PhD in Information Technology

The Information Technology PhD is a signature degree of the College of Engineering and Computing (CEC). The program focuses on the science, engineering, and technology of information processing, an area of study ripe for innovation in a world driven more and more by data.

For detailed information about admissions and policies, please refer to the CEC website.

PhD Application Procedure (Prospective Students)

Check the applications and requirements

Before starting the application process go to the CEC graduate admissions page for the application requirements and deadlines to submit the application.

Program requirements and deadlines

Find a particular program and deadline on the Mason admissions page.

Sign up to start the process

To sign up and start the process, you must create an account in the Mason portal.

An email will be sent to your mail id, confirm it, and then you can start the application process.

There will be different sections involved in the application:

1.    Academic Plan

2.    Applicant Information

3.    Mailing Address

4.    Education History

5.    International Information

6.    Authorized Agent Form

7.    Earned Degrees

8.    Proposed Area of Study

9.    Requested Advisor

10.  Employment

11.  Supplemental Information

12.  Awards and Accomplishments

13.  Recommendations

14.  Required Documents

15.  Resume

16.  Goal Statement

17.  Optional Documents

18.  Certifications

Important Steps to Follow:

  • Fill all the required information in carefully.
  • Get the recommended information before filling out the application.
  • Make sure your resume is up to date.
  • Keep all the required documents ready( Master transcript, resume, Goal of study, and other optional documents)

PhD requirements (current students)

Throughout the PhD program, students are expected to satisfy program requirements. They are as follows:

Breadth Requirements

To satisfy the breadth requirement, students must pass with an A- or better two Fundamental Knowledge (FK) courses within the first 24 months of the program and two Qualifying Exams (QE). In other words, students need to pass two out of the five options as Qualifying Exams, and also take another two different options as Fundamental Knowledge (FK) courses. 

The two QEs need to be taken together (not separately). QE exams happen twice a year, during the summer (August) and winter (January) breaks, as in-person tests. They do not happen during the semesters and cannot be rescheduled, so students need to pay attention to the QE exam schedules. To take QEs, students need to apply for the exams (QEs do not happen automatically). 

If you fail to get an A- in the FK courses, then you will need to take a supplementary QE, which covers that course and it needs to be passed in one attempt taken within the timeline for breadth requirements based on your credit reduction. FK courses can be selected from other departments (outside of IST) as well, but all QEs and FKs must be approved by the advisor through a form.

It is possible to receive a credit reduction of up to 30 credits if a student has already taken graduate-level classes at one's master's level. However, this has nothing to do with FK or QE. Credit reduction decides the period of coursework rather than the timeline for FK and QE. 

  • For students with 24 or more credit reductions, both FK and QEs must be completed “no later than 12 months following the end of their 4th semester in the program,” which is within 3 years into your program for students who are signed up for consecutive semesters, both full-time or part-time. 
  • For students with less than 24 credit reduction, both FK and QEs must be completed “no later than 12 months following the end of their 6th semester in the program,” which is within 4 years into your program for students who are signed up for consecutive semesters, both full-time or part-time.

Coursework Requirements

Students need to take 12 credits from 700-level or higher courses. Students need to plan the coursework schedule according to the time limits provided for the doctoral program to accommodate all requirements. 

Doctoral candidates must earn a minimum of 72 graduate credits. This requirement may be reduced by a maximum of 30 credits from an approved and completed Master's degree. Within those 72 credit hours, the program requires:

  • Specialized coursework comprised 48 credits for students, excluding credits from previous MS coursework.

    • At least 12 credits on the plan of study must be courses numbered 700 or higher. 500-level courses are NOT permitted.
    • This specialized coursework requirement may be reduced to a minimum of 18 credit hours, depending on the approved credit reduction for previous graduate coursework. 
    • The research phase of the Ph.D. requires 24 credit hours of:
      • IT 990 Dissertation Topic Presentation  1
      • 23 additional credits from the following:              
        • IT 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal 1-12
        • IT 999 Doctoral Dissertation (Minimum of 12 credits required)

Oral Comprehensive Exam

Once you complete your course requirements, you will be required to take the oral comprehensive exam. Before the exam, you need to form a dissertation committee and decide on the area of research to move forward. You will have two attempts. The first attempt needs to be within a year of completing course requirements, and the second one should happen within 6 weeks after receiving notification of failure in the first attempt. After completing course requirements, students enroll in IT 998 and this must be maintained as continuous registration until advancement to candidacy.

Advancing to candidacy

After satisfying all the QE, FK, course requirements, and the comprehensive exam, the student should form a dissertation committee and propose the dissertation topic through a proposal and an oral presentation. Once all are satisfied, the student advances to the candidacy.

Suggested Timeline

**The timeline may be adjusted depending on students’ goals and situations.

  • End of Year 1: take qualification exams (QE)

    • Two QE courses need to be chosen from five-course options
    • QE-related information can be found below:
      • Algorithm Essentials pdf
      • Communications and Network Security pdf
      • Cyber-Human Systems pdf
      • Database Systems pdf
      • Information Platforms Operating Principles pdf
  • End of Year 2: satisfy fundamental knowledge (FK) requirements
    • Two fundamental knowledge courses need to be picked out of five-course options. 
    • The grades of the two FK courses need to be at least A- and earned within the first 24 months of the program.
  • End of Year 2.5: satisfy all the coursework 
    • 12 credits need to be in the 700-level courses.
    • After satisfying the coursework, students need to enroll in the IT 998 course for the research period in the Ph.D. program. 
  • End of Year 3: take the oral comprehensive (comps) exam
    • The comps exam should happen within a year after the student satisfies the coursework requirements.
  • End of Year 4: proposal defense (advance to the Ph.D. candidacy)
    • The student needs to work with the advisor to organize the dissertation committee, and the proposal defense is evaluated by the committee on the date that is decided by the student and the committee. 
  • End of Year 5: dissertation defense 
    • The dissertation committee evaluates the candidate’s final defense through the dissertation as well as the oral presentation (defense). Once passed, the candidate should submit the dissertation following the requirements of the Mason Library by the designated date. This will satisfy all the requirements of the Ph.D. degree.