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MS | Frequently Asked Questions

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If your inquiries aren't addressed below, you are welcome to connect with any of the CS Student Services team that specializes in the Masters program.

Courses, Specializations, Program Sheets, & Unit Requirements

  1. How can I get information about courses? The course descriptions for CS classes can be found in ExploreCourses and the actual list of courses offered each quarter (and links to their websites) can be found on the Courses tab of our website. Additionally, you can get student feedback for most of the courses through Carta.
  2. How can I find out if my undergraduate coursework will satisfy the MS CS Foundation requirements? You might be able to waive Foundation courses. Please read the Foundations Requirements tab of our website. Your faculty advisor is the person who will authorize any exemptions.
  3. If the add/drop deadline has passed, is it too late to drop a class? Will it show on my transcript if I withdraw from a class now? Once the add/drop deadline has passed, you cannot drop a class. You can withdraw from a course up until the "withdraw" deadline, it will show up as "W" on your transcript. A "W" is not considered to be a low grade, it simply indicates that you withdrew from the class after the add/drop deadline.
  4. Can I take the same seminar more than once? If the seminar is labeled "repeatable for credit," then you can take the same seminar as many times as you want as long as you do not count more than 3 units of seminars in total towards your MS degree.
  5. Which specialization should I consider if I want to study XXXX? Look through the descriptions of all our different specializations to get an idea of which specialization would be best for you.
  6. Can I take CS399 Independent Study more than once? Yes and you can count it towards your MS degree. For most specializations, up to 6 units of these courses can be counted towards the depth requirements; the rest can be counted as electives.
  7. If I am a second year MS student, can I use the program sheet requirement for this year? For example, I started my MS in Fall 2022. Can I use the program sheet of 2023-24 instead of 2022-23? Yes, you may use a program sheet from any year that you were/are enrolled in the MS CS program.
  8. What courses can I count as electives on my program sheet? Courses numbered 112 and above in the Computer Science department (except CS161A, 196, 198, and 390A/B/C) can be counted as electives. In general, non-CS courses in the School of Engineering, Mathematics, or Statistics Departments that are numbered above 100 and are of a technical nature are acceptable, technical meaning that the course involves programming, use of college-level mathematics/statistics or engineering concepts. Up to one elective may be of a non-technical nature as long as it is related to the degree program and has advisor approval.
  9. What is the minimum number of units I can take per quarter? Is it the same for my last quarter before graduation? Every student has to register for at least 8 units per quarter. The only exceptions are summer quarter when a student can enroll in 0-10 units, and the last quarter before graduation when students may, by filling a Request for Graduate Part-Time Enrollment, take as few as 3 units.
  10. What is the minimum number of units required for the degree? You have to complete 45 units and no transfer units are allowed. 

Course Assistantship (CAs)

  1. Can I CA if I'm an undergraduate student? No, undergraduate students are not eligible to work as CA's. However, we do hire undergraduate students as Section Leaders for courses. For more information about Section Leading, see the CS198 website.
  2. Can Coterm students be CA's? Yes, Coterm students are eligible for CA positions if they have at least 180 undergraduate units by the beginning of the quarter of the CAship. Coterm students with undergraduate tuition status must convert to graduate tuition status by the beginning of that quarter. 
  3. On the CA application, can I list multiple courses with the same preference? Yes, you are able to list multiple courses with the same preference. Some students choose to list many courses as their top choice as a way to increase they're chances of receiving a position. However, there's a drawback for doing this. If you're ranked highly for multiple courses, there's no way for us to know what your actual preferences are and we will assign you to whichever course has the most need. If this happens, we will not allow you to switch courses after offer letters have gone out. So, if your preferences aren't clear and you receive an offer for a course that wasn't your top choice, please don't email us asking to switch courses.
  4. Can I switch courses after receiving a CA offer? No. We hire around 200+ CA's each quarter and making the CA assignments is a complex and time-consuming process. If you receive a CA offer then that's the course you've been assigned to. You have the option to accept the offer, or decline it. 
  5. What happens if I apply and then change my mind? Submitting an application doesn't lock you into anything and students are able to make changes to their applications up until the application deadline. Even if selected, you always have the option of turning down the offer when we send out the offer letters. However, once an offer is officially accepted, we do treat that as a hard commitment
  6. Can I hold more than one CAship at a time? No, but you can combine a 25% CAship with a 25% RAship. If you hold both positions, you'll receive the same compensation as a 50% assistant. For more information, please visit the Graduate Student Assistantship page of the Administrative Guide.
  7. How can I increase my chances of being chosen for a position? Connecting with instructors prior to the application process, and having them rank you highly for a course, is the best way to increase your chances of receiving a position. Applying for the larger-volume courses will also give you a better chance at receiving a position than if you apply to smaller courses; the higher the enrollment for a course, the more CAs we hire, so smaller-volume courses get more competitive in CA hiring. 
  8. What happens if I miss the application deadline? There is a late application period that takes place after the first round of offers has been sent. During this time, the application site is reopened and anyone that wasn't able to get an application in for the first round can submit one. 
  9. I've submitted my application, when will I find out if I've gotten the position? We receive a high volume of applications and it will take some time to process. For Autumn quarter assignments, offers are made in early September. For Winter quarter, offers are made in early December. And for Spring and Summer, offers are made in early March.
    • If a student is not selected for a position, we will send out an email notification to CS students shortly after offer letters have been sent. If you are a non-CS student that would like to receive these notification emails, please be sure to sign up for our CA Announce Mailing List.
  10. Why didn't I receive any communication about the application deadlines? If you're worried that you aren't receiving communication regarding CA applications and deadlines, you can check the application deadlines for each quarter. If you've confirmed that a notification has been sent out and you have not received it, please be sure to check your spam folder. If you are not a CS student, double-check that you are on the CAships mailing list.

 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  1. How can I do a Curricular Practical Training? Information can be found at the Bechtel International Center website.
  2. What is the minimum number of units I have to register for if I do CPT during the summer quarter? Students may choose to enroll in as little as 1 unit during the summer. CPT is a one-unit course and may be the only course on the summer quarter study list. Students can enroll in CS390A once, CS390B once, and CS390C once.