Clemson University

Department of Computer Science

Graduate Degree Programs

Degree Programs

The Department of Computer Science at Clemson University offers courses of study leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science. Both graduate programs are designed to provide a strong, broad-based core of advanced computer science courses and to encourage research in areas that reflect the student's interests. Graduates of either program are well prepared to accept the current and future challenges of the field. Faculty interests cover a broad range of areas including computer architecture, computer networks, database management systems, design and analysis of algorithms, graphical systems, operating systems, parallel computation, programming languages, systems measurement and modeling, software engineering, the theory of computation, and a variety of interdisciplinary areas. Courses offered in these and other areas reflect both the applied and theoretical aspects of computer science.  In the remainder of this document you will receive an overview of the computing facilities available to graduate students, the campus and its environs , costs of the program and opportunities for financial aid , a description of the degree programs, and instructions on how to apply .

The Department of Computer Science is also a major participant in the interdisciplinary Master of Fine Arts in Digital Production Arts (DPA) program. The MFA in DPA is a professional degree program whose graduates are sought by the growing electronic arts industry, particularly those companies engaged in special effects within the entertainment and commercial video and film industries. The program offers a unique blend of instruction from the disciplines of art, computer science, graphic communications, and performing arts.

Computing Facilities

The Department of Computer Science maintains a network of over 150 UNIX-based systems. These include Sun, Silicon Graphics, and Intel based workstations and servers running the Solaris, Irix, and Linux operating systems. Systems are distributed among three general use labs, two instructional labs, several research labs, and faculty and graduate student offices. Areas supported by the research labs include virtual reality, graphics, operating systems, ATM networking, and software engineering.  To mitigate any withdrawal symptoms that might be suffered by afflicted students, the department provides a number of dual boot workstations that run a variety of "other" operating systems.

Direct access to college, University and Internet services is provided from all departmental facilities. Additional college facilities include a Silicon Graphics Onyx Reality Engine 2 and a 265 node Beowulf-type graphics rendering cluster which drives a 6x4 projector array. The College of Engineering and Science also provides several UNIX and PC-based labs.

General Internet access is provided by the University to all students. High performance Internet access for research work became available in April 1999 when the University's NSF funded connection to the vBNS was activated.  High speed Internet service moved to the Abilene network in April 2000.

The Campus and the Surrounding Area

Clemson University is a coeducational, land-grant university founded in 1889. Enrollment totals more than 18,000 students, including approximately 4,000 graduate students. The Department of Computer Science currently enrolls more than 125 graduate students.  Clemson, S.C., is a small college town that enjoys the beauty and water sports of Lakes Hartwell (61,350 acres), Keowee (18,500 acres) and Joccasse (7,500 acres); the scenery of the South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina mountains (40-minute drive); and the challenge of many wild and scenic rivers such as the nearby Chattooga. Opportunities to participate in and enjoy plays, concerts, lectures, films and sports events are provided by many University and community groups. The combination of the academic and social activities provided by the University and the pastoral settings inherent to the Clemson area provide a stimulating environment for academic advancement and personal enrichment.

Costs and Financial Aid

Financial support for graduate students is available through research assistantships associated with grants and contracts, teaching assistantships and graduate fellowships. Students with assistantships generally are expected to work an average of 20 hours each week while taking nine credit hours per semester In addition to a stipend of $1,160 per month, students with an assistantship receive a tuition waiver. Alternative employment opportunities for well qualified applicants are sometimes available.  Applications for financial assistance should be received before February 1 for full consideration. Thus, it is advantageous to apply as early as possible.
The University has some graduate student housing available. These are two bedroom apartments with kitchen and living room. Two graduate students are assigned to each apartment so that each has a private bedroom. For information on rates and how to apply for university housing see . Many privately owned apartments are also available; the cost of these vary considerably.  Detailed information on costs and financing can be found at .

The M.S. Program

The Master of Science program in Computer Science prepares individuals for a Ph.D. program, research careers in industry, or advanced technical positions in industry and government. The program is designed for students who offer evidence of above average scholastic ability at the undergraduate level. Upon completion of the M.S. program of study, the student will have knowledge in the following four three areas:
The student will have a significant exposure to application areas that emphasize the integration of the core areas and will have the opportunity to participate in a research project under the direction of a faculty member. The student will also acquire advanced programming skills as a part of the program.
Completion of the M.S. program normally requires from one and one-half years to two years beyond the undergraduate degree but may require additional time for students whose undergraduate degree is in an area other than computer science. Two academic years usually are required for the completion of the M.S. degree if financial assistance is provided. Each candidate is required to complete specific course requirements and pass a final M.S. exam. The coverage of the exam depends upon the research option selected by the student.  These options are described in detail below.

