G Computer Sci

Grad Program FAQ

Table of Contents

About the Program
Required Background
Application Requirements
Application Process
Tuition and Expenses
International Students
Next Steps after Admission

About the Program

What is the expected class size?

Class sizes will range between 15 to 30 students, depending on whether it is a required course or an elective. Class sizes will never exceed 30 students.

How long does it take to complete the degree?

It takes 2 years (4 semesters) of full-time study to complete the degree. It is not possible to complete the degree in less time.

How many classes do students take a semester?

Full-time graduate students take between 2 to 3 classes a semester (between 6 to 12 credits).

What programming languages do the courses use?

Most of our courses use Java, Python, or C. Our graduate electives may use different languages depending on the topic.

What are the job prospects after graduation?

We do not track placement statistics, but most students do not have any trouble finding full-time positions after graduation. There is an unmet need for individuals with programming experience in the Bay area.

Recent graduates have taken positions at Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle,, Square, Twitter, Yahoo, and many other tech companies and startups.

Is there a part-time program?

We do not have an official part-time program, but it is possible for students already in the area to complete our program part-time by taking one course per semester. This requires a flexible work schedule, as you will generally have to take a course when it is offered no matter the time or location to finish within the 4 year maximum time limit for Masters degrees. We do not issue student visas for part-time students.

Do you have night classes for working professionals?

No, we do not. We have a small department, and generally can only offer one section of each course. The times these courses are offered are based on instructor and room availability.

Do you offer a PhD in computer science?

No, only offer a Master of Science in Computer Science degree.

Do you allow transfers from other programs?

No, applicants interested in switching programs must follow the same application procedure as everyone else. However, we will consider the courses you have already taken at another program in your application.

Can I transfer credit for courses taken at other programs?

No, as a general rule we do not offer transfer credits for graduate courses. This is a university-wide policy.

Who do I contact for questions about the MSCS program?

For general questions about the MSCS program, please contact the graduate advisor at

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Required Background

What are the prerequisite degrees for admission?

You must already have a Bachelors degree, preferably in CS or similar fields.

You may still apply if you have a Bachelors degree in an unrelated field, but need to demonstrate you have an equivalent background to match the majority of the prerequisite courses required for admission. See the other questions below for more details.

What are the prerequisite courses/background for admission?

We are specifically looking for background in the following areas (either through coursework, work experience, or research experience):

  • High-Level Programming (CS 110)
    e.g. C, Python
  • Object-Oriented Programming (CS 112)
    e.g. Java, C++, C#, Objective-C
  • Data Structures and Algorithms (CS 245)
  • Computer Architecture (CS 315) -or- Operating Systems (CS 326)
  • Linear Algebra and Probability (MA 201)
  • Discrete Math (MA 202)

The following are recommended but not required for admission:

  • Compilers (CS 414) -or- Programming Languages (CS 345)
  • Calculus and Analytic Geometry (MA 109)

Those who have not fulfilled all of the above requirements will still be considered for admission, but may have less competitive applications.

Can I still apply if I do not have a formal CS background?

Yes, you may still apply as long as you have an equivalent background to match the majority of the prerequisite courses required for admission. This may be through extensive work experience in software development, or by taking equivalent courses at other institutions (such as state universities or community colleges). We also consider extensive academic and research experience if you already have other graduate degrees.

Whether or not you have a formal CS background, you need to be prepared to take and pass the same set of core courses as everyone else if admitted.

Can I take prerequisites from USF as a visiting student?

It is feasible for students already in the United States to take some of our undergraduate CS courses as a visiting student. However, many of these courses have prerequisites and our undergraduate majors have registration priority. We cannot guarantee space in those courses, or admission into our program.

We plan to restart our "MSCS Bridge" program specifically designed for applicants without a CS background in the near future, but the program is currently on hold and not accepting applicants.

Do you accept three-year Bachelors degrees?

We will accept three-year Bachelors degrees from international applicants for admission review.

Do you accept non-CS Bachelors degrees?

You may still apply if you have a Bachelors degree in an non-CS field, but need to demonstrate you have an equivalent background to match the majority of the prerequisite courses required for admission.

Do you consider other graduate degrees or academic experience?

Yes, please include transcripts for all other degrees and courses completed in your application, and describe any research projects you worked on in your essay. Demonstrating you are a strong student through extensive academic and research experience can make up for missing background.

Do you consider work experience?

