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Thesis Option

The list of courses required to obtain a degree is called the program of work. A total of 30 hours of coursework within 3 areas is needed to complete the program of work for the Master’s Thesis option. The Graduate Advisor approves the program of work prior to graduation. This checklist is available for planning and evaluating your program of work. Please see Course Information for current and future semester CS teaching plans.

The information below is organized into five sections. Section 1 discusses background requirements. Section 2 discusses major coursework requirements. Section 3 discusses minor coursework requirements. Section 4 discusses additional requirements. Section 5 discusses transfer work.


(not a prerequisite, can be met after admission)

We acknowledge that other departments/universities divide up their curricula in different ways. The important thing is that approximately the same material has been covered. The decision about which courses you submit for review meet the background requirements is made by the faculty. The form is submitted to the grad office.

The following UTCS undergraduate courses, or equivalent, are required as background*:

  • Discrete Math for Computer Science (CS 311)
  • Introduction to Programming (CS 312)
  • Data Structures (CS 314)
  • Algorithms and Complexity (CS 331)
  • Computer Organization and Architecture (CS 429)
  • Principles of Computer Systems (CS 439)


  1. Any background requirements not met at the time of admission must be satisfied while enrolled in the Masters program.
  2. A common question is whether an undergraduate background requirement can be satisfied by taking the corresponding graduate course. Generally speaking, the corresponding graduate course assumes the undergraduate material as background, and so this approach is not permitted. That said, exceptions to this general rule are sometimes granted. A student seeking an exception should consult with the faculty member teaching the corresponding graduate course.
  3. One upper-division background course taken at UTCS as a graduate student may count towards your CS Major coursework. (At most 3 hours of undergraduate coursework can count towards your program of work.)

How to Complete Background Requirements

  1. Complete an undergraduate degree with a major in Computer Science prior to joining our graduate program; OR
  2. Coursework that covers the background topics through any combination of:
    • Courses taken prior to admission.
    • Background courses named above may be taken at UTCS as a graduate student. An overall GPA of 3.50 on courses taken at UTCS is required unless only 1 course is taken, in which case the requirement is for a 3.0 in that single class.
    • Student receives a B or better on Final exam(s) of UTCS undergraduate background courses.

*Students who first enrolled prior to Fall 2016 may choose to graduate under the new rules above or fulfill the previous background requirements. Please see the pre-2016 background coursework form and checklist for a list of previous background coursework.


24 hours of major coursework – Please pay attention to the Credit/No Credit CR/NC rules written in #2 below. 9 hrs. of diversity courses, 9 hrs. of CS Graduate courses, 6 hours of thesis.


  1. 9 hours of diversity courses - 1 course from each of the 3 areas - applications, systems, and theory. Passed with a grade of B- or better.
  2. 9 hours of any 3 CS graduate courses passed with a grade of C or better.
    • One undergraduate upper division course may be substituted for 1 graduate course; however, no 'elements' courses may be used as a substitute.
    • The undergraduate course may be taken either for a grade or CR/NC. Please remember background courses have a grade requirement so are not usually taken CR/NC. At most 3 hours of undergraduate coursework can count towards your program of work.
    • It is possible to receive credit towards the MS degree for taking a CS 395 conference course (i.e., supervised research). However, students wishing to explore this possibility should bear in mind the following considerations.
      • First, CS 395 is graded on a CR/NC basis, and at most one CR/NC course can be used towards the MS degree. (Exception: The MS thesis sequence CS 698A/B is graded on a CR/NC basis, and does not count against the one CR/NC course limit.)
      • Second, a grade of CR is necessary but not sufficient to receive credit towards the MS degree. After assigning a grade of CR in the course, if the supervising professor feels that the student's work is strong enough to merit MS degree credit, they should send a statement to this effect to The statement should include a brief summary of the student's accomplishments in the CS 395.
  3. 2 CS Thesis courses - CS 698A and CS 698B are offered only for CR/NC. These courses are taken in separate semesters. Be sure to enroll in CS 698B the semester you plan to graduate. You may enroll in CS 698B more than once though it only counts one time on your program of work.

How To Select Courses and Register

The CS graduate department does not advise each semester, although you can visit the graduate office at any time with questions. You can seek information on classes from your peers, looking at course evaluation information and by going to course information. You can also attend the first day of classes and speak with the instructor.

Personal registration dates and times can be accessed by going to your Registration Information Sheet (RIS).


6 hours (2 courses) in a minor: a supporting subject or subjects outside of computer science.


  1. One minor course may be taken CR/NC. (At most 3 hours of CR/NC coursework can count towards your program of work, excluding thesis work.)
  2. One minor course may be an undergraduate upper division (At most 3 hours of undergraduate coursework can count towards your program of work.)
  3. Graduate Adviser approval required. This must be obtained no later then the first 12 class days in Spring or Fall sessions and the 4th class day in Summer session.

How To Obtain Approval and Register


In addition to the requirements mentioned above, there are rules imposed by both the CS department and the Graduate School. These rules are about things like grades, courses taken in residence, transfer credit, and time limits. Every student should read these rules soon after being admitted to the Masters program and make sure to satisfy them.

The Graduate School specifies degree requirements in the Graduate Catalog that apply to courses counted toward a graduate degree. Read that information and make sure that you satisfy each item. We summarize below the graduate school and department requirements that most often affect CS students.

  • A maximum of 3 hours of undergraduate classes may be counted for a 30 hr. masters degree.
  • A minimum grade point average of 3.0 overall is required.
  • All degree requirements must be completed within a 6 year period.
  • Diversity requirement: 9 hours of diversity courses, one from each diversity area.
  • Major requirement: additional CS courses as required for each degree.
  • No more than 3 hours of courses may be taken on a CR/NC basis (excludes thesis coursework).
  • To receive a Masters degree, a student must have been in residence at UT-Austin for two full semesters or equivalent.
  • Courses in which a student earned a C- and lower or NC may not be counted on the program of work.



The following rules apply to courses transferred from another institution:

  1. Only courses taken at major institutions within the United States may be transferred. CS Graduate Adviser and the Graduate school must approve the institution and course(s).
  2. Only graduate courses may be transferred. Courses designed for both graduates and undergraduates are generally not eligible for transfer credit.
  3. Only courses in which a grade of A or B was earned may be transferred.
  4. A maximum of two courses (6 hours) may be transferred.
  5. No course that counted toward a previous degree may be transferred.
  6. No transferred course may be used to satisfy a diversity requirement.
  7. To apply for transfer credit, a student must submit:
    • A petition to the Graduate Advisor. The petition will also have to be signed by the Dean of the Graduate School.
    • An official transcript that shows the course that is to be transferred.
    • An official explanation of the course numbering system that is used at the institution at which the course was taken.
    • A copy of the course description taken from the institution's catalog or web site.