This handbook contains information about the Master of Science in Computer Science degree program at the University of Vermont. It should be useful for potential students, current students, advisors and professors. If you have any comments or suggestions, please relay them to the Graduate Program Director.

The Computer Science Department is hosted in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS). The Department is located on the second floor of Innovation. The department office is located in Innovation E220.

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines for a Master in Science in CS

General Information

Department Information

The Department offers four undergraduate degree programs, two graduate degree programs, and a certificate program. The undergraduate programs include a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science offered through CEMS, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Information Systems offered in conjunction with the Grossman School of Business, a Bachelor of Science majoring in Data Science offered through CEMS, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Computer Science offered through the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Department offers a Master of Science (M.S.) in Computer Science degree and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Computer Science degree. The following information details the M.S. degree program.

Many people will be important to a graduate student's career, but two people are of immediate interest. Mary (Penni) French is the Department Administrative Assistant. She sits in the department office (Votey 351) and can be reached at (802) 656-3330. If you have an administrative question and are unsure whom to ask, try Penni. For more contact information, please see Contact Us.

A departmental Graduate Committee is charged with drafting policies and reviewing admission/graduation applications, among other duties. Dr. Lee is the current chair of the committee.

University Information

The Graduate College oversees all graduate programs at the University of Vermont. The Graduate College offices (656-3160) are located in Waterman Building.

The Graduate College sponsors many lectures and workshops of interest. Early in the Fall Semester is the Graduate Teaching Fellow Workshop, full of helpful hints and friendly advice on getting started in the classroom. Later in your studies, you may want to attend the Dissertation Writing Workshop or give a talk at Graduate Research Day. The College also sponsors a Graduate Teaching Fellow of the Year competition. They administer Travel Mini-Grants for students to present research at professional meetings.

The Office of International Education (656-4296) coordinates programs, events, and services of special interest to international students. This includes Language and Writing Workshops, assistance in academic and cultural adjustment, and immigration and employment help. Their pamphlet "Information and Support Services for International Students and Their Advisors" is a valuable resource. They also assist applicants and new students with obtaining I20 forms, Statements of Support, and more.

The Graduate Catalogue contains a wealth of essential information. This document is now maintained online at

Information for Applicants

Applying to the Master's Program

A student interested in a Master's degree in Computer Science must submit a complete application packet including

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required. Past academic performance, reference letters, the statement of purpose and any other exceptional circumstances all help determine the applicant's suitability for the program. We admit students who we believe are most likely to succeed and thrive in the program.

Applicants whose native language is not English or whose formal education has been conducted in a language other than English must have a Test of English as a Second Language (TOEFL) score of 90 (Internet-based test) or above or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of 6.5 or above. To be considered for financial assistantship from the university, applicants must have an iBT TOEFL score of 100 or an IELTS score of 7.0  or above.

Application deadlines are:

  • Fall enrollment: Apply by January 15
  • Spring enrollment: Apply by October 15

Master's Program Pre-Requisites

The Master's program assumes all incoming students have the fundamental skills required of computer science students, with strong programming skills in C, C++ or Java and a solid mathematical background, including calculus, statistics, probability, and discrete mathematics.

A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related discipline is required for admission. Students should also demonstrate that they have taken the following courses or have equivalent knowledge:

Two courses that treat systematic program development in a high-level language, for example:
CS 1200QR: Computer Programming I3
CS 2100QR: Intermediate Programming4
One course in computer system organization, for example:
CS 2210QR: Computer Organization3
One course in data structures, for example:
CS 2240QR: Data Struc & Algorithms3
One course in computability and complexity, for example:
CS 2250QR: Computability& Complexity3
Two courses in differential and integral calculus, for example:
MATH 1234QR: Calculus I4
MATH 1248QR: Calculus II4
One course in linear algebra:
MATH 2522QR: Applied Linear Algebra3
Coursework in probability and statistics, for example:
STAT 2430QR: Statistics for Engineering3
STAT 2510QR: Applied Probability3

Applicants who have strong academic records but lack one or more of these prerequisites may be accepted provisionally. Provisionally accepted students will be required to complete an approved program of remedial work within their first year of study.

