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Learn About Moving from MS to PhD

The Graduate School provides general requirements for the Master of Science in all departments at CU Boulder. The following requirements specifically pertain to students pursuing a Master of Science in the Department of Computer Science. It supplements the Graduate School requirements; in all cases not specifically mentioned below, the general Graduate School requirements are understood to apply.

While pursing the research based MS degree in CS, you may select between two options:

  • Thesis Option: Complete 24 credits of course hours, according to the course requirements mentioned below, and take 6 thesis credits. You must also fulfill other MS degree requirements as stated by the department.
  • Non-Thesis Option: Complete 24 credits of course hours, according to the course requirements mentioned below, and take 6 credits of independent study hours. You must also fulfill other MS degree requirements as stated by the department.

Course Requirements

View the pre-fall 2019 course requirements

The research-based MS requires 30 total credits of approved graduate-level courses.

Required Professional Development (3 credits)

  • CSCI 5000 Intro to MS Resaerch (1 credit) - taken during first fall.
  • CSCI 5100 Research Colloquium (1 credit) - taken any semester.
  • CSCI 5100 maybe taken twice at the most but not more than that. Alternately, students may elect to take any other approved graduate level 1.0 credit course, which is not Independent Study research hour.

Breadth courses requirement (9 credits) 

Computer Science courses are listed in three bins. All students must earn a B or better (not a B-) in one 5000-level course (not 6000 or higher) from each of the bins.

  • Breadth Course Bins 
    • One course required from each of three bins (9 credits)
    • Highly recommended to complete this requirement by end of year 1.
    • Bins get updated every 2-3 years.
    • By petition to the Graduate Committee, similar transferred graduate work done elsewhere may be used to satisfy part of this requirement. 

Elective Courses (12 credits)

Any 12 credits with the following restrictions:

  • One THREE credits class may be Professional Internship class.
  • No more than two non-CS classes
  • CSEN students may not take NetEng Fundamentals classes (CSCI 5010; CSCI 5020 or CSCI 5030) and count towards their degree.
  • CSEN Research based students may not take MSCPS project based capstone classes (CSCI 5040; CSCI 5050; CSCI 5340 and CSCI 5350) and count towards their degree.
  • Students must seek approval for non-CS classes unless they are within the College of Engineering and Applied Science or the following pre-approved departments
    • Linguistics
    • Business
    • Geography
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Applied Mathematics
    • Information Science
  • Otherwise, approval required

Research-based courses (6 credits)

Total 6 credits of either independent study or MS thesis hours. These hours cannot be taken during the first semester. A minimum GPA of 3.3 is required.

Transfer Credit

Master's students may request a maximum of nine semester hours from another University or from within CU (either taken as a non-degree student OR as a non-CS student) to be transferred. All transfer requests must have departmental approval. Transfer requests can be made with the Graduate School's Request for Transfer of Credit.

Plan of Study

Students will be expected to submit a plan of study, in consultation with their departmental advisor, during the first semester of study. Changes to the plan of study must be approved by the advisor.

Thesis vs. Non-Thesis

Students who elect to do a thesis receive 6 hours of thesis credit towards the required 30 hours of coursework. They must also take an oral comprehensive exam on their thesis work and submit their thesis to the graduate school for approval. Students electing the non-thesis option must complete 6 hours of independent study research. The Indepdendent Study hours may be spread over two or more terms. Master's thesis defense must be scheduled following Graduate School deadlines and the exam committee plus date of defense must be sent to your Graduate Advisor at least two weeks before the exam is held via email.


The Graduate School requires that to receive a master's degree, a student must maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 in all courses taken as a graduate student. No grade lower than a C can be counted towards the master's degree. No grades lower than B can be counted towards breadth and research requirements.

Repeat Exams

A student who fails the oral thesis defense may retake the failed exam once, in a later semester. In doing this the student may switch between the thesis and the non-thesis option of the program. A maximum of two attempts is allowed.


Research based Master's students are advised by the Sr. Graduate Advisor when they start the program. If a student chooses to do Independent Study research work, the Sr. Graduate Advisor continues as their academic advisor throughout the program. If a student chooses to do a master's thesis, typically their thesis supervisor serve as their research/thesis advisor and the Sr. Graduate Advisor will continue with academic advising. Students consult with the Sr. Graduate Advisor to plan their course of study and any academic advising. 

Adequate Progress

Any student who does not enroll for any course work relevant to Computer Science in any one semester (summer semesters excluded) must supply the department with a written statement describing the reasons for such inactivity and the student's current intentions concerning work towards the degree. This statement must be received by the department by the end of the eighth week of the semester in question. Failure to do so will be regarded as evidence of a lack of interest in continuing in the program. Similarly, any student who does not enroll for any Computer Science course work for three consecutive semesters (summer semesters excluded) will be regarded as showing a lack of interest in continuing in the program. In either case, the student may be asked to explain to the department why the student should not be removed from the degree program, with the department making the final decision on the removal.

Time Limit

All requirements for the research based MS degree must be completed within four years of the start of course work.

Switching to the Course-Based MS

You may switch between the research-based and course-based MS degree options once for genuine academic reasons on a case-by-case basis via petition to the Graduate Committee. You may not switch during the term you plan to graduate. Your last term officially begins after census date of the prior term. Please fill out the petition form and submit it to the graduate advisor via email.