M.S. / M.C.S. in Computer Science

General Degree Information

The M.S. program in the Computer Science and Engineering (CS&E) department has three tracks a student may choose to pursue: Plan A, a thesis based degree, Plan B project-based degree and Plan C a coursework only M.S. Degree. Each track has a separate set of requirements though the general structure remains the same. All M.S. degrees in the Computer Science and Engineering department require a total of 31 credit hours 16 of which must be taken within the Computer Science Department, a minimum GPA of 3.25 and a minimum of 3 breadth requirements courses as well as one credit hour of the CS Colloquium. All CS credits must be 5000 level or above, and at least 3 of the total credits must be from an 8000 level CS course. 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 the requirements for your program. More information about the process for each plan is outlined below.

Pursuing the Degree Online

Students wishing to pursue the majority of their degree online should apply to the MCS program rather than the MS program. The Computer Science MS program is geared towards students planning to take courses on campus and potentially explore research. The Computer Science MCS program is for working professionals physically located in the United States who are planning on taking courses online or at night and do not wish to pursue research. The MCS requires work experience is required in place of the GRE exam as part of the admissions process.

Students are able to take select courses online through UNITE. There are additional fees to take a course through UNITE (see their webpage). Enrollment through UNITE is limited to students within the United States during the semester, even for students who may be enrolled in on-campus sections of courses during the Fall and Spring semesters and are away from the country for the summer semester. Students who must travel outside of the United States for work obligations during a semester must seek permission from their instructor(s) if exam(s) require a time-shift and the UNITE office to approve the proctor for exams. For courses with exams and/or quizzes, UNITE-enrolled students are required to take the exam with a UNITE-approved proctor on the same day/same time as the on-campus section of the course. Only instructors may grant permission to time-shift an exam time or to take the exam with the on-campus section. UNITE can not approve any modifications to this policy.

Courses commonly offered through UNITE are listed below. Courses listed based are based upon historic offerings from past years. We cannot guarantee all course listed below will be offered through UNITE each academic year. Additional CSCI courses not listed below may be offered through UNITE in the future. There is a very limited catalog of 8000 level CSCI courses on UNITE. Students should plan on taking multiple prerequisite courses listed for 8000 level options to increase their chances of having options to meet the six credits of 8000 level CSCI coursework required for the degree. Students can request a course to be taught through UNITE which would need to be approved by the course instructor. If you're not able to find an 8000 level CSCI course offered online that matches your prior experience or current interests you will need to register for an on campus section.


CSCI 5000 level courses
CSCI 5103 - Operating Systems (fall and spring)
CSCI 5105 - Introduction to Distributed Systems (spring)
CSCI 5106 - Programming Languages (fall)
CSCI 5125 - Collaborative and Social Computing (spring)
CSCI 5161 - Introduction to Compilers (spring)
CSCI 5204 - Advanced Computer Architecture (fall)
CSCI 5271 - Introduction to Computer Security (fall)
CSCI 5302 - Analysis of Numerical Algorithms (spring)
CSCI 5304 - Computational Aspects of Matrix Theory (fall)
CSCI 5421 - Advanced Algorithms and Data Structures (fall and spring)
CSCI 5451 - Introduction to Parallel Computing: Architectures, Algorithms, and Programming (spring)
CSCI 5461 - Functional Genomics, Systems Biology, and Bioinformatics (varies)
CSCI 5481 - Computational Techniques for Genomics (varies)
CSCI 5511 - Artificial Intelligence I (fall)
CSCI 5512 - Artificial Intelligence II (spring)
CSCI 5521 - Introduction to Machine Learning (fall and spring)
CSCI 5523 - Introduction to Data Mining (fall and spring)
CSCI 5525 - Machine Learning (fall)
CSCI 5551 - Introduction to Intelligent Robotic Systems (fall)
CSCI 5561 - Computer Vision (spring)
CSCI 5607 - Fundamentals of Computer Graphics I (fall)
CSCI 5611 - Animation & Planning in Games (spring)
CSCI 5619 - Virtual Reality and 3D Interaction (fall)
CSCI 5707 - Principles of Database Systems (fall)
CSCI 5708 - Architecture and Implementation of Database Management Systems (spring)
CSCI 5801 - Software Engineering I (fall and spring)
CSCI 5802 - Software Engineering II (spring)


CSCI 8000 level courses
CSCI 8205 - Parallel Computer Organization (periodically spring; requires 5204 as a prerequisite)
CSCI 8211 - Advanced Computer Networks and Their Applications (periodic; requires 5211 as a prerequisite which has not been commonly offered through UNITE)
CSCI 8551 - Intelligent Agents (periodically fall; requires 5511 as a prerequisite)
CSCI 8715 - Spatial Data Science Research (periodic; requires 5707 as a prerequisite)
CSCI 8725 - Databases for Bioinformatics (periodic spring; requires 5707 as a prerequisite)
CSCI 8970 - Computer Science Colloquium (fall and spring)
CSCI 8980 - Special Advanced Topics in Computer Science (periodic; prerequisite depends upon the topic)

Plan A Master's Degree

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
    • 3 breadth courses (9 credits)
    • 6 credits of CSci 8000 level courses).
    • 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 field courses from programs other than CS (graduate level courses in the College of Science and Engineering) or courses for a graduate minor.
  • 10 thesis credits for a total of 31 overall credits.
  • 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.

