PhD Degree

The PhD program in Computing & Data Sciences at Boston University prepares you to make significant contributions to the art, science, and engineering of computational and data-driven processes that are woven into all aspects of society, economy, and public discourse. It is our goal that this program leads to solution of problems and synthesis of knowledge related to the methodical, generalizable, and scalable extraction of insights from data as well as the design of new information systems and products that enable actionable use of those insights to advance scholarly as well as practical pursuits in a wide range of application domains.


  • completion of coursework covering breadth and depth topics spanning the foundational, applied, and sociotechnical dimensions of CDS
  • completion of research rotations in which students engage in on-going projects under the supervision of CDS-affiliated investigators
  • completion of a cohort-based training on ethical and responsible conduct of CDS research
  • successful passage of an oral area exam, presentation of a dissertation prospectus, and defense of a final thesis

Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared to pursue careers in which they lead independent cutting-edge research and development agendas, whether in academia (by teaching, mentoring, and supervising teams of students engaged in scholarly pursuits) or in industry (by collaborating, directing, and effectively managing diverse teams of practitioners working at the forefront of industrial R&D).

The PhD in Computing and Data Sciences is currently designated by US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a STEM-eligible degree program. International students in F-1 student status may be able to apply for a 24-month extension of their 12-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization.  More information about STEM OPT eligibility is available from the BU International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO).

Program Details

Admission Requirements

Applicants are expected to have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the methodological or applied disciplines relating to the computational and data-driven areas of scholarship in CDS. Applicants with degrees in one of the core areas of CDS (namely, Computer Science, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Mathematics & Statistics, or equivalent) are expected to have a portfolio that demonstrates propensity for cross-disciplinary work.

Applicants with degrees in applied areas of CDS (such as information systems, economics, bioinformatics, physics, astronomy, earth & environment, emerging media, among others) are expected to possess basic mathematical and computational competencies, including probability, statistics, linear algebra, programming, data structures, and algorithms.

Given the inherently demanding nature of pursuing cross-disciplinary research, students admitted to the program are expected to have exceptional credentials and letters of reference that attest to their readiness.

To accommodate a diversity of backgrounds and preparations of prospective students, a holistic admission review process will be utilized, including the conduct of online interviews for finalists.

As such, GRE tests and scores are not required, but could be optionally provided and considered as part of the applicant’s portfolio, which could also include evidence of prior, relevant preparation, including creative works, code repositories, etc. Boston University requires TOEFL scores. This should not stop you from applying to the PhD Program in CDS as we take a holistic approach to the application process. CDS may require the TOEFL score as a condition of acceptance. Learn more about our English proficiency requirements here.

Special attention will be paid to applicants from under-represented minorities in computing and data science disciplines.

Application Requirements include:

  • Official Transcripts from institutions in which you received undergraduate and/or graduate degrees*
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • CV/Resume
  • Personal Statement
  • Research Statement
  • Proof of English Proficiency(TOEFL, IELTS, etc.)**

These requirements are covered in greater detail within the online application.

*Unofficial transcripts may be submitted in lieu of official transcripts for the purpose of your application; official transcripts must be provided to BU in the event you are admitted to the program.

**Applicants who received their degree(s) from an institution(s) in which the primary instruction was English are exempt from this requirement.

Priority Application Deadline is December 15th.  

Final Application Deadline is February 1st.

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Course Credits Requirements

Sixteen semester courses (64 credits) are required for post BA/BS students and twelve semester courses (48 credits) are required for post MA/MS students.

Students with prior graduate work (including master’s degrees) may be able to transfer up to two courses (8 credits) as long as these credits were not used to fulfill matriculation requirements, upon the recommendation of the student’s academic advisor, and subject to approval by the Associate Provost for CDS.