Our M.S. in Computer Science degree program provides advanced education in all areas of computer science. It is useful for those wishing to go into leadership roles in high tech organizations. This degree can also provide the foundation for application to our Ph.D. program.

Information for prospective M.S. students

Minimum Requirements

All applicants must satisfy the following minimum requirements:

  • Completion of a baccalaureate degree. Applicants with degrees in fields other than computer science, business, engineering, mathematics, or a natural science should consult with the graduate chair before applying for admission (contact at end of this page).
  • Demonstrated working knowledge of a major modern and object-oriented programming language. Many courses in our curriculum assume some background in the Java programming language, so that is an excellent choice, but similar languages will be OK too. Our M.S. program assumes that you have at least three sequential semesters of programming experience (i.e. the equivalent of ICS 111, 211, and one of 212, 215 or a 300 level course requiring programming) before you enter our program as a classified graduate student. If you do not have any programming experience, then you will need to have completed this three semester sequence prior to enrollment. People with substantial industry programming experience but lacking three semesters of formal courses should contact the graduate program chair to discuss documenting this experience.
  • An undergraduate algorithms course (our ICS 311 course or equivalent). You can apply to our program during the semester that you are enrolled in ICS 311 for admission in the following semester.
  • At least one other advanced (300-level or above) undergraduate computer science course (e.g., our ICS 312, 313, 321, 331, or 332 course).
  • A one-year course in calculus (e.g., our MATH 241 and 242). (See brief descriptions of Math courses.)
  • A cumulative undergraduate grade point average of at least 75% (3.0 on a 4.0 system). This is a graduate division requirement.
  • A minimum of two letters of reference will be required beginning for fall 2022 applications. Letters of reference are strongly recommended for spring 2022 applications.

The GRE General Test is no longer required (due to the logistical and financial challenges they pose to some students, and disagreement concerning their predictive value) but you may send scores if you wish. (We do not have a cutoff and generally are influenced only by extreme scores.) GRE scores should be sent to us directly from ETS (Institution code is: 4867; Department code is: 0402).

International applicants may also have to demonstrate English proficiency:

  • Graduate Division requires that international applicants whose native language is not English take either the TOEFL or the IELTS. See here for more information on the requirements. In addition, our department imposes the following requirement for TOEFL scores: 580/237/92 or above for the MS program

Preferred Background

A student may be admitted with “deficiencies” that must be resolved before registering for graduate-level courses. This can increase the time it takes to get the Masters’ degree.

Your application will be stronger if you have demonstrated the ability and motivation to work independently, for example by taking on a project related to computer science (whether within or outside of a school setting). Doing a project with faculty or other established professionals will make it easier to obtain meaningful letters of reference.

Application Checklist

You must submit your application online to Graduate Division

The supplementary documents, which must be uploaded as part of your Graduate Division application, consists of the following items:

  • ICS Express Information Form (PDF)
  • ICS Graduate Assistantship Application Form (PDF) (if applying for an assistantship)
  • ICS Tuition Waiver Application (PDF) (if applying for a tuition waiver; preference is given to Hawaii residents)
  • Statement of Purpose. This should be about the future, not the past. We do not need to hear that you have been interested in computers ever since you were a child, that you overcame many obstacles, etc. Rather, we want to hear about your career objectives, and what you hope to accomplish in our program to achieve these objectives.
  • Request at least two letters of reference. This is done by entering names and e-mail addresses of letter writers via the Graduate Division’s supplemental documents upload site

Please submit your application by January 15th (foreign applicants) or February 1st (others) for Fall admission, and by September 1st (foreign applicants) or September 15th (others) for Spring admission. Applications received after these dates will be considered on a space-available basis, and may not be considered for financial aid.

All application materials will be forwarded to the ICS Department once the Graduate Division determines that your application is complete. It is your responsibility to communicate with Graduate Division to ensure they have all of the required materials. Until they do, we won’t see your application.


Questions about the application process can be answered by contacting Graduate Division and/or e-mailing the ICS Graduate Chair.

