I'll be starting a Masters of Science program soon and wanted to make plans for my professional/educational future. I've been looking at different doctorate level degree programs and I'm having a bit of trouble in understanding the difference between a Doctor of Computer Science program and a Ph.D. in Computer Science program. I've seen it listed both ways which leads me to believe that they're two separate programs.

Could someone explain what the differences between the two are and identify which is more appropriate for someone with a development and software engineering background?

Here are two programs that show the difference in titles. These are not necessarily the programs I have in mind but they're the first ones I could find that show the title difference.

Colorado Technical University - Doctor of Computer Science

Nova Southeastern University - Ph.D. in Computer Science

  • 1
    Do you have specific links you can point to ?
    – Suresh
    Aug 3, 2013 at 2:41
  • Updated the question with links. Aug 3, 2013 at 2:57
  • 1
    The Colorado Technical University D of CS porogram takes 3 years and no dissertation required at the end. Nova Southeastern University PhD program requires dissertation.
    – Nobody
    Aug 3, 2013 at 3:39
  • 1
    Here is the wikipedia page on the DCompSci: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_Computer_Science . The talk page seems to have some disagreement about whether this is a "legitimate" degree. Seems like this unfamiliarity and skepticism among a fraction of people, which would affect how your degree is viewed by employers etc., would be something to keep in mind in making a choice.
    – Kallus
    Aug 3, 2013 at 3:45
  • 10
    I'm guessing the difference is about $30,000.
    – JeffE
    Aug 3, 2013 at 5:18

4 Answers 4


This is the first I've heard of a "Doctor of Computer Science" degree. Not having a dissertation requirement is a clear sign that this is different from a "standard" Ph.D program. A Ph.D (in any discipline) requires you to produce an original piece of research that you defend to a committee of experts. In addition, most Ph.D programs will have course requirements, residency requirements and so on.

Update: Some googling led me to the Wikipedia entry on 'professional doctorates', which most closely match the nature of the degree the OP describes. As Austin Henley points out, this is close in spirit to an MD (USA) and JD.

  • In some european countries you can only obtain a doctorate, they usually still call it a ph.d though (here in Belgium this is the case).
    – sxd
    Aug 5, 2013 at 10:14
  • 7
    @sxd In the US, a PhD is a doctorate. But not vice versa. There are other doctorates such as MD and JD. Nov 13, 2013 at 20:06
  • A Ph.D is a Doctor of Philosophy. A Doctor of Computer Science is likewise a doctorate, but it is not a Doctor of Philosophy. Likewise, one could get a Ph.D in law, which is a doctorate but not quite the same as a Juris Doctor which is what most lawyers have. There's nothing suspect or illegitimate about it though. Oct 24, 2022 at 9:53

If you are interested in a career in research, I would strongly recommend avoiding "executive-format" programs such as the one you've linked to. A program like that is not a standard PhD program, in that you are not required to produce a piece of original research, and therefore cannot claim to have met the standard of being an independent researcher (and problem-solver) at the end of your program.

If your long-term interests, however, run more toward being in management and other non-technical careers, then perhaps this would be an option—but I would only recommend it if you were already working in industry.


The Doctor of Computer Science program at Colorado Technical University has a dissertation requirement. At one point there was an optional four paper option but it is really a dissertation broken out into three papers that are the dissertation chapters broken out separately. The fourth paper is a publishable journal article. Thus you are doing much more work if you elect not to do the dissertation. The current program has removed the four paper option and is now dissertation only.

I am an alumni of the program and currently in a tenure track role at a state university while also holding an honorary position at a Tier 1 (top 100) institution. When I was in the program we had three residencies per year and now they have two. Remember that not all institutions are allowed to have a PhD but may have another terminal (doctoral) program. My Research Gate profile is below however you may contact me on LinkedIn to ask any questions. Additionally, I can point you towards other alumni who are professors West Point Military Academy, George Fox, Alabama A&M University, The Oklahoma State University, and other institutions.

Research Gate Profile https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Maurice_Dawson2

LinkedIn Profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/mauricedawson

Both programs are great but you have to look at publishing peer reviewed research immediately to bring value to your terminal degree. Again feel free to reach out to me.


  • "optional four paper option". One of those "option"s is redundant. Nov 13, 2013 at 22:37

Sorry for late response but was busy with grades and research activities. Colorado Technical University has always had the dissertation option however they had the four paper option as well. The four paper option has been phased out completely. The dissertations can be found on the IEEE Digital Library and through the institution's library. Also the 12 research and writing courses are the dissertation courses for the three year period. If you view the catalog and do a search on dissertation the word comes up a 144 times. See http://catalog.careered.com/~/media/Catalogs/ctu_6/course_catalog.pdf On pg 36 where you will see the following for the Doctor of Computer Science degree plan and description.

Graduation Requirements In addition to the successful completion of the above 96 credits with an acceptable GPA, students must also satisfactorily complete and defend their research proposal and final dissertation.

Since the program and degree is relatively small it is easy to come to conclusions. It should be noted that the college has the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation and is a National Security Agency (NSA) & Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education Program (CAE/IAE). Additionally, the most similar degree would be the Doctor of Science (D.Sc. or Sc.D.) which very few institutions have. I hope this assist and thanks for checking as well.

See ABET accreditation at http://main.abet.org/aps/AccreditedProgramsDetails.aspx?OrganizationID=192


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .