M.S. Requirements

Students in the CSE M.S. program can graduate by pursuing either Thesis Plan I or Capstone Plan II. The requirements for each plan are detailed below.

NOTE: This is an abbreviated version of the 2020-2021 program requirements. Please review your Program Statement for the academic year in which you enrolled for a full explanation of all program requirements.

Thesis Plan I

CSE M.S. students are required to take 48 credits as follows:

  • Required core courses:  All students must take CSE 200, plus two of the following three courses: CSE 201CSE 210A, and CSE 220. (13 credits)

    • Each student must complete CSE 200 in their first year.

  • Breadth requirement: All students must take one course each from three different breadth categories. (15 credits)

  • Capstone requirement: All students must take 5 credits of CSE 299 while completing Thesis Plan I. (5 credits)

  • Additional coursework: All remaining courses must be regular, 5-credit graduate courses (not seminars). Courses that do not count toward the 48 credits requirement include all courses numbered CSE 296 and the CSE 280 and CSE 297 series. (15 credits)

  • Only for Thesis Plan I Students: Up to 10 credits of CSE 299 may be counted toward the degree requirements; 5 credits are required.

  • Up to 10 credits of the required 48 credits can be from courses taught by departments other than CSE in the School of Engineering.

  • Upper-division undergraduate UCSC CSE courses may be taken as a graduate student to strengthen a student's knowledge base. At most, 5 credits of UCSC upper-division undergraduate CSE courses may be counted toward the 48 credits requirement. 

Master's Thesis Requirements

After the student has completed some coursework in the proposed area of research and become acquainted with the faculty conducting research in that area, a student electing Thesis Plan I submits a written proposal to a faculty member, usually by the third academic quarter. If the faculty member determines they are able to advise the student's thesis, they collaborate with the student to further develop the scope of the student's research and refine the proposal.

By accepting the proposal, the faculty member becomes the student's faculty/thesis adviser. In consultation with the adviser, the student forms a Master's Thesis Reading Committee with at least two additional faculty members, each of whom is provided a copy of the proposal. Membership criteria for the Thesis Reading Committee are detailed here.

Students must nominate their Thesis Reading Committee by submitting a nomination form to their graduate student adviser before the end of the second week of the quarter in which they plan to graduate.

Capstone Plan II

CSE M.S. students are required to take 48 credits as follows:

  • Required core courses:  All students must take CSE 200, plus two of the following three courses: CSE 201CSE 210A, and CSE 220. (13 credits)

    • Each student must complete CSE 200 in their first year.

  • Breadth requirement: All students must take one course each from three different breadth categories. (15 credits)

  • Capstone requirement: All students must take 5 credits of CSE 297 while completing Capstone Plan II. (5 credits)

  • Additional coursework: All remaining courses must be regular, 5-credit graduate courses (not seminars). Courses that do not count toward the 48 credits requirement include all courses numbered CSE 296 and the CSE 280 and CSE 299 series. CSE 297 may be taken more than once; however, only 5 credits of CSE 297 will be counted toward the required 48 credits. (15 credits)

  • Up to 10 credits of the required 48 credits can be from courses taught by departments other than CSE in the School of Engineering.

  • Upper-division undergraduate UCSC CSE courses may be taken as a graduate student to strengthen a student's knowledge base. At most, 5 credits of UCSC upper-division undergraduate CSE courses may be counted toward the 48 credits requirement. 

Master's Project Requirements

The M.S. project is an individual or a team-based project (up to five members) supervised by a faculty adviser and approved by a reading committee composed of the faculty adviser and a ladder rank faculty member from the Baskin School of Engineering.

Master's Project Reading Committees are nominated by completing a Master's Project form and are approved by the graduate director. Membership criteria for Master's Project Reading Committees are detailed here.

Projects can either be proposed by the team or the team may bid on projects proposed by faculty members. It is also possible to have industry-sponsored or government-sponsored projects, in which case the industry/government supervisor can be invited to be an optional third member on the Master's Project Reading Committee. If you are planning to complete your master's project as part of a team, please notify your graduate student adviser before submitting the Master's Project form.

The final project must be accepted by the Project Reading Committee before the M.S. degree is conferred.

Letter Grade Policy for Both Plans

With the exception of CSE 200CSE 296, and all courses in the CSE 280, CSE 297, and CSE 299 series, all graduate courses and upper-division courses must be taken for letter grade. Only courses with a letter grade of B- or higher can be counted toward the M.S. degree requirements.

