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

  1. Meet with Graduate Chair to plan program
  2. Coursework to make up any undergraduate deficiencies in computer science
  3. Six ICS “regular” graduate courses (i.e., ICS 600-692, not including ICS 690), including one course in each one of four broad areas
  4. ICS 690
  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. 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, and you do not need to finish your six “regular” graduate courses before taking ICS 690. 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 outlines below, and students may use this convenient checklist to track their progress progress toward graduation.

1. 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 meet with the Graduate Chair once every semester during your degree program.

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.

Deficiencies may be waived depending upon your GRE subject test in computer science:

  • >75%: All 300-level deficiencies waived, but 400-level deficiencies remain
  • >85%: All deficiencies waived.

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.

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 System
    • 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
    • ICS 621 Analysis of Algorithms
    • ICS 622 Network Science
    • ICS 623 Data Security
    • ICS 635 Machine Learning
    • ICS 636 Information Theory in Machine Learning
    • ICS 641 Theory of Computation
    • 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 674 Evolutionary Computation
    • ICS 667 Advanced HCI Design
    • 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 686 Digital Video Information
    • ICS 691E Topics in Computer Science

Important: ICS 691 courses (i.e., irregular “Topics” courses), are not classified in the areas above and do not count toward an area (instead, they count as one of the two additional 600-level courses described in the section below). If, however, a 691 course becomes a regular course, and the instructor approves that this new course is sufficiently similar to what was taught in the 691 Topics course, then the 691 is reotractively classified in the same area as that of its corresponding regular course.

Important: as of 2017, ICS691 will become ICS691B, ICS691C, ICS691D, ICS691E, and ICS691G.  The first four of these are each classified in each one of the four areas.

Important: Some ICS691 courses become regular courses. 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.

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 LIS, EE, MIS, 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.

Note that if you do a Plan A (see below), you may opt to replace one of these two courses by 3 credits of ICS 700.

5. Counting 400-level courses

Up to two graduate courses may be replaced by regular ICS 400-level courses (not ICS 499), taken after enrolling in the ICS graduate program.  These courses (except for ICS 423) do not count towards the area requirement.

6. 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. 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 six credits of ICS 700. Under Plan B, your capstone courses consist 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.

Plan A: the thesis

This plan is strongly encouraged for students planning to go on to the Ph.D., as it meets one of the portfolio requirements and gives you a preview of the dissertation process. 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.  Plan A students also need to fill several Graduate Division Forms throughout their progress through the degree

Important: 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 coursess” described in point 4 above.

Useful information about the M.S. thesis:

Plan B: the project

This plan requires a capstone project. A final report on your final project is required and must be approved by your supervising faculty member and the graduate 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.

699 vs. 700?

  • 700 is only for Plan A students (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.
  • Note that it is possible to convert 699 credits to 700 credits and vice-versa if you decide to change your plan.

7. ICS 690

You must enroll in and pass ICS 690 for one semester, typically near the end of your MS program. You must present your final (or close-to-final) thesis work or capstone project at the seminar. This course is supervised by the Graduate Chair and is CR/NC. You should meet with the Graduate Chair to determine the appropriate semester in which to register for this course.

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 600-692, not including 690. 12 of these credits must be for 1 course in each of 4 areas, as described here
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 LIS, MIS or EE.  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 Constraints

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.
  • The final project in Plan B requires you to submit complete documentation of your work to your adviser.
  • At most 6 credits of ICS 699 can be counted toward an M.S. degree under Plan B, and at most 9 credits under Plan A.

Graduate Division

  • A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required. Only letter grades of A, B, and C 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 must submit a petition for a leave of absence to the Graduate Division.