Information for current M.S. students

Obtaining an M.S. Degree typically involves the following basic steps:

  1. Meet with Graduate Chair to plan program
  2. ICS 690 in the first semester it is offered to you
  3. Coursework to make up any undergraduate deficiencies in computer science
  4. Six ICS “regular” graduate courses (i.e., ICS 600-692, not including ICS 690), including one course in each one of four broad areas.
  5. Two additional 600-level ICS courses (i.e., ICS 600-692, not including ICS 690), or 600-level courses in other departments but related to ICS
  6. Up to two courses may be regular ICS 400-level courses (not ICS 499)
  7. A final ICS “capstone” project (6 credits minimum)

These steps are not strictly sequential. For example, you do not have to completely finish making up all of your undergraduate deficiencies before enrolling in any of the six “regular” graduate courses. However, these steps to give a sense for the basic “flow” through the program and the major milestones that must be reached in order to graduate. The Graduate Chair can help you design a specific sequence of courses that fulfill both the University requirements and your own preferences.

The steps are outlined below, and students may use this convenient checklist to track their progress progress toward graduation.

0. Meet with the Graduate Chair

At the beginning of your first semester, you should meet with the Graduate Chair in order to plan out your program. The plan includes making up undergraduate deficiencies, determining potential course selections, and reviewing project and thesis ideas. You should communicate with the Graduate Chair at least once every semester during your degree program to update and check on your plans.

1. ICS 690

All new students (MS or PhD) must enroll in and pass ICS 690 in the first semester in which it is offered. Since it is offered in the fall, you should enroll in your first semester if you start in the fall, or in your second semester if you started in the spring. This course is supervised by the Graduate Chair and is offered Credit / No Credit.

ICS 690 is now designed to help orient new students to the program, to learn about faculty research areas and interests, and to introduce relevant professional skills. It is also required to graduate. If you fail to take it in your first (or second) semester, you will be taking it later when it is no longer as helpful to you.

2. Coursework to make up undergraduate deficiencies in computer science

Depending on previously obtained degrees and taking into account professional experience, the admission committee may recommend for a student to be admitted to the M.S. program with one or more “deficiencies”. Each deficiency corresponds to a course in our undergraduate Computer Science curriculum and is resolved by taking and passing that course. Once all deficiencies are resolved, then the student can begin taking graduate-level courses. Note the following rules concerning undergraduate deficiencies:

  • Undergraduate deficiencies are prerequisites to graduate study.
  • Only letter grades of A, B, and C can be used to make up undergraduate deficiencies. CR/NC option is not allowed
  • Courses in directed research/reading cannot be used to make up undergraduate deficiencies.
  • Undergraduate deficiency makeup courses carry no credit toward an M.S. degree, but are used when computing the GPA.

3. Six ICS “regular” graduate courses

You must take six “regular” graduate courses, i.e., courses with numbers between ICS 600 and ICS 692, with the exception of ICS 690.  ICS 423 may also be counted as a “regular” course for area 2 but does not count towards Graduate Division’s requirement of a minimum of 18 600+ level credits.

To ensure breadth, you must take at least one course from each of the areas below:

  • Area 1
    • ICS 611 Compiler Theory and Construction
    • ICS 612 Theory of Operating Systems
    • ICS 624 Advanced Data Management
    • ICS 632 High Performance Computing
    • ICS 651 Computer Networks
    • ICS 660 Computer Architecture
    • ICS 691B Topics in Computer Science
  • Area 2
    • ICS 423 Data Security and Cryptography (for Area 2 only, not 600 level: graduate students in this course take separate graduate-level exams)
    • ICS 621 Analysis of Algorithms
    • ICS 622 Network Science
    • ICS 623 Advanced Cryptography
    • ICS 635 Machine Learning
    • ICS 636 Information Theory in Machine Learning
    • ICS 641 Theory of Computation
    • ICS 643 Advanced Parallel Algorithms
    • ICS 671 Applied Regression Analysis
    • ICS 682 Numeric Computation
    • ICS 691C Topics in Computer Science
  • Area 3
    • ICS 606 Intelligent Autonomous Agents
    • ICS 616 Information Architecture
    • ICS 655 Foundations of Security and Trust III
    • ICS 661 Advanced Artificial Intelligence
    • ICS 663 Pattern Recognition
    • ICS 664 Human-Computer Interaction
    • ICS 667 Advanced HCI Design
    • ICS 674 Evolutionary Computation
    • ICS 683 Computer Vision
    • ICS 691D Topics in Computer Science
  • Area 4
    • ICS 613 Software Engineering
    • ICS 614 Medical Informatics
    • ICS 665 User Interfaces & Hypermedia
    • ICS 668 Social Informatics
    • ICS 669 Social Computing
    • ICS 675 Bioinformatics: Sequence Analysis
    • ICS 676 Bioinformatics: Microarrays
    • ICS 681 Computer Graphics
    • ICS 685 Virtual and Augmented Reality
    • ICS 686 Digital Video Information
    • ICS 691E Topics in Computer Science

