Concurrent Master's Degree in Computer Science en route to the PhD in Another Discipline

Grad students at annual meeting

A PhD student in another Duke department who has not already received an MS degree "on the way to the PhD," is eligible to work towards a Computer Science Master's degree.

Which Master's Option to Choose

Computer Science offers 3 different options for an MS degree: Course-Only, Research Project, and Thesis. Read the CS MS requirements so you can decide which option you prefer. For explanation purposes here, we combine the Project and Thesis options into one, and refer to the Course-only and Project/Thesis options.

Most students pursue the Course-only option, finding it easier to complete the 2 additional Computer Science graduate courses which that option requires, than to put together a committee and complete a research project or thesis. There are, however, good reasons to pursue the project or thesis MS option,too; chief among these is the value of experience in CS research for those wanting to go into academia. The Project/Thesis option is also easier for some students who already have a working relationship with a CS professor through a class or on their PhD committee, or if they have a computationally focused project idea that is an offshoot of their PhD work.

Track Your Courses

We recommend that Master's applicants use either the Course-Only Requirements Checksheet or the one for the Project/Thesis MS Option to  help track their progress on the course requirements. The checksheets summarize the course requirements for each option in a table format, which provides a simple way to see the requirements at a glance.

Use courses from the PhD program for the Outside CS and Elective courses if  your PhD department DGS allows you to.

Apply for a Master's in Computer Science

Part I of The Graduate School's application "Concurrent Master's Degree in another Discipline en route to the PhD" is the Intent to Pursue a Concurrent Degree, and may be filed after the completion of the preliminary exam. This form requests the applicant's rationale for the intellectual relationship between the two programs and two recommendation letters (one from each department) speaking to the relationship between proposed programs.

Ask the letter writers to send the letters of recommendation to the Graduate Program Coordinator (; send the applicant form there, also. The GPC will deliver the completed Application Part I to the Graduate School.

Part II is the Application to Earn a Concurrent Master's Degree and must be done very early in the semester in which an applicant expects to graduate from the PhD program. This application requires a transcript highlighting the courses used for the Master's and the completed application form. Again, send the completed documents to the GPC, who will deliver them to The Graduate school.

After approval of Part II by The Graduate School, Apply to Graduate for an MS in DukeHub by the semester deadline. Choose Comprehensive Exam for the Course-only option, and Project or Thesis for the other 2 options, as appropriate. Note that an application to graduate with a PhD must also be done by the deadline in Dukehub.