HCII Calendar

  • HCII Seminar - Laura Granka
    NSH 1305
    April 23, 2014 at 4:00pm
  • Ph.D. Thesis Proposal: Eliane Stampfer Wiese
    NSH 3305
    April 25, 2014 at 12:30pm
  • CMU Commencement

    May 18, 2014 at all day

PhD Program Requirements

Overview | Requirements | Emphasis Areas | Application | Contact Info

In order to complete a PhD in HCI, you will need to complete requirements in three areas: research, course work, and teaching.


Our course of study is designed first and foremost to teach you how to carry out original high-quality research in Human-Computer Interaction. The primary requirement in this area is the proposal and defense of a dissertation describing original research.

In addition, the program includes a research presentation-skills requirement that requires you to present original research to the HCI Institute community in written and oral form in the first two years of your study. We use an apprenticeship-based approach. You will be teamed early with an initial research advisor who is matched to your interests, and who will guide you in your work.

We expect that all students will become involved in an HCI research project from the beginning, and continue research work throughout their course of study.

Dissertation Proposal and Defense The program of study culminates in a dissertation describing original research. Proposal and defense of this dissertation are primary requirements for obtaining a PhD in HCI.

Prior to proposing a dissertation topic, each student will form a PhD committee consisting of their advisor and three other faculty members. The committee will be composed of three HCII faculty members and one outside faculty member (taken from either another CMU department or from outside the University). This committee will be responsible for approving a written and oral presentation of a dissertation proposal, as well as the final written dissertation, and its oral defense.

Communication Skill Requirements In order to encourage students to start research early, during both the first and second years of study each student is required to make a written and oral presentation of their research work. Written presentations will be in the form of a paper suitable for publication at one of the top HCI conferences or journals (for example at the annual SIGCHI conference). Oral presentations of your work will be in a forum open to the whole HCII community. In order to complete the requirements for a PhD, you must receive a “certification of communication skill.” This requires the review and approval of your presentations by an HCII speaking-skill committee. If this certification is not made based on your first- or second-year presentations, additional presentations will be required.

Course work

To accommodate students with a wide range of interests, the HCI PhD program of study has been structured around three areas of specialization: human sciences, computer science, and design. These areas of specialization each have different specific course requirements. Conducting research requires a firm grounding in the concepts and prior work of a field. Course work requirements are designed to ensure that firm grounding. Course requirements are structured so that they can typically be completed within the first two and a half years of study. However, students are free to schedule their course work in a variety of ways to accommodate their educational needs, and in some cases additional prerequisite course work may be needed.

Areas of specialization HCI PhD students come from a variety of backgrounds spanning the research areas that contribute to Human-Computer Interaction. To accommodate students with these wide range of interests, the HCI PhD program of study has been structured around three areas of specialization: behavioral sciences (encompassing, for example, social science, cognitive science, or psychology backgrounds), computer science, and design. However, we also encourage applicants from a variety of other backgrounds.

Course requirements for all students All programs of study are created individually, but must be approved in advance by both your advisor and the department committee for programs of study. All programs of study must include the following:

  • 05-771 HCI Process and Theory
  • 4 graduate-level courses in an area of specialization (behavioral sciences, computer science or design)
  • 1 graduate-level course in a second area
  • 1 graduate-level course in the third area
  • 4 graduate-level mini courses (05-772 Social Perspectives in HCI, 05-773 Computer Science Perspectives in HCI, 05-774 Design Perspectives in HCI, 05-775 Cognitive Perspectives in HCI)

In addition, each program of study must include at least one graduate-level studio design course.


We believe that the skills necessary to teach are important for all researchers. To help you develop these skills, the program also includes a teaching requirement. Although graduates of the HCI PhD program will seek a variety of both academic and industrial positions, we believe that the skills necessary to teach (e.g., organizing and presenting complex materials clearly) are important for all researchers. Consequently, each student is required to serve as a teaching assistant for two semesters some time during their program of study.

Student handbook

PhD requirements are spelled out in more detail in the PhD student handbook.