Prospective Students - Graduate Studies - M.S. Guidelines

Entrance Requirements

Regular Admission to the M.S. in Computer Science Program

For regular admission to the Master of Science in Computer Science program, the applicant must:

  1. Satisfy the minimum requirements for admission to graduate study as specified in the Mississippi State University Graduate Studies Bulletin (available on line at http://www.grad.msstate.edu/ ), and submit all documents as required in the application procedure below;
  2. Possess those qualifications and interests that indicate to the Graduate Studies Committee of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) that the applicant will be successful in the MSU computer science Master of Science program; and
  3. Have a minimum TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of 550 on the paper version, or 213 on the computer version. (This applies only to international students. The University may waive the TOEFL requirement for international students who hold a degree from a U.S. Institution).

Contingent Admission to the M.S. in Computer Science Program

Applicants who fail to meet the requirements for regular admission may be considered for contingent admission by the Graduate Studies Committee. Contingent admission may be granted under the following conditions:

  1. International students with a TOEFL score of less than 550, but at least 500, may be admitted, but only with contingencies. To change from contingent status to normal admission status, the student will be required to complete satisfactorily the appropriate English as a Second Language sequence of courses; see the MSU Graduate Studies Bulletin (General Requirements for Admission, English Language Requirements for International Students) for specific requirements.
  2. Applicants who have not yet taken the GRE but who have a computer science baccalaureate degree from a U.S. institution may be admitted, but only with contingencies. To change from contingent status to normal admission status, the student will be required to take the GRE General Test in his or her first semester and obtain a satisfactory composite GRE score.
  3. A student who has not completed the undergraduate prerequisites may be given contingent admission. To change from contingent status to normal admission status, the student must complete all remaining prerequisites with a grade of B or better in each course.

Application Procedure

The applicant is required to submit the following documents to the Office of Graduate Admissions. (See the Graduate Studies Bulletin regarding the admissions process.)

  1. Application for admission to graduate study;
  2. Transcripts from all former institutions attended;
  3. TOEFL score (for international students when English is not the first language);
  4. Scores on the general test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE);
  5. Three letters of recommendation; and
  6. Statement of the applicants career goals and objectives.

In addition, the applicant is encouraged to submit directly to the Department of Computer Science and Engineering any additional information (such as GRE subject test scores, resume, etc.) that supports his/her application.

The department has a special application form for teaching assistantships (PDF) that is separate from the application for admission to the graduate program.

Application Dates

Applications may be submitted at any time. Completed applications should be received by the University deadlines given in the Graduate Studies Bulletin.

Preference for awarding assistantships will be given to applications received by February 1 for Summer or Fall Semester admission and October 1 for Spring Semester admission. The Department will not consider assistantship applications from individuals who do not have complete admission applications on file.

Additional Information

For additional information visit the departmental web site http://www.cse.msstate.edu/ or send email to office@cse.msstate.edu.


Accelerated B.S./M.S. Program

The Accelerated B.S./M.S. program enables a student to complete both a Bachelor degree in Computer Science or Software Engineering and a Master's degree in Computer Science in approximately five years.

The program has the following features.

  • A student must apply for admission to the program, no sooner than the end of the sophomore year (60 hours or more of graded courses). The criteria for admissions assess whether the applicant possesses those qualifications and interest that indicate to the department's Graduate Studues Committee that the applicant will be successful in the MSU M.S. in Computer Science program. The applicant must have an overall GPA of 3.5.
  • The admission application package to the program must have all of the elements of an application package for the M.S. degree, including GRE scores, and application fee.
  • A student must have senior standing to enter the program. A student is classified as an undergraduate until all the requirements for the undergraduate degree are fulfilled, at which point the student is then classified as a graduate student.
  • A maximum of nine hours of graduate courses taken after entering the program and prior to completing the bachelor degree can count toward both the bachelor degree and the Program of Study for the Master of Science in Computer Science degree. In order to count toward the Master degree, such courses must conform to other requirments for the M.S. degree. The program will follow procedures established by the Registrar for dual counting.
  • During the senior year, if a student in the program enrolls in any graduate courses during a given term, then the maximum load of combined graduate and undergraduate courses is 16 credits during that Fall or spring semester, or 6 credits during that Summer (all summer terms combined).
  • During the senior year, approval to to enroll in graduate courses will be granted by the department's Graduate Coordinator.
  • During the senior year, graduate courses at the 6000-level will count toward the Bachelor of Science degree similarly to the corresponding 4000-level courses.
  • During the senior year, graduate courses at the 7000-level or above will count toward the Bachelor of Science degree as technical electives.
  • Upon earning the Bachelor degree and making satisfactory progress, the student will be admitted to the Master of Science in Computer Science program. The department's Graduate Coordinator will initiate the graduate admission process by the end of the first semester of the senior year.
  • After earning the Bachelor degree, the student will complete the M.S. degree requirements in the normal manner.
  • An undergraduate student may opt out of the program at any time and complete only the undergraduate portion of the program. No additional dual counting will occur after opting out.

