Degree Requirements

The official degree requirements are available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Degree Requirements

Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy

Filing Your Dissertation and Graduating

Degree Requirements Answers

How do I get a PhD in computer science?

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy are the satisfactory completion of the advanced proficiency requirements, qualifying examination, completion of an approved program of study, and writing a dissertation approved by your thesis committee. The time frame varies but the following list shows the approximate time frame and sequence to follow:

  • Typical Time to Degree: 4-5 Years
  • Undergraduate Proficiency (UGP) Requirements
  • optionally, Master’s Degree Requirements
  • Major and Minor Area of Study
  • 10 Graduate Courses (includes Advanced Proficiency Requirements)
  • optionally, get a Master’s degree along the way
  • Qualifying Exam (taken when all coursework is complete: 6th-9th quarter of study)
  • Approved Dissertation and Exit Seminar

How many courses must I take?

At least ten graduate courses are required, exclusive of seminar (290, 290C, 298) and research (299) units. This may include all courses taken in the Master’s program if applicable.

A grade of A- or better in the four core areas, and a grade of B or better must be obtained in all coursework used to satisfy degree requirements.

What is a Program of Study?

The student, in conjunction with the faculty/dissertation advisor, develops the program of study. The form is available from the graduate student service advisors. For a PhD student, this includes both a major and minor area of study. The major area must include at least thirty units of coursework (six units of the 30 come from 299) that form a consistent program in a research area of Computer Science. The minor area must include at least fifteen units of coursework, including at least three graduate courses, and excludes any 299 units. No course with a grade less than a B can be used on the program of study. When complete, the student must submit the form to the graduate student service advisorsfor approval from the Educational Policy Committee.

What is the teaching requirement?

The Graduate Group requires all PhD candidates to demonstrate at least one quarter of college level teaching experience. We strongly recommend that at least one of these quarters includes lecturing or leading a discussion section.

[back to FAQs]

Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy Answers

What is the Qualifying Examination?

The Qualifying Examination is a formal, oral examination to determine the student’s readiness to conduct PhD-level research in the major area of study. Prior to the Qualifying Examination, the student must prepare a paper containing a thorough discussion of a proposed thesis topic. This paper must be submitted to the Qualifying Examination Committee at least two weeks prior to the examination.

To be eligible for the Qualifying Examination, the student must have satisfied all course requirements, have removed all deficiencies, and must have at least a 3.5 GPA in courses taken in the program of study.

The Qualifying Examination is administered by a faculty committee (typically 5 members) appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies, in conjunction with the student’s faculty advisor. Student input into the selection of the committee is sought and encouraged.

The examinations differ in structure, depending on the area of research and the members of the examining committee. In this examination, the student gives a formal presentation of the thesis proposal. The committee will question the student on this proposal, and will question the student to determine the student’s competence in both the major and minor areas of study.

The committee can issue the following grades for the examination:


In this case, the student can apply to the Graduate Studies for Advancement to Candidacy for the degree. At this time, a dissertation committee is officially selected to direct the student in the research, and to guide the student in the preparation of the dissertation. The committee must be approved by Graduate Studies.

Not Pass

In this case, the committee has two options:

  1. It can decide that the student’s research proposal is not sufficient and ask that it be re-thought or re-written to better reflect a PhD-level research project. In this case, the committee will ask the student to remedy the difficulties in the proposal and retake the examination within a specified time frame.
  2. It can decide that the student’s knowledge within the major and minor areas is not sufficient for continued progress for the PhD. In this case, the committee can ask the student to take some additional course work and retake the examination within a specified time frame.


In this case, the student is not permitted to continue in the PhD program if this is the student’s second attempt.

The committee can meet with the major advisor as part of its deliberations.

The student can only retake the qualifying examination once. If a passing grade is not achieved by the second attempt, the student cannot continue in the PhD program.

What is the process for setting up my Qualifying Exam?

At least two months before you plan to take your Examination, find a suitable time when your planned committee members can attend. Allow for approximately 2.5 – 3 hours. Next, coordinate a room reservation on COWS. Once the date is set, complete the Qualifying Application Examination. Submit it to the graduate student service advisors, who will get the signatures needed and forward it to the Office of Graduate Studies.

What is Advancement to Candidacy?

Advancing to candidacy means completing all the prerequisites for doing research toward the degree. For the PhD degree, this means completing all course requirements and passing the Qualifying Exam. Please submit the Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the graduate student service advisors.

[back to FAQs]

Filing Your Dissertation and Graduating Answers

I have questions about preparing and filing my dissertation, who do I talk to?

For assistance in the preparation of your dissertation, see the Office of Graduate Studies’ website on filing your dissertation. You must make an appointment with the Student Affairs Coordinator in order to file your dissertation.

You are responsible for observing the filing dates and for preparing the dissertation in the proper format. As part of the filing process, you will fill out the University Microfilms International (UMI) Doctoral Dissertation Agreement form on which you indicate your willingness either to have the University supply copies of your dissertation to interested persons immediately, or that such permission should be withheld for a period of time, up to a maximum of three years.

Filing your dissertation is the last step in the process leading to the awarding of your degree. The final copy of your dissertation, which is ultimately deposited in the University Library, becomes a permanent and official record. You have the choice of submitting either your entire manuscript, or only your dissertation abstract, to UMI Dissertation Publishing. Both options provide higher visibility of your achievements. If you submit your entire dissertation to UMI, it will be returned to Shields Library, where it will be bound and stored. The packet of information that was sent to you when we returned your approved candidacy form contained the forms you need to submit with your manuscript.

For filing deadlines, see Graduate Studies’ calendar.

What is Filing Fee?

The Filing Fee program is for students who have completed all requirements for degrees except filing theses or taking final examinations, and who are no longer using University facilities. The Filing Fee is a reduced fee, paid in lieu of registration fees. It is assessed only once. The Filing Fee option preserves your candidacy status with the University; however, you are no longer considered a full-time registered student by the University, and are not entitled to the same benefits and privileges as a registered student. You are allowed two quarters plus one extension of Filing Fee. To file, complete the Filing Fee Request and submit to the graduate student service advisors.

What is the exit seminar?

In the exit seminar, the candidate’s research is presented to the UC Davis academic community. This seminar is administered by the dissertation committee, and takes place after all committee members have approved the dissertation, but (usually) before the dissertation has been filed with the Office of Graduate Studies.

I am graduating. After I file my dissertation, is there any additional paperwork I need to complete?

Yes! Please see the graduate student service advisors to complete the Graduate Exit Checklist.

[back to FAQs]