25 Best Online PhD Computer Science Degree Programs

We’ve ranked the 25 Best Online PhD Computer Science programs for 2020. Compare top schools & accelerated programs.

online phd computer science

As an expert in computer science, you will be a leader in a cutting-edge field and will possess skills that are in demand by top companies. A PhD in computer science online can give you a distinct advantage over other job candidates and will help you earn an average salary of between $69,000 and $142,000, depending on your career path.

Online PhD Computer Science Degree Courses

Online PhD Computer Science Degree Courses

The first few years of your doctoral program will probably be dedicated largely to coursework. Class offerings can vary greatly among schools, and you’ll usually have a good deal of latitude to select topics that correlate to your area of interest.

There may be a few foundational classes that all computer science doctoral students are required to take. In addition, you may need to ensure that your course schedule includes at least one class from each required category; for example, you may need a theory class, a programming class and an applications class.

  • Artificial Intelligence: Your time in this class will bring you up to speed on some of the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and give you an idea of the direction that this technology may be heading. You’ll discuss search algorithms and probabilistic models.
  • Databases: In this course, you’ll explore advanced topics in creating and using databases. Data analytics will be an important component of your studies, and you’ll discuss query optimization and warehouse modeling.
  • Graduate Algorithms: This course will equip you with skills and tools for advanced data collection and analysis. The topics may include hash tables, linear programming, max-flow algorithms, and dynamic programming.
  • Programming Languages: Your earlier academic programs introduced you to the basics of using programming languages, and this doctoral course will build on your object-oriented and functional programming skills. You’ll talk about applying algorithms and running optimizations.
  • Project Management for Software Design: Creating a new program or operating system can involve coordinating numerous people over a long span of time. This class will cover how to provide organized leadership for the process and ensure that all involved parties stay on the same page.
  • Research Methods: You’ll get ready for your dissertation process and your future career ambitions as you learn to conduct original research. You’ll discuss research methods, consider how bias can affect results and demonstrate your research skills.
  • Teaching Methodologies: After completing your doctoral work, you may aspire to become a university faculty member. In a teaching course, you’ll develop your instructional skills and may have opportunities to lead classes.

Although you can probably select many of your own classes, there will be a set number of credits that you must earn. After completing your required coursework, you will need to take a qualifying exam. Passing this test is usually a prerequisite to beginning your dissertation process.

Careers in Computer Science for PhD Graduates

Careers in Computer Science for PhD Graduates

Your doctoral degree in computer science can prepare you for jobs in tech companies, the business world, academia, or research.

Your advanced education may qualify you for leadership roles in which you direct teams of employees or spearhead tech innovations. The field of computer and information technology is growing, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 546,200 new positions will be added between 2018 and 2028.

Career Description Average Annual Salary
Web Developer Design and maintain websites for clients $69,430
Postsecondary Teacher Teach computer science at the college level and possibly conduct research as well $78,470
Network Administrator Oversee network operations for an organization $82,050
Computer Programmer Write and fix code for software applications and operating systems $84,280
Computer Systems Analyst Evaluate the efficiency and operation of organizations’ technology systems $88,740
Database Administrator Create and maintain systems used for data storage and organization $90,070
Software Developer Design new systems or applications for computers, phones or other devices $105,590
Computer Network Architect Design custom networks for communication between computers $109,020
Computer and Information Research Scientist Improve computer technology by conducting research and inventing new products $109,020
Computer and Information Systems Manager Head up the IT systems in an organization $142,530

The federal government is one of the largest employers of computer and information research scientists. Other potential employers include academic institutions and research organizations.

Software and computer companies also hire computer researchers. These professionals often work in urban centers, and the East Coast and the West Coast have some of the highest concentrations of computer scientists.

As you advance, this job can become quite lucrative; the top 10% of researchers in this field make over $183,820 each year.

