Specimen Curriculum

We attempt to describe a yearly schedule for a hypothetical post-BA PhD student. The following table provides an example for a student interested in Systems. The schedule of each student will differ based on course offerings and area of interest.

Year Fall Semester Spring Semester
1 Breadth course from Systems area 

Breadth course from Theory area

Breadth course from Systems area 

Breadth course from Theory area

2 Breadth course from Software area 

Breadth course from Applications

Electives or
Directed Study (Research)
3 Electives / Directed Study (Research) / Thesis Continuation

During the first year, the student takes one or two courses in his/her area of specialization if such an area has been identified. During this year, the student should be working toward identifying an area of research, as well as a potential faculty/research advisor.

Note that a student with a master’s degree in Computer Science prior to entrance, i.e., post-MA\PhD student, should consult with his/her mentor regarding breadth courses. Such a student would normally petition for course equivalency and take courses only as necessary to fill in background gaps—she/he would instead take directed study/research or advanced graduate courses toward her/his research goals.

By end of third semester, the student completes his/her breadth coursework requirement (6 courses with 2 courses in Theory, and at least 1 course from each of the other 3 areas). From now on, the student is strongly encouraged to undertake directed study/research or advanced graduate courses in the proposed area of study.

By end of second year, the student may choose to obtain the MA degree provided he/she has completed the MA degree requirements, which includes 8 courses and an MA Thesis.

The student continues to take advanced elective/research courses in his/her area of interest. During years 3–4, the student’s time is devoted almost entirely to research. The student continues to undertake a series of more and more challenging research problems.

By end of third year, if not earlier, the student successfully passes the PhD depth (written) exam in his/her area of interest.

By end of fourth year, if not earlier, the student successfully passes the PhD oral exam in his/her area of interest. By that time, the student isolates a thesis problem. The student dedicates his/her time completely to the dissertation, successfully defending his/her PhD thesis proposal and final PhD thesis by approximately end of fifth year in theoretical areas, and more likely by sixth year in systems areas.