The M.S. program in Computer Science is intended to:
- prepare individuals to enter the computer field at a relatively high level of responsibility and expertise (implying an advanced level of knowledge, and advanced training in both technical and related areas, such as communication skills);
- prepare students for study beyond the master's degree; to update and extend the skills of individuals who possess an undergraduate degree in computer science;
- prepare individuals to teach computer sience courses in two-year programs or at the pre-college level;
- provide formal training for those individuals already working in the computer field who may have experience in the field but possess little formal education in computer science.
For those individuals who do not work in the field but desire to enter, and for those who possess limited experience and training in computer science, the program provides a series of special "immigration" courses to solidify their background prior to entering the M.S. coursework. Such courses do not form a part of the M.S. program of study.
The M.S. program is not designed explicitly for those who wish to teach; no education courses are required by the program. The faculty feel that it is of primary importance for a student to gain experience with and mastery of the concepts, theory, and practice of computer science; this is also the view of the SACs accreditation body for two-year colleges.
The M.S. program is designed to develop the student's skills in critical professional thinking and intuition, to make the student capable of sound professional evaluations and decisions. A graduate should be able to assume a responsible position in business, government, and education at the research, development, and planning levels, or to pursue further formal training.
The structure of the program requires students to gain a broad understanding of the field, including techniques and methodologies from several different areas of computer science. It presents the theoretical basis for computing as it is currently understood, emphasizes the role of experimentation, and demonstrates the application of theory to practice.
The M.S. program does not have specialties, although a student may use electives to provide extra coursework in an area of particular interest. Students are assumed to possess prior knowledge of an application area through their undergraduate degree or their work experience. If this is not the case, a student will be encouraged to develop such an understanding.
The program is designed and administered to accommodate a part-time student who works during the day. The majority of current graduate students are in this category.
A graduate must be able to communicate using clear, technically accurate means with both professionals in the computer field and those in other fields. The written and oral communication skills of the students are evaluated and polished by several means in the M.S. program. Almost every graduate course in computer science requires one or more written papers. These papers require the student to carry out academic library research, to be cognizant of the pertinent journals and literature in the field, and to organize, present, and analyze their findings. These papers are judged on the level of professional communication exhibited as well as the content of the paper. Some courses require oral presentations in addition to written papers.
Every student is required to complete a thesis or project as a culminating activity. This requires the student to combine and apply knowledge from several courses. It extends the student's experience in analysis, design, application, and evaluation, and reinforces the importance of good communication skills. The student must prepare a written document as well as a public oral presentation on the work performed.