Graduate Program - Master of Science

The Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science is a research-oriented degree. The MS with thesis degree has two components: completion of a designated curriculum, and completion and defense of a thesis that describes original research.

A MS non-thesis degree is also available to select students who plan to proceed directly into PhD studies in the Department. This option is described at the end of this page.


A summary of the curriculum requirements for the Master of Science with thesis is below:

Requirement Credit Hours
Core courses 6
Orientation Course (CSC 600) 1
Computer Science graduate electives 9
Thesis research ( CSC 695 ) 6
Minor courses, Computer Science graduate electives, or “restricted” electives 9
Total 31

In addition, for students beginning their degree on or after Fall 2013, the GPA in the group of courses used to satisfy the core course requirement must be at least 3.0 as well. Completion of the curriculum requires 31 graduate credits. All incoming MS students must register for an orientation course: CSC 600 (Computer Science Graduate Orientation).

At least two courses must be taken from the following list of core courses, one from each category:

Advanced or specialized versions of core courses may be used as substitutes (e.g., CSC720 (AI II) may substitute for CSC520 (AI), and CSC573 (Internet Protocols) may substitute for CSC570 (Computer Networks)). Special topics courses (CSC 59x or 79x) may not be used to satisfy core course requirements.


  1. At least 12 hours must be in graduate 500- and 700-level Computer Science courses. (note: the Graduate School does not allow 500- and 700-level courses to be taken pass-fail.
  2. "Restricted elective" courses may be any graduate letter-graded (500- or 700-level) course within the College of Engineering (including Computer Science), or within the College of Sciences. Exceptions that will *not* count towards graduation:
    • ST 511(if taken after Spring 2014)
    • special topics courses (including EGR 590) in departments other than Computer Science (if taken after Fall 2012).
  3. All Computer Science credits must be at or above the 500 level. At most 3 credits outside of Computer Science may be at the 400 level.
  4. To graduate, a student must have at least a 3.00 grade point average (GPA). In addition, for students beginning their degree on or after Fall 2013, the GPA in the group of courses used to satisfy the core course requirement must be at least 3.0 as well. See the Graduate Handbook for additional Graduate School regulations concerning grades.
  5. A maximum of four special topics courses (CSC 591 or CSC 791) may be counted towards graduation, for students beginning Fall 2012 or later.
  6. A minor, consisting of three courses, is optional.
  7. At most 6 graduate credits are allowed for thesis research (CSC695), and no more than 3 additional credits in 600-level coursework are allowed.

To register for thesis credit, (a) send mail to with your name, student ID #, advisor name, the course you wish to be registered in (csc695), and the number of credits you desire; (b) cc: your advisor on this mail; (c) the advisor "Replies All" to this mail and indicates approval; (d) we register you. You may register for the 6 credits any way you wish: 6 credits in one semester, 3 credits in one semester and 3 credits in another semester, etc.

Advisory Committee and Plan of Graduate Work

All students in the MS with thesis program must have a graduate advisor who is an Associate or Full member of the Graduate Faculty in Computer Science. The graduate advisor serves as chair or co-chair of the Advisory Committee, which must have 3 members. At least 2 of the committee members must have Computer Science as their “home” department. The advisor supervises the student's research, and the advisory committee assists the student in constructing the plan of work.

Upon selecting a committee, you should file the Graduate Plan of Work electronically using the MyPack Portal (under "Student Information Systems"). The plan will be routed electronically for review and approval. The plan should be filed no later than the beginning of the final semester of enrollment. Note that it is not necessary to know the precise defense date in order to submit your plan of work.

Thesis and Defense

The thesis represents an original piece of research under the guidance of the thesis advisor. Most master's theses result in one or more publications. Guidelines for theses are available from the Graduate School. The MS thesis must be defended in a final oral examination, conducted by the Advisory Committee, and open to all members of the Department. The thesis must be approved by each member of the advisory committee and then submitted to the Graduate School's Thesis Editor. We strongly recommend that students attend an Electronic Thesis and Dissertation workshop, conducted by the Graduate School Thesis Editor, before writing the thesis.

MS students must file with the Graduate Secretary the Request to Schedule the Final Exam, no later than three weeks in advance of the defense. It is not necessary to know the precise defense date in order to submit this request. Graduate school deadlines for theses and defenses may be found here.

Continuous Enrollment and Time Limits

The Graduate School has a continuous enrollment policy. While pursuing a graduate degree, the student must be registered every Fall and Spring semester until completion. Otherwise, a student must request an official leave of absence from the Graduate School.

Additionally, the master's student must be registered for at least one credit in any semester, including the summer, that he or she plans to defend the thesis.

All masters students must complete their degree requirements within six (6) calendar years of starting their program.

Colloquium Attendance

Many times each semester, researchers from inside and outside the University make hour-long public presentations on their work. Each MS student must attend eight such presentations during the course of their degree and complete and submit to the Graduate Secretary a Colloquium Attendance Form for each. A schedule of seminars and colloquia in Computer Science may be found here.


Many of our Masters students take internships, either full-time (usually, during the summer) or part-time (during the academic year). International students who are required to be registered full-time during the academic year, must meet the following requirements to be eligible for an internship:

  1. They must have completed two semesters of study and be in good academic standing with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  2. Students with a GPA between 3.0-3.2 must receive approval from the DGP or their graduate advisor before accepting an internship offer.
  3. Students must be registered in at most three graduate-level courses during a semester in which they plan to engage in a part-time internship (20 hours or less).
Patent Agreement

Graduate students must sign a statement agreeing to abide by the University's patent policies. This statement is now part of the Graduate Plan of Work. Patent and copyright procedures of NC State are available here. Students wishing to be exempted due to policies of their companies should contact the university's Office of Technology Transfer at 919-515-7199.

The Accelerated Bachelors-Masters (ABM) Degree

The ABM degree program combines bachelors and masters degrees, and is intended for high-achieving undergraduates (completion of at least 75 credit hours, with GPA of at least 3.5) in the Department of Computer Science . Four graduate courses taken while still in the undergraduate program may be “double-counted” for both degrees, allowing the masters degree to be earned in two semesters beyond the bachelors. Prospective students must be reviewed and recommended by the Computer Science Undergraduate Advisor, and then apply to the Graduate School for admission into a graduate degree, program to follow immediately upon completion of their Bachelors degree. Please see the Computer Science Undergraduate Advisor to start this process. If approved, the student must prepare a Plan of Work form that shows what courses will be double-counted, and what courses are proposed for completion of the degree in two semesters (MCS without thesis). More information about the program and the requirements is available in the Graduate School handbook.


No minor is required. If you choose to pursue one, the minor department must be represented on your Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee may also approve courses outside of Computer Science in the absence of an official minor.

Pursuing PhD Studies

Thesis students who intend to pursue the PhD in Computer Science may petition their Advisory Committee for a recommendation to continue. Given a strong recommendation, they may transfer to the PhD program, with no need to reapply to the Graduate School. If however there has been a break in enrollment, a new application will be necessary. Contact the Graduate Office Admissions Specialist for details.

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