In some cases, graduate students enroll directly in the PhD program with just a Bachelor's degree in computer science. There are various reasons why such students may later desire to obtain a Master's degree along the way to the PhD, including:

  • One might simply desire to have the additional credential of "Master of Science" on his or her vitae.
  • Life situations may necessitate a move to a different institution, and one can at least move on with a Master's degree.
  • The outlook for completing the PhD might be uncertain, so obtaining the Master's degree can serve as a viable fallback option.

Fortunately, it is relatively straightforward for a PhD student to obtain a Master's degree on the way to the PhD degree. However, it is best done as soon as one contemplates this option, because it does take some planning and discussion with one's advisor.

What To Do

In essence, a student in the en route to PhD Master's option will need to complete one of the two Master's tracks: thesis or courses-only. Each track requires a final comprehensive examination. A student will determine which track to follow in consultation with his or her PhD advisor. 

How To Do It

A student taking the en route to PhD Master's degree option will need to fill out a Graduate Program of Study and Committee Form  for the Master's degree in consultation with his or her PhD advisor and submit this form to The Graduate School. This is a separate program of study from the program of study PhD students file for their PhD degree.

Occasionally, students in our PhD program who have advanced far enough that they have completed 20 or more credits of coursework, passed the PhD qualifying examination, and finished a substantial number of PhD dissertation credits, but who, due to life's vagaries, cannot finish the PhD degree. Such students can generally complete the requirements for the thesis track of the Master's degree with their completed course credits and a reallocation their PhD dissertation credits as Master's thesis credits (a thesis write-up would still be necessary). At the discretion of their PhD advisor, these students may transfer PhD dissertation credits to Master's thesis credits. Note that the Graduate School will allow a student to transfer PhD dissertation credits to Master's thesis credits, but not the other way around: one is not allowed to transfer Master's thesis credits to PhD dissertation credits.