Ph.D. in Computer Engineering

By Brandon Mario D`Souza

Updated January 11, 2024
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Brandon Mario D’Souza

Brandon is a registered social worker with Social Work England. He obtained his master’s in social work (personnel management & industrial relations) and used it in fields such as water treatment, construction, software, and education. Then he transitioned to the health and social care sector with an M.Sc. in health psychology. Brandon loves to write, cook, and play musical instruments (piano, guitar, melodica, ukulele, and kazoo) and enjoys the calmness and serenity of nature.

Degrees

Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

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A Ph.D. in computer engineering prepares students for careers in academia, applied research, private industry, and government. This advanced degree is the gateway to making new discoveries and inventions through research in various sub-fields of computer engineering. A doctoral degree in computer engineering can lead to senior roles across multiple sectors of industry and allows students to make meaningful contributions to the field. This guide thoroughly explains the Ph.D. in computer engineering program and its many critical aspects prospective students should know.

Ph.D-in-Computer-Engineering

Best Ph.D. in Computer Engineering
Programs

Finding an excellent doctoral degree program in computer engineering is not as simple as one might think. Prospective students should consider the infrastructure, the availability of labs and research facilities, the qualification and experience of the teaching staff, easy access to research mentors and guides, accreditation, graduation rates, and other factors when choosing a college. Based on these and other factors, FBD teams have compiled a list of some of the best Ph.D. in computer engineering programs in the country: *

Arizona State University is a public research university established in 1885 and is one of the biggest public universities in the country based on enrollment. It has nationally and internationally ranked programs that prepare the next generation of innovators to thrive while advancing groundbreaking research, strategic alliances, entrepreneurship, and economic development.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
Arizona State University Campus Immersion University Drive and Mill Avenue, Tempe, Arizona 85287 $11,720 66%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Programs

Computer engineering doctoral studies prepare students for careers in applied research, academia, private industry, and government. The areas of study are typically determined by student interest and faculty research interests and can cover a wide range of topics in computing theory, hardware, software, and computing applications. Comprehensive examinations, a research examination, a dissertation, and a successful defense of the dissertation before a graduate committee are all part of earning a Ph.D. in computer engineering.

Although each college may have different requirements that students must meet in their doctoral programs, quantitative research methods and intensely specialized classes in the student’s computer engineering field typically make up the course work for a computer engineering doctorate. Here is a basic program structure for a Ph.D. in computer engineering program:

(a) Coursework

The course selection for doctoral students is broad. Most of the time, students can choose their course plans from one concentration of computer engineering that aligns with their needs and professional objectives.

(b) Teaching

Although not always a requirement, at some colleges, teaching experience is strongly recommended for students who are not Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) but want to become professors.

(c) Residency

In some cases, unless they have an assistantship, students are required to complete a certain number of prescribed credit hours of graduate-level coursework. The student is required to study full-time during this period. Residency is sometimes needed before taking the comprehensive exams.

(d) Comprehensive Exams

Students are eligible to take comprehensive examinations when they have completed all coursework. Most students choose to write a manuscript on a topic of their choice and defend it orally before a committee of departmental, school, and/or university faculty members.

(e) Dissertation

The Ph.D. candidate will collaborate with their advisor to choose a topic that will advance the field after passing the comprehensive exam.

(f) Field Experience

Doctoral students are encouraged to participate in independent study research courses to combine and relate classroom theory with field activities. They can engage with scientific communities through research and collate data from various sources for this purpose.

Examples of research topics include but are not limited to:

  • Computer Architecture
  • RF and Antenna Design
  • Mobile Computing
  • Alternative Energy
  • Controls and Robotics
  • Microwave Systems
  • Digital Signals Processing
  • Circuit Design
  • Magnet sensors
  • Nanotechnology
  • Adaptive Signal Processing
  • Machine Learning
  • Wireless communications
  • Flexible Electronics
  • Biomedical Imaging
  • Nanoelectronics
  • Cybersecurity

Read the Guide to Ph.D. Programs to understand more about doctoral programs.

