2. Master's Program

The MS program, through course-work and thesis options, lets students strengthen their foundational education, prepare for technical careers in industry, or prepare for advanced study at the doctoral level. The department's faculty work in the areas of algorithms, artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, computer and network security, database systems, data mining, distributed algorithms, distributed systems, information assurance, information retrieval, machine learning, natural language processing, networking, non-standard parallel computing, and parallel algorithms.

2.1  Degree Requirements

Students elect to complete the requirements of the degree by taking ten courses (30 credits) or by taking eight courses (24 credits) and writing a thesis. All students must take Algorithms (COSC-540) and Architecture (COSC-520). Students pursuing the course-work option take a total of eight electives to complete the degree. A generic schedule for a full-time student pursuing the course-work option appears in Table 1.

Table 1: Hypothetical Schedule for Full-time, Course-work Option.
  Fall Spring
Year 1 Algorithms (COSC-540) Architecture (COSC-520)
  Graduate Elective Graduate Elective
  Upperclass Elective Graduate Elective
Year 2 Graduate Elective Graduate Elective
  Graduate Elective  
  Upperclass Elective  

Students may choose as an elective any course numbered 400 or higher, but at least five of these classes must be numbered 500 or higher. The department regularly offers introductory or advanced electives in the areas of artificial intelligence, computer and network security, cryptography, database systems, data mining, information assurance, information retrieval, and machine learning.

2.1.1  External Electives

Students can substitute up to two courses from another department for similarly numbered electives, provided that the courses support the student's plan of study and have been approved by the student's faculty advisor and the DGS. The department maintains a list of pre-approved external electives. Students may petition for the use of other courses as external electives, but in addition to satisfying the previous criteria, such courses must be approved by the DGS. Students must obtain all necessary approvals before enrolling in the class.

2.1.2  Thesis Option

Students choosing to write a thesis complete similar requirements, but substitute Graduate Thesis Research (COSC-999) for two electives numbered 400–499. That is, thesis students complete the core requirements, take no more than one elective numbered 400–499, and take at least five electives numbered 500 or higher, for a total of twenty-four credit hours. Students selecting the thesis option must have a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher prior to their first enrollment in Thesis Research (COSC-999) and after the completion of their Master's course work. A hypothetical schedule for a full-time student pursuing the thesis option appears in Table 2.

Table 2: Hypothetical Schedule for Full-time, Thesis Option.
  Fall Spring
Year 1 Algorithms (COSC-540) Architecture (COSC-520)
  Graduate Elective Graduate Elective
  Upperclass Elective Graduate Elective
Year 2 Graduate Elective Thesis Research (COSC-999-03)
  Graduate Elective  
  Thesis Research (COSC-999-03)  

2.2  Tutorial Courses

Tutorial courses are opportunities for MS students to pursue independent study under the direction of a professor on a topic of their choosing. Tutorials are for the further development of a research project begun as part of a traditional graduate lecture that may lead to a thesis proposal. Master's students are limited to one tutorial course.

2.3  Registration in Thesis Research

Thesis Research is a registration category that qualifies thesis students for full-time enrollment after they have completed their course work and while they are working on their thesis project. Work on one's thesis can begin at any time, but registration in Thesis Research (COSC-999) occurs only after students have completed all courses or during the semester in which they complete all courses. Students should enroll in Section 1 of Thesis Research (COSC-999-01) if they have completed all courses. They should enroll in Section 3 of Thesis Research (COSC-999-03) if they are taking their final courses and these courses alone do not constitute full-time enrollment. 

2.4  Thesis Advisor

Full-time students should identify a topic area (or topic) and a thesis advisor before enrolling in a thesis research course. The thesis advisor must be a full-time faculty member in the Department of Computer Science. The thesis advisor need not be the same person advising the student on curricular issues.

2.5  Thesis Committee

After identifying a thesis advisor and topic, students work with their thesis advisor to form a committee consisting of at least two additional members who are full-time faculty in the Department of Computer Science, and qualified to supervise, guide, review, and judge critical aspects of the thesis. If appropriate, one member of the review committee can be such a person from another department at Georgetown or another university, or from industry or government. If the member is not from Georgetown, the students should provide a CV for the committee member to the DGS.