General Requirements

The basic requirement for the M.S. in Computer Science is successful completion of 30 credit hours of approved courses. At least 21 of the 30 hours must be at the 800 level. Students may include up to 6 hours of approved courses from outside the Department of Computer Science.  This 6 hours of approved courses may include courses transferred from another university. All requirements of the Graduate School for the M.S. degree must also be met. A student's program of study must be approved by both the student's advisory committee and the Director of Graduate Affairs.  Each student must take at least one course at Clemson University from each of the three core area course groups.
Operating Systems 822, 823, 824
Programming Languages 629, 828, 829
Theory and Complexity 838, 859, 840
Of the 30 credit hours of approved courses required for graduation, the student may not include credit for CPSC 622, 628 or 801. Additionally, only one 681, 881 or 981 can be included and only if the course is one in which a final exam is given. Credit for 95x courses is possible only with the prior approval of the director of graduate affairs. A student must also have a grade point average of at least 3.0 in the 30 credit hours used to satisfy the requirements for graduation.

The Advisory Committee

The Director of Graduate Affairs is the advisor of all new graduate students. During the second semester of study each M.S. student should form an advisory committee. The chair of this committee replaces the Director as the student's advisor. The advisor must be a tenured or tenure track faculty member in the Department of Computer Science. The student is also permitted to select one additional member of the advisory committee. The additional member may come from outside the Department. The Department will assign the third member.
Selection of both the advisor and the second member is by mutual consent of the student and the faculty member. A student is free to dissolve an existing advisory committee and form a new one at any time. Likewise, the advisor is free to dismiss a student. If a student is unable to find an advisor, one will be appointed by the Chair of the Department.

Research Options

Three options are provided in the M.S. program:

The Research Experience Option

In the research experience option, a student reads a collection of research papers in an area in which the research advisor is working. The area is expected to be quite focused. For example, "Computer Networks" would be an inappropriately broad area, but "Modeling the Effects of Self-similarity in Network Traffic on Packet Drop Rates" is appropriately focused.  When the student has mastered the subject, a presentation containing appropriate background material and research results is made by the student in an open colloquium.   The presentation must include in-depth coverage of the research results of one of the papers and mayalso include material from additional papers and research results obtained by the student.   The final examination is an oral examination conducted by the student's advisory committee. The student is expect to demonstrate a mastery of the selected research area.

A student is expected to enroll in CPSC 888 for 3 hours credit in the semester in which the research experience occurs. However, these hours may not be counted in the 30 credit hours used to satisfy the requirements for graduation.

The Research Paper Option

A student who pursues the research paper option is expected to complete the research experience and then build upon it by conducting original research and writing up the results in a formal research paper. The paper should be written in a format and style suitable for submission to a national conference or archival journal. It is not necessary that the research results reach the level of significance required for acceptance by a national conference or journal, but the quality of the presentation must! The paper should typically be 15 to 25 double spaced pages in length and must contain introductory material which properly places the work in the context of existing research.

The final examination is an oral examination conducted by the student's advisory committee. The student is expect to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of both the research results presented and the pre-existing body of knowledge that the results extend. A student is expected to enroll in CPSC 888 for 3 hours credit in each semester in which the research is ongoing and may count 3 hours of CPSC 888 among the 30 credit hours used to satisfy the requirements for graduation.

The Thesis Option

The thesis option is designed for students who have a strong interest in research and who can complete an original and creative research project. The scope and significance of that research is expected to be significantly beyond that which is required for the research paper. The quality of the research and presentation should be such that the thesis or a derivative work is acceptable for publication in a refereed conference proceedings or archival journal.

The final examination is an oral examination conducted by the student's advisory committee. The student is expect to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of both the research results presented and the pre-existing body of knowledge that the results extend.

A student pursuing the thesis option must include 6 hours of CPSC 891 credit among the 30 credit hours used to satisfy the requirements for graduation.

The Ph. D. Program

The objective of this program is to prepare exceptionally qualified individuals for research careers in academia and industry. The program is designed for students who offer evidence of exceptional scholastic ability, intellectual creativity, and research motivation.

