Breadth Requirement


The breadth requirement includes two components, core and electives.


The core consists of four (4) required areas:

1.  4115  Programming Languages and Translators (exam syllabus)
2.  4118  Operating Systems (exam syllabus)
3.  4231  Analysis of Algorithms (exam syllabus)
4.  4824  Computer Architecture (exam syllabus)

[Revised by full faculty vote, 11/6/13, to remove 4701 from the core.  Effective immediately except that the AI exam will be offered one last time in December 2013 and ETCOMS students planning to complete the MS degree this semester can still treat 4701 as "core".]

Every PhD student must pass all four (4) core areas, via either the course or the exam.  Every core course is offered at least one semester per academic year, with the corresponding core exam offered both semesters. Definitive information regarding when a course is offered can be found ONLY on the Registrar's website. (Past performance does not guarantee future results.)

Core courses/exams may not be "imported" or "transferred" from other institutions, they must be taken in the Computer Science Department at Columbia University.


In addition to the core, all PhD students must pass a total of six (6) elective graduate (4000 level or above) lecture courses, each three (3) or more points.  All COMS or jointly offered with COMS (e.g., CSEE, CSOR) courses are acceptable as CS electives.  At most two (2) electives may be outside CS, and only CS courses may be "imported" from another institution rather than taken at Columbia.  All electives require the advisor's approval.

[Revised by full faculty vote, 11/6/13. Effective immediately.]

"PhD Pass" Threshold

The minimum passing grade for PhD students in both core and elective courses is B+; the average grade across all core and elective courses must be A- or higher.  The PhD Pass threshold applies to both Columbia courses and imported electives. Courses may be retaken in a later semester, or a different elective substituted, with the highest grades used to compute the average. Exams taken in lieu of core or elective courses are graded on a pass/fail basis, and do not contribute to the average grade computation.

Satisfactory Progress

Satisfactory progress towards fulfilling the breadth requirement is defined as at least 2*N breadth course/exam passes, where N is the number of semesters enrolled thus far in the program, until the breadth requirement has been completed.

[Revised by full faculty vote on 12/18/08.]

A student who has not made satisfactory progress towards the breadth requirement is normally placed on probation at the end of the first and/or subsequent semesters that he/she "falls behind". The student can be immediately dismissed from the program at the end of any such unsatisfactory semester unless the full faculty accepts a petition from the advisor for one semester's grace.

Details of Breadth Requirement Administration

Last updated on November 6, 2013.