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Department ofComputer Science

MS Degree Breadth Requirement

The MS degree Breadth Requirement involves students taking courses from “bins”. This provides students with graduate level breadth in Computer Science.

A bin is a small collection of related graduate courses. Every bin has a name (e.g., Theory). Some bins have been labeled as “essential”.

MS students are required to achieve a passing grade in courses from four different bins. Those four bins must include the three essential bins.

The essential bins are Theory, Algorithms, and either Systems or Networks.

Other bins are Design, Compilers/Languages, Graphics/Imaging, AI, and Databases.

Courses with a 5000 number (e.g., 5003, 5084) are “preparatory courses”, designed specifically for students with insufficient background knowledge or skills. Graduate credit can be earned for these courses and MS students may use them to satisfy bin requirements. However, students with a solid undergraduate degree in CS are strongly encouraged to take more advanced courses within the bins.

The Bins

The following list shows the MS bins and the courses in them. Courses listed in multiple bins may only be used to satisfy the requirements of one bin.

      Theory: 5003 (Intro. Theory), 503 (Found.), 521 (Logic), 559 (Adv. Th.)

      Algorithms: 5084 (Intro. Algorithms), 504 (Analysis), 584 (Algs)

      Systems: 502 (OS), 533 (Perf. Eval.), 535 (Adv. OS)

      Networks: 513 (Intro LAN/WAN), 529 (Multi. Net.), 530 (HP Net.), 577 (Adv.Net.)

      Design: 509 (SE), 546 (HCI), 562 (Adv. SE)

      Compilers/Languages: 536 (Langs.), 544 (Compilers)

      Graphics/Imaging: 543 (Graph.), 545 (Im. Proc.), 549 [Vision], 563 (Adv. Gr.)

      AI: 534 (AI), 538 (Ex. Sys.), 539 (Learning), 540 (AI Design), 548 (Data Mining), 549 [Vision]

      Databases: 542 (Database), 561 (Adv. Database)

For each bin, a bin committee consisting of full-time CS faculty is responsible for the administration of requirements related to that bin. These responsibilities include: recommending courses to be added or removed from their bin; determining which independent studies and special topics courses should be included in their bin; and deciding on student petitions concerning their bin. The membership of the bin committees will be reviewed annually by the Department Head.

Additional Requirements

  1. Independent study and special topics (CS 525) courses can be counted as belonging to a particular bin with the approval of the bin committee. Approval should be sought by the instructor prior to the start of the course.

  2. Students who have already completed graduate work elsewhere may petition the appropriate bin committee to use that work to satisfy the requirement of taking a course from that bin. If the content of that graduate work is considered acceptable by the bin committee, then the grade the student received for that work will be used to determine whether the petition is approved.

  3. Students who do not achieve a passing grade in a course within a bin can either retake the course, take a different course within the bin, or, if it is in a non-essential bin, take courses from other bins to satisfy the breadth requirement.

  4. BS/MS students may use 1/3 unit of undergraduate course or independent study/project work taken for BS/MS credit to satisfy an MS bin requirement if the undergraduate course covers material similar to that of a graduate course that satisfies the MS bin. The graduate catalog contains a table of paired courses that cover similar material. The undergraduate course under consideration must appear in this table, and the corresponding graduate course must satisfy the MS bin requirement.

  5. With the permission of the academic advisor, a student may take a total of at most six graduate credits from outside of Computer Science towards the MS degree.

  6. Students enrolled prior to November 2006 may choose to graduate either under these rules or any rules that have been active since they first registered for the degree program.

  7. In their first semester, all students must complete a Plan of Study form and submit it to the Graduate Secretary.


The original motion passed by the CS department can be found at:

      November 2006 MS Requirements Motion