How do I register for the PhD qualifying exam?

Send an email to the PhD program administrator at Be sure to include your name, GMU ID, email address, phone number, subjects you wish to take the exam in, and desired date of the exam within the body of the email.

What is CS 800?

CS 800 is not a course in the traditional sense. Instead, during the course of the semester, students are required to attend a number of departmental colloquia including talks by distinguished speakers, faculty candidates, and GMU faculty.

The course requirements for the PhD degree include 3 advanced graduate courses. What courses qualify as advanced courses?

Typically, 6xx level (and above) courses in the CS will qualify as advanced graduate courses. A subset of ISA, INFS and SWE courses also qualify as advanced for the CS PhD program. See this web page for the current list of advanced graduate courses. 

How do I get credit for my MS degree?

You will need to fill out a Reduction of Credit form available on the registrar's forms page. The reduction of credit will need to be approved by the director of the PhD program.

What is the maximum time a student can take in the PhD program?

The student must be advanced to the PhD candidacy within 6 years. Overall time to graduate cannot exceed 9 years. However, keep in mind that those limits are very pessimistic -- we expect that normally full-time PhD students will be able to graduate within 4-5 years.

Upon joining the PhD program, I was assigned an academic advisor. Will that person become  my dissertation advisor?

No. An academic advisor is assigned to every new student in the program based on the research interests, and s/he provides general advice regarding course selection and the rules of the CS PhD program. When you start doing research and your PhD dissertation area is determined, a faculty member in that area must agree to direct your dissertation, and that faculty member becomes your dissertation director.

How many credits of CS 896 can I count towards the PhD degree's credit requirements?

It depends. CS 896 was created to enable advanced PhD students (who have passed their qualifying exams) to be able to get course credit for working on research instead of taking formal courses. Students who come in with a previous MS degree can recieve credit for up to 30 credits for that degree. If you have received 30 credits for your MS, you can use at most 3 credits of CS 896 towards the PhD. At the other extreme, if you come in to the PhD program directly after a BS degree, you can use up to 18 credits of CS 896 towards your PhD. 

I do not have a previous MS degree, so in addition to the proposal and dissertation (24 credits) and advanced graduate courses (18 credits) I need to take 10 additional graduate level courses (30 credits) courses. What courses should I take? What graduate courses will not count towards the PhD?

Generally speaking, if the courses count towards the MS in Computer Science, they can be used to satisfy the 10 additional graduate courses requirement. You can also take graduate courses in other fields, but you should consult your academic advisor and if necessary the Program Director to make sure.

Though not a strict requirement, before attempting a qualifying exam, many students choose to take the graduate course associated with that specific topic. In general, you should talk to your academic advisor about the course selections.

Please be aware that foundation courses offered by the CS department (INFS 501, INFS 515, INFS 519, SWE 510) and some service courses (CS 504) do not count towards the department's MS programs or the PhD.

I would like to get a MS degree along the way to my PhD. How can I do that?

With careful selection of courses, students may earn an MS degree as part of their PhD studiesCS 600CS 700 and 9 credits of advanced graduate courses taken as part of the coursework for the PhD degree can be applied towards a MS degree, if the selected courses also satisfy the requirements of the MS degree.