Plan A Degree Completion Steps

A 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 of your time in school, you will focus on coursework, during the second half of your degree you will focus on research for your master's thesis. 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.

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.

Plan B Master's Degree

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 (CS 8760 3 credits)*
    • 3 breadth courses (9 credits)
    • 3 credits of CSci 8000 level courses).
    • 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 CS (graduate level courses in the College of Science and Engineering) or courses for a graduate minor.
  • 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.

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

Plan B Degree Completion Steps

Plan B or a project based M.S. requires 31 credit hours of coursework. Thesis credits may not be counted towards a Plan B M.S. degree. During the first two semesters of your time in school, you will focus on coursework, during the second half of your degree you will focus on research for your Plan B project. 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 present your project and prepare for graduation. 

Plan B Project Committee
An M.S. Project 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 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. All members must have graduate education responsibilities in order to serve on an MS committee. 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. 

Plan C Master's Degree

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
    • 3 breadth courses (9 credits)
    • 6 credits of CSci 8000 level courses).
    • 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 CS (graduate level courses in the College of Science and Engineering) or courses for a graduate minor.
  • 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.

Plan C Degree Completion Steps

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 an advisor signature should be submitted to the Computer Science Program Coordinator for signature. Each student must complete 31 credits of graduate-credit coursework that includes at least 16 graduate credits from 5xxx or 8xxx courses with a CSci designator (including courses to fulfill the breadth requirement), 6 credits of CSci 8000 level courses and 1 credit of CSci Colloquium (CSci 8970 S/N). Students may take grad level courses in a related field, defined as non-CS courses that contribute to a student’s research or career goals but need not be from the same department. 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. More information about significant project coursework is outlined below: 

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.
  • 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.

    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!

Masters Degree in Computer Science (MCS)

The MCS degree (Master’s of Computer Science) is our coursework-only degree. Most applicants to this degree are interested in expanding their skills but are not interested in the research aspects of computer science. The minimum GPA for an MCS student is 3.0. Typically, MCS students are currently working in industry in the US and have been out of school for a period of time. Students in this program can take most of their coursework online (through UNITE) or at night. Due to limited 8000 level courses offered through UNITE, it is challenging to complete the degree completely online. Students should expect to visit campus for various reasons connected to a course and degree completion steps.

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
    • 3 breadth courses (9 credits)
    • 6 credits of CSci 8000 level courses).
    • 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 CS or courses for a graduate minor.
  • 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 3.0 on courses appearing in the graduate degree plan and no courses with a grade below a C- can be included.

Candidates for this degree must complete a minimum of 31-semester credits in graduate courses with a minimum of 16 credits in the major.  All major credits must be 5000 level or above, and at least 6 of the total credits must be 8000-level courses.  These 8000-level credits must be Department of Computer Science course credits.  One credit of the Computer Science Colloquium is mandatory and should be taken before filing a graduate degree plan and should be included on that form. Related field or minor courses are not required but are optional.

All degree candidates must maintain a GPA above 3.0 after completion of 8 credits. No course for which a grade of a C- or below can count towards the degree.

Each student needs to satisfy the departmental breadth requirement.  However, none of the MS research requirements including the Plan C course project requirements, the Plan B project nor Plan A thesis of the Master of Science degree is required.  There is no requirement for a final oral examination although the Final Report form must be submitted to the Grad Coordinator to be signed by the DGS.

All requirements for the MCS degree must be completed and the degree awarded within 5 calendar years after initial enrollment in the graduate program.  Students who are unable to complete the degree within the time limits described due to extraordinary circumstances may submit a petition to the DGS and the college for an extension of up to 12 months.

Throughout your career as an M.S. student, you will receive support from your Academic Advisor(s), peer and research groups, departmental program administrator as well as a number of individuals across campus who work to best facilitate your progress through your degree program. Our primary goal is to make sure that your experience is positive, productive and prepares you for a successful career beyond the University of Minnesota. The entirety of the M.S. process can be complex and at times rife with academic and administrative requirements. Specific deadlines and procedures are outlined in the menu items to your left and course requirements are provided below. If you have questions regarding your individual degree plan, please do not hesitate to reach out to your advisor, the DGS or the Graduate Program Coordinator for help.  

Things to Remember

  • 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.

Degree Progress

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.

Advising

The Graduate Student Services Coordinator 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 with her 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: dgs@cs.umn.edu

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