Top Doctorates in Computer Engineering for 2022


Updated September 12, 2022

A doctorate in computer engineering can open the door to rewarding careers in computer science. Explore computer engineering programs, including common coursework and specializations.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Person helps someone working on a computer Credit: TommL / E+ / Getty Images

Computer engineering incorporates aspects of computer science and electrical engineering. Computer engineers design computer systems, hardware, and software. They work with microprocessors, operating systems, and applications.

Ph.D. in computer engineering programs focus on advanced principles and practices in the field. These degrees help prepare students for high-level careers in research and development, teaching, and entrepreneurship.

Computer engineering graduates can earn significantly more than the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports computer hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of $119,560 as of May 2020. In comparison, the median salary for all jobs is $41,950. The demand for computer engineering professionals may grow as companies put more computer chips in everyday objects like cars and household appliances.

This guide provides information on computer engineering doctorates, including tips for choosing the right school and potential careers for graduates.

What To Expect From Ph.D. in Computer Engineering Programs

Ph.D. in computer engineering programs may cover computer architecture, parallel computing, big data, and database systems. Other topics include the internet of things, operating systems, and artificial intelligence. Like most disciplines at the doctoral level, Ph.D. in computer engineering degrees focus heavily on research.

Colleges and universities may offer doctorates in computer engineering through computer science or electrical and computer engineering departments. In some cases, these departments collaborate to offer joint programs in computer engineering.

Many factors affect program length, but it usually takes 4-5 years and 64-72 credits to earn a Ph.D. in computer engineering. Students can choose from concentrations in robotics, embedded systems, and nanotechnology.

A typical curriculum may include social media mining, robot design, and advanced digital communications. Each computer engineering Ph.D. student usually completes a dissertation and must pass a comprehensive exam.

Below, we go into more detail about what to expect from a doctorate in computer engineering program.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for Ph.D. in computer engineering programs vary by school. A candidate typically has a substantial background in the field, including a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in computer engineering, electrical engineering, or a related field. Doctoral programs in computer engineering may require a minimum 3.5 GPA.

Some programs consider students with bachelor's degrees in other disciplines. However, these applicants may be required to complete prerequisite courses. Those with master's degrees in computer science or other related fields can stand out among the competition. Prospective students typically need to outline their research interests and intended concentration areas.

Additional required materials may include a resume or CV, GRE or GMAT scores, letters of recommendation, and a writing sample.

Degree and Specialization Options

Not all Ph.D. in computer engineering programs offer specializations. In some cases, general engineering doctoral programs offer a concentration in computer engineering.

Concentrations explore subfields of computer engineering and prepare learners for specialized career paths. Potential options include:

  • Robotics and Embedded Systems: A robotics and embedded systems specialization focuses on artificial intelligence, perception, human-robot interaction, and computer vision. Students need strong backgrounds in computer science. Unique career paths include robotics engineer, embedded systems engineer, and robotics tester.
  • Machine Learning: Students specializing in machine learning develop skills in designing and assess machine learning algorithms. Topics include deep learning, optimization theory, digital signal processing, and advanced data structures.

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Comparing Similar Degrees

Prospective computer engineering doctoral students may consider other degrees in the field. Related programs include general computer science, information technology, and data science. Consider your interests, background, and career goals to decide if a Ph.D. in computer engineering is right for you.

The following information compares the focus, length, and courses of similar degrees.

Degree Focus Length Types of Classes Course Load
Ph.D. in Computer Engineering Computer architecture, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning 4-5 years Game theory and networked systems, advanced digital communications, deep learning 64-72 credits
Ph.D. in Computer Science Computer science, machine learning, software engineering, human-computer interaction 4-5 years Revolutionary molecules, fundamentals of chemistry, environmental chemistry 72-90 credits
Ph.D. in Information Technology Computer and network security, research, cybersecurity, data science 4 years Ph.D. dissertation research seminar, information technology strategic planning in global environments, literature review 90-120 credits
Ph.D. in Data Science Data analysis, statistics, programming, artificial intelligence 5 years Computational methods in analysis, informatics research design, applied cloud computing 36-60 credits

Doctoral degrees can take 4-5 years to complete. However, credit requirements vary and some students may take more or less time to graduate. Some classes overlap among computer engineering, general computer science, information technology, and data science programs.

These degree programs differ in their focus and potential career pathways after graduation. Find a doctoral program that aligns with your professional goals.

Popular Computer Engineering Courses

Ph.D. in computer engineering classes may focus on computer systems, algorithms, computer security, and machine learning. Popular courses include social media mining, introduction to numerical electromagnetics, and robot design studio.

Computer engineering doctoral students typically must pass comprehensive exams after completing core classes. Each enrollee also completes an original dissertation with research. The following list covers common engineering doctoral degree courses.

