Ph.D. in Informatics

In the Ph.D. in Informatics program, you will engage in cutting-edge research areas with our graduate faculty and will develop important skills in computer and information sciences as well as social and behavioral sciences. You will learn how to analyze qualitative and quantitative effects in data and to understand, test, and contribute to scientific theory. All of which will prepare you to contribute expertise and take on faculty and research positions in academia, industry, and government agencies.

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Ph.D. Course Requirements

The Ph.D. in Informatics is a 32-credit degree program, which takes around 4 years to complete on a full-time basis. A complete discussion of degree requirements can be found in our IST Graduate Degree Roadmap.

Core Courses

As a Ph.D. IST student you are expected to develop a broad understanding of foundations, theories and methods across the disciplines that constitute the research landscape of the College. To accomplish this breadth in knowledge, students take these courses during their first year:

  • IST 501: Interdisciplinary Research Methods for Information Sciences and Technology (3 credits, Fall)
  • IST 590: Colloquium (1 credit Fall, 1 credit Spring)
  • Select 9 credits from the program-maintained list of foundational courses

Specialty Courses

You will select 18 credits of research methodology and specialization courses in consultation with your adviser to support progress on your dissertation research.

Research Credits

Under the direction of your adviser, you will complete research credits relevant to your dissertation project.

Program Milestones

In addition to coursework, the Ph.D. in Informatics program includes several milestones:

  • You will take a qualifying exam after the first year of study. In this college exam, we assess your ability to understand and apply critical thinking across several different disciplinary perspectives and to demonstrate proficiency in research writing and oral competency.
  • After successful completion of the qualifying exam and before the comprehensive exam, you will formally select your doctoral committee.
  • The comprehensive exam is taken within 12-18 months of passing the qualifying exam. You will develop and defend a dissertation proposal to your doctoral committee.
  • The final defense occurs when you defend your dissertation project to your doctoral committee.

Funding Opportunities

All Ph.D. students are funded through their first and second semesters in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships, or fellowships. Graduate assistantships include a stipend sufficient to cover living expenses in the region, full tuition coverage, and health benefits. While we cannot guarantee funding beyond this first year, we have historically been able to fund students through at least their fourth year in the program, so long as they are making acceptable academic progress.

For other financial aid, contact the Office of Student Aid for information on loans and grants or the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards for information on internal and external fellowships.

Graduate Research

Our students and faculty are engaged in cutting-edge projects in a variety of research areas, collaborating extensively with scholars within and outside the college on cutting-edge interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary research.

Our research aims to solve society’s most challenging problems that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries—from responding to natural disasters to improving human health and well-being, from protecting national security to making sense of big data, from exploring the connections between gender and technology to utilizing GIS for humanitarian efforts.

Their work is done in the college's research centers and labs, which are led by national and international scholars that cover a broad spectrum of research areas. In addition to our own facilities, we maintain relationships with related centers and labs across the Penn State campus and collaborate around the world.

Additional Resources


Office of Graduate Programs

E103 Westgate Building
University Park, PA 16802

Resident Programs
(814) 863-0591

Online Programs
(814) 863-9461