Requirements and Regulations

The Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) offers the Ph.D degree and two master's degrees; the Master of Science (MS, with a required thesis) and the MS (non-thesis). All degrees are designated with the major of computer science and software engineering.

Degree requirements are prescribed by the graduate school as well as CSSE. Graduate school policy, requirements, and degree deadlines may be found in the Auburn University Bulletin and at the Graduate School web site. The following sections describe additional requirements specific to CSSE.

1 Requirements common to all CSSE degrees

1.1 Admission requirements

Please see the Graduate Admissions link.  

1.2 Skill expectations

CSSE graduate courses are based on the assumption that students have demonstrated knowledge in the areas listed below. Students are generally not admitted into the CSSE program if they are missing more than two of the areas. Students that do not have the full complement of foundational courses are responsible for taking those courses (and earn a grade of "B" or better) in their first semester of graduate work. Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the graduate program.    

  • C, C++, or Java
  • Data structures
  • Analysis of Algorithms
  • Discrete Structures
  • Operating Systems
  • Computer Organization
  • Software Design

1.3 Minimum enrollment requirements

All graduate students must enroll for a minimum of three credit hours per semester when attending school. Students who have formally defended their research in a previous semester and are only awaiting graduation are exempt from this requirement. Students should not use university resources or expect faculty assistance without being enrolled in a course.

Students who have assistantships (GRA or GTA) and who have not finished their coursework must register for enough hours to be considered full time. Students who have assistantships and who have finished their formal coursework must register for at least three semester credit hours, more if so designated by the source of their funding (adviser, GPO or department chair).

1.4  Plan of study

All students are required to prepare a plan of study where they designate a major professor, advisory committee, courses applied to the degree and transfer courses. The plan of study should be completed at the time a student selects a major professor (see below for details). The plan of study is available from the Graduate School


2 Requirements specific to Master's degrees

2.1 Course requirements

The master of science may be earned under the non-thesis option (see 2.1.1) or the thesis option (see 2.1.2).

2.1.1  MS  (non-thesis)

The MS (non-thesis) degree requires a minimum of 33 graduate semester credit hours. All courses in the degree must be taken for a grade.

MSNT Course Requirements
  • The three required 7000-level courses are COMP 7270, COMP 7300, and COMP 7500. 
  • Students may take up to three (3) credit hours of COMP 7930 Directed Study.
  • Students may take three (3) credit hours of COMP 7980 Master of Science Capstone Engineering Project, which is a graded course.
  • (*) For MS non-thesis students who are admitted in or after Fall'18, COMP 7980/7986 is an elective course. These students are referred to as course-only MS non-thesis students, who don't need to form advisory committees. Submitting an approved Form 8 is no longer a requirement for the course-only MS non-thesis students.
  • (*) A project (i.e., COMP 7980/7986) demonstrating mastery of software engineering is required for the MS (non-thesis) degree if MS non-thesis students admitted prior to the Fall 2018 semester. The COMP 7980/7986 project includes both software and a written report. A proposal supporting the project must be approved by the student's advisory committee before work on the project may start. The format for the proposal and the project report are determined by the student's major professor. The project report must be given the department's graduate program office upon completion for filing as a technical report.
  • The remaining courses are at the discretion of the student and the CSSE director of graduate programs. All courses in the degree must be taken for a grade. 

2.1.2  Master of Science (MS)

The Master of Science degree (thesis option) requires a minimum of 30 graduate semester credit hours. All courses in the degree must be taken for a grade; the exception is COMP 7990 Research and Thesis, which is offered in incomplete/complete format. 

MS Thesis Option Course Requirements
  • The three required 7000-level courses are COMP 7270, COMP 7300, and COMP 7500.
  • Students may take up to three (3) credit hours of COMP 7930 Directed Study.
  • A thesis is required for the MS-CSSE degree (i.e., thesis option). A written proposal supporting thesis project must be approved by a student’s supervisory committee, which is comprised of at least three faculty members. One member of the committee is designated as the major professor (a.k.a., advisor). Students must pass a comprehensive oral examination at the conclusion of their studies. All students with thesis option are required to submit Master’s Final Examination Form to the graduate school.
  • The remaining courses are at the discretion of the student and major professor. 