Degree Requirements

Undergraduate Prerequisite Courses for the Masters Degree

The prerequisite courses required of all Masters students are the following and their prerequisites:

  • MA 2733 Calculus III
  • CSE 2383 Data Structures and Analysis of Algorithms
  • ECE 3724 Microprocessors
  • CSE 3813 Introduction to Formal Languages
  • CSE 4833/6833 Introduction to Algorithms
  • CSE 4713/6713 Programming Languages
  • CSE 4733/6733 Operating Systems I

Candidates for the Master's degree must have completed all prerequisite courses or their equivalent. These courses may be completed after enrolling in the graduate program. A program of study for the Master's degree may include 6000-level prerequisite courses [effective Spring 2008].

Graduate Coursework Restrictions

All CSE graduate students must complete the seven required prerequisite courses prior to receiving a graduate degree from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Students who enter the graduate program in computer science with a deficiency of one or more of these courses should schedule at least one per semester until they are completed (unless otherwise authorized by their advisors). If not fulfilled prior to admission, graduate students in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering must take the split-level prerequisite courses (CSE 6713, CSE 6733, and CSE 6833) at the graduate level.

Graduate students must take at least nine hours of graduate-level hours each semester in order to maintain their status as full-time graduate students. Students who are required to take undergraduate courses as part of the prerequisites for the graduate program may substitute up to three credit hours of undergraduate prerequisite courses each semester in place of three hours of graduate coursework. The split-level prerequisite courses (CSE 6713, CSE 6733, and CSE 6833) will count as graduate courses for the purpose of maintaining full-time student status.

Students who are serving as Teaching Assistants for the Department of Computer Science and Engineering must enroll in at least 12 hours of graduate coursework or research. Students who are serving as Research Assistants should check with their advisors regarding course requirements.

Major Professor and the Graduate Committee

By the end of the second semester of study, the student must have selected a major professor (advisor) from his/her area of interest. The major professor will serve as the students advisor and must be a member of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering graduate faculty. Prior to developing a program of study, the students major professor will form a Graduate Committee consisting of at least three members of the graduate faculty. The Committee will be chaired by the major professor. The committee must include the minor professor if a minor is included in the program of study. The majority of the committee (including the major professor) must be non-adjunct graduate faculty in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Adjunct faculty in Computer Science and Engineering may serve as the project, or thesis director. The committee will have responsibility for approving the student's program of study and for examining the student regarding the completion of the degree, including project or thesis.

The membership of a students Graduate Committee shall not include (1) a member of that students immediate family, (2) anyone who is a former, current, or expected future supervisor of that student in a permanent job position, or (3) anyone who is funded on a grant or contract for which that student has supervisory responsibility or helps determine the award of the contract or grant. The restrictions regarding job supervisors do not include individuals who supervise that student as a graduate assistant, research assistant, or work/study employee.

Program of Study

The program of study is developed by the student in consultation with the major professor (and the minor professor if a minor field is being pursued) and is approved by the student's Graduate Committee and the Graduate Coordinator.

