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Computer Science (MS)

[Program Overview] [Program Outcomes] [Curriculum] [Admission Criteria] [Application Requirements] [Transfer Credits] [Academic Standing] [Reactivating into the Program] [Accreditation] [Faculty] [Contact Information]

Program Overview

The Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) is a 34-credit program that provides advanced study in the theory and practice of Computer Science. It focuses on two of the key areas in modern computing: distributed systems and computer security. The program has been designed to:

  • strike a healthy balance between theory and practice;
  • help students acquire the ability to read and assimilate highly technical material;
  • deepen students' technical knowledge;
  • enable students to solve complex problems;
  • help students effectively respond to rapid technological changes;
  • help students develop well organized presentations and written materials; and
  • enhance students' careers in computing

The MSCS program consists of 28 credits of coursework, which includes 12 credits focused on distributed computing and computer security and 16 credits of electives. All MSCS students will learn about research methodologies, scholarly research, and professional writing in a 2-credit ICS 698 Research Seminar course. An applied project or original thesis in Computer Science (4 credits) must also be completed.

In keeping with Metropolitan State University's commitment to working adults, the MSCS program offers evening and online classes, with flexible program choices to suit individual professional goals.

Program Outcomes

Graduates of this program will have acquired:

  • a solid foundation in the concepts of distributed systems and computer security;
  • a good knowledge of the major research areas in Computer Science;
  • the ability to survey literature related to research problems in Computer Science, and to obtain the necessary background information to further explore the problems; and
  • the skill to write up research results and present them orally

Curriculum (34 credits)


Ideally, applicants will have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science or a related field. Applicants are expected, at a minimum, to have intermediate object-oriented programming skills with a good knowledge of data structures and concomitant mathematical background. This would be the equivalent of having completed ICS 140, 141, and 240 and Math 215 in our undergraduate program (further work in Computer Science would be preferable.)

Applicants lacking a strong undergraduate major in Computer Science may be required, as a condition of admission, to take senior-level undergraduate courses as part of their program. One or more of the following three courses may be required:

Eight credits of this 400-level work may count toward the 34 credits required to graduate.

Program Requirements

To complete the program, the student must complete 34 credits of approved work, which include:

  • one course in computer security (4 credits)
  • one course in distributed systems (4 credits)
  • a second course in either computer security or distributed systems (4 credits)
  • the research seminar course (2 credits)
  • a set of elective courses covering advanced material in computer science. (Electives may include additional work in distributed systems or security or may be taken from other advanced topics.) (16 credits)
  • completion of a practical research project (project option) or theoretical problem (thesis option) under the guidance of a full-time faculty member of the department. The student must submit a written report of his/her work to a graduate committee and later make an oral defense of the work. (4 credits)

The following courses are in the catalog at this time.

Distributed Systems (4 credits) one course from the following:

  • ICS 611 Distributed Database Systems
  • ICS 625 Web Services and Service-Oriented Architectures
  • ICS 640 Distributed Algorithms
  • ICS 661 Wireless Technologies
  • ICS 662 Distributed System Design

Computer Security (4 credits) one course from the following:

  • ICS 682 Cryptography and Computer Security
  • ICS 684 Cyberspace Security Engineering
  • ICS 686 Design of Information Assurance Systems

A second course (4 credits) in either distributed systems or computer security

Electives (16 credits)

May include additional work in distributed systems or computer security or may be taken from other advanced topics such as:

Research Seminar and Project or Thesis (6 credits)

The research seminar (ICS 698) course must be completed before the research project/thesis is undertaken. The seminar is designed to help students learn more about current research topics in the major areas of computer science and to become more familiar with the research process.

All MSCS students must complete a practical research project (project option) or theoretical problem (thesis option) under the guidance of a full-time faculty member of the department. Students may register for variable number of credits (1-4) per semester for the project/thesis, but the total credits earned from project/thesis must be no less than four. All project/thesis credits (ICS 660I) will be graded Pass/No Credit only.

In a typical research project, the student will do some conceptual development followed by an implementation. The thesis option requires students to do original research. A thesis option is more appropriate if the student is considering the pursuit of doctoral studies elsewhere at some point. In both cases (project/thesis) the student must submit a written report of his/her work to a graduate committee and make an oral defense of the work.

Before registering for the project/thesis, the student must form a committee of at least three faculty members, the chair of which must be a resident faculty member of the ICS department. The committee must include at least two faculty members (community or resident) from the ICS department and at least two resident faculty members of Metropolitan State University.

The student must orally defend the project/thesis before the committee at least two weeks (four to six weeks is recommended) prior to the student's date of graduation. The defense may occur only after the following steps are completed:

  1. The chair of the committee approves the project/thesis report
  2. The student sends the project/thesis report to their committee, and also to director of the graduate program, who will check the report for conformance to program stipulations, quality, and authenticity. This report must be distributed at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the project/thesis defense.
  3. Any faculty member on the student's committee, or the graduate director, may reject the project/thesis report as not ready for defense within a week of receiving the report. The student must then make the necessary revisions and resubmit the report for approval.
  4. After a successful defense, the student must submit a bound copy of the report, with any requested corrections completed, to the director of the graduate program.
  5. A student may graduate only after Step 4 above is completed.