Yes, we consider work experience related to software development. Please include this experience on your experience on a resume or curriculum vitae, and describe the projects you worked on (with the languages and tools you used) in your essay.

Do you consider experience with web languages such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, MySQL, or PHP?

While experience with those languages can help strengthen your application, they do not count as high-level or object-oriented programming languages for the required background.

Do you consider courses taken at places like Coursera, Udacity, or EdX?

We prefer to see transcripts from state-level universities or community colleges for the prerequisite courses required by our degree, but elective courses taken at places like Coursera, Udacity, or EdX will help strengthen your application.

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Application Requirements

What are the application requirements?

All applicants must provide transcripts, two letters of recommendation, general GRE test scores, and complete an essay or statement of purpose. Applicants may optionally include an additional letter of recommendation, and a resume or curriculum vitae. See the How to Apply page for more.

International applicants must provide additional documentation, such as a Certification of Finances, TOEFL or IELTS test scores, and transcript translations. See the International Graduate Students page for more.

What are the GPA requirements?

There is no strict GPA (grade point average) requirement for admission to the graduate program. However, applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or higher (on a scale of 4.0) will have more competitive applications and a higher chance of receiving a scholarship.

Can I still apply if I have a low GPA?

Yes, you may still apply if you have a low GPA. Please address your GPA in your essay and provide an argument that, if admitted, you will be able to maintain the minimum 3.0 GPA necessary for our graduate program.

Which test scores are required?

The general GRE (Graduate Record Exam) is required for all applicants. International applicants must also provide a TOEFL or IELTS score. Waivers are possible—please see the other questions for the waiver policies and minimum expected scores.

Is it possible to waive the GRE requirement?

We highly encourage all applicants to take the GRE test. However, it is possible to waive the GRE requirement if you have exceptional professional or academic experience.

To receive this waiver, please start the application in the system and send an email to the graduate advisor at with your resume and application number.

Is it possible to waive the TOEFL requirement?

Yes. For details on the waiver policy for TOEFL or IELTS scores, please see the International Graduate Students page (look for the Exception Policy listed under Test Scores). Please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions for questions.

What is the code for sending the GRE score?

The USF school code for the TOEFL and the GRE is 4850.

What is the average GRE score?

The average quantitative GRE score of our Fall 2014 cohort is 164. Applications with a quantitative score below 155 are not competitive. The minimum analytical writing score is 3.5 for non-native English speakers. The verbal GRE score is not considered in the admission process.

What is the code to send the TOEFL score?

The USF school code for the TOEFL and the GRE is 4850.

What is the average TOEFL score?

The average TOEFL score of our Fall 2014 cohort is 86. The minimum required TOEFL score is 79.

Can I still apply if I do not have recommendation letters?

No, you need at least two letters of recommendation. Applications missing this requirement will not be reviewed.

Can I send recommendation letters from work as well as professors?

Yes, you can send in a recommendation letter from a supervisor (but not colleague). However, we recommend at least one recommendation letter be from a professor if possible.

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Application Process

How do I apply for the program?

Applications are submitted online. Please see the Apply Now page for details. We do not accept applications mailed directly to our department.

How do I check my application status?

You can check the status of your application by logging into your online application account. You will also receive an email when an admission decision is posted.

How are applications reviewed?

Submitted and completed applications are reviewed by the MSCS Admission Committee, which is chaired by the graduate director. The entire application is considered during review, including transcripts, test scores, recommendation letters, and the essay. We typically begin reviewing applications in late December and early January. During that time, it usually takes between 4 to 6 weeks for an admission decision to be made.

Unsubmitted or incomplete applications remain in the Office of Graduate Programs, and are not reviewed until the application is submitted, all of the letters of recommendation are received, and the application is marked as complete.

When are applications accepted?

We usually begin accepting applications for Fall admission in September, but do not begin reviewing applications until much later. We do not admit students for the Spring semester.

When are applications reviewed?

We typically begin reviewing applications in late December and early January.

What is the application deadline?

The application deadline for Fall admission is March 1st. We do not admit students for the Spring semester.

Are applications completed after the deadline considered?

Yes, we will consider applications until the program is full and maintain a waitlist until mid-summer. Please note that international applicants should apply early so that there is ample time for the visa application process.

Are incomplete applications reviewed?

No, only submitted and completed applications are reviewed for admission. Submitted but incomplete applications are not reviewed for admission. Please check your application status frequently, and contact the Office of Graduate Programs if you have any questions.