The program of study should be concentrated to support depth of study in the student's particular area of interest. Typical areas of interest are:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Software Engineering
  • High Performance Computing
  • Graphics and Visualization
  • Computer Security

All students must complete a minimum of twenty-five hours of graduate course work exclusive of thesis that satisfies the following requirements:

  1. The program of study must include a minimum of twelve credit hours of full graduate computer science courses. A "computer science" course for this requirement has the symbol CSE, and a student may petition through his/her Graduate Committee to the Graduate Studies Committee for an exception.
  2. The program of study must include at least three of the following six Fundamental Areas courses:
    • CSE 6153 Data Communications and Computer Networks
    • CSE 6163 Designing Parallel Algorithms
    • CSE 6214 Introduction to Software Engineering
    • CSE 6413 Computer Graphics
    • CSE 6503 Database Management Systems
    • CSE 6633 Artificial Intelligence
    • A student who has taken any of these six courses for undergraduate credit may use the undergraduate course to meet the graduate Fundamental Areas requirement and substitute another graduate-level course approved by the students graduate committee.
  3. The program of study must include at least one of the following theory courses:
    • CSE 8813 Theory of Computation
    • CSE 8833 Algorithms
    • CSE 8843 Complexity of Sequential and Parallel Algorithms
    • CSE 8990 Special Topics in Computer Science on a topic which has been designated in advance by the Department as a theory course fulfilling this requirement.
  4. The program of study must include the departmental seminar (one credit hour):
    • CSE 8011 Graduate Seminar

Individual Studies Courses

A graduate student may take a directed individual studies course (CSE 7000) only if a written contract describing the course has been agreed upon by the instructor, the student, and the students major professor. Once the students committee has been formed, the contract must be submitted to the entire committee for approval. The contract must clearly state whether the course will count for 8000-level credit. Masters students may count no more than 3 hours of CSE 7000 courses on their formal program of study. The form to be used for CSE 7000 contracts is available from the Department's Web site.

Transfer of coursework

Up to 9 credit hours of a student's graduate coursework from another university may be transferred for inclusion in the student's program of study, if approved by the student's committee. Only coursework for which grades of A or B have been received may be transferred.

A student who has been enrolled previously in a graduate program at MSU either may import all previous graduate work into their computer science graduate record, or may abandon all previous graduate work.

If the student's previous work is imported:

  • up to 9 credit hours of the work is available for inclusion in the student's program of study, as specified by the student's committee, and
  • the grades on all of the previous coursework must be used in computing the student's academic standing (GPA) in the computer science graduate program.

If the student's previous work is abandoned:

  • none of the work is available for inclusion in the student's program of study, and
  • the grades on the previous coursework are not used in computing the student's academic standing (GPA) in the computer science graduate program.

Thesis/Non-thesis Options

Students must select either a thesis or a non-thesis option in their program of study. A student may only select the thesis option if a member of the graduate faculty has agreed to serve as thesis director. Normally the major professor will direct the thesis research. The research must be accepted by his/her Graduate Committee and reported in a defensible thesis paper.

Thesis option: If the thesis option is selected, the student must:

  1. complete a minimum of six credit hours of CSE 8000, Thesis Research/Thesis.
  2. propose research within his/her area of interest.
  3. defend the thesis research to his/her Graduate Committee at a formal presentation at the time of the comprehensive examination.
  4. insure that at least half of the twenty-five hours in the program of study exclusive of thesis are at the full graduate level (numbered 8000-level or 9000-level).

Non-thesis option: If the non-thesis option is selected, the student must:

  1. complete two additional graduate level courses exclusive of thesis (six credit hours) in his/her area of interest; insuring that at least fifteen hours of the courses in the program of study are at the full graduate level (numbered 8000 or 9000). One of the two additional courses may be Directed Project (CSE 8080) if the student's major professor (or another member of the student's graduate committee) agrees to direct the project. The purpose of a Directed Project is to independently complete a challenging professional project.
  2. stand for an oral comprehensive examination. Students who complete a Directed Project present the results of the directed project to his/her Graduate Committee at the time of the comprehensive examination.

Comprehensive Examination

Students must perform satisfactorily on an oral comprehensive examination. If the student is in the thesis option or is completing a Directed Project, the Masters comprehensive examination is held in conjunction with the students project presentation or thesis defense.

