M.S. Degree Requirements


  1. Master of Science (M.S.) Program Overview
  2. M.S. Degree Requirements
  3. M.S. Advising & Resources
  4. M.S. Degree with Thesis
    • Thesis Requirements and Coursework
    • Thesis Committee Formation and Defense
  5. M.S. Degree without Thesis
  6. Combined BS/MS Program
  7. Graduation Application and Checklist
    • Thesis-Track
    • Non-Thesis Track
  8. Continuation to Ph.D. Program
    • Application Process
    • Coursework and Recommendations

Master of Science (M.S.) Program Overview

This document is tailored for Master of Science students in the Computer Science Department, providing essential details on M.S. degree requirements and other important aspects of graduate study. Graduate education in the department is managed by the Associate Chair, who is also the Graduate Program Director, along with the Assistant Director and Graduate Coordinator, collectively referred to as the “Graduate Office.” 


For information regarding campus-wide graduate study requirements, policies, and deadlines, please refer to the resources provided by the UMCP Graduate School and in the Graduate Catalog. Specific information about registration and coursework requirements for our programs can be found here

M.S. Degree Requirements

The following requirements apply to both thesis and non-thesis options for the Master of Science degree in computer science:

  1. Graduate credits: A minimum of 30 credit hours of approved coursework is required, maintaining a B average. 
    1. These courses must be at the 400 level or higher, with at least 18 credit hours at the 600-800 level. 
    2. A minimum of 21 credit hours must be in computer science courses.
    3. For non-thesis MS students, up to six credits of CMSC 798 may be counted towards the 30-credit total.
    4. Courses from other departments must be approved by your advisor; you must submit your request to the Graduate Office prior to the start of the semester in which the course is to be done.
  2. Qualifying coursework: You are required to complete at least four MS qualifying computer science courses at the 600-800 level, covering four out of the eight areas. This includes completing at least two courses with an A or A+, and two courses with a B or above (excluding B-; A- grades count towards the B requirement). Courses that are eligible towards two areas will have only one count towards degree requirements. Whichever area the student has not yet taken as part of a breadth requirement will be used by default. 

While 400-level courses listed in the course requirements may have a qualifying field designation, it's important to note that they do not count towards the qualifying coursework requirements. 

  1. Registration Requirement: You must be registered for at least one credit in the semester in which you expect to receive your degree.
  2. Transferring graduate credits: Up to six credit hours may be transferred from another university or a different program at the University of Maryland, College Park, excluding exceptions as noted below and for those admitted via the Combined BS/MS program. To facilitate this transfer, fill out this form, ensure it is signed by your advisor, and then submit it through the CS Graduate Form Submissions.
  3. Time limit: All degree requirements must be completed within five years from the date of admission to the program. Time taken for an approved Leave of Absence for Childbearing, Adoption, Illness or Dependent Care does not count toward this five-year limit. Further details can be found here.

M.S. Advising & Resources

In the MS program,  a formal advisor is not necessary for choosing your coursework. For those pursuing the thesis track, a research advisor, who is a member of the graduate faculty is necessary. Even if you decide not to purchase a thesis track, you are encouraged to do research with a faculty member. If you engage in a research project and enroll for CMSC 798 research credits with a professor, they can then serve as your advisor. 

For guidance throughout the MS program, MS students are encouraged to utilize the following resources:

  • Study Plan Planner

To assist you in planning your course registration, our office has developed a Study Plan planner. This tool allows you to organize your course schedule and provides access to sample course registration forms from previous students.

M.S. Degree with Thesis

Thesis Requirements and Coursework

To earn an M.S. degree with a thesis, you must complete six hours of CMSC 799 (Master's Thesis Research) and write a thesis demonstrating independent accomplishment in a research, development, or application area of computer science. The thesis must conform to the format stipulated by the UMCP Graduate School.

Thesis Committee Formation and Defense

Upon receiving your advisor's approval for your thesis, you should proceed with setting up your thesis committee. This committee must include at least three faculty members, with a minimum of one being regular members of the Computer Science faculty.

