Master of Science in Computer Science

The Master of Science (M.S.) in Computer Science is the first graduate degree in the field, and can take one and a half years of full-time study to complete. Students entering the program must have a bachelor's degree and/or adequate background in computer science, such as is obtained in an undergraduate computer science program. 

Departmental requirements are given below.


Advising Requirements

The Graduate Advisor, Rebecca Sexton-Lee, will be assigned as interim advisor for all newly admitted MS students. Every MS student is required to maintain a plan of study form, on file with the CS office. The form lists both courses taken toward the degree so far and courses planned for the remainder of the student's program, and notes transfer and pre-admission courses, non-CS courses, and the student's intended track. The form is signed by the Graduate Advisor to indicate that the planned program, if carried out, will be acceptable for graduation; in effect it represents a contract between the advisor and student.

An initial plan must be filed by the end of the student's second term after formal admission. At this point, many future course selections will necessarily be vague, e.g. "CS graduate elective." The plan can be revised at any time by mutual agreement of student and the advisor. Failure to file such a plan and keep it up to date may result in courses not being counted towards the degree.

Students completing a thesis are required to have a faculty advisor. 

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Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate with a master's degree, you must complete a program of 45 graduate level credits. Approval of all 45 credits by your adviser is required. At least 30 of these credits must be in PSU's CS courses. Graduate courses taken at another institution must be approved in advance, or during the first term of enrollment if they are transferred in at admission. Approval requires a written statement of relevance to the student's program. This is done using the Proposed Transfer Credit form.  Please submit this form and course information to Rebecca Sexton-Lee, Graduate Advisor.  

A maximum of 15 graduate credits from another institution can be counted towards graduation. These courses must be approved before graduation paperwork can be processed. To request approval of transfer credits, complete a GO-21 form and give it to the Graduate Advisor in the CS office, FAB-120.  Pre-admission credits can be added to the plan of study form.


[CHANGES] Core Courses (6) 
These courses must be passed with a grade of B or better. You are urged to take these courses as early as possible in your graduate program, including pre-admission.
  • One Theory course from:
    • CS 581 Theory of Computation
    • CS 584 Algorithm Design and Analysis
    • CS 578 Programming Language Semantics
  • One Programming practice course from:
    • CS 558 Programming Languages 
    • or any 500-level course designated by the department as programming-intensive (noted by a P in the course number of the undergraduate section)
3 Courses from a Single Track (9)
Take three courses from one of the following tracks:
  • Databases
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Languages & Programming
  • Security
  • Software Engineering
  • Systems & Networking
    Electives (30)  

    Electives can be any 500 level CS course. 15 elective credits can be from outside of CS, such as ECE or Math*. These non-CS courses must be graduate level and require advisor approval.  Students should have these courses pre-approved before taking them. To request approval, submit a plan of study with the courses listed to the Graduate Advisor, Rebecca Sexton-Lee.  Please note that if you have already taken 15 pre-admission credits, you cannot take any credits from outside our department. 

    *Exception: only one ETM course will count towards CS degree. All ETM course are eligible to transfer but students are limited to using only one for the CS degree requirements.

    45 credits total

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    General Course Restrictions

    The following general restrictions apply to the courses that count toward the 45 credits required for graduation:
    • All graded courses must be passed with a grade of B- or better; core courses must be passed with a grade of B. All courses taken P/NP must be passed. Your GPA for all graduate credits must be at least 3.0 (B).
    • A maximum of 6 credits of CS 505 Reading and Conference and CS 506 Special Projects may be applied to the degree.
    • CS 501 (Research)/CS 502 (Independent Study)/CS 504 (Internship)/CS 509 (Graduate Assistant Practicum) credits cannot be applied. Rules regarding CS 504 Internships can be found here.
    • At least 30 of the 45 credits must be in PSU courses.
    • All 45 credits, to be included in your approved program, require the approval of your CS advisor. See the Advising Requirements section for more detail.
    • All University requirements must be satisfied.
    • There is a 7 year limit on Master's credits. Please be aware that if any of your credits are more than 7 years old at the time you apply for graduation, they may need to be re-validated. You can read about the process here.

    More information on graduate program guidelines can be found through the Office of Graduate Studies, Current Students section

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    Thesis Option

    Students are encouraged to undertake a thesis. However, students may choose to graduate under the coursework-only program described above.

    For the thesis option, you must write and defend a master's thesis. If this option is chosen, at least 6, but no more than 9, of the required 45 credits must be from CS 503 (Thesis). University requirements for a master's thesis are given in the PSU Bulletin. In particular, an oral thesis defense is required. You must be registered for at least 1 credit during every term during which you are working on any aspect of your thesis and during the term in which you plan to defend your thesis.

    The University has a set of Thesis Guidelines that describe the format and content requirements for the thesis.

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    Joint Campus Registration with Oregon Health and Science University

    Admitted graduate students at Portland State may take graduate courses offered by Oregon Health and Science University and have the credits included in their current term enrollment and tuition assessment at PSU. Only specific courses are approved for this joint campus arrangement; see the list here. Students must have permission from the instructor of the OHSU course as well as their home department to use the joint campus registration process and apply the OHSU courses to their PSU degree. Contact the CS Graduate Advisor ( for details.