Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Graduate Admissions

The College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) has offered graduate-level computer science education for over fifty years. Today, it is one of the highest ranked and highest impact graduate research programs in the nation. 

According to the 2018 U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best graduate schools, the UMass Amherst graduate program in computer science ranked 20th, while its artificial intelligence specialty ranked 11th. Our programs frequently rank even higher in metrics-based rankings such as CS Rankings, a website developed by CICS Professor Emery Berger. 

The graduate student body consists over 600 graduate students from many different backgrounds and all parts of the globe. As a group, they are characterized by a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie that contributes significantly to the college.

Once students enter graduate studies, the college aims to see that they not only successfully complete a comprehensive academic program but also prepare themselves well for their future careers. Master's degree students are able to strengthen their research skills through independent studies. PhD track students are involved in research from the start of their graduate careers. Upon graduation, our students have consistently found positions in some of the best academic and industrial settings.

The Computer Science graduate program has three tracks: PhD, MS/PhD, and MS.  The two PhD tracks have been the main focus of graduate studies in our college: they focus on research toward a PhD as well as a broad background in the field.  The MS track serves students interested in expanding their undergraduate education in computer science, either in preparation for a job where a master's degree is important, or as a first step toward a PhD here or elsewhere.

How do you decide which track is the right one for you?

  • The PhD track is for students who have already obtained a master's degree in computer science from an established and reputable program.  These students are well prepared for PhD research and typically complete our breadth requirements quickly.  PhD students are generally supported with research or teaching assistantships.
  • The combined MS/PhD track is for students who have not completed a Master of Computer Science.  These students satisfy the MS requirements--so earn a master's degree--on their way to being admitted to PhD candidacy.  The credit hour requirements for this track result in the equivalent of two courses more than in the PhD-only track.  MS/PhD students are generally supported with research or teaching assistantships. A number of students who are not accepted to the MS/PhD program will be offered admission to the MS program. However, the GRE is required for admission to the MS program.
  • The MS track provides a terminal non-thesis master's degree.  The on-campus program requires 30 credit hours, typically taken over two years.  Research opportunities are offered through independent studies for course credit. Some students discover an interest in computer science research and apply to the MS/PhD track during their MS program.  However, the PhD program is very selective and only a small percentage of MS students are accepted. The MS program does not offer assistantships or scholarships to students other than through our Bay State program for select UMass Amherst undergraduates. 

Admission is very competitive. We typically accept 10-15% of students applying to our graduate programs. Backgrounds vary: we have students from engineering, math, computer science, electrical engineering, psychology and social sciences. Students are expected to be prepared for graduate level computer science coursework. Please see the suggested undergraduate preparation coursework.

These pages are provided to help answer the questions that prospective graduate students often ask about our college, graduate programs of study, and the graduate admissions process. Applicants are also encouraged to learn more about our research, and the many benefits of living in the Amherst Area.  To apply, see our application instructions.