Areas of Specialization in Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Programs

The best way to find a job one enjoys is to become an expert in a field of interest. Specializing is the most effective way to increase one’s salary and career opportunities. Many schools consider computer engineering to be a computer science specialization, but it is also offered as a concentration by the same number of schools. Here are a few examples of computer engineering concentrations:

Area of SpecializationDescriptionCareer Options
Networking, Mobile, and Distributed ComputingThis concentration investigates the mechanisms that enable a group of devices to sense their surroundings, collaborate, and draw conclusions about them. It also investigates efficient networking protocols, critical for moving large amounts of data between Internet endpoints.Various roles in the networking and mobile computing industries
Hardware and Computer ArchitectureThis concentration emphasizes the engineering side of computer engineering. Students learn how to design and build physical computer equipment by studying Modern Active Circuit Design, Advanced Digital Design with Verilog & FPGA, etc.Various roles in the computer hardware industry
Cyber SecurityThis specialization focuses on the security and defense of computer networks, digital data, and physical servers and computers. Students learn about intrusions, attacks, and other forms of malicious activity and how to prevent and counter them.Various roles in the computer hardware industry
Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and CyberneticsThis specialization focuses on creating robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and interface algorithms that can learn, generalize, communicate, plan, and extrapolate. Students will also learn how algorithms interact with humans and how the performance of an algorithm can be guaranteed under certain conditions.Various roles in robotics, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence
Foundations and TheoryThis specialization provides students with a deep foundation in a broad range of mathematics, the analytical aspects of computing, and communications and control. Students learn stochastic processes, distributed algorithms, and network science, among others.Various roles in the computer hardware industry
Big Data Analytics and SystemsThis specialization delves into the fundamental theories, techniques, methodologies, and technologies underlying large-scale big data applications. Students learn how to mine data, analyze genomic data, and perform computational genomics.Various roles in the data management and analytics companies

Some of the other specializations students can consider include but are not limited to:

  • Reconfigurable Computing
  • Embedded Systems
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Computer and Network Security
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Software
  • Medical Image Computing
  • Bioinformatics
  • Trust, Reliability, and Security
  • Computational Geometry
  • Foundations and Theory
  • Computer Graphics and Visualization
  • Machine Learning
  • Human-Centered Computing
  • Interface Design

Why should I do a Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering?

Students pursuing an online doctorate in computer engineering learn scientific concepts, reasoning, and skills, as well as the principles and methods of teaching computer engineering. Their education will give them the knowledge and skills to work as independent scientists, postsecondary computer engineering teachers, or both. Most online Ph.D. computer engineering graduates have gone on to work in teaching and research, and they frequently receive multiple job offers before completing their programs.

The Ph.D. in computer engineering degree is appropriate for students with a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in computer science who want to pursue a professional career in basic and applied research, teaching, advocacy, information technology, government, or other advanced scientific positions. Overall, this doctorate can lead to rich and rewarding careers and experiences in higher education academic positions, postdoctoral positions in related fields, and advanced positions in the government and private sectors.

Upon graduating, be it in research, teaching, or professional services, graduates of the online PhD in computer engineering would have the ability to:

  • demonstrate understanding of fundamental computing patterns and principles, as well as the ability to integrate and apply knowledge from various scientific disciplines;
  • design and carry out observational and experimental studies while considering replication and statistical design constraints;
  • analyze and interpret data and scientific literature, synthesize information, and draw appropriate conclusions;
  • demonstrate effective oral and written scientific communication, as well as effective professional communication;
  • converse appropriately with other scientists about content, design, analysis, and techniques;
  • carry out original research and impart it to their peers through technical and scientific journals;
  • independently formulate, evaluate, and resolve complex engineering problems using the engineering methods, tools, and pertinent scientific and technological advancements to solve these issues; and
  • make significant and original contributions to scientific knowledge in their field.

Free Courses for Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Students

Several reputable platforms offer free computer engineering courses on the internet. Although these free courses rarely lead to certification recognized by academic institutions or some employers, they do provide additional computer engineering information that may be useful for research, assignments, or exams. Here are a few to explore:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
Topics Related to Computer EngineeringUdemy is a go-to destination for those looking for free courses. The site offers free courses at various learning levels on topics such as Deep Learning: Convolutional Neural Networks for Developers, Digital Electronics, Convolutional Neural Networks, etc.Udemy
Topics Related to Computer EngineeringMIT OpenCourseWare offers several free online courses from accomplished professors on topics such as Logistical and Transportation Planning Methods, Solid-State Circuits, Advanced Circuit Techniques, etc.MIT OpenCourseWare
Topics Related to Computer EngineeringCoursera offers hundreds of free courses, guided projects, and specializations at various learning levels. Topics include Optical Engineering, Systems Engineering, Cloud Data Engineering, etc.Coursera

How to get into the Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Program?