2.2  Repeating courses

  • Students who have taken a 5000-level course at Auburn University may not take the 6000-level equivalent for credit.
  • Master's students may not take more than three credit hours ofDirected Study (COMP 7930 or COMP 8930).
  • Special Topics, COMP 7970/7976/8970, may be repeated provided each entails a change in topic.
  • The MS (non-thesis) Project, COMP 7980/7986, may be repeated, but only three credit hours count toward the M.Sw.E degree.
  • Thesis and Research, COMP 7990, may be repeated, but only a maximum of six credit hours count toward the MS degree.
  • COMP 7980/7986 may not be used as credit for the MS degree; COMP 7990 may not be used as credit for the MSwE degree.

2.3 Course transfer

Upon recommendation of the student's advisory committee, a maximum of six semester hours of graduate work completed outside CSSE may be applied toward the master's degree requirements. This includes courses taken in other departments at Auburn University and course work from another university. Only graduate-level courses which resulted in a grade of "B" or better are eligible for transfer. 

2.4 Advisory committee

The student's graduate study shall be directed by a committee of at least three faculty members, one of whom is designated as the major professor. The major professor and at least one committee member must be a resident member of the CSSE department and a member of the graduate faculty. Committee members are selected by the student with the concurrence of the major professor. Committee members selected from outside Auburn University must submit a curriculum vitae to the departmental graduate program officer (csegpo at auburn.edu) before the committee can be approved. Master's students should choose an advisory committee within the first 18 hours of graduate study.  

2.5 Final Master's examination

All students earning the MS degree (thesis option) must pass a comprehensive oral examination at the conclusion of their studies. At a minimum, the student presents his/her thesis and addresses questions from the advisory committee. At the discretion of the student's committee, the examination may cover material relating to courses the student has taken. Final examinations are open to the public. Students should give an abstract of the thesis or project to the departmental secretary at least one business day in advance of the examination for dissemination to the CSSE graduate student body.


3 Requirements specific to doctoral degrees

The doctor of philosophy (a.k.a., Ph.D.) program in Computer Science and Software Engineering offers a unique opportunity for doctoral students to develop research and development skills in cutting-edge computer science and software engineering disciplines. We cater to doctoral students with an outstanding aptitude and strong research skills in computer science and software engineering. A dissertation embodying the results of this research represents the major portion of the requirements for this degree. A minimum of 66 semester hours of graduate work past the bachelor’s degree is necessary. Four calendar years beyond the bachelor’s degree or three past the master’s degree usually are needed to complete the Ph.D. program. 

3.1 Course requirements

The Ph.D degree requires a minimum of 66 graduate semester credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree. Up to 30 graduate semester credit hours of coursework may be applied to the degree, thus reducing the total amount. The following courses are required:

  • COMP 7270/7276 Advanced Algorithms
  • COMP 7500/7506 Advanced Operating Systems
  • COMP 7300/7306 Advanced Computer Architecture
  • COMP 8990 Dissertation and Thesis (up to 18 semester hours)

3.1.1 Graded Courses. All the courses except COMP 8990 must be graded courses, among which three (3) are required core graduate courses for a total of nine (9) credit hours. 

3.1.2 Directed Studies. Doctoral students may take up to six (6) credit hours of directed study (i.e., COMP 7930/8930). 

3.1.3 7000-Level Course. In addition to the three (3) core courses, an additional COMP course at 7000 level or higher (excluding COMP 7930/8930) is required. 

3.1.4 Additional Courses. Additional 30 credit hours of (i) formal COMP courses  (minimum 21 credit hours) and/or (ii) other elective courses (up to 9 credit hours) at 6000 level or higher is required. The remaining 18 credit hours are composed of COMP 8990 Research and Dissertation. 

3.1.5 Passing Qualifying Exams. Ph.D. students who pass qualifying exams phase I may replace COMP 7270/7300/7500 with another COMP course at 6000 level or higher (excluding COMP 7930/7980/7990/8930/8980/8990). For example, if a Ph.D. student passes the operating systems track in the qualifying exams, the COMP 7500 requirement will be waived. The student may choose to substitute COMP 6130 for COMP 7500.

The remaining courses are at the discretion of the student and major professor; however, at least 36 hours of graded graduate coursework taken beyond the baccalaureate degree must be in an area of computer science/software engineering. Eighteen hours of computer science/software engineering coursework must be at or above the 7000-level. All courses must be taken for a grade. The exception is COMP 8990, Dissertation and Research hours, which are offered only in a incomplete/complete format.

3.2  Repeating courses

  • Students who have taken a 5000-level course at Auburn University may not take the 6000-level equivalent for credit.
  • Doctoral students may not take more than six hours of Directed Study (COMP 7930 or COMP 8930).
  • Special Topics, COMP 7970/7976/8970, may be repeated provided each entails a change in topic.
  • Dissertation and Research, COMP 8990, may be repeated, but only a maximum of 18 hours count toward the Ph.D degree.

