Jul 01, 2022  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog

Computer Science, M.S.

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Maureen Doyle, Ph.D., Department Chair

Wei Hao, Ph.D., Graduate Program Director

*Please note the MS Computer Information Technology program is no longer accepting applications after spring 2020.



The purpose of the Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) program is to educate professionals to bring a high level of creativity, skill, knowledge, and judgment to bear on the increasingly dynamic and exciting challenges in the computer science profession. The curriculum is a combination of:

  • Studies of the enduring principles of computer science
  • Critical examination of the ideas behind new trends in software technology and software engineering
  • Programming experience covering modern software engineering practices

The MSCS program is aimed at those who wish to update and deepen their expertise in the craft and science of software engineering or who wish to study the current state of computer science at an advanced level. The program is designed for part-time students attending classes in the evening and on weekends.

Office of the MSCS Program

The MSCS program is administered by the Department of Computer Science, located in GH 400. For additional information visit nku.edu/academics/informatics/programs/graduate/mscs.html or contact Dr. Wei Hao, MSCS director, at (859) 572-5659 or haow1@nku.edu.


Regular Admission

In addition to the requirements for graduate admission to NKU, the following are required for regular admission to the MSCS program:

  1. A bachelor’s degree at a regionally accredited institution.
  2. An undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in computer science and mathematics courses.
  3. One year of calculus and a course in discrete mathematics.

Students with a bachelor’s degree who have a GPA below 3.0 but above 2.6: Please contact the MSCS Program Director to be considered for regular admission. You will be asked to submit additional evidence of your potential for being successful in the MSCS program that is judged satisfactory by the MSCS Admission Committee. Such evidence may include: previous graduate degree from a regionally accredited institution, graduate work at a regionally accredited institution with a GPA of 3.0 or above, work experience in computer science field, GRE or GMAT scores, up to two letters of recommendation, and/or professional certifications.

Admitted students who do not have an adequate computer science background will be required to complete CSC 500 Object-Oriented Programming (3 credits)  and/or CSC 501 Data Structures and Computer Systems (1-3 credits) .

Provisional Admission

A student who is unable to provide one of the required admissions documents prior to the start of classes, under certain restrictions, may be granted provisional admission by the MSCS Admissions Committee.

Applicants who do not have an adequate math background may also be admitted provisionally and will be required to complete MAT 229 (Calculus II) and/or MAT 385 (Discrete Math).

Application Process

Students can apply online at http://apply.nku.edu. All transcripts, GRE score reports and optional resume should be sent to Northern Kentucky University, Office of Graduate Education, 1 Nunn Drive, Highland Heights, KY 41099. Deadlines for receipt of materials are: August 1 for fall semester, December 1 for spring semester, and May 1 for summer session. All applicants with transcripts from outside the U.S. must have those transcripts evaluated course by course by an approved foreign education evaluation service. These must be submitted along with original or certified copies of the transcripts.

Academic Requirements

The Master of Science program in Computer Science consists of the following components:

  1. An intermediate core which builds a foundation for master’s-level study. Many of these classes are cross-listed variants of senior-level undergraduate classes, and students who have had the equivalents of these courses may have them waived.
  2. An advanced core which covers the central areas of computer science in depth, with a strong slant toward the needs of software engineers.
  3. A set of elective courses to add breadth to the program at the intermediate and advanced level.
  4. A thesis option for students who wish to pursue a research topic in depth; see section IV below.
  5. A minimum of 30 credit hours is required to earn the MS degree.

♦ Indicates prerequisite.

Intermediate Core Courses (15 credit hours)

A student must complete all of the following courses, or have them waived due to equivalent upper-level undergraduate work.

Elective Courses (9-15 Credit Hours)

A student who is not electing the Thesis Option must complete 15 credit hours of electives from the list below, including at least 9 credit hours at the 600-level. No more than six combined hours of CSC 599  and CSC 699  may be counted toward the degree. A student who is electing the thesis option must elect 9 credit hours from the list below, including at least 3 credit hours at the 600-level excluding CSC 699 . Students may not count both CSC 515  and CSC 516  toward 500-level electives in the MSCS degree.