Applicants must have a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or a foreign university that meets the requirements for both a bachelor’s and master’s degree to be admitted to a Ph.D. in computer engineering online. Furthermore, a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is usually required. Prospective students at some colleges may also be necessary to identify a suitable professor who will serve as their advisor or mentor throughout their research. Aside from these, some of the most common Ph.D. in computer engineering admission requirements are:

Online Application & Application Fee

Completing an online application and paying the prescribed application fee.

Academic Transcripts

An official copy of academic transcripts from each college/university attended.

Undergraduate/Graduate Degree + Grade Point Average

An undergraduate and/or graduate degree and Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or more.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) Scores

An official copy of GRE scores no older than 5 years.

Graduate Résumé or Curriculum Vitae

The latest résumé or CV that provides personal information and work experience.

Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose

A statement outlining how the program relates to the applicant’s career goals.

Letters of Recommendation

At least 3 letters of recommendation from those who can provide a thorough evaluation of the applicant’s abilities at the graduate level.

Proof of English proficiency

A document proving proficiency in English (for non-native English speakers).

Online Ph.D. in Computer Engineering
No GRE Programs

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) assesses a student’s ability to complete graduate coursework independently. While the trend in several disciplines has been to make GRE scores optional, this trend has not yet reached computer engineering. As a result, finding a school that offers a Ph.D. in computer engineering no GRE program is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, a college may waive the GRE requirement in certain cases, but they will be more selective. They will have stricter requirements for minimum Grade Point Average (GPA), work experience, recommendation letters, and other criteria.

How Long does it take to complete the Ph.D. in
Computer Engineering Program?

How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in computer engineering? The average time to finish a Ph.D. in computer engineering is between 5 and 7 years, but some can be done in 4 years, and others can take up to 6. No matter how long it takes, the work that Ph.D. students do is usually very detailed and narrowly focused on their chosen specialty. When selecting an online Ph.D. program in computer engineering, it can be important for students to think about how much time they want to spend on it. This will affect how long it takes to finish the program. Here is a quick overview of the online Ph.D. in computer engineering duration:

  • Minimum time required for a full-time Ph.D. in computer engineering: about 4 years.
  • Maximum time required for a Ph.D. in computer engineering: up to 7 years.
  • Typical time frame to complete a Ph.D. in computer engineering: about 5 to 7 years.

Accelerated Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Programs

As students progress through an accelerated curriculum, they will likely graduate sooner. Students can complete their Ph.D. in computer engineering in as little as four years with an accelerated doctoral program. However, the dissertation may take an additional year to finish on top of the coursework. Students can begin their Ph.D. program while still completing their master’s degree at some universities. As a result, the master’s thesis can be “upgraded” or expanded to serve as a Ph.D. dissertation in these cases.

Accreditations for Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Programs

Accreditation is a seal of approval given to a college or program that shows the general public and potential employers that the institution adheres to the highest levels of educational quality and standards. Ph.D. programs in computer engineering may receive programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Computer Engineering and Technology (ABET). A nonprofit organization with ISO 9001, ABET certifies computer engineering programs based on curriculum, student outcomes, student performance, facilities, faculty, and resources. In addition, colleges are accredited nationally or nationally by independent organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Regional accreditation is the most common type in the United States, and it is granted by six organizations:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools anad Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

To ensure program quality, students should confirm that their selected university is accredited by ABET, a regional or national accreditation body, or both. Read the Guide to College Accreditation to learn more about accreditation.

How to Pay for a Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Program?

A Ph.D. in computer engineering typically costs a lot of money to complete. According to Education Data, there is an average cost of $98,800 in the United States for a doctorate. The high tuition fee and associated research costs can be a financial burden for many prospective online students, even if they do not pay additional fees for transportation, meals, or campus-related expenses. Students pursuing an online Ph.D. in computer engineering can take advantage of the following external funding options to offset some of their educational costs:

Scholarships

Students like scholarships because they are easy to obtain and do not require repayment. They are awarded to deserving and meritorious students based primarily on their academic performance.

Grants

In contrast to loans, which must be repaid, grants are free money. They are often awarded based on financial need, unlike scholarships typically awarded based on an applicant’s academic performance.

