Computer Science and Information Systems PhD

The PhD in computer science and information systems (CSIS) at CU Denver offers research training in both computer science and information systems. The CSIS PhD supports interdisciplinary research between computer science and many fields of interest.

NOTE: The CSIS-PhD program at the University of Colorado Denver is a member of Western Regional Graduate Program. Qualified students admitted to this program who are residents of one of the 15 WICHE states may be eligible for residential tuition.

Degree requirements

CSIS PhD Handbook


A total of 30 credit hours of course work and at least 30 credit hours of dissertation research is required. Up to 6 credit hours of 7000-level independent study is allowed/recommended

Your program plan must be made in consultation and approval of your research advisor.

Preliminary Exam 

Students are required to select three out of four core knowledge areas listed below and pass a written exam. 

  • Algorithms 
  • Computer Architecture 
  • Operating Systems 
  • Theory 

Preliminary Exam Guide

Comprehensive Exam 

Upon successful completion of the preliminary exam and coursework, students enroll for their dissertation. The Comprehensive Exam (Thesis Proposal) is intended to test student’s ability to perform, present and discuss his/her research. This exam has both a written and an oral component.

Comprehensive Exam Guide

Proposal Defense

The purpose of the proposal defense is to test the quality of the research and to assure the proposed question is complete and holds merit.

Proposal Defense Guidelines

PhD Defense

At the completion of graduate studies, students must prepare and submit a written thesis describing the results of an original investigation contributing to the state-of-the-art in the field.


Up to 21 relevant graduate coursework may be transferred with recommendation of advisor and approval of the program director.

​Concurrent MS Degree

PhD students in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering may apply to receive their master of science degree while pursuing their PhD. Students pursuing this option are required to complete all master of science course-only requirements (plan III) and then satisfying the final master of science program assessment requirement by either 1.) passing their computer science PhD preliminary exam, 2.) produced a publication during their PhD studies, 3.) completing a written report at the completion of a PhD-level Independent Study, or 4.) taking the final MS assessment if none of the above applies.



Department positions may be available (including teaching assistants).  Department positions are hourly based positions and do not include tuition reimbursement; hiring decisions are made 1-2 weeks after the beginning of each semester by the department. These positions are competitive and are based on availability, need, and qualifications. Computer science students are also eligible for other on campus employment.  For available positions, please refer to Handshake, the student employment website.

Research assistantship opportunities may be available.  These positions are very competitive and depend on availability of research funding. Students may contact the faculty advisor they would like to work with.  Please be aware that you must have experience working in the area of research you are requesting. Faculty often may consider providing funding support after a period of time in which the student has demonstrated their ability and interest in the program.