Computer Science Professional Organizations

logos of Computer Science Professional Organizations

As a leader in computer science, you should continually strive to improve your professional abilities and to advance the field. Joining industry organizations can help you achieve those goals.

  • Association for Computing Machinery: ACM is a worldwide organization that promotes networking, research, industry advocacy, and ethical conduct among members. The group maintains the ACM Digital Library.
  • CompTIA Association of Information Technology Professionals: CompTIA offers certification programs, and those who qualify are automatically enrolled for membership in this support and advocacy group. Non-certified professionals and students are welcome to purchase a membership as well.
  • Computing Research Association: Computer researchers from government, business and academic institutions collaborate through CRA.
  • IEEE Computer Society: IEEE’s global network includes people who work in the engineering and technology fields. Societies allow members to join specialized subgroups.

Joining these organizations will provide opportunities to learn from others and to share your knowledge.

Accreditation for Online PhD Computer Science Programs

logos of six regional accreditation boards

Any school that you choose for your PhD program should be accredited. As with your bachelor’s and online masters in computer science programs, the best type of accreditation to consider is regional accreditation. Employers are unlikely to hold a degree from an unaccredited school in high regard.

Regional accreditation is granted by organizations that are approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education.

These groups include:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

The most important reason to choose a regionally accredited school is to ensure that your degree, whether earned online or on campus, is respectable. In addition, accredited programs are eligible for federal financial aid, and credits may be transferrable elsewhere.

Financial Aid for PhD Computer Science Students

screenshot of graduate financial aid pdf

Doctoral students often have access to multiple funding options. Some schools allow students to serve as research or teaching assistants, and they receive a stipend in return. You can ask your school’s financial aid department whether you will be eligible for an opportunity like this or other doctoral funding.

In addition, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out what federal or state assistance, such as grants or loans, you can receive. You may also be able to get doctoral fellowships through your school’s computer science department or a private organization.

Related Questions for Earning an Online PhD in Computer Science

Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have about starting your doctoral studies in computer science.

Is There a PhD in Computer Science?

Yes, computer science is a common PhD offering at many universities. Computer science doctoral candidates may perform research related to artificial intelligence, databases, information technology, programming languages, or algorithmic theory.

You may take courses like Deep Learning, Graduate Algorithms, and Semantic Information Processing. Earning this degree may allow you to advance fields like technology, medicine, education, or journalism through innovative computer developments.

Can You Get a PhD in Software Engineering?

Yes, you can get a PhD in software engineering. In such a program, you may explore human-computer interactions, data collection from software, and methods of software testing. Your studies may prepare you to work in software research and development or to teach software engineering at the undergraduate or graduate level.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online PhD Computer Science Degree?

Students’ time in doctoral programs can vary, but you may be in school for three to eight years.

  • Year One: To begin your studies, you’ll take classes and choose a research advisor.
  • Year Two: Next, you’ll form an advisory committee, finish your classes, and take qualifying exams.
  • Year Three: After that, you’ll be ready to submit your application for PhD candidacy and begin your dissertation process.
  • Remaining Years: The remainder of your time will be spent conducting and presenting research and writing and defending your dissertation.

After completing these steps, you can apply for graduation from your program.

How Much Does a PhD in Computer Science Make?

Salaries for people with computer science doctorates can vary widely depending on their particular job or field of expertise, their experience, and where they live in the U.S. For example, corporate information systems managers, on average, earn nearly twice as much as professors.

Among information systems managers, those who earn the least make less than $85,380 each year. The 10% with the highest wages bring in over $180,190 annually.

Salaries are highest in California, New York, and New Jersey. Those who are employed by clothing retailers, financial establishments, and electronics manufacturers may bring in some of the top earnings.

Which University is Best for PhD in Computer Science?

Picking the best university for your doctoral program isn’t a matter of uncovering the No. 1 school in the country. Rather, it’s a matter of finding the program that’s the best fit for your personal goals and interests.