The Ph.D. degree is viewed as a certification by the faculty that the student has a solid foundation in computer science and has performed original research in the area. The basis for gaining the degree will be the student's grasp of the subject matter of computer science, competency to plan and conduct research, and ability to express ideas adequately and professionally in oral and written language. Although only four courses are required, the doctoral program usually requires two to four years beyond the M.S. degree.

The Research Advisor and Advisory Committee

Selection of the research advisor is by mutual consent of the Ph.D. student and the advisor. The advisor, who must be a full-time tenure track member of the Computer Science faculty,  should be selected before the portfolio,  which is required for the comprehensive examination,   is presented to the faculty.  The Ph.D. student should carefully select the research advisor on the basis of technical and personal compatibility.  Either the student or the advisor may terminate the advisee/advisor relationship in the event that research interests change or the advisor and student later find themselves incompatible.  

The Ph.D. advisory committee will assist the student in formulating an appropriate program of study, must approve this program of study,  must approve the dissertation proposal, and conducts the dissertation defense. The research advisor serves as chair of the student's an advisory committee, and the student, in consultation with the research advisor and in accordance with Graduate School requirements, , must select  at least two additional faculty members to serve on the advisory committee.  One of these members may be selected from outside the Department of Computer Science.  One additional member of the committee will be appointed jointly by the Department Chair and the Director of Graduate Affairs.  The complete advisory committee must  be approved by the Department Chair and the Director of Graduate Affairs when the students submits the GS-2 form containing the full program of study.  Whenever possible, the committee should contain a member who has previously directed a Ph.D. dissertation.

Ph.D. Requirements

Ph.D. students must satisfy requirements in three areas:

Course Work and Seminars

A typical program of study consists of 12 credit hours of course work beyond the Master's degree, at least 6  hours of Ph.D. seminar courses (CPSC 95x), and 18 hours of doctoral research (CPSC 991).  Ph.D student who enroll without prior graduate study should expect to take another 18 to 24 credits in core computer science. Full-time students in the Ph.D. program normally must take for credit at least one seminar (CPSC 95x) per semester until passing the comprehensive exam and at least one per year until completion of the program. All Ph.D. students are required to include a minimum of four 800 level computer science courses (exclusive of 881, 888, 891, 95x, 981, and 991) on their programs of study. Students are also encouraged to take course work outside the department when it facilitates their dissertation research.


To earn the Ph.D. degree a student must take and pass three examinations:

The Comprehensive Examination

To be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy a student must pass the Comprehensive Examination. The form of this examination is a portfolio review that is performed by the Graduate Affairs Committee on behalf of the graduate faculty.   This review is intended to certify depth and breadth in computer science, and to promote scholarship, research, and professional skills.   A Ph.D. student must prepare and submit portfolio within:
A student may, however, petition the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) for additional time to complete the portfolio when exceptional circumstances justify an extension.

The student is solely responsible for the contents of the portfolio, and so it is very important to begin the preparation of the portfolio early and to solicit the help of faculty advisors in its preparation. When the complete portfolio is submitted, it is reviewed by the Graduate Affairs Committee which serves as the examining committee for the comprehensive examination.  A student who is denied admission to candidacy may, at the discretion of the approval of the faculty, be given one additional chance to correct the deficiencies that were identified.   Graduate School regulations require that a student who fails the Comprehensive Examination a second time be dismissed from the graduate program.

The portfolio must demonstrate that the student has strong mastery of core computer science and indicate that the student has the ability to conduct original research and make an acceptable written presentation of the results.

Required Elements of the Portfolio

Optional Elements of the Portfolio

The Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal is a departmental document that is presented to the student's advisory committee. The purpose of the proposal is to inform the committee of the nature and scope of the proposed dissertation and to obtain their approval and guidance concerning the proposed research. The written proposal should include the following items: The written proposal must be approved by the advisory committee, and communicated through a public oral presentation. The presentation will be scheduled with the approval of the advisory committee, and the written document must be available to the advisory committee at least two  weeks before the approval is given. The advisory committee will be asked to give written approval of the proposal after the presentation, and that approval will be primarily based on the written document.  If the proposal is not approved, the proposal may be repeated an indefinite number of times subject to the approval of the advisory committee.  The proposal must be presented and approved at least six months before the dissertation is completed.

The dissertation proposal serves several purposes. It is a way to ensure that the student has a clear grasp of a specific problem or set of problems. It provides a format for discussion of the solutions or approaches to solving the research problem, and provides documentation that the student has undertaken a reasonable literature survey in the research area.