Additional Information

Hopefully, this document and the Department web pages ( can answer most of your questions about the program.

Potential students should feel free to contact the department with further questions. The email address is the best way to reach an appropriate member of the department to ask any other questions you may have.

Advisors and Their Research Interests

Your Master's advisor serves as your mentor during your graduate training. It is important that you feel comfortable discussing issues with your advisor.

An advisor will be assigned to you when you initially enroll in the program. Typically, your initial advisor will be the Director of Graduate Studies. You may request a change of advisor at any time if you feel that another graduate faculty member would better serve your needs. The new advisor must agree to the change.

Thesis students must select a thesis advisor from among the graduate faculty of the Department. The thesis advisor also serves as the student's overall advisor (and thus replaces the initial advisor or other advisors). Also, the chosen thesis advisor must agree to serve as such.

Students should choose a thesis advisor based on three factors:

  • Common interest in a research problem
  • Comfortable working relationship
  • Willingness of the advisor to advise the student

Students considering taking the thesis option should meet with all potential advisors early in their graduate studies. Talk about potential thesis topics to see if that person's work interests you. Also, try to see whether you would be comfortable working with that person. The potential advisor should tell you whether they are willing to take you on as a thesis student.

CS Graduate Advisors

Master's Degree Requirements

The Master's of Science in Computer Science degree is intended to add depth in computer science to an undergraduate degree. Many students use a Master's degree to further an existing career as a computer professional; others use the program as an opportunity to change career paths. Many of these students have majored in disciplines other than computer science; students with particularly weak computer science background will be required to take additional courses before being accepted into the Master's program. Each student will be evaluated regarding additional courses (in addition to the M.S. degree requirements) to be taken. These additional course requirements are detailed in the acceptance letter from the Graduate College.

Core Course Requirement

The M.S. program in Computer Science offers thesis, project, and coursework only options. Acceptance into thesis or project options is conditional upon the student finding an eligible advisor who agrees to supervise the thesis or project. Please see the Department of Computer Science website for current research interests of the department's faculty.

Option A (Thesis)
Thirty credits, including a minimum of twenty-one credits of approved coursework, and a minimum of six credits of thesis research (CS 6391)30
Option B (Project)
Thirty credits, including a minimum of twenty-four credits of approved coursework, and a minimum of three credits of project research (CS 6392)30
Option C (Non-Thesis)
Thirty credits of approved coursework30
All Options
Students in all options must take, or have completed the equivalent of, CS 224/CS 3240/CS 5240 Algorithm Design & Analysis (students who took CS 224/CS 3240/CS 5240 at UVM for undergraduate credit with a grade of B+ or higher may substitute this core course with an appropriate alternative course) and 3 other core Computer Science Courses, to be determined in consultation with and approval of the student’s graduate advisor and the CS graduate coordinator, depending on a student’s background and interests 
Pass comprehensive exams covering material from the 4 approved core courses
Fulfill the credit requirement with approved graduate-level coursework in computer science or related areas. (Only courses with grades of B- or above are counted towards coursework requirements and students with two grades below B are eligible for dismissal.)

Comprehensive Exams

Taking a core course at UVM for graduate credit and receiving a grade of B+ or better constitutes successfully completing the comprehensive examination in that area.

Students who receive a grade of B or lower in a core course, or students who took CS 224/CS 3240/CS 5240 at UVM (whether for undergraduate or graduate credit) and received a grade of B or lower, must pass an oral comprehensive exam in that area. In this event, the Graduate Coordinator will form an exam committee for the oral exam(s). Each student who needs to take one or more comprehensive oral exam(s) should arrange a single date for all required oral exam(s) with the examiner(s) and then inform the Graduate Coordinator of the exam date. It is strongly recommended that the examination is completed during the academic year unless all examiners voluntarily agree to give the exam on a date during the break.

Credit Transfer

With the approval of the Graduate Committee, up to 9 credit hours of coursework in Computer Science (or a closely related field) may be transferred into the Master's degree. Only credits that have not been used for other degrees (Bachelor's, Master's, or others) are considered. Note that these credits include any courses taken at UVM before enrolling in the Master's program and any courses taken at other institutions, whether before or after enrolling at UVM. In addition, with the approval of the Graduate Committee, a student may apply courses in a closely related field taken at the graduate level while in residence at UVM to their Master's requirements.