Transfer Credit

Students may transfer up to nine semester hours of appropriate, acceptable graduate coursework from other regionally accredited institutions.

Course Waivers

Course waivers may be granted for intermediate core (500 level) courses by the graduate program director when students have demonstrated a mastering of knowledge and expertise in these courses:

Waivers are considered in the following situations:

  1. NKU has documented course equivalencies and course(s) were taken within the previous 7 years:
  • Course waiver granted automatically if a grade of C- or above was earned in an intermediate core course.
  1. No documented course equivalencies:
  • Students must apply for waivers before completing their first 15 credits. Once the waiver is submitted, a decision on waivers will be granted by the end of the student’s next semester.
  • Students can apply for waivers based on previous course, work experience, and/or take a content exam. Supporting materials may include:
    • A previous course
      -Course syllabus, including topics covered or syllabus and a list of topics covered.
      -Transcript showing the student earned a grade of C- or higher on the class.
      -Student work submitted and graded for the course.
    • Work Experience
      -Detailed support correlating work experience and course material content. Supporting prose should not exceed one page.
      -Additional examples of content proficiency.
  • A student may request to take a course content exam to demonstrate mastery of the material for any intermediate core course. A student can take a course content exam for a specific intermediate core course only once.

A waiver does not alter NKU’s MS degree requirements for 30 credit hours of course work. Additional electives are required when waiving courses reduces the required credit hours below 30 hours.

A waiver does not prohibit a student from enrolling in a waived course. However, when a student is enrolled in course after the last day to add a course during any semester, the waiver for the course is voided and will not be reinstated.

Thesis Option


The thesis option in the Master of Science in Computer Science degree program exists for students who wish to explore an area of contemporary computer science or software engineering in depth and conduct original research in that area. A thesis is not required for an MS degree, and it is assumed that students who choose this path have especially strong aptitude and motivation. It is recommended that students who may continue their graduate education at the doctoral level pursue the thesis option.


A master’s thesis will generally involve original formulation of research hypotheses supported by computational modeling and simulation and/or mathematical arguments or construction of a software product of significant originality and complexity. In all cases, MS thesis work will require a review of recent pertinent research literature and, if applicable, existing software solutions. Although joint projects may be undertaken for thesis work, the responsibility of each thesis author in the project must be clearly delineated.


Each student initiates the thesis option by making contact with one graduate faculty member in computer science who will serve as principal thesis advisor and thesis committee chair. The advisor and the student will assemble a thesis committee consisting of at least two additional faculty members. One of these two committee members must come from outside the Department of Computer Science.


The student must submit a formal thesis proposal to the prospective thesis committee. This is a document approximately six pages in length describing the work proposed and providing preliminary references to the literature. This proposal must be approved by each member of the thesis committee as well as the MSCS graduate program director. Thesis proposals will not be approved until the student has completed at least six hours of 600-level coursework in computer science with a GPA of at least 3.5. Once the proposal is approved, the student may register for CSC 797  Thesis Direction.

Thesis Credit

The amount of work required for an MS thesis is roughly equivalent to six hours of 600-level coursework in computer science. Accordingly, thesis students are required to register for CSC 797  and CSC 798  for a total of six credit hours over two semesters. A letter grade will be awarded once the thesis is successfully defended (see below). During this period it is expected the student will remain in regular contact with the thesis advisor and consult periodically with the other committee members. All additional graduate credit must be in regular coursework; no credits of CSC 699  may count toward MSCS requirements.


The format for the thesis must conform to the requirements of the NKU Office of Graduate Education.


Successful completion of an MS thesis requires a public defense, a presentation of the results of the thesis to the committee and an audience of faculty and students. The student and the thesis advisor must make arrangements for a place and time that are generally accessible to the university community. Notification of time and place of a public defense must be provided to the MSCS graduate program director at least three weeks in advance of the defense.


The thesis is regarded as complete when each member of the thesis committee certifies that both the public defense and production of the thesis manuscript are concluded satisfactorily. Submission dates and procedures for the manuscript must follow the timeline given by the NKU Office of Graduate Education. In particular, there is a time limit of one year from the time a student first registers for CSC 797  to the time the thesis must be completed.

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