  • Robot Design Studio: In this hands-on class, students design and build electromechanical systems. Topics include embedded systems and microcontrollers, sensors, rapid prototyping, and software design. Learners may work individually or in teams to create working prototypes.
  • Social Media Mining: The course introduces social computing, new developments in social networks, and multidisciplinary approaches to mining the web. Students learn to use algorithms, applications, and software for social media mining. Other concepts include link analysis, emerging problems in social media, and information extraction.
  • Ph.D. Dissertation Research: Students receive credit toward their Ph.D. degrees for completing dissertation research. The program may require enrollees to meet regularly with dissertation advisors while conducting research and writing their papers.
  • Introduction to Numerical Electromagnetics: Students learn about applications for shielded transmission lines, commercial software for design and analysis, and finite differences for time-dependent fields.

How Much Will a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering Cost?

While tuition rates vary by schools, Ph.D. in computer engineering programs can range from $1,614-$2,272 per credit. Factors affecting cost include public or private school status, in-state vs. out-of-state residency, and program length. Choosing a public university and paying in-state tuition may offer the most affordable option.

Grants, financial aid, scholarships, and loans can help offset costs. Many doctoral programs award fellowships and assistantships to enrollees. These opportunities provide funding in exchange for teaching or departmental research. However, these scholarships are competitive and may not last for the entire program or cover all costs.

Is a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering Worth It?

Prospective students may wonder if completing a Ph.D. in computer engineering is worth it. Earning a doctoral degree requires a significant investment of hard work, time, and money. Learners should consider potential program's length, cost, and salary expectations after graduation.

Computer engineers do not necessarily need to earn Ph.D. degrees, but it can help open opportunities in advanced research and development. A doctoral degree also helps pave the way for high-level careers in university teaching, industry, and entrepreneurship. See the links below for some potential careers you can pursue with a doctorate in computer engineering.

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Choosing the Right Computer Engineering Program

Prospective Ph.D. in computer engineering students must consider several factors when choosing their programs. While priorities vary by individual, we highlight some of the primary considerations below.

  • Accreditation: Make sure that any school you consider holds regional accreditation. ABET accredits bachelor's and master's computing programs but not at the doctoral level.
  • Price: Computer engineering Ph.D. costs can vary significantly by school. Some programs offer significant funding to doctoral candidates, while others provide limited financial aid.
  • Available Concentrations: Do you want to focus on a specialized area of computer engineering? Research potential concentrations to see if your prospective program offers expertise in this area.
  • Prestige/Reputation: Completing your Ph.D. in computer engineering at a prestigious university can improve your fellowship and career prospects after graduation. Schools with the best reputations typically maintain stricter admission standards.

Should You Get Your Doctorate in Computer Engineering Online?

Earning a doctorate in computer engineering online offers benefits like convenience, flexibility, and affordability. Students can continue working while in graduate school, completing coursework around their schedules. Schools may offer computer engineering doctorates fully or partially online.

A Ph.D. in computer engineering may translate particularly well to an online learning environment — most classes include a substantial amount of computer work. Each student needs to consider the pros and cons of the online learning experience and their personal preferences to make the right decision for themselves.

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Top Doctorates in Computer Engineering

Whether you have a bachelor's or master's degree, you can apply to one of the following doctoral degrees. These top five doctorates in computer engineering can prepare you for a career in tech or academia.

Learn how we ranked these programs by exploring the link below.

Arizona State University-Tempe

School Information
Location Tempe, Arizona
Admission Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 63%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

ASU offers over 590 graduate programs led by prestigious faculty. In 2020, the university invested over $677 million in research. It has created an enterprise to foster student innovation and creativity. 

Computer Engineering (Computer Systems), Ph.D.

ASU's Ph.D. in computer engineering program provides an interdisciplinary education. Students explore both computer science and electrical engineering topics. During their first year, enrollees present a plan of study and select a concentration. Concentration offerings include computer systems and electrical engineering.

Students pursuing the computer systems concentration take 12 computer systems or computer engineering credits. They also need six electrical or computer engineering credits. Other program requirements include two core courses: algorithm foundations and random signal theory.  

Enrollees can select up to 30 technical elective credits. ASU may allow students with master's degrees to transfer 30 credits. Yet all Ph.D. candidates must complete 36 credits of research and dissertation.     

Applying to ASU

Applicants must hold a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field and present transcripts showing a minimum 3.0 GPA. ASU requires three recommendation letters, a personal statement, and an online application. Graduates from an ABET-accredited program do not need to submit GRE scores. The fee costs $70.  

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $11,720/year (in state); $23,544/year (out of state)
  • Credits Required: 84 credits
  • Delivery Format: On campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 34%
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Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

As an international institution, BU creates an environment for groundbreaking research. Almost 16,000 graduate and professional students enjoy the 175-acre campus. BU invests in research across dozens of industries, including data science.

Ph.D. in Computer Engineering

BU welcomes bachelor's and master's degree graduates into its Ph.D. in computer engineering program. Enrollees work with academic advisors to determine a research topic. They complete empirical and theoretical studies, demonstrating communication and research skills.

Ph.D. applicants prove technical and research skills to earn their candidacy. They must earn a minimum 3.7 GPA in four electrical and computer engineering courses (two courses for post-master's students). By the end of their first year, students must pass an oral examination based on a research article.

After earning their candidacy, Ph.D. students complete BU's advanced responsible conduct of research program. This program prepares students to propose and defend their dissertation topics. Other program requirements include two teaching semesters.