Fellowships

Grants for doctoral students are known as predoctoral fellowships or Ph.D. fellowships. There are usually strings attached when Ph.D. students accept a fellowship, such as a future project or specific use for the money. Several awards and fellowships are available to keep or attract the best students.

Work-Study Programs

Students participating in work-study programs can pay for their education by working part-time. Numerous work-study jobs directly relate to a student’s academic or volunteer work and help them gain practical experience and exposure.

Graduate Assistantships

Students who assist faculty in the classroom as graduate teaching assistants or in the lab as graduate research assistants can apply for a graduate assistantship. In return for their assistance, students are typically compensated in the form of a stipend or discount on their tuition.

Student Loans

Students can also take out a student loan to help pay for their Ph.D. studies. Numerous banks, financial institutions, and the federal government offer educational loans. Because loans carry interest, borrowing money will raise the total cost of education. Understand how one can apply for loan forgiveness to avoid repaying student loans by reading about Donors for Student Loans and Grants for Student Loans.

The Free Application For Student Aid or FAFSA is an application for federal financial aid that all prospective and current college students must complete to check if they are eligible for aid and receive the best financial aid package possible. The FAFSA Student Aid guide explains more.

Read about What is Financial Aid? and find out everything there is to know about college funding in the How to Pay for College guide.

Fully Funded Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Programs

With the average cost of a PhD doctorate degree in the United States being $98,800, many people who want to get a Ph.D. need financial help from outside sources. Some colleges offer the chance to get a fully paid-for Ph.D. in computer engineering. A fully funded program will usually pay for all a student’s costs for the three to five years it takes to get a doctorate (tuition, a living stipend, etc.). Here are a few Ph.D. programs in computer engineering that offer full funding:

InstitutionDescription
NC State UniversityStudents enrolled in their first four years of a Ph.D. program are guaranteed a funded appointment for the fall and spring semesters, which includes a full tuition waiver and a stipend. Summer assistance is also available to students.
Stanford UniversityStanford Engineering offers all its doctoral students in good standing relative to their PhD program requirements full or partial funding to the department’s standard. Applicants can choose from the many funding programs available.
University of South FloridaThe University of South Florida has many doctoral fellowship programs that include a stipend, tuition & fees, health insurance, and travel support.

FAQs Related to the Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Program

Is there Ph.D. in computer engineering online?

In most instances, a Ph.D. in computer engineering degree is offline and requires a fair amount of residency. However, some colleges may allow all students to take a few classes online (if such a provision exists).

Is a Ph.D. in computer engineering worth it?

How long is a Ph.D. in computer engineering?

What can I do with a Ph.D. in computer engineering?

Computer Engineering Ph.D. or Software Engineering Ph.D. – which is better?

How do you get a Ph.D. in computer engineering?

Can I do a Ph.D. in computer engineering without a master’s?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after a Ph.D. in
Computer Engineering

Although many jobs require only a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in computer engineering increases one’s hiring potential, allows for specialized work, and frequently leads to higher salaries. A Ph.D., on the other hand, will likely lead to even more pay and roles in academia, research, and the government, in areas such as cyber security, software development, hardware development, database administration, or network security.

Because Ph.D. computer engineering graduates almost always land jobs in middle management (and above), senior positions in academia, or senior research positions in business and government, it is difficult to identify job titles and assess pay. Still, below are some examples of computer engineering jobs, median annual salaries, and job growth, as reported by the BLS, which should present an idea of what Ph.D. holders can expect. It should be noted that the salaries mentioned are typically for those who have a bachelor’s or master’s in computer engineering. Ph.D. holders will likely earn much more with qualification, experience, and certification.

