Jul 17, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Data Science and Engineering (Ph.D.)

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Program Overview

Discover the transformative power of data with the Ph.D. in Data Science and Engineering. Gain the skills to unlock valuable insights and make data-driven decisions that drive success in today’s competitive landscape. Our comprehensive curriculum equips you with advanced knowledge in statistical modeling, machine learning, and data visualization, empowering you to solve complex problems across industries. Collaborate with renowned faculty and industry experts, engage in cutting-edge research, and leverage state-of-the-art tools and technologies to harness the potential of big data. Propel your career forward and become a sought-after data scientist with our esteemed program. Learn more at https://www.usd.edu/Academics/Graduate-Programs/Data-Science-and-Engineering.

DELIVERY: On campus 

Ph.D. Requirements for Data Science and Engineering (72 credit hours)

Collaborative program with the South Dakota School of Mines. Courses are offered at both South Dakota School of Mines and USD campuses.

Distribution of credits

  • Core requirements: 12 credits
  • Research requirements: 30-36 credits
  • Elective requirements: 24-30 credits

Total credits: 72

At least 36 of the required 72 credits must be taken at the 700-level or above.

Students may apply 24 coursework credits and 6 research credits from a previous MS degree toward the PhD requirements, subject to approval by the student’s committee.

Core Requirements (12 hours)

Introduction to data science (Select one course for 3 cr hrs)

  • CSC 559 Introduction to Data Science and Engineering Credits: 3 or
  • CSC 557 Data Analysis/Decision Making Credits: 3

Data analysis (Select one course for 3 cr hrs)

Modeling and optimization (Select one course for 3 cr hrs)


  • CSC 790  Seminar Credits: 1* (A minimum of 3 credits of CSC 790 are required, the course will be taught as 1 credit hours)

* A minimum of 3 credits of CSC 790 are required.

Elective requirements (24-30 hours)

Each Ph.D. program of study is individually designed to meet the goals of the student. Courses from a variety of areas, for example biology, chemical engineering, chemistry, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, materials and metallurgical engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, or other disciplines may be used to fulfill the elective requirements in a manner intended to complement the student’s research. Elective courses in the area of the student’s intended research are to be selected in consultation with, and approved by, the student’s advisory committee and major advisor.

Research requirements (30-36 hours)

The completion of a doctoral dissertation, approved by the student’s graduate advisory committee and the Dean of Graduate Education, is required for this degree. PhD students are expected to participate in the creation of new knowledge and applications in data science and engineering.

  • CSC 898/MATH 898/IENG 898 Dissertation Credits: Credit to be arranged **

**30-36 credits of 898D are required. No more than 36 credits of 898D may be counted toward the degree.


Detailed information on qualifying policies, admission to candidacy, and defense of dissertation may be found in the graduate program handbook.

Qualifying requirements

The qualifying requirements tests the student’s background knowledge and ability to pursue advanced courses and dissertation research. All students coming into the Ph.D. program are required to take the qualifying exam within the first 2 years. The qualifying exam shall be satisfied by completing ONE of the items below:

  • Successful completion of an oral or written examination on the student’s coursework and general knowledge of the discipline.
  • Successful publication of two high impact peer reviewed Journal or Conference papers as approved by the student’s graduate committee.
  • Successful presentation of two papers in the student’s field of study (one seminal paper, and one paper at the boundary of knowledge as indicated by the date of publication being no older than two years from the date of the examination). The student will work with their graduate advisor to discuss and ultimately select the papers for presentation. These presentations could occur at a conference, local seminar, or to the student’s committee.
  • The successful defense of a master’s thesis may be used as the qualifying examination, at the discretion of the student’s graduate advisory committee.

Comprehensive examination and admission to candidacy

The comprehensive examination is given to evaluate the student’s ability to formulate a research problem. It shall consist of a research proposal defense in which students will be required to write and orally defend their research proposal to their graduate advisory committee. Review of comprehensive examinations will be completed as soon as possible by all members of the committee. Upon successful completion, the major professor and department head will recommend to the dean of graduate education that the student be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.

All students coming into the Ph.D. program with an M.S. degree are required to complete the comprehensive exam within two academic years (fall, spring, summer semesters). Students coming into the program with a BS degree must complete the comprehensive exam after their coursework is substantially completed. The comprehensive examination, and subsequent admission to candidacy, should be passed at least 12 months before the dissertation is defended or at the discretion of the committee.

Dissertation defense

A dissertation defense and a final oral examination are required for this degree. These requirements are managed by the student’s committee in accordance with the policies established by each institution.

Master’s Degrees Enroute to the Ph.D.

  • Students who complete 30 credit hours of relevant coursework as approved by the Mathematical Sciences department will be awarded an M.S. in Mathematics  enroute to completing the PhD in Data Science and Engineering.

  • Students who complete 30 credit hours of relevant coursework as approved by the Computer Science department will be awarded an M.S. in Computer Science  enroute to completing the PhD in Data Science and Engineering.

General Application Requirements

  1. Completed application
  2. $35 application fee
  3. Official transcripts*
  4. Letters of recommendation*
  5. Statement of purpose
  6. Resume/CV*

*Requirements for admission vary by program and may require different documentation and have different deadlines. This list is not all-inclusive, to view specific program requirements and submission deadlines, follow the “Admissions Information” hyperlink at the top of this page OR visit the specific program/dept. page found here: link.usd.edu/grad-catalog

Location Matters for Non-Licensure Track Programs

This program is not designed or advertised to lead to a professional license or certification required for employment.

USD is permitted to operate under the terms of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA) policies and standards in offering online courses/degree programs to residents in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  Online courses/programs may also be offered to residents of California (a non-SARA state) because it does not regulate out-of-state public institutions.

Additionally, this program is authorized to offer supervised field study experiences (internship, externship, clinical, rotation, practicum, independent study, study away, etc.) in South Dakota. Please be aware that there may be some restrictions on your ability to engage in supervised field study outside of South Dakota. Please contact a program representative if you have questions regarding supervised field study.

Distance education courses or programs will not be offered outside of the United States without prior written approval from the University, which may be withheld for any reason. If you are taking distance courses while physically located outside of the United States, it is your responsibility to confirm the following: (a) if the country will recognize an online degree; (b) the availability of supervised field study opportunities in the country; and (c) if the country charges any additional taxes, withholdings or fees associated with online distance education programs.

For more information, please visit USD’s State Authorization page or contact your admissions counselor.


Department of Computer Science
605-677-5388 | cs@usd.edu | usd.edu/csci

Department of Mathematical Sciences
605-658-5970 | math@usd.edu | usd.edu/math

Graduate Admissions 
605-658-6140 | gradadmissions@usd.edu  | usd.edu/grad


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