Master of Science in Computer Science Plan A



Financial Aid



Requirement Summary

The admissions committee will consider the following in their decisions: Current degree (BS, MS) and the reputation of the programs where the degree was obtained, GPA, GRE scores, TOEFL/IELTS scores, curriculum vitae, research statement, research/industry experience, publications, recommendations, and whether a faculty member agrees to advise.

Minimum Requirements

  • A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
  • 3.0 GPA for the last 60 semester credits
  • Those who submit GRE scores should have above the 40th percentile on the verbal section and 80th percentile on the quantitative section. Those whose score(s) are below that level on either section will need to show compensating strength in their background.
  • TOEFL score of 79 or IELTS overall score of 6.0 and a minimum score of 5 on each subscale
  • Extensive experience in computing, programming experience in C++, and a course in Data Structures and Algorithms (CS 2420), as well as a working grasp of calculus and statistics

Application Materials


Official Transcripts

Each previously attended college and/or university, including Utah State University, must be listed on the application form, and the applicant must have an official transcript from each institution (except Utah State University) sent directly to the Utah State University School of Graduate Studies. Transcripts must be submitted for all coursework above the high-school level and all prior degrees. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a notarized translation. Transcripts submitted as application credentials become the property of the School of Graduate Studies and will not be copied for or returned to the applicant.


GRE Scores (Optional)

GRE scores are optional, but highly recommended. Applicants should request that their test report be sent directly to the School of Graduate Studies.


Three Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required; each must address the applicant's potential for success in the MS/CS, Plan A degree program. At least two of the letters must come from persons from whom the applicant has taken academic coursework. The letters must be sent directly to the School of Graduate Studies. The request is sent out electronically through the online application.



  1. International applicants from non-English-speaking countries must demonstrate competency in the English language by taking either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Duolingo does not provide sufficient proof of English proficiency. The minimum required scores are as follows:
    • TOEFL internet-based test: 79
    • IELTS exam: overall score of 6.0 and a minimum score of 5 on each subscale.
  2. Scores that are more than 2 years old are not accepted.
  3. If an international applicant has a degree from a university in an English-speaking country, the TOEFL or IELTS is not required.
  4. International applicants may apply to USU as an undergraduate student in the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) and:
    • Take and pass the IELI placement exam, or
    • Take the IELI placement exam and complete the required classes.
  5. Note: IELI does not offer level 0 or low-beginning English classes. IELI offers level 1, which is high-beginning. Students entering IELI must have a basic knowledge of English in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Passing the IELI placement exam or completing the required IELI classes does not guarantee matriculation into a graduate program.


A curriculum vitae and a two-page research statement are required for MS/CS, Plan A students. The research statement should contain at least the following: research experience and interests, short-term research agenda, long-term research agenda, and which CS faculty member(s) you  want to work with.

Note: Application materials may be submitted after paying the $55 nonrefundable application fee. For more information on application materials, visit the School of Graduate Studies' Steps to Apply and Admissions Policies.

Application Deadlines

Semester International Students and Funding Consideration All Other Students
Fall (Begins in August) March 10 July 1
Spring (Begins in January) No funding available October 15

Please note that to be considered for Departmental funding (Teaching Assistantships) you must apply in the Fall.

Note: Admitted students may defer their acceptance for a maximum of one year. Beyond one year, students need to reapply for their program.


Program Pathway

  1. Be accepted to the Computer Science MS program and work with your temporary advisor: Caitlin Thaxton, Graduate Program Coordinator
  2. Register for courses. CS 6900 Seminar must be completed during your first Fall semester.
  3. First Semester (due Nov. 1st or Apr. 1st): Form your graduate committee and complete the Supervisory Committee Approval Form (SCAF).
  4. Second Semester (due Apr. 1st or Nov. 1st): Submit your Program of Study (POS) by emailing Caitlin Thaxton, Graduate Program Coordinator, to let them know it is ready for approval. If you submit your POS late you may lose your tuition award.
  5. Third Semester (or sooner): Submit your Thesis Proposal Approval (TPA).
  6. Take 6 credits of CS 6970 or STAT 6970 and conduct your research. Take 24 credits of coursework, as listed on your POS.
  7. Write your thesis and submit it to your major professor, then to your committee. 
  8. Tentatively schedule your defense with your committee and complete your Appointment for Examination (AFE) at least 2 weeks prior.
  9. Work with the Staff Assistant to schedule a meeting room and publicize the thesis defense.
  10. Defend your thesis then complete any edits requested by your major professor.
  11. Complete post-defense forms: Format and Style, Authorship and Copyright, and Title Pages. Send finalized thesis and title page to Caitlin Thaxton, Graduate Program Coordinator, who will send them to the Graduate School for approval.
  12. Your MS/CS, Plan A program is complete after you complete the coursework on your POS and your successfully defended thesis has been approved.
  13. Check with Caitlin Thaxton, Graduate Program Coordinator, about any final closeout steps for the CS department.

