M.S. Requirements FAQ

Blue CS@CU logo for MS students

FAQs for Current MS Students

Have a question or concern about your program? You’re in the right place! If you can’t find the answer you are looking for here or on our CSMS Homepage, email CS Advising.

Program Requirements:

Here is our recommended game plan:

  1. Review the general MS program description & requirements at http://www.cs.columbia.edu/education/ms/.
  2. Choose your MS Track on MICE. (MICE accounts will be created for incoming Fall students in June or July and for incoming Spring students in January)
  3. Plan your required and elective courses for your chosen track. Discuss your plan with your track advisor.
  4. Identify any previously taken courses you can import to substitute for “required track” courses.
  5. Validate your course scheduling with CS-listed course offerings and the Registrar’s Directory of Classes.
  6. Keep track of your progress through Student Services Online (SSOL), your MICE account, and your degree progress checklist.

You must complete a total of 30 or more graduate credit points at Columbia while maintaining a minimum grade point average of 2.7. You must also complete the Columbia Engineering Professional Development & Leadership (PDL) requirement, satisfy breadth requirements, and take at least 6 points of technical courses at the 6000 level.

The CSMS program is designed to take 3 semesters to complete. If you have questions or concerns about completing the degree requirements within this timeframe, please speak with your CS Faculty Advisor or CS Advising.

You should select a concentration track in a field of your interest. The department offers the following tracks:

Computational Biology
Computer Security
Foundations of Computer Science
Machine Learning
Natural Language Processing
Network Systems
Software Systems
Vision and Graphics

Each track has its own set of requirements and choice of elective courses. There is also the option of designing a Personalized or MS Thesis Track. If you are interested in the Personalized or MS Thesis Track, please contact CS Advising.

This track allows you to develop a specialized program not covered in the tracks described above. If interested in this track, please contact CS Advising. You must find an advisor who agrees to supervise your program, and then you develop your own customized MS program with your advisor.

Yes. If you want to write a thesis, you can select the MS Thesis track. Like the Personalized track, you will need to find a faculty thesis advisor and develop your program with him/her. The thesis track should include the 12-point breadth requirement, 9 points of thesis (E6902), and 9 points of other graduate CS courses selected with your advisor. A thesis proposal should be presented to your thesis committee at least three months before your defense, and a publication-quality thesis document is published as a CS department technical report.

Please select your track in MICE. You are required to select a track as soon as your MICE account is created. (MICE accounts will be created for incoming Fall students in June or July and for incoming Spring students in January) If you want to change your track later, you can do so up until the beginning of your second semester. If you are an international student, please keep in mind that the request to change your track after the beginning of the second semester may not be granted. This rule applies to all tracks including personalized and thesis tracks.

Each track has one or two track advisors. You will be assigned an advisor after you choose a track on MICE.

Up to 3 points of advisor-approved CU graduate courses can be included. Please complete the MS elective approval form to request advisor approval and submit to ms-advising@cs.columbia.edu. To qualify, the course must be relevant to the CS MS track and technical in nature.

All MS students can take a maximum of 12 project/research points, 9 of which can be thesis points if you are in the MS Thesis track.

Current AMR students will be registered by SEAS to be at full time status. It is NOT permitted to take COMS 6901 in addition to AMR credits.

Breadth may only be waived if you took the course at Columbia and received Advance Standing credit for the course in question. Please email ms-advising@cs.columbia.edu for more information on the Advance Standing application process.


Yes but you must register for at least 3 points each semester.

A US citizen or a permanent resident can drop a course until the drop deadline (late November for Fall and late March for Spring) via submitting a RAF to CS Advising. Please keep in mind that even though it is still possible to drop a course, you will not get a refund for the course you are dropping after the Change of Program Period. If you want to avoid financial penalties for dropping a course, please finalize your schedule during the regular registration period or the Change of Program Period.

If you are an international student, you may not be able to drop a course due to the full-time registration requirement. Please consult ms-advising@cs.columbia.edu.

