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Advising: Master of Science

The following answers to frequently asked questions may address concerns you have. If you do not find the answer to your question here, please send a message to gpd@cs.umass.edu.

Degree Program Information

I wanted to do the research track for my MS degree but my admission letter didn't say which track I was admitted to. Can I declare this track?

All MS students are working toward a Master of Science degree in Computer Science. The tracks outlined here, are unofficial tracks and serve more as course selection guides.

Students who are planning to (or thinking they might) apply for Ph.D. programs will probably be interested in the Research track. Interested students should be taking more courses at the 600 level, should look toward maximizing their Independent study credits (6), and opting to complete COMPSCI 701, Master's Project. 

Students who do not expect to apply to a Ph.D. program but want to be better prepared for a job in the field will probably be more interested in the Professional track. Interested students should be maximizing their 500-level courses (no more than 18 credits) or taking classes toward a specific topic area.

The College offers a Data Science concentration for the Master of Science Degree. For more information please visit here

Course Information

When can incoming students register for courses?

The Grad School will be assigning an enrollment appointment, posted on SPIRE, for all incoming students. Once the date is known, the College will send an email reminding students to enroll. 

Due to this delay in enrollment, the College "reserves" seats for incoming students by reducing the course capacities until the time that incoming students can register, so don't be alarmed if a course you really wanted to take is full or almost full. 

Once registration begins, if you cannot enroll in a course via SPIRE, you will need to submit an override request via the College online override system

Which classes should we choose?

The classes you choose should reflect an area of interest, future plans, fulfilling degree requirements, etc. 

Please keep the following in mind when choosing courses
  • MS students need to complete four core requirements with a grade of "B" or better. 
  • Graduate level courses are those numbered 500 or above
  • MS students need to take 12 credits numbered at 600+ (696 + 701 do count toward this requirement). 
  • MS students cannot take more the 18 credits at the 500 level (596 & 500-level course from other Depts. count toward this requirement). 

Spacing of Core Requirements

To make academic progress, students must take at least one core course a semester until their cores are completed. Students are allowed to take more than one course in a semester, but we caution students to carefully select which cores to combine.

Some cores are easier to combine in one semester than others. For example, we do not recommend taking COMPSCI 611 & COMPSCI 689 together or COMPSCI 683 w/ COMPSCI 601 or 688. We suggest talking to students ahead of you in the program to get advice about which cores can be taken together.

We do suggest finishing your core requirements before your last semester to prevent Graduation obstacles. 

Funding Information

MS students are ineligible for assistantship positions, are there employment positions MS students are eligible to apply for?

Yes! MS students can be employed as CICS graders or other hourly appointments available within the College and on campus. Hourly employment positions are usually advertised through the Student Employment Office. Grader positions will be advertised by the College at the start of each semester. 

Any there any exceptions to the assistantship rule?

Exceptions can be granted only if supported by the Chair of the Faculty and approved by the Dean of the College, in extraordinary circumstances needed to meet instructional or research needs. Exceptions will be made only in extraordinary situations so are highly unlikely. 

Applying from the MS program into the Ms/Ph.D. Program

CICS MS students interested in transferring into the College's MS/PhD program can apply using the December deadline for Fall admission into the program and will be evaluated using the College's normal admissions process.

CICS MS students who have already achieved some milestones within the program may instead apply for the October 1st deadline for transfer into the PhD program during the spring semester. For that application to be successful, students will be expected to have reached these milestones:

  • Completed a minimum of one semester in the MS program;
  • Demonstrated breadth by completing courses from more than one core area with a grade of B+ or better;
  • Demonstrated a strong research connection with a member of the College faculty who will be expected to provide a letter in support of the transfer

If you are hoping for this spring admission and believe you have reached those milestones, you are strongly encouraged to talk with a member of the College faculty to receive feedback on whether your application appears likely to be successful. Application decisions are made by the Doctoral Admissions committee, however, so be aware that the feedback is not binding.