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Master of Science Coursework Option

The CS Department typically does not admit students into the MS Coursework-only option; it is typically used for PhD students to get the MS “along the way” to the PhD. Students taking a terminal MS degree are expected to complete the thesis. Students desiring a coursework-only Master's level degree should enter the CS MEng program instead.

To complete the MS coursework option, students must complete the PhD qualifier process, complete the courses on their PhD plan of study, and complete 5974 Independent Study for three credits.

Note: Students entering the program prior to Spring 2020 are eligible to use the old rules (in their entirety) instead of the rules on this page.

Here are the steps needed to complete the M.S. Along the Way.

  1. Student first needs to have an approved POS on file for their PhD.
  2. Student needs to have credit for the PhD Qualifier process.
  3. Student submits an Independent Study request form ( to the Computer Science Graduate Program Form Submission Portal. The instructor of the course will be your research advisor for your PhD. A couple of things to keep in mind:
    1. You will need to submit the Independent Study request prior to the first day of classes in the semester you actually register for the course.
    2. We do not recommend taking the independent study in the summer term as you will typically have to pay tuition for it.
    3. Once the Independent Study is approved by Dr. Shaffer, your graduate coordinator will register you for the independent study course.
  4. Student submits their MS POS using our worksheet ( to their respective coordinator using the Computer Science Graduate Program Form Submission Portal
  5. Once the MS POS is approved in Banner, student then completes the Application for Degree (AFD) paper form ( and submits to the Graduate School through their Forms Submission Portal (
  6. Student completes Request for Final Exam *paper* form (not ESS). Students should contact the Graduate School for the for the form. Refer to the Graduate School's What You Need To Graduate page for more information
  7. The Graduate School will send the Final Exam Card to the student.
  8. Student signs the Final Exam Card, secures the signatures of their committee members, and sends it back to the Graduate School through their Forms Submission Portal (
  9. Only for those who are doing a thesis option for their MS Along the Way: The Graduate School will send an ETD form to complete (this is rare).
  10. Done! Your MS Along the Way will be awarded! Back to working on the PhD.