Computer Science

Graduate Study

For information on graduate admission, see Graduate Programs on page 25.

The following introductory information is based on 2018-19 program requirements for UCLA graduate degrees. Complete program requirements are available on the graduate program requirements website. Students are subject to the detailed degree requirements as published in program requirements for the year in which they enter the program.

The Department of Computer Science offers Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in Computer Science and participates in a concurrent degree program (Computer Science M.S./Management M.B.A.) with the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management.

Computer Science M.S.

Course Requirements

Course Requirement. A total of nine courses is required for the M.S. degree, including a minimum of five graduate courses. No specific courses are required, but a majority of both the total number of formal courses and the total number of graduate courses must consist of courses offered by the Computer Science Department.

Undergraduate Courses. No lower-division courses may be applied toward graduate degrees. In addition, the following upper-division courses are not applicable toward graduate degrees: Chemical Engineering 102A, 199, Civil and Environmental Engineering 108, 199, Computer Science M152A, 152B, 199, Electrical and Computer Engineering 100, 101A, 102, 110L, M116L, 199, Materials Science and Engineering 110, 120, 130, 131, 131L, 132, 140, 141L, 150, 160, 161L, 199, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 102, 103, 105A, 105D, 199.

Breadth Requirement. M.S. degree students must satisfy the computer science breadth requirement by the end of the third term in graduate residence at UCLA. The requirement is satisfied by mastering the contents of five undergraduate courses or equivalent: Computer Science 180, two courses from 111, 118, and M151B, one course from 130, 131, or 132, and one course from 143, 161, or 174A. A UCLA undergraduate course taken by graduate students cannot be used to satisfy graduate degree requirements if students have already received a grade of B- or better for a course taken elsewhere that covers substantially the same material.

For the MS degree, students must also complete at least three terms of Computer Science 201 with grades of Satisfactory.

Competence in any or all courses in breadth requirements may be demonstrated in one of three ways:

  1. Satisfactory completion of the course at UCLA with a grade of B- or better
  2. Satisfactory completion of an equivalent course at another university with a grade of B- or better
  3. Satisfactory completion of a final examination in the course at UCLA

Comprehensive Examination Plan

In the comprehensive examination plan, at least five of the nine courses must be 200-series courses. The remaining four courses may be either 200-series or upper-division courses. No units of 500-series courses may be applied toward the comprehensive examination plan requirements.

Thesis Plan

In the thesis plan, seven of the nine courses must be formal courses, including at least four from the 200 series. The remaining two courses may be 598 courses involving work on the thesis.

The thesis is a report on the results of student investigation of a problem in the major field of study under the supervision of the thesis committee, which approves the subject and plan of the thesis and reads and approves the complete manuscript. While the problem may be one of only limited scope, the thesis must exhibit a satisfactory style, organization, and depth of understanding of the subject. Students should normally start to plan the thesis at least one year before the award of the M.S. degree is expected. There is no examination under the thesis plan.

Computer Science M.S./Management M.B.A.

The Department of Computer Science and the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management offer a concurrent degree program that enables students to complete the requirements for the M.S. in Computer Science and the M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration) in three academic years. Students should request application materials from both the M.B.A. Admissions Office, John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management, and the Department of Computer Science.

Computer Science Ph.D.

Major Fields or Subdisciplines

Artificial intelligence; computational systems biology; computer networks; computer science theory; computer system architecture; graphics and vision; data science computing; and software systems.

Course Requirements

Normally, students take courses to acquire the knowledge needed to prepare for the written and oral examinations and for conducting Ph.D. research. The basic program of study for the Ph.D. degree is built around the major field requirement and two minor fields. The major field and at least one minor field must be in computer science.

The fundamental examination is common for all Ph.D. candidates in the department and is also known as the written qualifying examination.

To satisfy the major field requirement, students are expected to attain a body of knowledge contained in five courses, as well as the current literature in the area of specialization. In particular, students are required to take a minimum of three graduate courses in the major field of Ph.D. research, selecting these courses in accordance with guidelines specific to the major field. Guidelines for course selection in each major field are available from the departmental Student Affairs Office. Grades of B- or better, with a grade-point average of at least 3.33 in all courses used to satisfy the major field requirement, are required. Students are required to satisfy the major field requirement within the first nine terms after enrolling in the graduate program.

Each minor field normally embraces a body of knowledge equivalent to two courses, at least one of which is a graduate course. Grades of B- or better, with a grade-point average of at least 3.33 in all courses included in the minor field, are required. By petition and administrative approval, a minor field may be satisfied by examination.

Breadth Requirement. Ph.D. degree students must satisfy the computer science breadth requirement by the end of the third term in graduate residence at UCLA. The requirement is satisfied by mastering the contents of five undergraduate courses or equivalent: Computer Science 180, two courses from 111, 118, and M151B, one course from 130, 131, or 132, and one course from 143, 161, or 174A. A UCLA undergraduate course taken by graduate students cannot be used to satisfy graduate degree requirements if students have already received a grade of B- or better for a course taken elsewhere that covers substantially the same material.

For the Ph.D. degree, students must also complete at least three terms of Computer Science 201 with grades of Satisfactory (in addition to the three terms of 201 that may have been completed for the M.S. degree).

Competence in any or all courses may be demonstrated in one of three ways:

  1. Satisfactory completion of the course at UCLA with a grade of B- or better
  2. Satisfactory completion of an equivalent course at another university with a grade of B- or better
  3. Satisfactory completion of a final examination in the course at UCLA

For requirements for the Graduate Certificate of Specialization, see Engineering Schoolwide Programs.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

The written qualifying examination consists of a high-quality paper, solely authored by the student. The paper can be either a research paper containing an original contribution or a focused critical survey paper. The paper should demonstrate that the student understands and can integrate and communicate ideas clearly and concisely. It should be approximately 10 pages single-spaced, and the style should be suitable for submission to a first-rate technical conference or journal. The paper must represent work that the student did as a graduate student at UCLA. Any contributions that are not the student’s own, including those of the student’s adviser, must be explicitly acknowledged in detail. Prior to submission, the paper must by reviewed by the student’s adviser on a cover page with the adviser’s signature indicating review. After submission, the paper must be reviewed and approved by at least two other members of the faculty. There are two deadlines a year for submission of papers.

After passing the preliminary examination and coursework for the major and minor fields, the student should form a doctoral committee and prepare to take the University Oral Qualifying Examination. A doctoral committee consists of a minimum of four members. Three members, including the chair, must hold appointments in the department. The remaining member must be a UCLA faculty member in another department. The nature and content of the oral qualifying examination are at the discretion of the doctoral committee but ordinarily include a broad inquiry into the student’s preparation for research. The doctoral committee also reviews the prospectus of the dissertation at the oral qualifying examination.