Master of Science (MS)

Program Requirements
Plan A
Plan B
Admission Requirements
Time for Completion

Program Requirements

Adviser & Committee Selection

Master’s students must associate themselves with a faculty advisor in consultation with whom they will select an advisory committee. The advisory committee consists of three faculty members chaired by the adviser. The advisory committee is responsible for reviewing the student’s plan of study (see below) and–for Plan A students–evaluating thesis work.

Course selection; Plan of study

The Master’s programs are designed to be flexible. Course selection, in either program, is the responsibility of the student in consultation with the student’s advisory committee. Student’s compile a Plan of Study indicating the coursework they intend to use to fulfill the degree. Advanced undergraduate computing courses (with prescribed limits, see below) may be included in the Plan of Study. Additionally, graduate courses taken outside of CSE are also permitted (with prescribed limits, see below). The Plan of Study must be approved by the student’s advisory committee in order to satisfy the degree requirements. The current plan of study form, with a detailed description of course requirements, can be found with the other forms.

Plan A detailed requirements

The Plan A program allows a student to combine individual study with general course work. The requirements for this degree are:

  1. Coursework meeting the Plan A requirements.
  2. An oral presentation of a thesis research proposal.
  3. Completion of a master’s thesis and oral presentation of thesis work.

For further details, including limits on course and credit transfer, see the M.S. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog. Plan A course requirements, in brief:

  • At least 21 credits of graduate level courses, excluding thesis research credits, reflecting a GPA of at least 3.0.
  • At least 9 credits of CSE graduate courses, with some restrictions.
  • At most 6 credits, in total, of CSE5097 (Seminar), CSE 5099 (Independent Study), and CSE5600 (Research Lab.). At most 3 credits of CSE5097 (Seminar).
  • Successful completion, with a grade of B- or better, of CSE5500 (Algorithms).
  • At least 9 credits of GRAD5950 (Master’s Thesis Research).

For further details, see the M.S. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog and the CSE MS Plan of Study form.

Master’s Thesis

The master’s thesis is an essential element of the Plan A program. Master’s theses can be roughly classified into two categories: research theses and design theses. A research thesis reports on original research undertaken by the student on a problem in computer science and engineering. A research master’s thesis need not necessarily constitute a major original contribution to knowledge as is expected from a Ph.D. dissertation. It should, however, represent the solution to a meaningful problem from an appropriate area of computer science. A design thesis reports on a design, implementation (in software and/or hardware), verification, and documentation of a complete computing system. In either case, the thesis topic is identified in collaboration with the student’s adviser. The master’s thesis represents the equivalent of at least nine graduate credits. The thesis document itself must adhere to the Graduate School’s specifications; see the M.S. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog. Oral defense of thesis. Near the end of the thesis work, the student will present a seminar on his or her results. This presentation is open to all interested students and faculty members. For further details, see the M.S. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog.

Thesis Research Proposal

Master’s students must develop a thesis plan in consultation with their adviser. When a thesis topic has been agreed upon, the student must submit a thesis proposal to his or her advisory committee. The document should cover previous work in the area, define the specific problem to be addressed, and outline the research plan. Once this proposal is approved, formal work on the thesis can begin. Normally, it is expected that the thesis topic will be selected and approved as soon as possible, certainly before the end of the first complete year of study (i.e., by the beginning of the third semester of residence). Students are required to present their thesis proposal to their committee and other interested faculty so that the scope of the research project is clearly understood by all parties. The proposal will consist of an oral presentation based upon a document distributed to the committee in advance. For further details, see the M.S. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog.

Plan B detailed requirements

The Plan B master’s program is entirely based on coursework, perhaps including independent study courses. Plan B course requirements, in brief:

  • At least 30 credits of graduate level courses.
  • At most 6 credits, in total, of CSE5097 (Seminar), CSE5099 (Independent Study) and CSE5600 (Research Lab.). At most 3 credits of CSE5097 (Seminar).
  • At least 18 credits of CSE graduate courses with some restrictions.
  • Successful completion, with a grade of B- or better, of CSE5500 (Algorithms).

For further details, see the M.S. Program Description in the Graduate Catalog and the CSE MS Plan of Study form.

Detailed Admission Requirements

Successful M.S. applicants typically possess a B.A. or B.S. in Computer Science, Computer Science and Engineering, or Computer Engineering. Specifically, the M.S. program in Computer Science and Engineering maintains the following minimum requirements for admission:

  1. Bachelor’s degree. The applicant must possess a Bachelor’s degree and a strong record of academic performance.
  2. GRE test scores. The applicant must submit scores for the General Test portion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). While we do not set specific GRE thresholds for M.S. admissions, successful applicants typically score above 160 on the quantitative portion of the exam.
  3. Three letters of recommendation. The applicant must submit three letters of recommendation supporting the application. A strong letter should speak to your specific strengths and experiences. 
  4. Preparation in computing and mathematics. The applicant should have supporting undergraduate coursework in mathematics and computer science, with superior performance in the following courses or their equivalent:
    • Calculus (at least 2 semesters) (e.g., MATH1131, MATH1132, MATH2110)
    • Linear Algebra (e.g., MATH2210)
    • Discrete Mathematics (e.g., CSE2500)
    • Statistics and Probability (e.g., STAT3025)
    • Programming competency in multiple high level languages and facility with basic data structures (e.g., CSE1729, CSE2050, CSE3150)
    • Computer Architecture (e.g., CSE3666)
    • Theory of Computation (e.g., CSE3502)
    • Design and Analysis of Algorithms (e.g., CSE3500)
    • Advanced topics in programming languages such as Programming Language Translation (e.g., CSE4100) or Programming Languages (e.g., CSE4102)
    • Operating Systems (e.g., CSE3100 or CSE4100)

    Students missing a small portion of these courses may be admitted under the condition that they complete the requirements during their degree. As the M.S. program does permit 6 credits of upper-division CSE undergraduate courses to be counted towards the degree, in some cases completion of the requirements above can also serve to meet M.S. degree requirements.

For further details, including limits on course and credit transfer, see the The Graduate School, Admissions.

Time for Completion

Accepted students with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related area typically complete the M.S. degree requirements in two or three semesters of full-time study. Students with a less comprehensive computing background may require additional time. Teaching assistants and research assistants typically require more time to complete the program, as they must allocate effort to these non-course-related activities. Under normal conditions, on-campus students–even those holding teaching or research assistantships–complete the M.S. degree requirements in four semesters or less.


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