You should look for a university where the faculty’s research interests line up with your own so that they’ll be qualified to spur you on toward a greater understanding of your chosen subject area. Additionally, you may want to look for faculty members who have professional connections to industry partners that intrigue you.

Finally, for schedule flexibility, consider schools with online programs.

List of Schools Offering Online PhD Computer Science Degree Programs

  1. Aspen University
  2. Auburn University
  3. Boston University
  4. Clarkson University
  5. Colorado Technical University
  6. Columbia University in the City of New York
  7. Dakota State University
  8. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide
  9. Johns Hopkins University
  10. Michigan Technological University
  11. Mississippi State University
  12. Northcentral University
  13. Nova Southeastern University
  14. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
  15. Southern Methodist University
  16. Syracuse University
  17. University of California-Berkeley
  18. University of Idaho
  19. University of North Texas
  20. University of Pennsylvania
  21. University of Rhode Island
  22. University of South Carolina-Columbia
  23. University of Southern California
  24. University of Utah
  25. Wright State University

Rankings Methodology

Each of these universities is fully accredited in the U.S. and offers computer science doctoral degrees via an online distance-learning platform.

#1  Aspen University

Aspen University campus

Aspen University is a private, nationally accredited distance-learning university. It was established in 1987 and based in Denver, Colorado. Aspen University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in various courses including computer science, nursing, education, information systems, business, counseling, and criminal justice.

The university opens opportunities for students to receive a high-quality and affordable distance-learning education for them to achieve sustainable economic and social benefits.

  • Doctor of Science in Computer Science

Aspen University is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

#2  Auburn University

auburn-university-logo

Auburn University is a public research university in Auburn, Alabama. It is the second-largest university in the state. It was founded in 1856 and was first called the East Alabama Male College. There are 15 colleges and over 140 majors that students can choose from. Auburn University is committed to preparing students for the modern global economy.

  • Ph.D. – Computer Science and Software Engineering

Auburn University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

#3  Boston University

Boston University campus

Boston University, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is a private nonsectarian university. They have a vibrant, diverse, and welcoming community with over 35,000 students from 130 countries, over 10,000 faculty and staff. There are more than 300 programs of study in 17 colleges across three campuses.

Boston University looks beyond classroom boundaries by engaging with people, discussing relevant ideas and issues that impact the world.

  • PhD in Computer Science

Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

#4  Clarkson University

clarkson university campus

Clarkson University, founded in 1896, is a private research university with its main campus in Potsdam, New York. It has two branch campuses in Beacon, New York and in the New York Capital Region. It takes pride in having globally oriented faculty members who help learners pursue interdisciplinary research focused on solving real-world problems.

At Clarkson, student life is a unique mix of academics and extracurricular activities, allowing students to make lifelong connections in a tight-knit community.

  • Computer Science PhD

Clarkson University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#5  Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University campus

Colorado Technical University, founded in 1965, was first named Colorado Technical College. In 1995, it gained its university status. The majority of its students take classes fully online.

CTU offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees which focus primarily in business, management, and technology. They have a main campus in Colorado Springs and another campus in Denver. Most of their degree offerings can be completed entirely online.

  • Doctor of Computer Science (DCS)

Colorado Technical University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

#6  Columbia University in the City of New York

columbia university newyork campus

Columbia University in the City of New York is a private Ivy League research university. It was established in 1754 on the grounds of Trinity Church in Manhattan. It is considered as the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the country.

It is home to a diverse and dynamic academic community consisting of more than 40,000 students, faculty, and staff from across the nation and different parts of the world.

  • Computer Science Doctorate Degree

Columbia University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#7  Dakota State University

dakota state university campus

Dakota State University was founded in 1881 as a school for teacher education. Over the years, it has shifted its primary focus to the cyber world, providing students with the technological knowledge and skills they need to excel in their chosen careers.

The university continues to grow at a fast pace, expanding its campus, and immersing in the most advanced and innovative technology.

