Computer Science Doctorate Degree (DES)

(For existing Columbia Computer Science MS students only)

Online Program Overview

Degree Level
Doctorate Degree
Total Credits
Partially Online
Contact Us
Minimum GPA
3.3 for admission
Qualifying Exam
GRE Required

NOTE: This program is only available to students who have obtained their Computer Science MS degree through Columbia University. 

The Doctor of Engineering Science is a variant of the doctorate that has identical academic requirements to the PhD program. The Doctor of Engineering degree is officially designated Eng.Sc.D., but in practice is typically referred to as DES.

The most significant difference between PhD students and DES students is that DES students are permitted to be part-time and are expected to be self-funded (or employer funded).  Even though part-time, SEAS still imposes a maximum time to degree of seven years.  Applicants must already hold a masters degree in a related field to be admitted to the DES.  There are also some differences in registration for PhD vs. DES students. The DES does not require teaching/TAing or community service.

The Columbia University Department of Computer Science invites applications from top-quality students to join its doctoral programs. The department hosts exciting projects in a growing number of research areas. The primary focus of the doctoral programs is research, with the philosophy that students learn best by doing - beginning as apprentices and becoming junior colleagues working with faculty on scholarly research projects. Thus every student must have an advisor throughout the program. Students normally arrange a research advisor (who will in most cases later become the thesis advisor) during the admissions process prior to enrollment, and work closely with him or her on directed research from their first day in the program. Students may have two or more joint advisors.

Coursework can be completed via CVN after which the doctoral candidate pursues research requirements as specified by the faculty advisor. Courses are selected with a focus on one of the areas in the department, such as network security, artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, computer graphics, web technologies, robotics, databases and information systems, compilers, programming languages, software engineering, computational biology, algorithms and quantum computing.


Admissions Requirements

Degree required for admission: Students admitted to the program must possess a master's degree in Computer Science from Columbia University. Applicants should have a strong academic record to be competitive for admission. 

Computer Science Doctoral Program Requirements

Applicants to the doctoral program must find a research advisor who would be willing to direct them for the research component of the degree before they apply. A listing of current faculty members and their research interests is available in the department's Faculty Research Guide. In order to facilitate finding an advisor, students can take courses as a non-degree student with a professor that specializes in their research interests.

Other application requirements: 3 recommendation letters, transcripts, resume, and a personal-professional statement are required. All application requirements in the Graduate Application must be completed as specified in the application. For answers to your most common admissions questions, please review our FAQ page here.


For information on doctoral program requirements, click here. 


A student must obtain the Computer Science master's degree (M.S.) from Columbia University before enrolling as a candidate for the Doctor of Engineering Science degree.

Application for admission as a doctoral candidate may be made while a student is enrolled as a master's or professional degree candidate. The minimum requirement in coursework for the doctoral degree is 60 points of credit beyond the bachelor's degree. A master's degree from an accredited institution may be accepted in the form of advanced standing for 30 points of credit. Candidates can complete the required coursework via CVN.

Departmental requirements include a breadth requirement, a candidacy exam, the thesis proposal, and the dissertation and defense: Please review the Doctoral Program Requirements

The breadth requirement includes distribution and electives. For distribution, the student must choose four 4000-level lecture courses cutting across the three major areas of computer science: theory, systems, and AI & applications. That is, one course in each area, plus one more course drawn from any of the areas. For this purpose, theory consists of all CS 42xx courses including CSOR 4231. Systems includes all CS 41xx courses except for 416x and 417x, and also includes CS 48xx courses, CS 4340 and CS 4444. AI & applications consists of all CS 47xx courses and also CS 416x and CS 417x. (Note: This organization is subject to change, but courses will always be accepted based on the student's date of entry into the program.)

For students who first enrolled in the doctoral program in Spring 2014 or earlier, the breadth requirement previously included a core -- instead of distribution -- and electives. The core consisted of four topics (analysis of algorithms, computer architecture, programming languages and translators, and operating systems), each of which may be satisfied by an examination or a specified course. These students may choose to complete the core, or switch to the new distribution requirement.