Transfer Credit Policy for Both Plans

Up to three School of Engineering courses fulfilling the degree requirements of the M.S. degree may be taken before beginning the graduate program through the concurrent enrollment program.

Courses from other institutions may be substituted for equivalent courses at UCSC (with the approval of the Graduate Director) but may not count toward the 48-credit requirement. For example, an equivalent Computer Architecture course taken elsewhere may be used in lieu of CSE 220. However, the student will need to replace it with 5 credits of another graduate elective course. As another example, a student may substitute an equivalent graduate course for CSE 260 and count that for a breadth requirement, but may not count that course toward the 48-credit requirement.

At most, a total of three courses may be transferred from concurrent enrollment and other institutions.

Ph.D. Requirements

Course Requirements

CSE Ph.D. students are required to take a total of 58 credits, as follows:

  • Required core courses: CSE 200CSE 201CSE 210A, and CSE 220. (18 credits)

  • Breadth courses: one course each from three different breadth categories. (15 credits)

  • Independent Study or Research courses: up to 10 credits of CSE 297 or CSE 299 may be counted toward the 58 credits required for the degree.

All remaining courses must be regular, 5-credit graduate courses (not seminars). Courses in the CSE 280 series do not count toward the coursework requirements.

At most 10 credits can be from courses taught by departments other than CSE. The student must obtain their adviser’s authorization to take a course from outside of the Baskin School of Engineering.

Undergraduate courses do not count toward the 58-credit requirement.

Courses used to satisfy the core requirement must be taken for letter grade. All other courses must be taken for letter grade, except for courses numbered CSE 200CSE 296, and all courses in the CSE 280, CSE 297, and CSE 299, and for up to two other regular courses (10 credits).

Transfer (Substitution) Credit Policy

Up to three courses (15 units) from a previous Masters program may be substituted for equivalent graduate level School of Engineering (SOE) courses at UCSC (with the approval of the Graduate Director). 

Qualifying Examination

Upon completion of all coursework requirements, Ph.D. students are eligible to undertake the qualifying examination, by which they advance to doctoral candidacy. 

A successful qualifying examination involves a student writing a research prospectus, a public oral presentation of the proposed research, evaluation of research prospectus and oral presentation by a qualifying examination committee that is approved by the Graduate Division, and an appointment of a reading committee for the dissertation (which may differ from the qualifying examination committee).

Detailed information on the advancement to candidacy process can be found on the Graduate Affairs website.

To continue in the Ph.D. program, students must advance to candidacy by the end of their third year. Students are advanced to candidacy after they have completed the course requirements, passed the qualifying examination, cleared all incomplete grades from their records, have an appointed dissertation reading committee, and paid the advancement to candidacy fee.

Dissertation and Defense

Once advanced to candidacy, each student writes a Ph.D. dissertation which must be submitted to the reading committee at least one month prior to the dissertation defense. The dissertation must show the results of in-depth research, be an original contribution of significant knowledge, and include material worthy of publication. Where appropriate, research internships with companies, government laboratories, or elsewhere are recognized (and may be required) as an integral part of the research leading to the dissertation.

The candidate presents their research results in a public seminar sponsored by the dissertation supervisor. The seminar is followed by a defense of the dissertation to the public and the reading committee. The latter then decides whether the dissertation is acceptable or requires revision. Successful completion of the dissertation fulfills the final academic requirement for the Ph.D. degree.

NOTE: This is an abbreviated version of the program requirements. Please review the Program Statement for a full explanation of all program requirements.

PhD PLO

Recipients of a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering degree at UCSC are expected to have the following characteristics and experiences:

  1. Mastery with the fundamental knowledge in algorithms, programming languages, and architecture.
  2. Proficiency with fundamental knowledge in several specialized areas of research and expertise in at least one area of research.
  3. Ability to apply reasoning, problem solving, and technical skills to solve problems with minimal guidance, and to conduct independent and innovative research.
  4. Ability to communicate concepts and results to a technical audience in the form of conference papers, journal papers, and/or oral presentations.
Program Learning Outcomes (M.S.)
MS PLO

Recipients of a Master's in Computer Science and Engineering degree at UCSC are expected to have the following characteristics and experiences:

  1. Proficiency with the fundamental knowledge in algorithms, programming languages, and architecture.
  2. Proficiency with fundamental knowledge in at least one area of research.
  3. Ability to apply reasoning, problem solving, and technical skills to solve problems with minimal guidance.
  4. Ability to communicate concepts and results to a technical audience in the form of a technical paper and/or an oral presentation to a review committee.

Program Learning Outcomes for CMPE and CMPS can be found here.