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Doctoral Program Requirements

The Ph.D. program consists of three phases or levels:

Level 1 involves preparation for written survey and critique covering the breadth of a research area and an oral presentation of the work. You will also begin research in seminars and prepare contributions to papers in journals and conference proceedings. Read more about Level 1.
Level 2 involves additional coursework, research, and writing to establish the foundation for a dissertation proposal. A committee is formed to guide this research, chaired by your thesis advisor. This phase culminates in an oral exam (the Candidacy Examination), focusing on the dissertation proposal. Read more about Level 2.
Level 3 consists of research, paper and dissertation writing, and a final defense. Formal coursework occurs in this third phase only when extraordinary opportunities appear for you to enhance your background in principal areas of interest. Read more about Level 3.

There is a residency requirement of at least one consecutive academic year of full-time study. Most students spend their entire Ph.D. program as full-time students. There is no foreign language requirement.

Minimum Course Requirements

If entering with a baccalaureate degree:

  • Completion of 48 credit hours of course work prior to candidacy.
  • Up to 15 credits can be as seminar or directed study credits.

If entering with a master's degree appropriate to the doctoral degree field:

  • Completion of 27 credit hours of course work prior to candidacy.
  • Up to 6 credits can be as seminar or directed study credits.

Doctoral students must also satisfy one of the following:

  • Complete at least two semesters in candidacy and accumulate at least 24 semester credit hours in 799 dissertation research OR
  • Complete at least two semesters as a student in candidacy and have accumulated at least 12 semester credit hours in other appropriate research-based coursework, which has been approved by the graduate student’s program.


Continued progress through the Ph.D. program is important. As the UAB Graduate School has an upperbound limit of seven years for the completion of a Ph.D. degree, Ph.D. students in the Department of Computer Science must adhere to the following deadlines for the three levels of our program:

  • Completion of the Level 1 exam: within 2 years of entrance into the Ph.D. program. If you fail the first time you will be given one more chance, but must pass Level 1 no later than the end of your third year.
  • Completion of the Level 2 exam: within 2.5 years of the Level 1 exam.
  • Completion of the Level 3 exam: end of the seventh academic year since entrance into the Ph.D. program.

Extension of these deadlines requires a petition by student and advisor to the graduate review committee.

Important Notes

  • Students must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour per semester in order to maintain active status.
  • All international students are expected to improve scientific communication skills by passing GRD 700, 701, 702 and 703: Scientific Communication I – IV.
  • All domestic students should take GRD 701: Presentation and Discussion Skills and GRD 712: Research Writing and Style.
  • All teaching assistants are expected to take GRD 715: Becoming an Effective TA.
  • All PhD students are required to complete the RCR (Responsible Conduct of Research) training plan described here either in their first year of mentored research or prior to admission to candidacy (PhD). RCR training must occur at least once every four years.

Descriptions of Graduate School (GRD) courses can be found in the UAB Graduate Catalog.