ICS 691 courses: These are irregular “Special Topics” courses, some of which are classified into areas above and some of which are not. As of 2017, ICS691 is listed as one of ICS691B, ICS691C, ICS691D, ICS691E, and ICS691G.  The first four of these are each classified in each one of the four areas (B=1, C=2, D=3, E=4). ICS691G is not classified in the areas above and does not count toward an area. (Instead, it can count as one of the two additional 600-level courses described in the section below.)

ICS 691 before 2017: ICS 691 offered before 2017 was not classified and does not count towards an area with the following exception: If the 691 course became a regular course, and the instructor indicated that this new course is sufficiently similar to what was taught in the 691 course, then the 691 is retroactively classified in the same area as that of its corresponding regular course. See also next  item.

ICS 691 converted to a regular course: If an ICS 691 course is subsequently converted to a regular course, then students who earned credit for the ICS691 version of a course will not be allowed to register for the regular course, even though its number is not ICS691.

Substitution of non-ICS courses: We occasionally allow substitution of 600-level non-ICS courses (particularly from the College of Engineering) in this category depending on their suitability and our ability to offer ICS courses in a given area, but these must be approved by the graduate committee. In some cases the approval will be specific to a student’s program of study, and in others it will be offered to all students. Whether an area requirement is met will also be decided based on circumstances.

4. Two additional 600-level ICS courses or 600-level courses related to ICS

Two additional 600-level 3-credit courses must be taken either from the ICS department (i.e., ICS 600-692, not including ICS 690), or some related discipline (such as ECE, ITM, LIS, etc.) on a topic related to Computer Science. You must obtain prior approval from the Graduate Chair as to the suitability of your choices before enrolling in them.

If you do Plan A (see below), you may opt to replace one of these two courses by 3 credits of ICS 700 (possibly converted from ICS 699: see below).

Counting 400-level courses. Up to two ICS graduate courses (or three if one is ICS 423) may be replaced by regular ICS 400-level courses (not ICS 499) that are not counted towards the undergraduate degree. These courses (except for ICS 423) do not count towards the area requirement. You may not use non-ICS 400 level courses. You must have at least 18 credits at levell 600 or above regardless.

5. The ICS “Capstone” Project

A 6 credit “capstone” project is also required for the degree. These credits are typically taken close to or during your final semester in the program (we recommend 3 credits in the semester before graduation and 3 credits in the semester of graduation to allow time for development of the project).

The specific capstone courses depend upon whether you are writing a thesis (Plan A) or developing a final project (Plan B). Under Plan A, your capstone courses consist of at least six credits of ICS 700. Under Plan B, your capstone courses consist of six credits of ICS 699 taken under the supervision of a faculty member for the purpose of developing a single final project. In either case, 6 credits must be applied to a single project, as the intent is that you do an intensive project beyond what could be done in a single course. These credits must be taken for a letter grade.

Although the graduate program chair will assist you in the process, it is the student’s responsibility to recruit a suitable capstone advisor. Forming appropriate professional relationships is one of the skills to be acquired and demonstrated in this program.

Plan A: Thesis

This plan is strongly encouraged for students intending to go on to the Ph.D., as it meets one of the portfolio requirements and gives you a preview of the dissertation process. Also, as a Plan A student you may opt to take an additional 3 credits of ICS 700 as a replacement for one of the “Two additional courses … related to ICS” described above. Plan A students need to fill Master’s Plan A Forms 1, 2, 3 and 4 (see Graduate Division Forms ) as they progress through the degree.

Thesis Committee: A Thesis requires 3 committee members, including your advisor. See the Graduate Division Committee Composition page about selecting members for your thesis. It is the student’s responsibility to recruit a suitable thesis advisor and committee, although the graduate chair may assist in finding an advisor, and the advisor should be consulted when choosing other committee members. 