Note that transfer and waiver are two different, independent concepts. A transfer means that the transferred credits are counted towards your Master's degree at UVM, while a waiver only means that one of the five required courses is replaced by some other courses (possibly transferred ones).

Also, please note that the Accelerated Master's Program (AMP) (see below) is an exception to this 9-credit-transfer rule.

Academic Standing

To remain in good standing, students must continue to make reasonable progress towards completing their degree requirements. To measure this progress, three requirements are placed on all Master's students:

  • Time limit. All full-time students (taking at least 15 credits/year) must complete their degree within 3 years of enrollment. Part-time students must complete their degree with 5 years of enrollment. Extensions may be awarded for extraordinary extenuating circumstances, at the discretion of the Graduate Committee.
  • Grades in individual courses. Any grade of B- or worse is unacceptable for a Master's student. Upon receipt of a second (or any subsequent) unacceptable grade, the student's progress will be reviewed by the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee may choose to impose sanctions on the student, including requiring an additional course or dismissing the student from the program.
  • Accumulative grade point average (GPA). Every Master's student must maintain a 3.0 (B) GPA at all times. Any student falling below a 3.0 will be placed on academic probation and their progress will be reviewed by the Graduate Committee, with the possible imposition of sanctions. Furthermore, no student whose final GPA is below 3.0 will be allowed to graduate.

Thesis Option

Students choosing the thesis option must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours, including a minimum of 21 credits of coursework and 6 credits of thesis research.

A Master's thesis consists of original research work done under the guidance of a faculty member. Students opting to pursue a thesis must select a thesis advisor who agrees to supervise that student's thesis work. The thesis advisor may be any graduate faculty member who holds either a primary or a secondary appointment from the Department.

Full-time students should normally choose a thesis advisor by the end of their first semester. Prior to the selection of a thesis advisor, a member of the Graduate Committee serves as the student's advisor (see the Director of Graduate Studies for details).

Each thesis student must write a thesis describing their research. The thesis is presented before a thesis committee in a public oral thesis defense. The thesis committee must include three different individuals: (1) the student's thesis advisor (see below), (2) another graduate faculty member of the department, and (3) the chair of the thesis committee. The chair of the thesis committee must be a member of the graduate faculty without an appointment (either primary or secondary) in the department.

At least three weeks before the defense, the written thesis must be submitted to the Graduate College for a format check. At least two weeks before the defense, the student must make copies of the written thesis available to all members of the thesis committee. The thesis defense itself must be adequately advertised to the community.

Project Option

Students choosing the project option must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours, including a minimum of 24 credits of coursework and 3 credits of project (CS 6392).

A graduate project typically consists of a significant implementation done under the guidance of a faculty member. Students opting to pursue a project must select an advisor who agrees to supervise that student's work. The advisor may be any faculty member who holds either a primary or a secondary appointment from the Department.

Full-time students should normally choose a project advisor by the end of their first semester. Prior to the selection of an advisor, a member of the Graduate Committee serves as the student's advisor (see the Director of Graduate Studies for details).

The results of the project are presented before a project committee in a public talk, which has been advertised to the community. The project committee must include three individuals, at least two of whom must hold appointments in the department. The chair, who may be the project advisor, must be a member of the Graduate College and hold an appointment in the department. The composition of the committee must be approved by the Graduate Committee.

One bound copy of the project report should be submitted to the Graduate Program Director within 30 days after the defense. The submitted copy will be archived in the departmental file.

Documents needed to complete a project defense comprise the project report, acceptance page, and the exam result. Templates of these documents can be downloaded from the following links: Project report front sample (PDF), Project acceptance page template (DOC), Project examination result form (DOC).

Coursework Option

Students choosing a coursework option must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of coursework.

Course Offerings

The Department offers 5000-level courses, which are taken both by advanced undergraduate students for graduate credit and by graduate students.  The Department also offers 6000-level courses, which are open only to graduate students.

Official Course Listing

Accelerated Master's Program (AMP)

UVM CEMS Accelerated Master's Program