Ph.D. in Computer Science

The Ph.D. degree culminates with the student writing and defending a dissertation based on the result of independent, original research that makes a significant scholarly contribution to the student's field of study.

Ph.D. Program Requirements

The PhD degree requires 72 graduate-level credits, including:

  • at least 24 credits of graded graduate-level coursework (of which up to 18 can be transfer credit— see below), containing
    • no 5000-level CS courses
    • at least 6 credits of graded graduate-level coursework in excess of that required for the Master’s degree (if possessing or obtaining a Master’s degree)
      • these credits traditionally cannot be transferred in, you must actually take at least 6 credits of coursework at UVA to get a UVA PhD
  • CS 8897 and CS 9897 (Graduate Teaching Instruction) cannot be used to satisfy this 24-credit requirement (but see below)
  • 48 graduate-level credits, typically satisfied via research hours such as CS 9999, containing
    • at least 12 credits in any combination of CS 8897 and CS 9897 (Graduate Teaching Instruction), corresponding to two semesters as a full-time, 20 hour per week TA (see Chapter 3.2)
  • Completion of the Qualifying Examination (see Chapter 5)
  • Completion of the PhD Proposal (see Chapter 6.3)
  • Completion of the Oral Defense of the written Dissertation (see Chapter 6.4)
  • Finally, complete the “Graduate Student Leave Request” form (see Section 2.5) to leave the program.

These requirements have significant overlap with the MCS and MS degree requirements; many students choose to earn one of those Master’s degrees as part of their PhD studies.

Application Requirements

The Department of Computer Science does not require that applicants hold a bachelor's degree in Computer Science. However, applicants are expected to have a strong background in Computer Science.
A suitable background would include courses in the following core areas:

  • Data Structures
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Assembly Language and Computer Organization
  • Programming in a procedural language such as C, C#, C++, or Java.

Applicants are also expected to have taken several (but not necessarily all) courses in specialized areas:

  • Operating Systems
  • Programming Languages
  • Algorithms
  • Compilers
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Networks
  • Automata and Formal Languages
  • Software Engineering

A year of college-level Calculus is also required. In general, experience gained working is not considered equivalent to successful completion of the courses listed above.

There is no minimum GPA required for admission. However, most applicants who are offered admission to our program have a GPA of at least 3.3 (out of 4.0). The grades in Computer Science, mathematics and related courses are more important than the overall GPA.

GRE scores are optional. 

If possible, letters of references should be written by faculty at a university previously attended. Letters of reference from Computer Science faculty are preferred, but references from employers are welcome. References should pay particular attention to academic achievements and evidence of independent, creative problem solving.

  • If you are a permanent resident of the U.S., TOEFL is not required
  • If you received a 4-year degree at an English-speaking institution (whether or not the institution is in the U.S.), TOEFL/IELTS is not required.
  • If you received a 4-year degree at a non-English-speaking institution and a Master's degree from an English-speaking institution, TOEFL/IELTS is required. 
  • Note that if you have a solid command of written and spoken English, TOEFL/IELTS waivers are possible! Contact via email, GSEASADMISSION@VIRGINIA.EDU, explaining why you believe TOEFL/IELTS can be waived (include evidence such as verification of duties as a Teaching Assistant that required significant interactions in English, copies of expired TOEFL/IELTS scores, presentations at conferences in English, etc.). 

It is unusual that we offer admission to an applicant with an overall TOEFL score below 90 / IELTS below 6.5. Scores can be sent electronically to UVa at institution code B875. Some students with lower scores may be required to complete the UVA Summer English for Academic Purposes Program prior to admission.

Applications are evaluated based on the following factors:

  • Background in Computer Science (including project work)
  • Grade Point Average (GPA)
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • Letters of reference
  • Personal statement
  • TOEFL/IELTS scores

Applications are evaluated in their entirety. A weakness in one factor might be mitigated by strength in another.

Financial Aid / Tuition 

Occasionally, the school of Engineering offers Master Fellowships. More information can be found on the Engineering Cost Aid webpage:, and you can learn more about UVA Fellowships here: 

PhD students are usually admitted with a financial aid package in the form of a First-Year Research Assistantship that allows students to explore research with various faculty members and find their best match. It is expected that students will join a research group by the end of their first year and then be supported as a Research Assistant (RA). This financial aid package includes a competitive stipend, tuition, fees, and health insurance coverage. Details of this award are given at the time of your notification of acceptance into the Computer Science PhD program.  

You are encouraged to apply to outside sources for fellowships or you can apply for federal assistance by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The UVA Tuition and Fees page includes the costs per academic year by school. 

CS Admissions Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Please visit this Web page to apply.

See details in the section above (Admissions).

Visit this UVA Engineering FAQ page for details on the cost to apply, and learn if your fee can be waived.

International students must have an outstanding command of the English language in order to enroll at the University of Virginia. The TOEFL/IELTS exam is required of all applicants if the language first learned and spoken in the home is not English, and they are not permanent residents. However, TOEFL/IELTS is not required if the applicant has received a 4-year degree at an English-speaking institution (whether or not the institution is in the U.S.). (If the applicant has a 4-year degree from a non-English-speaking institution and a Master's degree from an English-speaking institution, TOEFL/IELTS is still required.) It is unusual that we offer admission to an applicant with an overall TOEFL score below 90 / IELTS below 6.5. 

We review all applications thoroughly, along a number of dimensions. It is unusual that we offer admission to an applicant with an overall TOEFL score below 90/ IELTS score of 6.5.

The Institution code for School of Engineering and Applied Science of the University of Virginia for the GRE is 5820. The code for TOEFL is  B875. There is not a specific code for the Department of Computer Science.

We will start evaluating applications soon after the Dec 15 deadline. Applicants should submit the most complete application they can, based on the information they have at the time (e.g., current test scores, even if new test scores are anticipated).Those applications that are complete will be considered first. We will continue to evaluate applications into early next year, until we have completed our offers. As we are reviewing applications, we will certainly consider updated scores as the arrive at the University of Virginia. There is no need to email us to tell us that new scores are being sent.

We strongly discourage applicants from mailing in any items that can be uploaded to avoid delays in your application review, and we ask that you not send duplicate copies of previously uploaded documents.
If you still need to mail documents to our office, please send them to:
For US Postal:
Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Science Admissions
P.O. Box 401103
Charlottesville, VA 22904
     Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Science Admissions
     1001 Emmet Street North
     Room 209B Carruthers Hall
     Charlottesville, VA 22903

We will fully review your application with unofficial test scores and unofficial transcripts. Your application will only show as "complete" when your application has been submitted, your official scores and transcripts have been received and all three letters of recommendations have been received. An application is complete for review with unofficial transcripts and self-reported scores, though the checklist will still show incomplete.
Please note that all official transcripts are received in our main admissions office and scanned or entered into our system manually. If you feel that your materials should have been received by now, but are NOT showing up when you login to your account, please note that the Graduate Admissions Office processes a very large number of applications and it may take longer than expected for your documents/information to appear online (in your account). It is very likely that your materials have been received, but have not been loaded into our application system yet.

The graduate admissions committee considers many factors in an application, including more than just GPA and test scores. In particular, letters of reference and your personal statement are extremely important. Therefore, we are unfortunately unable to provide any information before the committee considers your full application.

Yes! For program/degree specific questions, please send an email to For application support and specific questions regarding the application process, please contact: Central Graduate Admissions 434-243-0209

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only.  The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found here.