Graduate Curriculum Overview

A flexible course of study for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees focuses on areas of choice and accommodates differences in students’ backgrounds. The two degree programs share a basic background preparation and a breadth requirement across theoretical, systems, and applied subject areas. The Ph.D. program includes work in specialized areas, preparation for teaching, and active involvement in advanced research. For more information about graduate admission to the Department of Computer Science see Admissions Requirements and how to Apply.

Master of Science

An M.S. candidate must earn 30 semester hours of credit in courses numbered 400 or higher, of which up to 6 hours may be transferred from another institution or graduate program. A core of 18 hours must be COMP coursework excluding COMP 991 (Reading and Research). Satisfactory completion of the breadth requirement provides 9 hours of credit in this core. Other credits in the core are earned in areas of specific interest, and may also include course work, as needed, to address the following requirements:

  • The technical writing requirement may be satisfied in one of three ways: (1) by taking our technical writing course, COMP 911, (2) by writing a thesis, or (3) by writing a technical document in either academic or nonacademic work that has been reviewed and accepted (this may include a previously written thesis or dissertation).
  • The program product requirement may be satisfied by taking our software engineering course, COMP 523, or through demonstrated experience with the design, development, and documentation of a software product of significant size and complexity, preferably as part of a team.
  • The background preparation requirement reflects the body of material that is prerequisite to our graduate courses. Courses needed, if any, to satisfy this requirement are decided in consultation with the candidate’s adviser, course instructors, and the graduate studies committee.

The remaining 12 hours are elective and can include Reading and Research credit as well as appropriate coursework in other departments.  A comprehensive exam is required and has three possible forms: (1) satisfactory completion of a comprehensive paper (this also satisfies the technical writing requirement when written as part of COMP 911), or (2) an M.S. thesis (which counts for six hours of credit), or (3) an oral exam covering material from the courses in the candidate’s program of study. For students intending a Ph.D., option (1) or (2) is required. A full-time student generally completes the M.S. degree in four semesters or less.

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission to the Ph.D. program is by a preliminary research paper and presentation and upon recommendation of the faculty. There is no credit hour requirement for the Ph.D. program, but a Ph.D. candidate must complete courses to satisfy the breadth requirement and any needed background preparation.  A Ph.D. candidate proposes an individual program of study, typically 12 to 15 hours in the primary concentration.  Previous course work can be used to satisfy much of the program of study. A candidate must also satisfy the program product requirement, teach a course, participate in the technical communication seminar, pass an oral examination in the proposed dissertation area, and submit and defend a dissertation that presents an original contribution to knowledge. The normal time needed to complete the degree by a full-time student is five years.