Understanding the Master's Course Options

Grad students at table

By the end of the first year or before, you will let the DGS office know whether you want to pursue a course-only, or a project/thesis option. So 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 are familiar with the basic course requirements. 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 simpler to complete two additional Computer Science graduate courses, than to put together a committee and complete a research project or thesis. A Course-only MS will serve you well when you look for jobs in industry.

There are, however, also good reasons to pursue the project or thesis MS option; chief among these is the value of experience in CS research for those wanting to pursue a Ph.D. A good relationship with a CS professor earned through strong work on a class project can lead to the opportunity to do a research based MS; do not say no to this opportunity! Research experience could make all the difference in your Ph.D. application, and can strengthen your industry application, too.

Track Your Courses

Make use of the convenient Course-Only Requirements Checksheet or the one for the Project/Thesis Option, to summarize the course requirements for each option in a table format. Organize and track your courses to be certain you meet the course requirement chosen.

Understand What the Course Requirement Categories Mean

  • Computer Science graduate courses
  • Outside Courses
    • These should be courses that will fit with your area of interest and make your CS degree even more valuable
    • You took a cross-listed course as CS and now want to count it as its cross-listed department? See above.
  • Electives
    • Electives are what is left over after you take the courses you want and need. They could be:
      • More CS grad courses than you need
      • CS undergrad courses (they don't fit either of the other categories)
      • More outside courses than you need
      • Additional interests related to CS
  • Ungraded research courses for the Project/thesis option
    • You are trading two fewer CS grad courses for the work you are doing on your research project, but you still need to reach thirty hours.
      • These credits are any P/F course credits such as EIS courses, or even extra academic courses you took; if you don't have either of those, look under "R" in the Class Search and find Ungraded Research.
        • Ungraded research is a variable credit course, so be sure to enter the number of hours you need.

Who approves your courses?

The DGS office allows students to choose their own curriculum; as long as what you choose fits the guidelines above, everything is OK and we will not ask for Committee Approval. Students who want to pursue a job in Finance might take a Business course, and those interested in Computational Economics might need an Econ course; each student's needs and interests varies.

Make an appointment with the Graduate Program Coordinator and bring your up-to-date requirements checksheet; the GPC can help make sure you are on the right track!