Who do I contact with application questions?

Please contact the Office of Graduate Programs in the College of Arts and Sciences with application questions.

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Tuition and Expenses

What is the cost of tuition?

The MSCS program is 36 units. You can find the latest per-unit tuition cost and fees at the Financial Aid and Tuition page. (Look under "Graduate Programs" and the "Arts and Sciences" heading.)

See Financing Your Education for more information on scholarship options, the Financial Aid for Graduate Programs page for more information on financial aid, and One Stop Tuition and Billing for more information on payment options, payment plans, and payment policies.

What will be my living expenses?

Living expenses include rent, food, transportation, and utilities such as electricity and gas. Most students choose to live off-campus, but limited on-campus housing is available. See Housing for Graduate Students for more information. You can see an estimate for on-campus or off-campus living expenses at the Understanding the Cost of Attendance page.

Does the MSCS program offer scholarships?

Yes, the MSCS program awards several merit-based scholarships every year. See Financing Your Education for more information.

Does the MSCS program offer financial aid?

The MSCS program do not offer any need-based scholarships or awards. However, there are on-campus positions, off-campus positions, and several other financial aid options that can offset the cost of the program. See Financing Your Education for more information.

How do I apply for a scholarship?

We automatically consider all applicants, including domestic and international applicants. There is not a separate application for scholarships.

Can I have a job to help pay for school?

Being a full-time student is like a full-time job. However, some students are able to work part-time during the academic year or full-time during the summer to gain experience and offset the costs of tuition. There are no restrictions for domestic students, but international students must check their visa restrictions first. See the Practicum Option for more information.

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International Students

What is a Certification of Finance?

Applicants who require an F-1 student visa must demonstrate that they (and/or other sponsors in their home country) can fund their educational and living expenses in the United States. To verify this requirement, applicants must complete a Certification of Finances form with the online application to the program. See the International Graduate Students page for more details.

In general, applicants must complete the Certification of Finances before their application will be considered for review. For questions about the Certification of Finances, please contact the Office of Graduate Programs or International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

What visa do I need to study at USF?

As an international student, you will enter the United States for studies by applying for an F1 or J1 student visa. Most international students study in the program on an F1 visa. Once you receive your I-20, you should apply for a student visa right away. Note that some students must try several times before successfully obtaining a visa.

If you are already in the United States on a different visa (e.g. H1B), you may choose to remain on your current visa or change to an F1 visa.

Does a scholarship from USF influence the ability to obtain a visa?

No, receiving a scholarship from USF does not influence the ability to obtain a visa. We encourage you to apply for a visa as soon as you receive your I-20. Students may need to try several times before successfully obtaining a visa, so we encourage students to try multiple times if necessary.

Are international students eligible for scholarships?

Yes, international students are eligible and automatically considered for all MSCS scholarships. See Financing Your Education for details.

Are international students eligible to work in the US?

The majority of international students are able to work on-campus, and are eligible to work off-campus after via the Practicum Option after one academic year. Please contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) for details.

Who do I contact for more information?

Please contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) with any visa or immigration-related questions.

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Next Steps after Admission

Is an admission deposit required?

Yes, a deposit of $700.00 is required to reserve your space in the program. You can pay this deposit through GuestPay. The amount will be deposited into your student account, and applied towards your tuition and fees.

We have limited space in our program. If you fail deposit on-time, your spot in the program will be offered to someone on the waiting list.

How do I register for classes?

Registration will be done online. See the OneStop Office for detailed steps. You must pay for courses or sign up for a payment plan by the payment deadline. See the Payment Options page for more information.

You will register for courses for the first time during orientation. Payment will be due immediately after registration.

Do I need health insurance?

Yes, all full-time graduate students and international students are required to have health insurance and will be automatically enrolled in USF's health insurance plan. You can opt out of this health insurance plan if you have equivalent coverage. Visit Health Promotion Services for details.

Is there an orientation for new students?

Yes. All computer science graduate students must attend a one-day MSCS Program Orientation before classes begin. Details will be provided in your admission packet. All new students are also encouraged to go to the Graduate Student Welcome Reception for all graduate students. International students must attend the International Student Orientation as well.

What should I do after being admitted?

After receiving your admission packet, you should place your deposit, apply for a student visa (if applicable), order official transcripts to be sent to our Office of Graduate Studies, and start exploring housing options. See the Next Steps page for detailed information. International student should also see the Pre-Arrival page for additional steps.

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