible than in-person programs, providing applicants with options depending on their prior obligations. Some online programs also extend in-state tuition rates to all students regardless of where they live.

Lastly, colleges, universities, and organizations offer scholarships that are merit or need-based that can help minimize the financial impact of going to school.

Scholarships

There are many scholarship options for students in the field of computer science. Here are a few: 

Generation Google Scholarship

Richard E Merwin Student Scholarship

IEEE Presidents Scholarship

Computer Science Career Resources

IEEE

IEEE is a professional organization dedicated to technological advancement for the benefit of humanity. This group fosters global conversation and collaboration of fellow computer science professionals. 

ACM

This membership-based organization provides students and professionals in the computer technology sector with educational and networking opportunities. They offer credentialing services, publications, and scholarships to members to further their careers in the field. 

Upsilon Pi Epsilon

UPE is the first honor society dedicated to the computing profession and provides networking and continuing education opportunities to students and young people in the field. This group is connected directly to IEEE and fosters educational and professional growth for students seeking a career in computer science. 

Online Computer Science PhD FAQs

Is a PhD in Computer Science worth it?

Due to the web-based nature of the IT sector, pursuing an online PhD in Computer Science is a lucrative alternative to in-person education. Market projections for job growth and compensation are very positive. 

How much can you make with  PhD in Computer Science?

Professionals with a PhD in Computer Science can expect to make upwards of $80,000 post-graduation, with some roles grossing up to $200,000 annually. 

Is a PhD in Computer Science hard?

A PhD is a lengthy,  intense, and challenging ordeal. Potential applicants should think about the time and financial commitment before applying to a program. 

What can I do after earning a PhD in Computer Science?

After receiving a PhD in Computer Science, graduates can enter the workforce immediately at top tech firms, internally at fortune corporations, and in the academic field in a teaching capacity.  

Sources:

Payscale.com

BLS

https://upe.acm.org/

https://www.computer.org/

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm

https://cse.gatech.edu/academics/computer-science-phd-program

https://www.cs.ubc.ca/students/grad/prospective-grads/grad-programs/phd-track-msc-program