PhD in Engineering - Security: Procedures & Requirements for Graduation

The course requirements are outlined on the following page: Program Info

Provisional Status

Recommendation for change from provisional status to regular degree status will be based on grades received in all courses taken during provisional status. Credit earned while in provisional status will count towards the Ph.D. if and when the student moves from provisional to regular status.

Transfer Policy

Nine credit hours of relevant graduate course work may be transferred from other universities. This includes courses taken at UCCS before the student is accepted into the Ph.D. program. Only courses at the graduate level that have not been applied to another degree, that were taken during the previous five years, and in which the student has received a grade of B or above are eligible for transfer. No hours of dissertation credit may be transferred. The transfer of credit must be approved by the PhD program director and the department chair.

Course Work

Most course work will require an on campus presence, but on a case-by-case basis with committee approval, some course work, including independent study taken as distance education, may be possible. Research toward dissertation may be done remotely.


Beyond the traditional learning component, the students in the program will be required to have at least three months of operational security experience (as internship, training, etc.).


All students in the program will be required to attend security workshops on campus at least once a year (around qualifying examination times), meeting with the advisor and giving a seminar about the research progress of the past year and the research plan of the next year.

Dissertation Credit

No more than 15 credit hours of dissertation can be taken prior to the semester in which the Comprehensive Examination is passed.

Candidate for Degree

A student becomes a candidate after passing the Comprehensive Examination.

Plan of Study

A Ph.D. plan of study is a document that lists the courses that a student will take to fulfill degree requirements. It also lists course deficiencies and transferred courses. A student must develop a plan of study by the end of the first semester after the semester in which the written qualifying examination is passed or waived. The plan is developed with the assistance of the student's Advisory Committee, and must be approved and signed by the student's advisor. Any subsequent changes of the plan must be approved by the student's advisor.

Advisory Committee

Once the qualifying examination has been successfully completed, the advisory committee will be formed. The advisory committee shall be formed early in the dissertation research so that the committee can guide the research. The student will select a dissertation advisor from the graduate faculty as approved by the EAS College. The dissertation advisor will assume the role of the academic advisor and the advisor for the dissertation research. The student and dissertation advisor will then form the advisory committee subject to the following requirements:

  1. The advisory committee consists of five members. Three of the members must be from the EAS College with at least one member of the committee being from outside the EAS College.
  2. A maximum of two members from outside the college of EAS may serve on the committee. They must be members of the graduate faculty.
  3. The committee should reflect the focus area of the dissertation work and be able to support and evaluate the student's work.


Satisfactory performance of the student is judged not only by course grades and dissertation credit, but also by performance on a series of examinations as described below.

Qualifying Examination The qualifying examination consists of two parts, one oral examination and one written examination.

The oral qualifying  examination is an oral presentation with a written report that surveys the literature in the planned research area that a student may pursue. A few example papers, recommended by the PhD program committee will be posted and available to students for reference. The examining committee will be organized by the advisor if identified by the student, or by the program director if the advisor has not been chosen by the student. The examining committee consists of three faculty members from the host department.

The topic of the exam will be determined by the student's advisor in consultation with the examining committee. If the student does not have an advisor at the moment, the topic will be determined by the PhD program committee.

Students having any sponsorship via the advisor's research funding or departmental teaching should pass the oral qualifying examination by the end of the first year after admission to the program. Other PhD students should pass the oral qualifying examination by the end of the second year after admission to the program. A student has one chance to take the oral exam. The advisor or the program director may request one additional year and one additional attempt for a student to take the examination. The request needs the approval of the PhD-Security program committee.

Waiver to the oral qualifying exam will be given if a student, as the first author, has one paper published or accepted for publication at a peer-reviewed international journal, or at a technical conference with selection rate <=40%.  

The written examination consists of four distinct topics, Computer Communication, Fundamentals of Network & Computer Security, Applied Cryptography, and Homeland Security. The examination is formally defined by the syllabus of material it will cover. Syllabi and sample questions for the written exam are available here (Syllabi, Sample) for study purposes. Students may take courses to help prepare for the examination, but the syllabus, not the course, defines the expectations for the exam. Students should be aware that the standard will be self study (as if no courses exist in the area).

The examination takes place twice a year for all students in May and December.

A student can take the examination up to two times: Students only need to retake the failed topics in the subsequent attempt. Students having any sponsorship via the advisor's research funding or departmental teaching should pass all topics by the end of the second year after admission to the program. Other PhD students should pass all topics by the end of the third year after admission to the program. The advisor or the program director may request one additional year and one more attempt for a student to take the written examination with a sound reason; for example, the student has made significant progress in research with good publication(s). The request needs the approval of the PhD-Security program committee.

Waiver to the written qualifying examination will be given if the student has passed the required courses (CS 5220, CS 5910, CS 5920 and PAD 5950) of the four qualifying examination topics at UCCS with a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or better. The program committee will decide if the grade of a transferred class can be used. Courses may not be retaken in order to increase the GPA to qualify for the waiver.

Comprehensive Examination The purpose of the comprehensive examination is to ensure that the student possesses the following:

  1. Sufficient grasp of the fundamentals of the chosen dissertation area to begin research, normally achieved through a thorough study of the current literature on the topic
  2. Ability to conduct innovative research
  3. Ability to exchange ideas and information with members of the Advisory Committee

PhD students cannot enroll in more than 15 credit hours of dissertation prior to passing the comprehensive exam.  Comprehension of existing literature and course material pertinent to the dissertation research, as well as the reasonableness of the unknown or undeveloped concepts that the student proposes, will be assessed by the Advisory Committee.The responsibility of the Advisory Committee is to review the research proposal and the qualifications of the student to complete the research successfully. If the research and the approach are found to be significant and appropriate and the student is judged capable of completing the research, the Advisory Committee will approve the research direction. If the Advisory Committee does not find the student ready to begin dissertation research, it must suggest further preparation by the student and plan on a subsequent taking of the comprehensive examination.

A passing grade in the examination is given if at least four of the five members of the public Committee including the student's advisor vote affirmatively.

Final Examination (Dissertation Defense) The final examination can only be applied after at least three months of operational security experience (as internship, training, etc.). The dissertation must be based on original investigation. It must demonstrate mature scholarship and critical judgment, as well as a familiarity with the tools and methods of research. It must be written on the subject approved in the comprehensive examination.

Although publication is not the only criterion, generally, it is expected that a Ph.D. candidate at the dissertation defense stage has at least one significant article published or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed sources, such as well-recognized international journals and highly-selective international conference proceedings.  Other justifiable criteria include well-deployed security software packages and technologies, grants, patents, etc. All those achievements should be largely based on the study and research during the degree work. 

After the dissertation has been completed, a final examination on the dissertation and related topics is conducted. This examination, which is conducted by the Advisory Committee, is oral and is open to anyone who wants to observe. More than one negative vote by members of the Advisory Committee disqualifies the candidate in the final exam. In case of failure, the final examination may be retaken after a period of time determined by the Advisory Committee.

    Time Limit for completion of Degree

    Individuals who are admitted as doctoral students normally are expected to complete all degree requirements within six years from the date of the start of course work in the doctoral program. For students who fail to complete the degree in the six-year period, the PhD - Security Program Director must request an extension from the Graduate Dean giving the reasons why the Program Director believes that the student is making adequate progress and should be allowed to continue in the program. If the Graduate Dean approves this statement, the student may continue his/her studies for one additional year.

    For additional information, please contact the Computer Science Department.