2.6  Thesis Proposal

Research for the thesis and its proposal generally begins during the first academic year. Full-time students must submit their thesis proposal form at least one month before they plan to defend. Students must complete and submit a Thesis Proposal Form to the Graduate School after obtaining all necessary approvals of the advisor, committee, and DGS.

2.7  Thesis Review

Once students complete a final draft of their thesis, with their advisor's approval, they distribute the thesis to the other members of their committee for a period no shorter than three weeks. Once the committee determines that the thesis requires at most minor modifications, students work with their committee and the DGS to schedule a public defense of the dissertation, the details of which must be finalized and agreed upon one week in advance of the defense date. Once the changes to the thesis have been completed, students complete the Graduate School's Thesis Reviewer's Report and obtain all necessary approvals of the advisor and committee. Students then submit the completed form with a draft of their thesis to the DGS.

After all parties agree with the schedule, the DGS submits the completed Thesis Reviewer's Report to the Graduate School at least one week prior to the date of the defense. See Section 4.13 on the timing of reviews and defenses.

2.8  Thesis Defense

For the public defense of the thesis, students should plan a 45-minute presentation with 15 minutes reserved for public questions. The DGS will supply the Thesis Defense Report Form and the Master's Thesis Cover Sheet. The student, advisor, the members of the committee, and the DGS or a designee must be physically or virtually present for the public defense of the thesis.

After the period of public questions, the advisor excuses members of the audience so the committee can privately question the student. The advisor then excuses the student so the committee can deliberate in private about the sufficiency of the thesis and any required modifications. The student must pass with a majority vote.

After these deliberations, the advisor invites the student to rejoin the discussion and delivers the committee's decision as well as any required modifications to the thesis. If the thesis is acceptable, then the advisor, committee, and student agree to any required modifications, which the advisor should communicate to the committee and the student via email after the conclusion of the defense. The advisor and committee complete and sign the Master's Thesis Cover Sheet and Thesis Defense Report Form, and return both to the DGS. The DGS signs the Thesis Defense Report Form and delivers it to the Registrar.

The thesis advisor oversees any required modifications to the thesis. Once the student completes these modifications to the satisfaction of the advisor and committee, the thesis advisor should notify the DGS so the DGS can sign the Thesis Cover Sheet and deliver it to the Graduate School. At this point, the student can begin the final formatting of the thesis.

2.9  Final Formatting of the Thesis

Once students pass their defense and complete all required modifications, they then put the thesis in the Graduate School's required format. For more information on this process, see the Graduate School's page on theses and dissertations. For formatting theses, the Graduate School provides a Word template and a LaTeX style sheet.

2.10  Minimum Requirements

All Master's students must maintain and complete their course work with a grade-point average of at least 3.0. Thesis students must maintain and complete their course work with a grade-point average of at least 3.0. Students supported through merit-based scholarships must remain in good academic standing.

Full-time Master's students pursuing the course-work option should be enrolled in nine or more credits every semester, except for the last semester in which they complete their degree requirements. Full-time Master's students pursuing the thesis option should be enrolled in nine or more credits or in the appropriate section of thesis research every semester until completing their degree requirements. Part-time Master's students must be enrolled in at least three credits or in the appropriate section of thesis research every semester until completing their degree requirements.

2.11  Time Limits

Full-time Master's students are expected to complete all requirements for the degree in two years. Part-time students are expected to do so in three years. International students, who must be full-time students, normally have two years to complete the requirements for the degree.

2.12  Extensions of Time

Master's students must petition to go beyond a third academic year, and there must be complicating circumstances. Students must submit a statement describing the reasons for the request and documentation of the complicating circumstances. Thesis students must also submit a description of the current state of the project, letters of support from the members of the committee, a time line of remaining milestones, and the current draft of the thesis. Students must submit their petition to the DGS before the midpoint of their final semester. Such extensions of time are designed to accommodate short interruptions in progress of duration less than one semester, and are not designed to supplant personal, military, or medical leaves of absence. Students may request extensions of time through their advisor, the DGS, and the Graduate School using the Student Petition for Change to Graduate Program. See the Graduate Bulletin for more information about requests for extension of time limits and leaves of absence.

2.13  MS Students Applying to the PHD program

Students enrolled in Georgetown's MS program in computer science who would like to change to the Ph.D. program must apply for admission by following the normal application process.