OccupationJob DescriptionSkills RequiredMedian Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2030)
Computer Hardware EngineersComputer hardware engineers are in charge of researching, designing, developing, and testing computer systems and components such as circuit boards, processors, memory modules, routers, and networking devices.Critical-thinking skills, analytical skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills$128,1702% (slower than average)
Computer and Information Systems ManagersComputer and information systems managers, also known as information technology (IT) managers or IT project managers, plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities within an organization. They help determine an organization’s information technology goals and are in charge of putting those goals into action through computer systems.Organizational skills, communication skills, analytical skills, business skills, decision-making skills, leadership skills$159,01011% (faster than average)
Computer and Information Research ScientistsComputer and information scientists create new applications for existing and emerging technology. They research and develop solutions to complex computing problems in science, medicine, business, and other fields.Logical thinking, problem-solving skills, math skills, analytical skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills, detail-oriented$131,49022% (much faster than average)
Postsecondary TeachersPostsecondary teachers impart education to students in a wide range of academic subjects beyond high school. In addition, they may conduct research, write scholarly papers and books, plan lessons and assignments, and supervise graduate teaching or research assistants.Speaking skills, writing skills, interpersonal skills, critical-thinking skills, resourcefulness$79,64012% (faster than average)
Top ExecutivesTop executives devise strategies and policies to ensure an organization’s objectives are met. They coordinate and direct the work activities of businesses and organizations and direct and supervise the financial and budgetary activities of a company.Communication skills, problem-solving skills, leadership skills, decision-making skills, time-management skills$98,9808% (as fast as average)

Certifications and Licensing for Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Students

Professional computer engineering certifications supplement and broaden the knowledge and skills gained through degree programs. Advanced credentials are intended to demonstrate technical expertise in a particular area of computer engineering. Even though the Ph.D. degree should be a good show of one’s knowledge and expertise, certifications may add additional heft to one’s resumé and improve career prospects. Many companies and organizations offer general, vendor-specific, and vendor-neutral (third-party) certifications. Here are a few examples:

Microsoft Certifications

Microsoft provides some 93 certifications in Azure, Functional Consultancy, Administrator, Windows, Dynamics 365, and more at the intermediate and advanced levels, which are suitable for Ph.D. holders.

ARM Accredited Engineer (AAE)

The ARM Accredited Engineer (AAE) certification verifies a person’s overall knowledge of ARM architecture. This industry-recognized certification focuses on software development tools as well as software-related aspects of the ARMv7 Architecture, with a focus on the Cortex-A and Cortex-R profiles in particular. Software development, debugging, and optimization takes up more than half of the AAE curriculum.

Google Developers Certification

Google awards several certifications for computer hardware and software professionals, including the Google Cloud Certified – Professional Cloud Architect, Google Cloud Certified – Professional Data Engineer, Google Cloud Certified – Associate Cloud Engineer, and more.

Cisco Expert Certifications

Cisco certifications validate an individual’s complete IT lifecycle skills, from planning and design to operating and optimizing. Cisco expert certifications are among the industry’s most widely recognized and respected certifications, stating unequivocally that the candidate knows what they are talking about. Certifications include CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure, CCIE Enterprise Wireless, CCIE Data Center, CCIE Security, and more.

Additional Resources for Ph.D. in Computer
Engineering Students

It is possible to obtain a wide range of services from a professional association or organization in education and development or field research. Those interested in a career or advanced research in computer engineering must consider joining associations that provide such services. Aspiring Ph.D. in computer engineering students or graduates may find these organizations helpful:

Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA)

The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Head Association (ECEDHA) is the most prestigious academic organization of its kind, representing all major electrical engineering, computer engineering, and related programs at universities throughout North America.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest non-profit technical professional organization dedicated to the advancement of technology for the benefit of humanity. IEEE members receive access to conferences, publications, education, and career counseling, among other things.

International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology (IACSIT)

The International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology (IACSIT) is a registered international scientific association of distinguished scholars committed to the advancement of computer science and information technology. IACSIT organizes keynote addresses and conferences, disseminates news, and supports education and research.

Association of Computer Engineers and Technicians (ACET)

The Association of Computer Engineers and Technicians (ACET) is a non-profit organization based in the United Kingdom that promotes professional standards in the IT industry. With over 14,000 members worldwide, ACET provides a variety of services to its members, including accounting and training programs, as well as product discounts and invoicing.

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) is a nontechnical organization that represents licensed professional engineers’ interests. NSPE members have access to seminars and conferences, publications, and licensure.

Author Bio:

Brandon Mario D’Souza

Brandon is a registered social worker with Social Work England. He obtained his master’s in social work (personnel management & industrial relations) and used it in fields such as water treatment, construction, software, and education. Then he transitioned to the health and social care sector with an M.Sc. in health psychology. Brandon loves to write, cook, and play musical instruments (piano, guitar, melodica, ukulele, and kazoo) and enjoys the calmness and serenity of nature.

Degrees

Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

Disclaimer:

The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.