Requirements for the Masters Degree
Revised Requirements for the Sc.M. Degree
Previous requirements: 2007
The requirements consist of a basic component and an advanced component. All courses must be at the 1000 level or higher. However, students lacking preparation to take 1000-level courses may elect to take, for Master's credit, one intermediate-level course from the set of courses CSCI 220, CSCI 320, CSCI 330, CSCI 450, and CSCI 510, as long as they also take a 1000-level course for which the intermediate-level course is a prerequiste. All courses must be completed with a grade of B or better.
All courses in a student's program must be approved by the director of the master's program (as well as by the student's advisor).
The basic component consists of six courses. At least two of the courses must be at the 2000 level. Normally none of these courses may be reading and research courses (such as CSCI 2980). Under no circumstances may more than one of these courses be reading and research courses.
The six courses are chosen as follows:
Two must be CS courses that form a coherent major. Examples of such majors will appear on our web page.
One must be a CS course that complements the major. Examples will appear on our web page.
Three additional courses must be in CS or related areas.
The advanced component requires the student to complete two 2000-level courses (in addition to those of the basic component) as part of completing one of the following four options. Reading and research courses (such as CSCI 2980) may be used as part of options 1, 2, and 3, but not as part of option 4.
The four options are:
Complete a thesis supervised and approved by her or his advisor.
Complete a project supervised and approved by her or his advisor.
Complete a project supervised and approved by her or his advisor and complete a required pre-approved internship that complements the project. Internships may be full- or part-time. A full-time internship must last at least two months but no more than four months. A part-time internship must last at least four months but no more than six months. Normally the internship will be performed between the student's 2nd and 3rd semester in the program.
Complete two courses in CS or related areas.
Students entering the master's program typically have one of two goals: they intend to pursue a research career in computer science and are preparing themselves to enter a Ph.D. program, or they intend to become professional computer scientists and pursue a career in industry. In both cases, students should take a collection of courses that not only gives them strength in a particular area of computer science, but also includes complementary areas that familiarize them with other ways of thinking about the field. For example, a student whose interests are in the practical aspects of designing computer systems should certainly take courses in this area, but should also be exposed to the mindset of theoretical computer science. In a rapidly changing discipline, there is much cross-fertilization among areas and students should have some experience in doing advanced work in areas not directly related to their own.
A student whose goal is a research career should become involved as quickly as possible with a research group as part of their master's studies, and demonstrate and learn about research by participating in it. The resulting thesis or project report will serve to establish her or his suitability for entering a Ph.D. program.
A student whose goal is to be a professional computer scientist should have some professional experience as part of her or his preparation. A certain amount of basic coursework is required before a student can qualify for a pedagogically useful internship. Students with limited experience in computer science should take a few advanced computer science courses before embarking on an internship. Other students, particularly those whose undergraduate degrees were at Brown, will have had internship experiences while undergraduates. Internships provide insights for subsequent courses and project work at Brown. Students without such experiences are at a disadvantage with respect to their peers. Thus we strongly encourage students who have not had such experience to choose option 3, for which an internship is required.
Note that these internships are not courses and the work is not evaluated as it would be for a course. Students' advisors will assist them in choosing and obtaining internships, but it is up to students themselves to insure that they get as much benefit as possible from their experiences. They must be able to take advantage of these experiences while completing their master's projects -- we expect as high-quality work from them as we do from students who entered the program with prior internship experiences.
Some of our students are pursuing a master's on a part-time basis while concurrently working in the computer industry. Such students often are working as part of teams in their companies on major projects and don't need additional project experience at Brown. What is most important for them is to take additional advanced courses to extend their expertise in their areas of interest. These students, rather than complete a project at Brown, may elect to take two 2000-level courses instead.
A Master's degree normally requires three to four semesters of full-time study, depending upon one's preparation. One is considered a full-time student if one takes at least two courses one's first semester, two courses one's second semester, three courses one's third semester, and one course one's fourth semester.