  • PhD in Cyber Operations

Dakota State is an institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

#8  Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide

embry riddle aeronautical university campus

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers a wide variety of degree programs to meet the needs of learners in this changing world. A lot of exceptional achievements make Embry-Riddle stand out from the rest.

It is the first and only University in the nation to offer undergraduate Space Physics. It is also the first to offer programs in Spaceflight Operations, Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Engineering, Aerospace Physiology, and Security and Intelligence.

  • Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#9  Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University campus

Johns Hopkins University was founded in 1876 and named after its first benefactor, John Hopkins, an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. It is a private research university located in Baltimore, Maryland.

The university prepares students to become global leaders and citizens by giving them opportunities to take part in international learning activities, thus staying true to its mission of bringing the benefits of discovery to the world.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#10  Michigan Technological University

michigan technological university campus

Michigan Technological University, founded in 1885, is a public research university located in Houghton, Michigan. Its main campus nestles on 925 acres on a bluff overlooking the picturesque Portage Lake.

It is the first post-secondary institution in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and was founded to train mining engineers to operate the local mines. Presently, Michigan Tech offers over 130 degree programs through its five colleges and schools.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science

Michigan Tech is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

#11  Mississippi State University

mississippi state university campus

Mississippi State University is a world-class comprehensive, doctoral degree-granting institution with a diverse student body comprising of students from different states in the country and from different nations in the world.

The Mississippi State community shares a common goal of making each learner’s experience a lifetime opportunity. It is located in the eastern part of north-central Mississippi.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science

Mississippi State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#12  Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

North Central University is a private, Pentecostal Christian university in Minneapolis, MN. It offers undergraduate degrees, a graduate degree, and online courses. It aims to prepare students with the skills they need for their career and ministry by providing top-quality academic programs and a spiritually nurturing community.

Their campus is conveniently located to give students access to many opportunities for recreation, service, outreach, and internships.

  • Computer Science PHD-TIM

Northcentral is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

#13  Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University campus

Nova Southeastern University is a private nonprofit university with its main campus in Davie, Florida. It offers a wide variety of innovative programs that can be completed on campus or online. These programs are aimed at fostering academic excellence, leadership, research, and community service.

The university consists of 18 colleges and schools with more than 150 programs of study.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science

NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

#14  Pennsylvania State University – Main Campus

Pennsylvania State University campus

Pennsylvania State University is a public land-grant, doctoral university with campuses and facilities all over Pennsylvania. It was established in 1855 as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.

Penn State actively conducts teaching, research, and public service. It offers undergraduate, graduate, professional, and continuing education degree programs that can be completed on campus or online. Penn State has 19 other commonwealth campuses and 5 special mission campuses across the state.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science

Penn State is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

#15  Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University campus

Southern Methodist University, founded in 1911, is a private research university located in University Park, Texas. It also has satellite campuses in Plano, Texas and Taos, New Mexico.

It is a distinguished center for global research with a strong foundation of liberal arts. Its dynamic and diverse community consists of students from 50 states and 90 countries who take advantage of small classes, hands-on research opportunities, international studies, and leadership development.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science

Southern Methodist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

#16  Syracuse University

Syracuse University campus

Syracuse University, founded in 1879, is a private research university located in Syracuse, New York. It is historically affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Lima, New York. The university is recognized as a student-focused global research university that takes pride in its academic rigor, richly diverse learning, and a commitment to discovery.

  • Computer & Information Science & Engineering, PhD

Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and many of our schools/colleges and programs are accredited by professional organizations.

#17  University of California-Berkeley

University of California Berkeley campus

The University of California-Berkeley, founded in 1868, is a public research university in Berkeley, California. It is the flagship campus of the University of California. It offers 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in various disciplines.

With over 35,000 students from different corners of the world, its vibrant campus community is dynamic and interconnected with hundreds of student organizations to connect with students’ passions.

  • PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

UC Berkeley has been fully accredited since 1949 and had its accreditation reaffirmed most recently in 2015 under the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC) pilot institutional review process.

