M.S. in Computer Science overview

General degree information

The M.S. program in the Computer Science & Engineering (CS&E) department has three tracks a student may choose to pursue:

Each track has a separate set of requirements though the general structure remains the same. Early on in your career as an M.S. graduate student, you will determine which track you would like to pursue and begin to take courses to fulfill requirements for your program.

All M.S. degrees in the Computer Science & Engineering department require a total of 31 credit hours (16 of which must be CSCI courses), a minimum GPA of 3.25, a minimum of 3 breadth requirements courses, and a colloquium. All CSCI credits must be 5000 level or above, and at least 3 of the total credits must be from an 8000 level CSCI course.

Important reminders for all M.S. students

  • Students who take 6 credits or more are considered full-time graduate students. All international students and students who hold a graduate assistantship, fellowship or traineeship are required to be full-time students.
  • Almost all of the graduate level courses in CS (5000 level and above) are 3 credits each.
  • Special topics courses (CSci 5980 or 8980) are courses taught one time only and are good options if the topic is of interest to you. These do not count towards Breadth requirements but the 8000 level ones will count towards the 8000 level requirement.
  • All CS courses must be taken A/F unless only offered S/N, such as Colloquium or Plan B project. No more than one-third of the courses on your graduate degree plan (courses that will count towards your degree) can be taken on the S/N basis.
  • All requirements for the Master's degree must be completed and the degree awarded within 5 years of matriculating into the program.  Progress Guidelines are available in Appendix A of the Graduate Student Handbook.
  • All M.S. students are expected to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25. After every spring semester, a review of M.S. computer science students will be conducted and students who fall below the GPA requirement will be notified. Students who are below program GPA requirements may be asked to connect with a Graduate Programs Coordinator to discuss their progress in the program.

Plan A Master's Degree

The Plan A (or thesis-based) M.S. requires at minimum 21 credit hours of coursework and 10 credit hours of thesis coursework for a total of 31 credit hours. During the first two semesters, you will focus on coursework and during the second half of your program, you will focus on research for your master's thesis.

Degree requirements

Each student must complete 31 credits of graduate-credit coursework of:

  • At least 21 regular coursework credits, including:
    • 16 graduate credits from 5xxx or 8xxx courses with a CSCI designator
      • 9 credits (3 courses) breadth courses (no courses may be transferred from an outside institution to meet breadth requirements)
      • 6 credits of CSCI 8000 level courses (this requirement must be completed through regular, 3-credit, CSCI 8xxx courses taken on the A-F grading scale. CSCI 8001, 8002 and 8970 can not satisfy this requirement)
      • 1 credit of CSCI colloquium (CSCI 8970)
    • Other graduate-level credits to reach a total of at least 21 regular coursework credits, which may include related courses from programs other than computer science (graduate level courses in the College of Science and Engineering) or courses for a graduate minor
  • 10 thesis credits

Things to remember

  • All CSCI courses included in the graduate degree plan must be taken A-F if the A-F grading basis is offered.
  • All major credits must be 5xxx or above.
  • Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.25 on courses appearing in the graduate degree plan and no courses with a grade below a C- can be included.

CSCI 8777 - Plan A thesis credits

Students pursuing a Plan A M.S. must complete 10 credits of CSCI 8777: Plan A Thesis Credits. To enroll in this course, you must send an email to csgradmn@umn.edu requesting access to Plan A thesis credits. Be sure to include the number of credits and the term you are requesting enrollment for in your email.

Students should also submit the Declaration of Advisor form to verify you are working with a faculty advisor.

If you will be pursuing Plan A thesis credits over multiple semesters, you must submit a separate request for each term. 

Thesis committee

An M.S. thesis degree committee consists of three faculty members who have formal graduate education responsibilities. Two must be from the Computer Science program (which includes a student’s advisor who also serves as the chair) and one from an outside program. The outside committee member typically represents a related or minor field if declared. Once members have agreed to serve, the student must submit their names via the Examining Committee site. Committee members cannot be appointed until after a Graduate Degree Plan has been approved and entered into the student’s record through GSSP. Your thesis committee will also serve as a reading committee for the thesis. The committee must approve the thesis is ready for defense and will administer the final oral examination.

Degree completion steps

The final semester of your program you will turn in a Graduate Degree Plan and assign your thesis committee while continuing your research on your chosen thesis topic. Following the approval of your Graduate Degree Plan, you will be able to download your Graduation Packet which contains forms you need for your final defense. Once your research is complete you will defend your thesis and prepare for graduation.

Plan B Master's Degree

Plan B (or project-based) M.S. requires 31 credit hours of coursework. During the first two semesters, you will focus on coursework and during the second half of your program, you will focus on research for your Plan B project.

Degree requirements

Each student must complete 31 credits of graduate-credit coursework, including:

  • 16 graduate credits from 5xxx or 8xxx courses with a CSCI designator
    • 1 plan B project course (3 credits)*
    • 9 credits (3 courses) breadth courses (no courses may be transferred from an outside institution to meet breadth requirements)
    • 3 credits of CSCI 8000 level courses (this requirement must be completed through regular, 3-credit, CSCI 8xxx courses taken on the A-F grading scale. CSCI 8001, 8002 and 8970 can not satisfy this requirement)
    • 1 credit of CSCI Colloquium (CSCI 8970)
  • Other graduate-level credits to reach a total of at least 31 credits, which may include related field courses from programs other than computer science or courses for a graduate minor

* Thesis credits are not accepted for a plan B M.S. degree.

Things to remember

  • All CSCI courses included in the graduate degree plan must be taken A-F if the A-F grading basis is offered.
  • All major credits must be 5xxx or above.
  • Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.25 on courses appearing in the graduate degree plan and no courses with a grade below a C- can be included.

