PhD Requirements

Academic Requirements

Guidelines for Reasonable Progress

  • By Spring Quarter of the second year, a student should complete all six breadth area requirements, 2 breadth area requirements in each of 3 areas, and file for candidacy.
  • By Spring Quarter of the third year, a student should pass a Qualifying Examination in the area of his or her intended dissertation.
  • Within one year of passing the Qualifying Examination, a student should submit a signed Reading Committee Form and Thesis Proposal.

The teaching requirement may be satisfied at any time. As a matter of policy, a student should satisfy half of the teaching requirement in the first two years. Students are encouraged to complete the teaching requirement early in their stay to eliminate conflicts with later dissertation work. The research requirement is routinely satisfied by participation in research throughout the student's career.


University policy requires that all doctoral students declare candidacy by the end of the sixth quarter in residence, excluding summers. Once you have a permanent advisor and have completed the breadth requirements and the three units of coursework with four instructors (faculty that are academic council members) you are eligible to file for candidacy. The Application for Candidacy for Doctoral Degree forms are available in the Program Officer's Office and at On the form the student must list 135 units of courses (either completed or planned, not including athletics and performing art classes). The form is reviewed and signed first by the student's permanent advisor. The advisor's signature indicates the academic adequacy of the proposed program of study. The form is then reviewed by the Program Officer to make sure that it accurately reflects the University and departmental requirements.

The candidacy form serves as a "contract" between the department and the student. The department acknowledges that the student is a bona fide candidate for the Ph.D. and agrees that the program submitted by the student is sufficient to warrant granting the Ph.D. upon completion. The department may not change requirements unilaterally. The student may petition the department for modification of his or her program.

Candidacy expires five years from the date of submission of the candidacy form, rounded to the end of the quarter. In special cases, the department may extend a student's candidacy, but is under no obligation to do so. The monthly stipend increases slightly after candidacy is filed. This goes in effect the quarter following submission and approval of the candidacy form.

Petition for MS Degree

After satisfying the Breadth requirement (Section 4) and the Depth requirement (Qualifying Examination, 6) and a minimum of 45 units with a GPA of 3.0, the student is eligible to petition for a Master's degree. To do so, you need to fill out the "Graduate Program Authorization Petition" which is available via Axess. (From the Academics panel in your Student Center, select "Petitions and Forms" from the drop down menu to submit the Grad Auth electronically.) Note that the form needs to be completed before deadline to apply to graduate, so do not wait until the last minute to complete it. There is a $125 application fee to add a Master's program to your PhD. Do not forget to "Apply to Graduate" for your Master's program as well as your PhD program in Axess when it's time to graduate.

Student Financial Support

The Ph.D. program is a full-time program. Most Computer Science Ph.D. students are supported by a research or teaching assistantship in Computer Science or the School of Engineering (SOE), or by a fellowship, or by an approved assistantship through a collaborating research organization. The SOE's Ph.D. program is full-time and requires full tuition, most or all of which is normally covered by such support. Since Ph.D. students have 50% RAships or CAships, full time equals nine units. Students with partial or no support may not register part-time but must make up any tuition shortfall themselves, except as noted (Hertz, NSF, NPSC Fellows may register for nine units also).

University Graduation-TGR Requirements

A student may go TGR after all the Ph.D. requirements have been completed and just their orals and submission of the dissertation remain, see CS Ph.D. Program Milestone Checklist for reference. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for TGR status as soon as they are eligible as the TGR fee is 40% of regular tuition. The School of Engineering and the University expects students making reasonable progress to be TGR for only one year.To advance to TGR status, you need to fill out this form.

Unit-Based Requirements

Students who started their Ph.D. program in September 2001 are under the new University Graduation/TGR requirements. In this system, the degree requirements are based upon a certain number of completed course units. These requirements are:

  • 135 course/research credit units are required to graduate with the Ph.D.
  • Once you have completed the 135 units of course/research credit and all program requirements up to your Orals and Dissertation, then you are eligible to apply for TGR status.
  • Up to 45 units completed at Stanford (or accepted as transfer credit) toward a Masters degree may be used toward the 135 units of residency requirement for the doctoral degree. (Application for transfer of credit may be requested after at least one quarter of enrollment.)

Those students registered prior to September 2001 have a one-time option to choose between the tuition-based option or the new unit-based one. If you choose to change to the new requirements, you may not go back to the old requirements.

Additional Information on Enrollment:

  • Students who are on most fellowships register for at least 9 or 10 units. Certain outside fellowships require 12 units a quarter so if you have a question concerning this, contact the CSD Financial Aid Specialist, Department Manager or the Ph.D. Program Officer.
  • Students who are on 50% research or course assistantships register for at least 9 units and should register for 10 as the tuition is the same.
  • Students who are on 25% research or course assistantships should register for at least 9 or 10 units. The assistantship covers 5 units and the student must make up the difference. It is recommended that Ph.D. students seek a 50% assistantship (or two 25% assistantships.)
  • Students who are on a 90% research assistantship in the summer register for 3 units of CS499. If the student is TGR, then they register for 0 units of CS802. For students on 50% Caships, RAships or fellowships during the summer, the above rules apply.

*TGR fees only provide for maintenance of matriculation; they do not represent tuition. If a TGR student wishes to take a course for credit, then the student will pay tuition on a unit basis, at a special tuition rate.

Leave of Absence

Before filing for candidacy, a student may take a leave of absence for any reason. All University and departmental progress guidelines are suspended during the leave. After filing for candidacy, a student may take a leave, but the leave does not extend the period of candidacy. Leaves will not be granted for more than one year at a time. A leave of absence from your program may not exceed a cumulative total of two years.

Distinction in Teaching

A graduating Ph.D. student will be awarded a certificate of Distinction in Teaching if the following conditions are met:

  1. The student is nominated for this distinction by at least one CS faculty member who has supervised the student as a Course Assistant. This nomination is e-mailed to the Ph.D. Program Officer.
  2. The student has completed 10 units of CA or TF-ship where each unit counts as one 25% CA or TF-ship i.e. five 50% CAships.
  3. The units must include at least one course at the 100-course level; and at least one course at either the 200 or 300-plus course levels.
  4. The student has taught at least one course as a Teaching Fellow with primary responsibility for organizing and teaching a course (tutored video does not qualify.)


The department will check with the advisor annually to ensure that the student is making satisfactory progress on research towards the completion of their degree. The Computer Science Graduate ADmissions department sends each Ph.D. student an e-mail with updates on the student's milestone and research progress. Individualized evaluations are sent to each student via e-mail throughout the summer. This evaluation is based on information available to the Ph.D. Program Officer at the time of the evaluatio meeting. Please be sure to e-mail, whenever you complete a breadth requirement or milestone throught the year in order to keep you records current. As per the Honor Code, it is the student's responsibility to contact the Program Officer with regard to any error or correction to their records.

If a student is not making reasonable progress and further action needs to be taken:

  1. The student's advisor, Ph.D. Program Director, and the Department Chair will meet to evaluate the next step that should be taken.
  2. By University Policy, the student has the right and can request to meet with the Ph.D. Program Director.
  3. The student can submit a request for an ombudsman.
  4. Failure to schedule the meeting constitutes a waiver of the university-mandated right to a hearing and can lead to dismissal without further warning.