Applying to BU

Students submit an online application and pay a $95 fee. They also present 2-3 recommendation letters, a resume, transcripts, and an essay. BU does not require GRE scores for fall 2022 applicants.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Tuition: $58,560/year
  • Credits Required: 64 credits (post-BS track); 32 credits (post-MS track)
  • Delivery Format: On campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 31%
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Clemson University

School Information
Location Clemson, South Carolina
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in South Carolina, Clemson focuses on science and technology fields. The surrounding 18,000 acres provide wood and farmland for student research. Since 1889, Clemson has grown to include over 100 centers and state-of-the-art laboratories.

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Engineering

Clemson admits students with master's degrees in computer engineering or related topics. Applicants with bachelor's degrees may enter the Ph.D. in computer engineering program, but they must present strong academic records and research skills.  

Ph.D. students must pass qualifying and comprehensive examinations. They use 18 research credits to develop their dissertation proposals and defenses. Potential dissertation topics may explore computer systems architecture or circuits. 

Post-bachelor's students complete at least 42 extra credits. They may use these courses to complete their master's degrees as well. Post-master's enrollees only need 24 other credits. 

Applying to Clemson

Clemson requests GRE scores and transcripts. Applicants must turn in personal statements, three recommendation letters, and a resume. The online application costs $80.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: Full-time students: $5,429/semester (in state), $11,283/semester (out of state); part-time students: $743/credit (in state), $1,488/credit (out of state)
  • Credits Required: 60 credits (post-BS track); 42 credits (post-MS track)
  • Delivery Format: On campus; hybrid with synchronous components 
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 39%
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Colorado State University-Fort Collins

School Information
Location Fort Collins, Colorado
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 70%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in Fort Collins, CSU began as a land-grant institution. Since 1870, the university has valued inclusion, service, and integrity. CSU encourages research to serve others. The engineering department invests in the internet of things, high-performance computing, and chip design research.

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Engineering

Once accepted into CSU's Ph.D. in computer engineering program, students have three semesters to complete the qualifying exam. This exam covers a critique and analysis of a previously chosen paper. 

The preliminary examination occurs about one year before graduation. The results determine whether students receive Ph.D. candidacy. Upon approval, enrollees continue with their dissertation. The final examination includes an oral dissertation defense.  

Dissertation work counts as at least 24 credits (33 credits for post-bachelor's students). Enrollees earn other credits through regular courses. Post-master's students need at least 15-18 extra credits. The requirement increases to 36-39 credits for post-bachelor's enrollees. Ph.D. students can also pursue teaching or research assistant positions. 

Applying to CSU

Students present transcripts from accredited institutions showing a minimum 3.0 GPA. They also submit recommendation letters. CSU's electrical and computer engineering department does not require GRE scores. It also postpones the $50 fee until ensuring applicants' eligibility. 

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: Full-time students: $5,417/semester (in state), $13,282/semester (out of state); part-time students: $602/credit (in state), $1,476/credit (out of state)
  • Credits Required: 72 credits (post-BS track); 42 credits (post-MS track)
  • Delivery Format: On campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 40%
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Florida Institute of Technology

School Information
Location Melbourne, Florida
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Physicist Jerome P. Keuper founded Florida Tech in 1958. The school began as Brevard Engineering College and has since become a leading STEM institution. Florida Tech provides students access to various research institutions and corporate technology connections.

Computer Engineering, Ph.D.

Florida Tech's Ph.D. in computer engineering program emphasizes research. Half of the required 48 credits come from doctoral research and dissertation. Each student explores a computer engineering topic of their choice. Learners work with faculty members in high-tech research labs and facilities.

Enrollees develop a plan of study for the other 24 credits. With faculty approval, they can select various courses within their research topics. Doctoral candidates must submit annual progress reports.  

Florida Tech fosters a collaborative research environment where professors mentor students. The combination of research and hands-on experience prepares graduates for advanced tech positions.

Applying to Florida Tech

The online application costs $60. Florida Tech requests two recommendation letters, a personal statement, and a resume. Applicants generally need bachelor's and master's degrees. They submit graduate transcripts showing a minimum 3.2 GPA. Florida Tech does not require GRE scores. 

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $22,338/year
  • Credits Required: 48 credits
  • Delivery Format: On campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 36%
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Frequently Asked Questions About Computer Engineering Doctorates

Do you need a Ph.D. to be a computer engineer?

No. Most computer engineers hold bachelor's degrees at minimum. Students seeking Ph.D. degrees typically plan to teach at universities or pursue high-level research positions.

Can you get a Ph.D. in computer engineering?

Yes. Many universities offer Ph.D. in computer engineering programs to qualified applicants. Available specializations vary by school.

How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in computer engineering?

Program length varies by school. Most students complete their Ph.D. in computer engineering programs in 4-5 years.

What is a typical Ph.D. in computer engineering salary?

Salaries depend on the specific position and industry, but computer engineering graduates can earn higher-than-average salaries. The BLS reports that computer and information scientists earned a median annual salary of $126,830 in 2020.

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