CSCI 8760 - Plan B project course

Students pursuing a Plan B M.S. must complete 3 credits of CSCI 8760, the Plan B project course. To enroll, you must send an email to csgradmn@umn.edu requesting access. Be sure to include the term you are requesting enrollment for in your email.

Students should also submit the Declaration of Advisor form to verify you are working with a faculty advisor.

Plan B project committee

An M.S. project committee consists of three faculty members who must have formal graduate education responsibilities. Two must be from the Computer Science program (including the student’s advisor, who serves as the chair) and one from an outside program. The outside person usually represents the related or minor field if declared. The advisor and student should discuss appropriate members and these individuals should be contacted for preliminary approval. Once members have agreed to serve, the student must submit their names on the Examining Committee site. This form is routed for DGS and collegiate approval and then sent to Graduate School to enter the information. Committee members cannot be appointed until after the graduate degree plan has been approved and entered into the student’s record.

For Plan B programs, the committee serves as the committee for the oral examination. The Graduate Coordinator must be notified of the final oral defense date.

Degree completion steps

During the final semester of your program, you will turn in a Graduate Degree Plan and assign your thesis committee while continuing your research on your chosen thesis topic. Following the approval of your Graduate Degree Plan, you will be able to download your Graduation Packet which contains forms you need for your final defense. Once your research is complete, you will defend your thesis and prepare for graduation.

Plan C Master's Degree

Plan C is a coursework-only degree and students will spend the duration of their time attending class to complete the degree. No committee or advisor of record is required for this plan. Any paperwork that requires advisor signature should be submitted to the Computer Science Program Administrator for signature.

In addition to completing the required coursework, students must complete a total of 100 hours of significant project coursework, produce at least one written report and give at least one oral presentation; such work may be completed individually or in group activities. Students are responsible for documenting their completion of these requirements on a Plan C progress tracking form. The documentation includes instructor certification of the requirements met by the student.

Degree requirements

Each student must complete 31 credits of graduate-credit coursework, including:

  • 16 graduate credits from 5xxx or 8xxx courses with a CSCI designator
    • 9 credits (3 courses) breadth courses (no courses may be transferred from an outside institution to meet breadth requirements)
    • 6 credits of CSCI 8000 level courses (this requirement must be completed through regular, 3-credit, CSCI 8xxx courses taken on the A-F grading scale. CSCI 8001, 8002 and 8970 can not satisfy this requirement)
    • 1 credit of CSCI Colloquium (CSCI 8970)
  • Other graduate-level credits to reach a total of at least 31 credits, which may include related field courses from programs other than computer science or courses for a graduate minor

Students may take grad level courses in a related field (defined as non-CSCI courses) that contribute to a student’s research or career goals but need not be from the same department. 

Things to remember

  • All CSCI courses included in the graduate degree plan must be taken A-F if the A-F grading basis is offered.
  • All major credits must be 5xxx or above.
  • Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.25 on courses appearing in the graduate degree plan and no courses with a grade below a C- can be included.

Project coursework

  • Projects are independent research, design, development, theory, or practice activities, completed alone or in groups, and graded for credit by a faculty member authorized to teach courses for graduate credit within a course taken by the student for degree credit. A course project may fulfill either one-half of the requirements (a half-project of 50-99 hours of average expected effort) or the full requirement (a full-project of 100 or more hours of average expected effort). Ordinary assignments where all students in the class complete the same work do not count towards project credit. We define "average expected effort" as the instructor's estimate of the number of hours of effort required per student for a typical graduate student to complete a project earning a grade of B. It is the instructor's responsibility to indicate in the course syllabus whether the course fulfills project requirements, and if so whether the project is a half-project or a full-project. In most cases, half-project courses will be 3-credit courses where the project accounts for at least half the course grade; full-project courses will usually be independent or directed study projects taken for 3 credits (CSCI 8994 is the preferred course number).
  • Written reports must be at least 2000 words (or several components within the same course totaling at least 2000 words), must report either on a project (as defined above) or on some separate research effort, and may be completed individually or in groups.
  • Oral presentations must be at least 5 minutes long (at least 10 minutes for group presentations), and must present research (the student's or that of others) or project work by the student.
  • For a student to receive credit for a project, report, or oral presentation, the faculty member grading the project must certify the completion of that component (including whether a completed project is a half-project or full-project) and must verify that the student received a grade of B or higher on the component. The student also must receive a grade of B- or higher in the course in which the component was contained.
  • Many of our graduate level courses will qualify as Plan C courses and the student should check with the instructor if it is not indicated in the syllabus but seems to contain the requisite research component.

Degree completion steps

At the end of their third semester, students will turn in a Graduate Degree Plan as well as the Master's Plan C Project Tracking form. This will allow the student to download the Graduation Packet and prepare to graduate.

Advising

The Graduate Program Coordinators can answer most questions and advise students on degree requirements, department procedures, or general issues about being a graduate student. All new students are expected to meet a Graduate Prorgram Coordinators upon arrival as well as several times throughout your graduate career in order to best facilitate your program. 

The Director of Graduate Studies is the official advisor of record for all students unless an advisor was assigned at the time of admission. Master's students will choose an advisor for their plan B project or plan A thesis after completing a few courses in their area of interest, attending seminars and engaging in individual discussions with members of the faculty, typically by the second semester. Plan C and MCS students do not need to complete this step. Only faculty with graduate education responsibilities are eligible to serve as advisors for graduate students. The advisor-advisee relationship is a mutual and an advisor must agree to advise any student. Once a student determines his or her advisor they will fill out a  "Declaration of Advisor" form. A student may change advisors at any time using the same form. Please note that the new and the previous advisor must sign to acknowledge this change.

For questions regarding the advising process, please contact csgradmn@umn.edu.