The Master of Science degree provides a solid foundation in computer science while still offering flexibility to meet the needs and interests of individual students. The M.S degree is completed through either the thesis or the coursework option. The thesis option requires 30 credits of course work of which typically 21 credits must derive from courses. The coursework option requires 33 credits derived from courses. Students in good standing typically complete either degree option in at most two years. The thesis option is strongly encouraged since it provides students with an in-depth research experience, and requires fewer courses. Details can be found in the graduate handbook.
A student pursuing the Ph.D. degree is expected to exhibit a comprehensive knowledge of a broad cross section of the computer science discipline and to contribute significant new knowledge to the discipline through the research contribution contained in the doctoral dissertation. A PhD student must complete a minimum of 90 credits of graduate study, of which at least 33 must derive from courses. The PhD program is intended to be completed in about five years from entering the graduate program with a BS degree in Computer Science or a related field, or about four years if the student already has an MS degree in Computer Science or a related field. This is possible because students who begin the PhD program already in possession of a Masters may be able to count as many as five courses toward their course requirement. Details can be found in the graduate handbook.
To enable the completion of both a bachelor's and a master's degree in five years, Virginia Tech allows students with a 3.5 or above GPA to apply for admission to the Graduate School on the completion of seventy-five hours of undergraduate study. Details can be found in the BS/MS FAQ page.
Options and Certificates
An M.S. or Ph.D. degree may include an Option in Bioinformatics. Students receiving the option will have that fact noted on their transcript upon successful graduation. To receive the option, students will take a minimum of seven (7) additional credits beyond those necessary for the degree without the option. Other requirements include:
- Students receiving the Bioinformatics option must take PPWS 5314 Biological Paradigms for Bioinformatics (3 credits), BCHM 5024 Computational Biochemistry for Bioinformatics (3 credits), and GBCB 5004 Seminar (1 credit). PPWS 5314, BCHM 5024, and GBCB 5004 may not be used both to complete the option and to satisfy CSA degree course requirements. Students who already have background equivalent to PPWS 5314 and/or BCHM 5024 may be permitted to substitute more advanced courses to satisfy this requirement.
- Students receiving the Bioinformatics option must take ONE of STAT 5615 (Statistics in Research), STAT 5616 (Statistics in Research), MATH 5515 (Modeling and Simulation of Biological Systems), or MATH 5516 (Modeling and Simulation of Biological Systems). These courses may also be used to fulfill CSA coursework requirements.
- Students must complete the final exam requirement for their respective CSA degree using a topic suitable for the Bioinformatics option. MS coursework-only students must take GBCB 5874 Problem Solving in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology, and use the final report from this course to satisfy their final exam requirement.
The Graduate Certificate in Human-Computer Interaction is administered by the Center for Human Computer Interaction and can be obtained in conjunction with either the M.S. or Ph.D. degree. Master's degree students complete 9 hours and doctoral students 15 hours of coursework for the certificate, where at least two of the courses taken must be outside the student's degree program requirements and outside the department. Students interested in the Graduate Certificate in Human-Computer Interaction should confer with the director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction prior to submitting a program of study to the Graduate School.
Design matters. The act of creating something new shows up in many human endeavors. Human Centered Design (HCD) is an approach to design charged with understanding the needs, wants, and limitations of end-users which can be an important perspective for graduate research. The Human Centered Design graduate certificate combines technical expertise with critical inquiry to develop reflective practitioners equipped to meet vital human needs; it is based in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program of the Graduate School. The HCD/IGEP degree is built around competencies in four core areas: (1) Interdisciplinary Research, (2) Design Studies, (3) Understanding People, and (4) Design Realization. Students learn the core ideas of HCD, explore how it applies in their own professional domains, and discover how their own research connects with projects in other disciplines. For complete details, see here.
The Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics teaches students to develop new analytical methods and tools by integrating the computational, statistical, and engineering techniques that form the heart of big data analytics. It is administered by the Discovery Analytics Center and can be obtained in conjunction with either the M.S. or Ph.D. degree. Students complete 12 hours of coursework for the certificate, where at least two of the courses taken must be in addition to the student's degree program requirements. For complete details, see here.
The graduate certificate in Urban Computing trains students in the latest methods in analyzing massive datasets to study key issues concerning urban populations. This is a specialized certificate that accompanies either the Masters or Ph.D. you will complete in your field through other coursework. It is administered by the Discovery Analytics Center and can be obtained in conjunction with either the M.S. or Ph.D. degree. Students complete 12 hours of coursework for the certificate, where at least two of the courses taken must be in addition to the student's degree program requirements. For complete details, see here.