When a student is nearing graduation, if the students GPA is less than 3.0 at the end of the most recently completed term, then the M.S. Comprehensive Examination must be postponed until the current GPA is at least 3.0. Then the student must enroll for at least one hour during the term in which the Examination is given.

The exam must be scheduled at least one week before it is given. Students are required to make a comprehensive and detailed review of all graduate course work taken toward the degree in preparation for the oral examinations. Passing a final oral exam for a Master's degree candidate will require a majority affirmative vote of the candidate's committee members present or their appointed representative. A candidate who fails the comprehensive examination on the first attempt must wait at least two months before attempting the examination a second time. The date and time of each comprehensive examination attempt is subject to the Committee's approval. A second failure terminates the candidate from the program.

Thesis

The thesis (research) option of the computer science Masters degree program requires that the degree candidate successfully undertake an independent research project and present the results of the research in a defensible thesis document.

For students electing this option, the following steps must be followed:

  1. The student develops a thesis proposal with the major professor containing:
    • a. Introduction to the research being proposed.
    • b. Review of the relevant research in the area.
    • c. Hypothesis, research goals/questions, research relevancy, proposed research methodology/procedures, and publication plan.
  2. The major professor schedules a research proposal session with the students Graduate Committee and gains Committee approval of the proposed research.
  3. Upon completion of the research, the student submits a draft copy of the thesis document to each member of his/her Graduate Committee. This draft copy is must be distributed to the committee members at least one week prior to the planned date of the presentation. All suggestions and concerns should be resolved under the direction of the major professor.
  4. When the student is ready to defend the thesis and be examined, the major professor schedules the presentation and examination. The thesis presentation is open to all students and faculty. The presentation is followed immediately by an oral examination of the student that is open only to the members of the student's Graduate Committee (and the research director). The committee signs the Report of Examination Result form indicating whether the student has passed or failed.
  5. The major professor forwards the Report of Examination form and one copy to the Office of Graduate Studies by the deadline posted in the Graduate Academic Calendar in the Graduate Studies Bulletin.
  6. Once the student has made all changes to the thesis document requested by the committee members and the committee members and the Graduate Coordinator have signed the approval page, the student submits a signed copy of the approval page to the departmental office. Approval of the thesis proceeds from the committee, to the Graduate Coordinator of the Department, and thence to the Dean of Engineering. After all approvals are obtained, the student must submit an electronic copy of the thesis to the Library for final approval.

Thesis Format Requirements

The thesis proposal and thesis must carefully follow the format specified in the latest edition of the Standards for Preparing Dissertations and Theses available from the Office of Graduate Studies, and departmental requirements

Milestones for Master's Students (Thesis Option)

By the end of your second semester:

  • Choose a major professor.
  • Select your graduate committee in consultation with your major professor.
  • Get your graduate committee approved (special form).
  • Define a preliminary program of study in consultation with your major professor.
  • Get your preliminary program of study approved by your major professor, your committee, and the graduate coordinator (special form).

At least one semester prior to the semester in which you plan to graduate:

  • Write your thesis proposal and present it to your committee (formal presentation). Give the final draft of your thesis proposal to your committee at least one week prior to your presentation.

During the semester in which you plan to graduate:

  • Get your formal program of study approved (special form).
  • Complete your thesis. Schedule your defense. Give the final draft of your thesis to your committee at least one week prior to your defense.
  • File an Announcement of Thesis Defense form with the Office of Graduate Studies one week prior to the defense. Students are required to announce the defense of their thesis one week prior to their presentation stating the time, date, the room, and the title of their thesis, and an abstract. This notice should be announced using email directed to faculty and graduate student aliases (faculty@cse.msstate.edu and grads@cse.msstate.edu)
  • Defend your thesis to your committee (formal presentation), including a comprehensive examination (special form). Get your committee members to sign your thesis (signature page).
  • Submit your thesis to the Graduate Coordinator.
  • Submit a signed copy of the thesis approval page to the departmental office.
  • Submit your thesis to the office of the Dean of Engineering.
  • Submit your thesis to the Library electronically.

