The Graduate School Requirements

The Graduate School ensures the quality of a Ph.D. degree from MSU regardless of the College or Department in which the degree is earned by establishing a minimum set of requirements for all Ph.D. degrees at the University. Ph.D. candidates must therefore be aware of all of the procedures and requirements established by The Graduate School for the Ph.D. degree.

Every student is required to become intimately familiar with The Graduate School at MSU. This can be done by visiting

The Graduate School web site provides directions and forms for applying for graduate study at MSU. It also explains common requirements for the Ph.D. degree such as regulations regarding the composition of the committee.

In particular, Ph.D. students should pay special attention to the sections of the online graduate catalog that apply to the Ph.D. degree. The Graduate Catalog of Policies and Procedures can by visiting this page.

The specific requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Computer Science appear in an upcoming section, but these are only valid in the context of the requirements of The Graduate School and the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering.

Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering

The Computer Science Ph.D. is one of several Ph.D. options that are offered by the College of Engineering.

Gianforte School of Computing Requirements

Applicants to the Ph.D. program are required to fill out an online application.

Applicants to the Computer Science Ph.D. program must meet all Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering and The Graduate School admission requirements. In addition applicants must meet the following admission requirements of the Gianforte School of Computing:

  1. Graduate Record Exam (GRE): is not required.
  2. Degree Requirements: a previous Bachelor's or Master's degree in Computer Science or a closely related discipline.
  3. Grade Point Average (GPA): 3.30 GPA during the last two years of the applicant's most recent computer science or related degree.
  4. Previous course work: acceptable previous coursework in most of the core areas of computer science, including
    • Computer Architecture
    • Networks
    • Operating Systems
    • Programming Languages and Compilers
    • Software Engineering
    • Theory of Computing

    Applicants who cannot show proof of sufficient previous coursework or expertise in these areas may, at the discretion of the Gianforte School of Computing, be admitted into the Ph.D. program with appropriate courses from the MSU Computer Science curriculum listed as foundational courses that such students must take in addition to the courses required for the Ph.D. degree.

  5. TOEFL: at least 550 on the written TOEFL test, 213 on the computer-based TOEFL test (CBT), or 80 on the internet based test (IBT) for students from countries where the primary language is not English, and who do not have a previous degree from an English-speaking university. International students can find additional information about the application process by following this link to MSU's Office of International Programs:  In place of the TOEFL, we also accept a total band score of at least 6.5 on the IELTS or a Pearson's PTE Academic Score of at least 54.
  6. Letter of Endorsement (optional): a letter of endorsement from a tenure-track member of the MSU Computer Science faculty who agrees to serve as the applicant's initial research advisor.
  7. Letters of Reference: The application portal will ask applicants to identify three references.  Helpful references come from people who hold a Ph.D. in Computer Science (or a closely related area) and who are familiar with the candidate's academic talents, successes and research potential.  The application portal will automatically e-mail the references. 
  8. Short Essays: The application portal will ask applicants to address various topics: personal statement, technical achievement, interest in study at MSU, short-term and long-term goals, and research objectives.

Applicants must be aware that these are minimum requirements and do not by themselves guarantee admission into the Ph.D. program.

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