3.3 Course transfers

Upon recommendation of the student's advisory committee, a maximum of 30 semester hours of graduate work completed outside CSSE may be applied toward the Ph.D. degree requirements. This includes courses taken in other departments at Auburn University and course work from another university. Only graduate-level courses which resulted in a grade of "B" or better are eligible for transfer. 

3.4 Advisory committee

The student's graduate study shall be directed by a committee of at least four faculty members, one of whom is designated as the major professor. The major professor serves as the chair of the committee and the primary person responsible for mentoring the student. The major professor and at least one committee member must be a resident member of the CSSE department and a member of the graduate faculty. Committee members are selected by the student with the concurrence of the major professor.

Students may elect to have two faculty members share the responsibility of chairing the advisory committee. In such cases, each faculty member is designated a co-chair. One co-chair must a resident member of the CSSE department and a member of the graduate faculty.The other co-chair may come from outside CSSE, but must be a member of the graduate faculty.  

Committee members selected from outside Auburn University must submit a curriculum vitae to the departmental graduate program officer (csegpo@auburn.edu) before the committee can be approved. Doctoral students should choose an advisory committee within the first 18 hours of graduate study.  

Doctoral students should choose an advisory committee within the first 18 hours of graduate study.    

3.5 Doctoral student publication deadlines

A major component of doctor work publication of research results through peer review process. Accordingly, each Ph.D student must meet the following expectations:

  • A Ph.D student must have submitted a (conference or journal) paper for review before the preliminary examination can take place.
  • A Ph.D student must have a minimum of two conference papers published or accepted for publication and one submission to a journal, or a journal paper published or accepted for publication, before the final dissertation defense can take place.

3.6  Doctoral examinations

The general doctoral examination consists of two parts, the “PhD Qualifying Examination” (see 3.6.1) and the “PhD General Oral Examination” (3.6.2). After the successful completion of a general doctoral examination, Ph.D. students proceed to taking the final doctoral examination (see 3.6.3).

3.6.1 General Doctoral Exam - Part 1: Ph.D. Qualifying Exams

The PhD Qualifying Examination will be successfully fulfilled by passing the three qualifying exams (i.e., computer organization/architecture, operating systems, and algorithms) or earning a B or higher in required remedy courses.

Students are tested over material from the courses at the beginning of the fall semester following the completion of these courses. The exam is three hours in duration and consists of three distinct components, each component covering a specific course topic. No reference material is allowed in the exam, although examinees may use a nonprogrammable calculator.

Students with a score of 30 percent or less on any exam component are dismissed from the doctoral program. Students scoring more than 30 percent, but less than 70 percent on an exam component must take the corresponding remedy course in the following year. Students earning C or lower in the remedy course are dismissed from the doctoral program. Any student dismissed from doctoral students must wait at least five years before reapplying for admission.

3.6.2 General Doctoral Exam - Part 2: Ph.D. General Oral Exams

At the PhD General Oral Examination (a.k.a., "dissertation proposal defense" or "preliminary examination"), the student will present to their Faculty Research Advisory Committee a thorough description and comprehensive discussion of his/her proposed dissertation research. Successful completion of the General Oral Examination requires unanimous approval of the student’s Faculty Research Advisory Committee. After a Ph.D. student ssuccessfully completes his/her general oral examination, the student becomes a Ph.D candidate. This milestone signals that the student is in the research phase of the degree and has selected an acceptable research topic. The examination shall be administered by the student's advisory committee in accordance with the Auburn University Bulletin. Before this examination can be taken, the student must have:

  • Satisfied the academic qualifying process
  • Submitted a formal research proposal
  • Satisfied publication requirements

The portion of the examination during which the student presents a research topic is open to the public. The student should give an abstract of the research proposal to the departmental secretary at least one business day in advance of the examination for dissemination to the CSSE graduate student body.

3.6.3 Final Doctoral Examination

The final examination (also referred to as the "final defense") takes place at the conclusion of the student's research. Successful completion of the final examination is required of all students before earning the Ph.D degree. The examination will be administered by the candidate's advisory committee in accordance with the Auburn University Bulletin. Before this examination can be taken, the student must have satisfied all the other requirements for the degree.

This examination is open to the public. The student should give an abstract of the dissertation to the departmental secretary at least one business day in advance of the examination for dissemination to the CSSE graduate student body.

 

REVISED: July 2, 2020

VERSION 2.1


Last Updated: 7/2/20 4:17 PM