All students must also complete six elective topics approved by the advisor. Some or all of the electives may be waived on the basis of courses taken elsewhere, but the entire core or distribution must be fulfilled at Columbia. However, courses on the distribution list may be imported to serve as electives, in which case the student must take different courses from the distribution list. For students switching from the core to distribution, then courses previously considered core may now serve as electives.

The candidacy exam is an oral exam based on a syllabus prepared jointly by the student and his/her candidacy committee. Admission to candidacy (passing the exam) certifies that the student has demonstrated a depth of scholarship in the literature and the methods of the student's chosen area of research, and has demonstrated a facility with the scholarly skills of critical evaluation and verbal expression.

In the thesis proposal, the student lays out an intended course of research for the dissertation. By accepting the thesis proposal, the faculty agrees that the proposal is practicable and acceptable, that its plan and prospectus are satisfactory, and that the candidate is competent in the knowledge and techniques required, and formally recommends that the candidate proceed.

Thereafter, the student must write a dissertation embodying original research under the sponsorship of his or her advisor and submit it to the department. If the department recommends the dissertation for defense, the student applies for final examination, which is held before an examining committee appointed by the Dean. This application must be made at least three weeks before the date of the final examination. The defense of the dissertation constitutes the final test of the candidate's qualifications. It must be demonstrated that the candidate has made a contribution to knowledge in a chosen area. In content the dissertation should, therefore, be a distinctly original contribution in the selected field of study.

The typical doctoral student completes his/her breadth and candidacy requirements by the end of the third year enrolled, the thesis proposal by the end of the fourth year, and the dissertation during the sixth or seventh year.

Course List

Doctoral Research Instruction:

The following research requirements must be met by candidates for the Doctor of Engineering Science program:

  1. At the time the student begins doctoral research, the student is eligible to register for E9800 (3, 6, 9, or 12 points of credit). Twelve points must have been accumulated by the time the student is to receive the degree.
  2. Registration for E9800 must be according to the schedule prescribed above.
  3. Although 12 points of E9800 are required for the doctoral degree, no part of this credit may count toward the minimum coursework requirement of 30 points (or 60 points beyond the bachelor's degree).
  4. If a student is required to take coursework beyond the minimum requirements, the 12 points of doctoral research instruction must still be taken in addition to the required course work.
  5. A student must register continuously through the autumn and spring terms. Registration is also available during the summer session.

Completion of Requirements:

The requirements for the Doctor of Engineering Science degree must be completed in no more than seven years. The seven-year time period begins at the time the student becomes a candidate for the doctoral degree or a candidate for the professional degree, whichever occurs first, and extends to the date on which the dissertation defense is held.

Tuition & Fees

2020 - 2021 Tuition & Fees

Please note that all tuition and fees are in U.S. dollars and are estimated. Tuition and most fees are prescribed by statute, and are subject to change at the discretion of the Trustees.

CVN Credit Tuition: $2,196 per point (Credit Hour)
CVN Fee: $395 non-refundable fee per course
Transcript Fee: $105 non-refundable one-time fee

Estimated cost of one nondegree course: $7,088 
Estimated total cost of certification (four online courses): $28,037

Estimated total cost of MS (ten online courses): $69,935
*Estimated total cost of DES (ten online courses plus a minimum of 12 research credits): $97,077

Graduate Admission Application Fee: $150 non-refundable one-time fee
Certification Program Application Fee: $150 non-refundable one-time fee

Late Registration Fee: $100 non-refundable fee

CVN Withdrawal Fee: $75, plus prorated tuition and all non-refundable fees
For example: A three credit course would be $6,312 + transcript fee $105 (one-time) + CVN fee $395 = $6,812

*Assumes DES student enrolls in two six-credit research courses.

For Drop/Withdrawal fees and dates, refer to the Academic Calendar for the current term.

Please note: CVN no longer offers courses for audit.


Payment should be mailed to:

Columbia University
Student Account Payments
P.O. Box 1385
New York, NY 10008-1385

Before you mail your check or money order, please take careful note of the following requirements to ensure the timely processing of your payment:


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