#18  University of Idaho

University of Idaho campus

The University of Idaho, located in Moscow, Idaho, is a public, land-grant research university. It is Idaho Space Grant Consortium’s lead university.

Since its founding in 1889, the university has been providing its students with a transformative and high-quality education that prepares them to solve real-world problems and achieve their individual goals and endeavors in their lives and careers.

  • PhD in Computer Science

The University of Idaho is accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

#19  University of North Texas

University of North Texas campus

The University of North Texas is a public research university located in Denton, Texas. It consists of 11 colleges, two schools, and an early admissions math and science academy for exceptionally gifted high-school-age students.

It is one of the country’s biggest universities and offers 105 undergraduate and 88 master’s and 37 doctoral degree programs. By working in collaboration with business and community partners, students are prepared to meet the challenges in the real world.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering

The University of North Texas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#20  University of Pennsylvania

university of pennsylvania campus

The University of Pennsylvania has a long and proud tradition of academic excellence and a continuing pursuit of innovative knowledge. This tradition lives on today through the effort, dedication, creativity, and engagement of students, faculty, and staff.

The university traces its roots in 1740, with the initiative of George Whitefield, a prominent evangelist, to build a charity school in Philadelphia.

  • Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science

The University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#21  University of Rhode Island

University of Rhode Island campus

The University of Rhode Island is a public, land grant and sea grant research university, with its main campus in Kingston, Rhode Island. As a leading research university, URI offers undergraduate and graduate courses that are defined by innovation and designed to meet the challenges of the modern world.

It has a diverse and dynamic student population with more than 18,000 students from 48 states and 76 countries.

  • PhD in Computer Science

The University of Rhode Island is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

#22  University of South Carolina-Columbia

university-of-south-carolina-logo

The University of South Carolina, a public research university, has a history of 200 years of academic leadership, and it continues to build on that tradition.

It is among the country’s oldest and most comprehensive public universities, with an enrollment of approximately 21,000 undergraduate students and around 8,000 students in graduate and professional programs. It has seven other branch campuses throughout the state.

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

The University of South Carolina was most recently accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) in 2011.

#23  University of Southern California

University of Southern California campus

The University of Southern California, established in 1880, is a private research university in Los Angeles, California. It is known as California’s oldest private research university and one of the world’s leading private research institutions.

USC is home to a diverse community of over 44,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 4,000 full-time faculty members.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science

The University of Southern California has been fully and continuously accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

#24  University of Utah

university of utah campus

The University of Utah, the state’s flagship university, is a public research university in Salt Lake City, Utah. There are more than 100 undergraduate majors and over 92 graduate degree programs offered. It was founded in 1850 and was first called the University of Deseret. It changed to its current name in 1892, four years before Utah was declared a state.

  • PhD in Computer Science

The University of Utah has continuously maintained accreditation through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) since 1933.

#25  Wright State University

Wright State University campus

Wright State University is a public research university, named in honor of the aviation pioneers, Orville and Wilbur Wright. It was founded in 1967 and its main campus is located in Fairborn, Ohio. It has an additional branch campus on Grand Lake St. Marys.

The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees with over 292 degree programs. Its mission is to transform the lives of students and the communities they serve.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering

Wright State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Is an Online PhD Computer Science Degree Worth It?

female computer programmer working in an office

Yes, an online PhD computer science degree is worth it. Graduates can expect to earn between $69,000 and $142,000.

If you have aspirations of making a significant contribution to the world of computing, then you need to pursue your PhD in computer science. With this degree, you’ll be ready to lead teams, conduct research, and teach new generations of tech students. Your doctoral credentials may qualify you for greater respect and a higher salary.

Studying online makes earning a doctorate doable for working professionals. By balancing your professional and academic responsibilities, you can earn your degree without putting your life on hold. To get started, submit application materials to the online computer science PhD programs that most interest you.

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