The Dissertation Defense

The student will present a summary of the dissertation at a departmental colloquium. This presentation must include an explanation of the problem addressed, a description of results, and an explanation of the significance of the results. After the presentation, a brief period may be allocated for questions from the general audience.

At the end of the question period, the Final Doctoral Oral Examination will be conducted by the student's advisory committee. Members of the faculty, as well as members of the Graduate Curriculum Committee, and the dean of the Graduate School are invited to attend this examination. This final examination demands a broad and penetrating interpretation by the student of the research project and its conclusions. It may also include examination of the student in the major and minor fields of specialization.

A student who fails the final oral examination may be allowed a second opportunity if the advisory committee recommends it. Failure of the second examination will result in dismissal from the Graduate School.

Research Requirements

The Doctoral Dissertation

The research requirement is the most important aspect of Ph.D. study. The doctoral dissertation is the written record of the research that the student has conducted and must provide evidence of the student's ability to independently perform original research leading to the discovery of significant new knowledge. Thus, the dissertation should demonstrate the student's technical mastery of the subject, independent scholarly work and conclusions that modify or enlarge what has previously been known.

The dissertation is expected to:

 The format of the dissertation must conform to the current Department and Graduate School standards. Copies of the dissertation must be delivered to the student's advisory committee members at least two weeks prior to the final oral examination.

The Publication Requirement

Prior to graduation, each Ph.D. student must publish (or have accepted for publication) results of the research leading to the dissertation. The paper must be fully refereed and published in the proceedings of a computer science conference or in a computer science journal. The paper may be co-authored with the research advisor.

Application and Admission Requirements

Admission to the M.S. Program

Admission to the graduate program in Computer Science requires acceptance into the Graduate School at Clemson University.  Applicants must possess a four-year degree from a recognized undergraduate institution.  The Graduate School, not the Department, is responsible for determining whether a specific undergraduate degree satisfies this requirement.  Acceptance is based upon letters of recommendation, transcripts of previous undergraduate and graduate studies, and scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Applicants whose native language is not English mustprovide official scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination.   Submission of Test of Spoken English (TSE) scores is not required but is recommended for international applicants seeking teaching assistantships.   The GRE subject test in Computer Science is also not required but the score will be considered if it is provided. Accepted applicants who apply during their last year of undergraduate study are granted conditional admission which is contingent upon the successful completion of the undergraduate program of study.

Applications from capable and motivated students with an undergraduate degree in field other than Computer Science will be considered. However, full acceptance into the program requires not only strong computer programming skills but also a demonstrated mastery of intermediate level computer science topics including: computer organization and data representation; machine and assembly language programming; data structures; operating systems; and programming systems.  A student who enters the program with a deficiency in one or more of these areas will be required to complete not-for-credit pre-requisite courses in the area(s) of the deficiency.

Applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States and have major deficiencies in their Computer Science backgrounds may be admitted as Post Baccalaureate (PB) students.  A PB student who successfully completes the required undergraduate prerequisites becomes eligible to join the M.S. program.  United States immigration law does not permit us to grant PB admission to international students.

Admission to the Ph.D. Program

Applicants to the Ph.D. program must submit the same materials as applicants to the M.S. program. However, applicants to the Ph.D. program should possess a B.S. or M.S. in Computer Science or in a closely related field.  Applicants holding only the B.S. degree may be directly admitted into the Ph.D. program or initially admitted to the M.S. program based upon the strength of their records as evaluated by the admissions committee.

The Application Procedure

Applications are accepted for both fall and spring semester admission, and they are considered until all slots are filled. International applications should be completed at least three months before the  anticipated date of enrollment because of delays involved in issuing immigration documents.  Applicants who hope to receive financial aid should also apply as early as possible. The recommended procedure for applying is the on-line application procedure available at   If on-line application is not possible, paper application forms may be requested by sending the following information to You should also indicate that you have been in contact with the Department of Computer Science at Clemson University and have no way to use the on-line application procedure. You may also contact graduate admissions by surface mail at the following address:
Graduate Admissions
Martin Hall
Clemson University
Box 345120
Clemson, SC USA 29634-5120
Phone: (864)656-3915
The doctoral program emphasizes research, and the Department encourages prospective candidates to involve themselves in research under the supervision of a faculty member at the earliest possible opportunity. In addition to research activities in various areas of computer science, there are many opportunities for interdisciplinary and interdepartmental research.