Thesis Defense: Plan A requires successful completion of your thesis and its submission to the Graduate Division before graduation. This requires planning ahead: The defense of your thesis (a public event) must be done in the middle of the final semester in which you are enrolled for ICS 700 credits. The committee must be given your final document at least two weeks before. This essentially means that the project must be completed in the first third of the final semester. We strongly recommend that you speak with the graduate program chair about your plans.

Grad chair as ex-officio member: Graduate program chairs have the privilege of being ex-officio (nonvoting) members of all committees in their program. Students should include the ICS graduate program chair when scheduling MS Plan A, PhD Proposal, or PhD Dissertation Defenses, and when distributing the associated document.

Plan B: Project

This plan requires a capstone project conducted under at least 6 credits of ICS 699. It also requires a final report and a poster presentation. The report must be approved by your supervising faculty member and the ICS graduate program chair in order to graduate. A Plan B capstone is not as impressive as a thesis, but is expedient for those who need to get their MS quickly.

Report Approval: If you are planning to graduate in a given semester under Plan B, have your advisor read and approve your report, which should take the form of a quality technical report or conference paper appropriate for your subfield (unless we have agreed on another format). Then have your advisor send her/his approval to the ICS graduate program chair via email, along with PDF of the report. The graduate chair has a deadline to tell Graduate Division who is graduating. To meet this deadline, your report and advisor’s approval should both be received by the graduate chair no later than the end of the last week of classes (the week before final exams). Ask if in doubt.

Poster Presentation: Plan B students are also required to present their project in a poster session organized by the department near the end of the semester. (This replaces the prior requirement of giving a talk in ICS 690.) During Covid-19 these have been accomplished with video posters.

699 vs. 700?

    • 700 is only for Plan A students (thesis).
    • Plan A students must be enrolled in ICS 700 the semester(s) that they defend and graduate with their thesis.
    • A Plan A student can only enroll into 700 after passing the thesis proposal stage (Graduate Division Form II signed by committee and Graduate Chair).
    • Before the proposal, a Plan A student should enroll in 699. These 699 credits can be “converted” to 700 credits once the thesis proposal stage is completed, by having the Graduate Chair submit a memo to Graduate Division.
    • It is possible to convert 699 credits to 700 credits and vice-versa if you decide to change your plan, although this requires form filling and memos from the Graduate Chair.
    • One credit of 700F counts as full time enrollment. This is advantageous to students who are required to be full time, are paying for their own tuition, and need an extra semester to finish up.

Coursework Summary

The coursework required for the M.S. degree consists of 31 credits, typically arranged as follows:

Course Description
6 “regular” ICS 600-level courses 18 credits of courses labeled ICS 600-692, not including 690. 12 of these credits must be for 1 course in each of 4 areas, as described above. ICS 423 does not count towards this requirement.
2 ICS or “related” 600-level courses 6 credits of either additional 600-level ICS courses or of graduate-level courses in a related discipline, such as ECE, ITM, or LIS. Students doing a Plan A may opt to replace one of these two courses with 3 credits of ICS 700.
ICS 690 Seminar in Computer Science
Capstone Six credits of ICS 700 for Plan A or ICS 699 for Plan B, applied to the development of a single capstone project in either case.

Miscellaneous Additional Rules

The Graduate Division and the Department impose some other constraints on M.S. degree programs. The most important ones are as follows:

  • 18 out of the 31 credits required for an M.S. degree must be ICS 600-692.
  • All courses applied to the degree must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of courses that are only offered CR/NC (e.g., ICS 690).
  • At most 6 credits of ICS 699 can be counted toward an M.S. degree under Plan B, and at most 9 credits of ICS 699/700 under Plan A.
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required. Only letter grades of C or above are counted toward an M.S. degree.
  • The minimum residence requirement is two semesters.
  • After you earn 12 credits or more toward a degree, you are admitted to candidacy and continuous registration is required thereafter. If you do not register in any course toward the degree, you will be dropped from the program unless you submit a petition for a leave of absence to the Graduate Division during the semester before your leave.
  • If you took 600-level credits while enrolled as a BS student in ICS, did not apply them to your undergraduate degree, and want to apply them to your MS degree, then it is a two step process: First fill out the undergraduate excess credits form (technically while in the BS program, but grad division will take them after). Then submit the Transfer / UHM PBU Credits form (via Grad Chair) to transfer in the credits. See https://manoa.hawaii.edu/graduate/transfer-pbu-credits/ for details and possible updates.


If you have questions, contact the ICS Graduate Chair.