The thesis defense can have one of three outcomes:

  • The student passes the defense with no changes required to the project/thesis report.
  • The student passes the defense with the understanding that certain requested changes must be made, and approved by the committee and the graduate program director, before graduation. No further defense will be required.
  • The student fails the defense and must revise and re-defend the project/thesis.

Because outcome (A) cannot be assured (and is, indeed, rare), and because binderies may get busy near the end of semesters, students are advised to schedule their thesis defense four to six weeks prior to the end of the semester in which they plan to graduate.

Admission Criteria

The ICS department bases admission decisions on the applicant's prior academic work (especially in Computer Science), professional or other non-academic background in Computer Science, and recommendation letters. The following four items are the minimum criteria for the ICS department to consider an applicant for potential admission. Meeting these requirements is not a guarantee of admission.

  1. Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with either:
    1. a cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale), or
    2. an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 in all Computer Science and Mathematics or related courses, or
    3. in rare circumstances, a student not meeting requirements (a) or (b) might be considered if their other application materials are stellar (e.g., outstanding recommendations, excellent GRE scores, etc.)
  2. Evidence that the student's preparation includes work in Computer Science and Mathematics through the level of ICS 240 and MATH 215, through either:
    1. transcript verified credits in equivalent courses
    2. letters of recommendation and essay indicating how such competence was achieved
  3. Two positive recommendations from people qualified to judge the applicant's ability for graduate studies
  4. English language proficiency (international applicants only, on any type of visa) as documented by official TOEFL or IELTS score:
    1. Minimum TOEFL score of 80 ( internet-based), 213 (computer-based) or 550 (paper-based) achieved within 24 months of intended matriculation.
    2. Minimum IELTS score of 6.5 or higher achieved within 24 months of intended matriculation.

Application Requirements

This is a summary listing only. See Applying to the Program for full details on the application deadline and requirements, and requirements specific to international students.

  • Graduate Application; required
  • 20$ non-refundable application fee; required (waived only for graduates of Metropolitan State University)
  • Official transcripts or transcript evaluation from all undergraduate institutions attended; required
  • Two letters of recommendation; required
  • Resume; recommended
  • Purpose Essay; recommended
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) official score report; recommended

Diagnostic Exams

Transfer Credits

A maximum of eight (8) graduate credits from other universities or departments may be used for graduate credit with advisor approval. Courses used for the award of another degree at Metropolitan State or any other university may not be used again for graduate credit in the MSCS program. Prior learning and internship credits do not count toward program requirements. Independent studies are strongly discouraged except for project or thesis work. Regardless of other coursework, the student must complete at least 22 credits of ICS coursework at the 600-level at Metropolitan State University.

Academic Standing

To remain in good academic standing, the student must:

  • Earn a grade of B- or better in all courses;
  • Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0;
  • Successfully complete at least one approved course within three semesters (including summer) of admission; and
  • Finish the program within 18 semesters (summers included) of first registration as a graduate student fully admitted to the MSCS program.

Students who earn a grade less than B- in more than two classes (prerequisite undergraduate coursework or graduate level coursework) will be dismissed from the program. Students whose GPA falls below 3.0 (out of 4.0) will be given multiple semesters to bring their GPA back to 3.0 or higher. A student will be deemed to have a GPA of 3.0 or better if their GPA in their highest-graded 30 credits of coursework is 3.0 or better. Failure to remain in good academic standing will result in dismissal from the program. A dismissed student must sit out at least 3 consecutive semesters (one calendar year) and reapply for admission to continue in the program. If readmitted, the student may be asked to repeat some or all of the courses taken previously.

Reactivating into the Program

A student in good academic standing who has not registered for courses for three or more consecutive semesters (including summers) must formally request to reactivate into the degree program. To reactivate, submit a letter to the director of the MSCS program expressing a desire to reactivate into the program. You will be required to satisfy degree requirements in force at the time of reactivation, even if those requirements differ from those in force at the time of original admission to the degree program.



Brahma Dathan, Sue Fitzgerald, Thanaa Ghanem, Larry Gottschalk, KuoDi Jian (ICS graduate director), Faisal Kaleem, Jigang Liu, Milt Luoma, and Michael Stein (department chair)

Contact Information

Applicants may contact the graduate program director with questions by emailing (preferred) mscs@metrostate.edu or by contacting them directly.
KuoDi Jian, kuodi.jian@metrostate.edu or at 651-793-1478

Information Computer Systems Department
Metropolitan State University
700 East Seventh Street
New Main, Room L110
St. Paul, MN 55106