To formalize this committee, follow these steps:

  • Thesis Committee Nomination Form: Complete this form and submit it to the Computer Science Graduate Office via CS Graduate Form Submissions
  • Scheduling Your Thesis Defense: At least two weeks prior to your intended defense date, submit the Oral Exam Scheduling Form and provide a copy of your thesis to each committee member, along with a Google Calendar invitation to both committee members and the Graduate Coordinator.

M.S. Degree without Thesis

To fulfill your Master’s degree requirements, you must complete a scholarly paper that is satisfactory to a professor in the Computer Science department, who may be tenure-track or an affiliate and does not necessarily be your advisor. Your paper must include both an abstract and references to the relevant literature. Upon obtaining approval using the approval form, you should submit an electronic version of your scholarly paper to the Computer Science Graduate Office through the CS Graduate Form Submissions. Ensure you adhere to the deadlines outlined in the Steps to Graduation - Checklist for M.S. Students. Note that your paper, along with your name, will be listed on the Scholarly Paper Archive webpage.

Overview and Purpose of the Scholarly Paper

The purpose of the Scholarly Paper is to demonstrate a student’s research abilities, mirroring the standards of a conference or journal paper in their respective field. The paper could be based on:

  • An ongoing research project by the student
  • A paper submitted by the student to a conference (co-authorship is permitted)
  • A class project undertaken by the student
  • A comprehensive research survey within the area of research

It's recommended that students discuss with the faculty member who will sign off their paper well in advance, ideally a semester prior to their expected graduation date, to gain clarity about the expectations and standards pertinent to their field. Considering the diversity in content standards across different conferences and journals, the faculty member retains the right to determine the content suitability of the Scholarly Paper.

Combined BS/MS Program

For students enrolled in the Combined BS/MS program, this section outlines the specific considerations and requirements you should follow. As MS students, you are subject to the same academic standards and options as traditional MS candidates, with the benefit of integrating certain undergraduate credits into your graduate degree. 

Credit Integration and Coursework Requirements:

  • Double-counted Credits: You are allowed to count up to 9 credits from your undergraduate coursework towards both your BS and MS degrees.
  • Graduate-Level Coursework: In addition, up to 3 credits * of graduate-only courses taken during your undergraduate studies can be applied toward your MS degree requirements by submitting a Graduate Credit Permission form.

*Undergraduate students can transfer up to 12 credits into their MS program. Some students might have the capacity to take more graduate-only courses, which is also permissible. A total of 12 credits can be allocated between double-counting and graduate credit-only courses based on individual study plans.

To ensure these credits are officially recognized towards your MS degree, you must submit the UMD Graduate School Inclusion Form no later than the second semester or the term in which you plan to graduate.

Despite the integrated credit benefits, you are required to complete all standard MS degree requirements outlined in M.S. Degree Requirements.

Graduation Application and Checklist

At the beginning of the semester in which you intend to graduate,  you should apply for graduation via Testudo by the early semester deadline and follow the M.S. Students Checklist to ensure all steps and requirements are met.

For the successful completion of your degree, the following forms must be submitted to the Computer Science Graduate Office via CS Graduate Form Submissions, adhering to their respective semester deadlines:


After successfully defending your thesis, complete the following steps:

  • Report of Examining Committee (via AdobeSign): This should be completed via AdobeSign. It's important to regularly check in with your committee members to monitor the status of your approval

Non-Thesis Track

Continuation to Ph.D. Program

Application Process

  • MS students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. are required to apply through the standard online application process for the term immediately following their MS completion
  • For current MS students, the application fee will be waived
  • While the majority of Ph.D. admissions occur in the Fall, MS students may seek Spring admission, subject to the RA support of a research advisor

Coursework and Recommendations

  • When planning their MS program, students should opt for courses that can be credited towards the Ph.D., excluding 400-level courses (refer to Ph.D. Pre-Candidacy Requirements for details)
  • A key component of the Ph.D. application is the inclusion of three recommendation letters from UMD faculty, attesting to the applicant's research capabilities
  • Engaging in research activities under the guidance of faculty members and enhancing their research portfolio is highly advised for prospective Ph.D. candidates