All MS students should register for COMS E6901. If you have been chosen to work on a project, please email ms-advising@cs.columbia.edu and cc your project supervisor. We will give you the information you need for registration.

The ‘official’ line for the MS program is that no summer courses are guaranteed to be offered, but some are occasionally. If the course that you want to take is offered, you are allowed to register for it. Please visit the Summer Sessions website for more information.

Credit Transfer:

No, but you can waive courses from your track’s “required courses” section if you have taken similar courses at another institution. For the waiver to be approved, the previous course must be equivalent to what we offer here at Columbia, and the grade you received must be B or higher. Waiver requests are submitted through MICE. Forms are electronically transferred to the relevant course instructors for approval, and you will be notified by email of their decisions. If approved, you still have to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours to receive your degree, but you can take other CS courses in place of the waived requirements. Note that class imports must be completed during your first semester only. 

Go to MICE → Students menu → Course Imports → Add Course Import → Upload the necessary transcript and syllabus

Yes. Please see the SEAS policy on Advanced Standing on their website.

To apply for Advanced Standing, please fill out an Advanced Standing Form. Advanced Standing towards the MS degree must be from 4000-level courses or above, taken at Columbia University only for any passing grade, and cannot have been counted towards a previous degree. No more than 15 points of Advanced Standing are awarded, and the grades from the advanced standing points will not be counted into your overall MS program GPA, which should be 2.7 or higher.

If you used these courses toward your undergraduate degree, you cannot transfer credits. For more information, please contact CS Advising.

You must be a CVN student to access the online lectures. Please contact CVN for more information.


For information about the Fieldwork course for the Master of Science program, please visit the Fieldwork page.

Leave of Absence:

If you have completed at least one full semester in the program, are in good academic standing with a GPA of 2.7 or higher, and will not be away from the program for more than a total of 12 months, then you are eligible to apply for a Leave of Absence. Fill out a Change of Status form and select the Leave of Absence request type. This will be reviewed by both the department and the SEAS Office of Graduate Student Services. If you fail to return from your absence, you will be withdrawn from the program.

No, you can only take a Leave of Absence if you have been in the program for one full semester. If you have to leave before this time, you will need to officially withdraw from the program and reapply for admission. Your online application and official documents are held for at least 12 months from your original submission date and can be reactivated within this time.

You can apply for readmission using the Readmission to Graduate Program application form. Authorization for readmission is at the discretion of the CS department.


You need to complete the following steps:

  1. Complete the Application for Degree. Deadline dates for filing the application are listed here.
  2. Complete the CSMS Checklist Review and OPT Request form to verify your CSMS degree progress. If you are an international student, you can also upload your OPT form, and CS Advising can complete the academic portion of the form for you.

Deadline dates for filing the application are listed here.

Once your paperwork has been filed, your Application for Degree is processed by the Registrar. Your official transcript gets forwarded to the CS department and is reviewed. Following this review, you will be notified whether or not you have been cleared for graduation at the department level. Your record is then forwarded to SEAS and Columbia for further review. Be warned that although you may satisfy the department MS requirements, you may still be blocked from graduation by any outstanding holds or requirements not yet met at the university level.

Please make sure that you monitor your grades throughout the semester to avoid this happening. You may count 1 D grade towards your CSMS.

If you have an F for a course you need for a CS MS Requirement or credits, you will not be able to graduate. You must complete the remaining requirement(s) in the following semester. Please note that it is not possible to extend your program with ISSO or COMS to do this. The failed requirement must be completed via petition for a CVN course or via OPT for international students. Remember that your home country may have rules on degree verification for online coursework; you must make an informed decision on how to proceed. Students without visa requirements should also complete via CVN. All students will be required to submit a completion plan and may need to petition additionally to SEAS to make up the failed coursework/credits.

If you have any additional questions, please email ms-advising@cs.columbia.edu.

Updated 03/19/2024