Supervisory Committee

  • New students are assigned a temporary advisor.
  • By the end of their first semester, students should know their research area and have identified a professor to supervise said research.
  • Students formulate a research idea/topic and approach the identified professor.
  • If the identified professor agrees to accept the new student, the professor becomes the student’s permanent advisor (also called Committee Chair or Major Professor).
  • Together, the student and the Committee Chair decide the other members of the student’s Graduate Supervisory Committee. Contact Caitlin Thaxton, Graduate Program Coordinator, to get more inforamtion about who can serve on the committee.
  • The CS Department Head and the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies must approve the committee list.
  • For students joining the department in Fall semester, you will need to submit a Supervisory Committee Form (SCAF) by November 1st. For students joining the department in Spring semester, you will need to submit a SCAF by April 1st.
  • If your advisor leaves USU, it is your responsibility to get a new advisor. The advisor cannot, in general, direct your progress from another university (exceptions may be made for students who have passed the PhD proposal or are otherwise nearing completion of their degree).

Program of Study (POS) Requirements

The Program of Study (POS) is a contract among the student, committee members, and the School of Graduate Studies outlining which courses the student will take to meet the School of Graduate Studies requirements and complete their degree program.

Students joining the department in a Fall semester will need to submit a Program of Study by April 1st of their second semester. Students joining the department in a Spring semester will need to submit a Program of Study by November 1st of their second semester.

In order to be approved, the POS must follow the MS/CS, Plan A degree requirements listed on the USU Catalog. Requirements for a MS/CS, Plan A POS are as follows:


At least 30 credits


1 credit of CS 6900


6 credits of CS 6970


14 credits of CS 6000+ courses. Excluding CS 6250, CS 6900, and CS 6970


9 additional credits of graduate coursework at the 5000-level or above


Up to 3 credits of CS 6250


Up to one course from CS 5950, CS 6950, and CS 7950


Additional credits of CS 6970 may not apply to the elective course requirements


Cannot include CS 6990, CS 7970, or CS 7990


If CS 5250 and CS 5260 are included, they must be taken the same semester.


May include up to 6 credits outside the CS department. Outside credits must be from: ECE, MATH, STAT, PSC 6150 or SOC 6150


Cannot include independent study, research, or continuing graduate advisement outside of the CS department.

GPA Policy

Before Fall 2020
  • No more than two courses used to satisfy these requirements can have grades below B-.
  • No courses used to satisfy these requirements can have grades below C.
  • Students must maintain a 3.00 GPA on all courses they take as a graduate student on all courses numbered 5000 or above.
  • Students must maintain a 3.00 GPA on all courses shown on his or her Program of Study Form.
  • Student must maintain a 3.0 GPA on all courses taken as a matriculated graduate student.
  • Student must maintain a 3.0 GPA all CS courses numbered 5000 or above.

Fall 2020 to Present
  • Graduate students are required to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA for degree-program courses. 
  • Grades of C+ or lower will not be accepted for a graduate degree.

Info! Students with an overall GPA below 3.0 at the completion of fall and spring semesters will be issued an academic warning. If a student’s institution GPA remains below 3.0 for two consecutive semesters, then they will be dismissed from the program.

Financial Aid

Graduate students frequently wonder whether they can get financial assistance from the Department. This is available to qualified students in a variety of forms:

  • Fellowships provide a stipend to our best entering students.
  • Teaching assistantships provide a stipend in return for 20 hours work per week.
  • Research assistantships are awarded by individual professors who have research funds to support graduate students; consult the web pages of individual faculty to determine whether they are seeking research assistants.

In addition to the stipend, students receiving financial aid usually qualify for a waiver of up to 9 credits non-resident and resident portion of tuition. All applications need to be submitted by March 10.

Students who accept the offer of admissions by April 15 will be eligible to apply for financial aid for the following Fall semester.

Some students are able to find campus employment with other departments or research groups.

Computer Science Tuition Award Policy

  1. No student may receive a tuition waiver if they have been found to have violated the Computer Science Code of Conduct or the Computer Science Cheating Policy and been reported to Student Services.
  2. Students who were previously a GTA must receive satisfactory review from their previous supervisor in order to be considered for a GTA  position in future semesters.
  3. Students who are employed outside of the Department will not be awarded tuition waivers from the Computer Science Department. They will need to petition the Department where they are working.

Priorities for Tuition Awards
  1. First priority will be given to students who are supported by research grants.
  2. Second priority will be given to students selected for specific tasks by the Department.
  3. Third priority will be given to doctoral students and MS/CS, Plan A students who are recommended by their major professor.
  4. If any tuition waivers remain, they will be assigned based on the discretion of the Department.

Constraints on Teaching and Research Assistantships
Department support is not unlimited or unconditional. The following constraints apply for both MS and doctoral students.
  1. If you are a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), you must do well as a GTA. The CS Department may end your funding, or not renew it in future semesters, if you consistently have poor evaluations of your GTA performance.
  2. You must have a CS faculty advisor (excluding adjuncts). Department support does not go to students who are supervised by faculty from other departments.
  3. You must have a current CS faculty advisor. If your advisor leaves, get a new one. The advisor cannot, in general, direct from another university (exceptions are made for students who have passed the PhD proposal or are otherwise nearing completion of their degree).
  4. You must continuously be making progress towards your degree in classes and research.
  5. MS students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 for degree-program courses. Doctoral students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.5 for degree-program courses.