See the Office of Graduate Studies calendar for the deadlines for (1) the first submission of a thesis to the Library for approval and (2) the final submission of a thesis to the Library. These dates are typically about two weeks apart, with the final date being about one month prior to graduation. Your thesis must first be approved by your major professor, then by your other committee members, then by the graduate coordinator, and then by the Engineering Deans office before it is submitted to the Library. See http://library.msstate.edu/etd/author.asp and http://library.msstate.edu/etd/help.asp.

Non-thesis option

The non-thesis option of the computer science Master's degree program requires that the degree candidate take either 1) two additional graded courses beyond those required for the thesis option or 2) one additional graded course and 3 hours of Directed Project that is successfully defended at the time of the comprehensive examination.

For students in the non-thesis option, the following steps must be followed:

  1. By the end of the second semester of study, the student should have a major professor and graduate committee.
  2. By the end of the second semester of study, the student should have a Preliminary Program of Study signed by the major professor and all committee members.
  3. If the student is taking a Directed Project, the student must develop a project contract with the major professor (and project director). The contract should include a project description, a clear statement of project objectives, a statement of any constraints and special considerations, and a precise list of deliverables expected from the project. The student, the project director (normally the major professor), and the members of the Graduate Committee sign the contract.
  4. When the student is within 6 hours of completion of all coursework, the major professor schedules the comprehensive examination. If the student is taking a Directed Project, a draft copy of the project report is distributed to all members of the student's Graduate Committee at least one week prior to the planned date of the presentation. If the student takes a Directed Project, a project presentation is given that is open to all students and faculty. The oral examination of the student is open only to members of the Graduate Committee.
  5. The major professor reports the results of the examination to the Office of Graduate Studies.
  6. If the student takes a Directed Project, the student has made all changes to the project report requested by the committee members and the committee members have signed the approval page, the student submits a signed copy of the approval page to the departmental office.

Directed Project Format Requirements

The report must follow the same format as theses and dissertations, as specified in the latest edition of the Standards for Preparing Dissertations and Theses available from the MSU Office of Graduate Studies, and departmental requirements, except that the approval page should include the signatures of the student's Graduate Committee only.

A copy of the original project contract should be included in an appendix. Deliverables of the project (user guides, design documents, etc.) can be included as appendices, but normally will be separate documents. The format of any deliverables (user guides, technical manuals, etc.) not included as appendices shall be as appropriate for the client of the project. Deliverables included as appendixes must follow the same form and format as the report.

Milestones for Masters Students (Non-thesis Option)

By the end of your second semester:

  • Choose major professor.
  • Select graduate committee in consultation with major professor.
  • Get graduate committee approved (special form).
  • Define preliminary program of study in consultation with major professor.
  • Get preliminary program of study approved (special form).

For students who are completing a Directed Project, at least one semester prior to the semester in which you plan to graduate:

  • Write project contract and have it approved by committee.

During the semester in which you plan to graduate:

  • Get formal program of study approved (special form).
  • For students who are completing a Directed Project, write a project report and get approved by your major professor; give the final draft of your report to your committee at least one week prior to your presentation.
  • Stand for the comprehensive examination. If the student is completing a Directed Project, the project results are presented to the committee at the time of the comprehensive exam.
  • For students who are completing a Directed Project, submit signed copy of approval page of the project report to departmental office.

Your project report must first be approved by your major professor, and then by your other committee members. A copy of the approval page with all of the necessary signatures must be submitted to the Computer Science departmental office no later than the date listed in the Graduate Studies Bulletin for reporting final exam results to the Office of Graduate Studies.

Minors

The Graduate Studies Bulletin defines a minor as a block of course work completed in any department other than the major department. An M.S. student in Computer Science may obtain a minor by meeting the requirements specified in the Graduate Studies Bulletin. At least 9 hours of course work are required for the minor and the minor professor serves as a member of the students graduate committee. The courses included in the minor can be applied to the degree requirements for the M.S. if approved by all committee members and if all other degree requirements are also met.

The University also has the following additional rules.

  • A minor cannot use coursework completed at another institution.
  • A minor cannot use coursework from a prior degree.
  • If the minor area is interdisciplinary, courses do not have to be cross-listed.
  • Minor coursework must conform to the same time limit as other courses on the program of study.