What is the difference between this program and the CS Master of Engineering Program?

The MEng program is two semesters long and requires a large project, whereas the MS program is four semesters long and requires a written thesis. The MS program is also fully funded (tuition + stipend). Both programs only admit students with outstanding academic records. However, the MS program only admits students who have excelled as undergraduate TAs and who have a demonstrated propensity for independent research. Compared to the MEng program (about 100 students) the MS program is much smaller. There will typically be about 10-15 MS students at any one time.

Why is the MS program so small?

The program is small because the necessary resources (TA-ships, tuition, stipends, office space, and faculty time for thesis advising) are limited and are shared with the PhD program.

How does this program relate to the CS PhD program?

The CS MS is not considered a stepping stone to the Cornell CS PhD program. Undergraduates who are interested in PhD work at Cornell are better off applying to that program directly. However, we are aware that there will be MS students who discover after a semester or two that what they really want is a PhD. By taking rigorous courses and writing a strong Master’s thesis it is possible to put together a strong PhD application during the second year of study as an MS student.

If I apply to the Cornell CS PhD program but fail to get in, can I have my application transferred to the MS program?

Students who apply to our PhD program but are denied admission are welcome to apply to the MS program. Please email the MS program to request that your application be reviewed by the PhD Program.

What can I do as a Cornell undergraduate to make my MS application strong?

Here are five things that strengthen your case. (1) Take a graduate-level course and do well. (2) Develop a common interest with a CS faculty member through CS 4999 (undergraduate research). (3) Emphasize your skills as a speaker, teacher, and leader. (4) Establish a multi-semester track record as an excellent undergraduate grader/TA in our introductory courses and include a letter of recommendation from someone who can attest to your teaching skills.

Is there an “Early Admit’’ possibility for Cornell undergraduates who are entering their last semester with space in their schedules for courses that can be applied towards the MS?

There is no early admission option. All degree requirments must be satisfied by coursework completed after you have completed your Bachelors degree. However, you may choose to use take courses in prepareation for the MS during your final semester.

Some Masters programs allow students to substitute a large project for the written thesis. Why isn’t that an option at Cornell?

We are currently seeking approval for that option from Cornell and the State of New York.

Can I opt out of my TA obligation if I can find research support?

No. One aim of the program is to establish an elite core of stellar TA’s staffed by students who are very interested in both teaching and research. Should your “center of gravity” shift towards the research end, then you should simply opt for a 12-credit thesis which would give you a whole term to devote towards research. Carefully executed, this can set the stage for PhD study in a top program after the MS.

Can I graduate in fewer than 4 semesters or use one semester for a co-op/internship?

No. It is the policy of the Gradate School that Graduate students must be enrolled in 4 semesters in order to earn a MS degree.

One aim of the program is to establish an elite core of stellar TA’s staffed by students who are very interested in both teaching and research. Should your “center of gravity” shift towards the research end, then you should simply opt for a 12-credit thesis which would give you a whole term to devote towards research. Carefully executed, this can set the stage for PhD study in a top program after the MS.

What is the minor field requirement?

All MS (and PhD) students at Cornell are required to have an outside minor. Popular minors for computer science students include Information Science, Operations Research, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Applied Mathematics. There are no restrictions on the choice of the minor field. Although it varies from field to field, the typical requirement for a Masters-level minor is around two courses.

What is a “thesis committee’’?

Each student must form a faculty committee that consists of Thesis advisor from CS and a faculty member from the minor field.

How do I find a thesis advisor?

Take a course in your area of interest and get to know the professor. Attend seminars. Knock on doors!

Who serves as my advisor before I form my Thesis Committee?

The Director of the Master of Science Program serves as your faculty advisor, helping you with course selection and other academic issues.

What is CS 7999?

CS 7999 is not a course per se. It is simply an accounting device so that the work associated with thesis research is measured and recorded on the transcript.

How are the credit hours for a CS 7999 determined?

Before the start of the semester, the Thesis Advisor and student map out a research plan. The volume of work is assessed and translated into credit hours. Roughly speaking, the workload associated with four credit hours of thesis research should look like the workload associated with a typical four credit hour graduate level course.

Why is there a limit on the number of CS 7999 credit hours?

The CS 7999 credit maximum ensures that the student takes at least six courses over the two years. This guarantees a measure of breadth through exposure to important research areas.

What would a “typical” 4-semester schedule look like?

Requirements are given in terms of credit hours, not courses. But if you assume a reasonable mix of 3-credit and 4-credit courses, then you can ``model’’ what a semester looks like in terms of courses. Here are two sample schedules that illustrate how credit hours can sum to 34 and how more thesis research implies less coursework.


8 courses plus 6-credit Thesis

Term 1- 3 CS Courses (4+4+3)

Term 2- 1 CS Course, 1 NonCS Course (4+3)

Term 3- 1 CS Course, 1 NonCS Course (4+3)

Term 4- 1 CS Course, Thesis Research (3+6)

6 courses plus 12-credit Thesis

Term 1- 2 CS Courses, 1 NonCS Course (4+4+3)

Term 2- 1 CS Course, 1 NonCS Course (4+3)

Term 3- 1 CS Course, Thesis Research (4+3)

Term 4- Thesis Research (9)


There are certainly other possibilities. In reasoning about your overall schedule, keep in mind that the minor field course requirement depends on the field.

Can I take classes taught at the Cornell Tech campus in NYC?

You are allowed to enroll in any Cornell Tech course that supports distance learning. If you look at our course roster (for example, Fall 2016) you can see that CS 6431 (Security and Privacy Technologies) is offered in-person in NYC to students enrolled at Cornell Tech and via distance learning for students in Ithaca. Courses with this option will have a distance learning section that students in Ithaca should specifically enroll in.

How do MS students spend their summers?

There are no specific summer requirements. (You would be free to go work at a company for the summer). However, some of our MS students have chosen to stay on campus as either teaching assistants or research assistants.

Why are the TOEFL requirements so high?

The teaching component of the MS program is extremely rigorous and requires fluency in English.

How are TA Assignments made?

We try to match student interest with the staffing demands of out introductory courses, notably CS 1110 (Python), CS 1112 (Matlab), CS 2110 (Object Oriented Programming and Data Structures), CS 2800 (Discrete Structures), CS 3110 (Functional Programming and Data Structures), and CS 3410 (Computer System Organization and Programming).

What is the typical career path of a Cornell CS MS graduate?

The first class of CS MS students graduates in Spring 2016. In the meantime, another good indicator is the career paths of our MEng program. Some data on companies that hire our graduate students and their starting salaries can be found here. (Look at CS --> graduate --> 2015, for example).

Is financial support guaranteed while I am a student in the program?

As long as you satisfactorily carry out all your TA duties, then yes. If that is not the case, you risk losing financial support. Should that happen, you are allowed to continue in the program assuming that you are in good standing academically.

My undergraduate degree was in physics (or math or mechanical engineering etc.,) but I've taken some CS courses and I'm think I'm ready for your program. Can I apply? 

Yes, we are happy to consider your application, however admission will only be offered to students who are prepared for the courses required for the CS MS degree. We expect to see from your transcripts that you have taken courses that are equivalent to:

CS 2110 - Object-Oriented Programming and Data Structures
CS 3110 - Data Structures and Functional Programming
CS 2800 - Discrete Structures
CS 3410 - Computer System Organization and Programming

You can see a list of these and other courses offered by the Department of Computer Science along with descriptions Here.  Since your support is in the form of a TA, we also want to see that you can TA our CS courses offered at Cornell.