Professional Master's Program: Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between the Professional Master's Program and the regular M.S. Program?

The two programs differ primarily in how they evaluate applicants and who qualifies to apply to which program. The department does not have a stand-alone regular M.S. program. Instead, applicants to the regular M.S. program or the Ph.D. program are automatically considered for admission to the combined M.S./Ph.D. program. This admission process is highly competitive and evaluates applicants based primarily on their potential to do research and complete a Ph.D. Those offered admission can exit with an M.S. degree or a Ph.D. degree.

In contrast, the Professional Master's Program (PMP) is a terminal M.S. program. It targets working professionals who want to pursue an M.S. degree to further educate themselves, obtain cutting-edge knowledge in the fast-moving IT field, apply what they learn to their jobs, and seek career advancement. Furthermore, the PMP admission process evaluates applicants primarily on their potential to complete a challenging M.S. program at UW-Madison, not on their potential to do research leading to a Ph.D. degree.

What if once in the PMP program, I change my mind and want to work toward a Ph.D. degree?

You would need to apply to the academic track in computer sciences in order to undertake a Ph.D.  Read the instructions on how to do this.

What kind of M.S. degree would PMP participants receive?

The department grants only a single kind of M.S. degree, with two named options leading to it: the regular M.S. program and the Professional Master's Program. Thus, PMP participants would receive exactly the same M.S. degree that students in the regular M.S. program receive. The designation on the diploma will read "Master of Science--Computer Sciences." The transcript, however, will list the named option that leads to the degree. Thus, the designation on the transcript of PMP students will read "Master of Science--Computer Sciences, Major: Computer Sciences, Option: Professional Program."

Can international students apply to the PMP?

Yes. We have a large number of international students in our regular M.S./Ph.D. program, and we welcome international applicants for the PMP.

I am an international student. May I participate in the program long-distance?

At the moment, our PMP does not yet support this option. You would need to be present on the Madison campus. If you accept our offer of admission, the Graduate School will send an I-20 form that you can use to apply for a visa to come to the UW-Madison campus to study.

May I apply for financial aid?

Direct financial support from the CS Professional Master's Program is not available. However, students can contact the Office of Student Financial Aid to discuss federal loan programs and other lending opportunities. Students interested in financial assistance should call Student Financial Aid at (608) 262-3060.

Am I eligible for a graduate assistantship?

Students enrolled in the Professional Master's Program in the Department of Computer Sciences are not allowed to accept research assistantships, teaching assistantships, project assistantships or other University appointments that grant waivers of tuition and/or academic fees anywhere on campus. Accepting an assistantship or tuition waiver while enrolled in the program may lead to removal of the student from the Professional Master's Program in Computer Sciences. Corporate tuition support is not included in these categories, nor is the waiver of tuition due to veteran status.

Can I apply to both the regular combined M.S./Ph.D. program and the PMP?

Yes. When you apply, you will eventually see a page titled "Intended Field of Study," with three pull-down options: regular M.S., Ph.D., and professional M.S. You can select any combination of these three. If the combination that you select includes regular M.S. or Ph.D., you will be evaluated for the combined M.S./Ph.D. program (based primarily on your potential to do research and complete the Ph.D. program, as mentioned earlier). If the combination that you select includes professional M.S., you will be evaluated for the PMP (based primarily on your potential to complete the Professional Master's Program).

If you select both "tracks" (for example, regular M.S. and professional M.S.), you will be evaluated for both. If you are admitted into both programs, you may decide which one to attend. Keep in mind, however, that you must have at least one year of prior work experience (by the time you enroll in the PMP) in order to apply for the PMP. Furthermore, the deadline for the regular M.S. or Ph.D. is December 15. So if you apply after December 15, you can only apply to the PMP (until March 15). If you apply after December 15 and also select non-PMP options (that is, regular M.S. or Ph.D.), those will be ignored when we evaluate your application.

What is the degree requirement for the PMP and what courses I am required to take?

See the program's degree requirements and curriculum.

How long does it take to complete the PMP?

A student taking two courses per semester can finish the PMP within two years. The program is designed such that two courses per semester constitutes a manageable workload for a working professional who attends the PMP part time. (Of course, both international and domestic students are welcome to attend the PMP full time.)

Can I do an internship during the PMP?

Yes. Our students in the regular M.S./Ph.D. program have often applied for and completed internships during the summer following the first year of study. They have interned at numerous high-tech companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft, and many of them have received job offers even after the first year of study. We encourage our PMP students to apply for internships to deepen their academic knowledge and to gain further work experience. If you complete an internship in the summer after the first year of study, it can be counted toward CS 799 (independent study) credits (see the program's degree requirements).

How much does the program cost?

Costs are listed on the Tuition and Fees page of the Office of the Registrar. In fiscal year 2013, costs are $789.75 per credit for Wisconsin residents and $1,622.68 per credit for non-residents (including international students). Thus, since the program is 30 credits, residents pay on average $4,734 per semester (assuming 5 semesters: fall and spring for Year 1 and Year 2, and the summer in between), or $23,670 for the whole program. Non-residents pay on average $9,738 per semester, or $48,690 for the whole program.


What are the application requirements?

The application requirements are exactly the same as the requirements for applicants to the regular M.S./Ph.D. program, with some minor modifications. Specifically, applicants to the regular M.S./Ph.D. program must:

  • satisfy the graduate school requirements with respect to undergraduate grade-point average, bachelor's degree, English proficiency, and international financial information (see this page for details)
  • submit three letters of recommendation, GRE general test, official transcripts, and a personal statement.

In addition, they are encouraged to submit any additional information deemed relevant, such as a CV.

Applicants to the PMP must also satisfy the above requirements. At least one year of prior or current working experience (by the time they enroll in the PMP), either in the U.S. or abroad, is preferred. Working experience is defined as full-time employment at a company/startup, organization, or government agency, after finishing the undergraduate program. You should indicate in the personal statement where you worked or are currently working, and for how long. If you submit a CV, you should indicate that in the CV as well.

What should be in my personal statement?

We use the personal statement (also known as "reasons for graduate study" or "statement of purpose") to better understand your background in computer sciences, and to evaluate your potential to complete the Professional Master's Program at UW-Madison. Any information you provide to help with the above goals is appreciated. If there is anything else you would like us to know, this is also the place to include it.

If I apply to both the regular M.S. and the PMP, do I have to submit two separate personal statements?

No. In this case, you may upload just one personal statement, and you may upload it into any of the two available slots (either into the regular M.S. or into the PMP).

What else I should know about GRE, TOEFL, recommendation letters or other application requirements?

See frequently asked questions (FAQs) about these issues in the FAQ for the regular M.S/Ph.D. program. Most of those questions and answers apply to the PMP as well, except for deadlines. Because the application deadline for the PMP is later than that for the regular M.S./Ph.D. program (March 15 vs. December 15), you have more time to prepare and submit materials (such as GRE, TOEFL, and letters of recommendation).


Where can I find more information about the PMP?

You can find out more about the program's degree requirements and curriculum. When you are ready, you can start the application process on this page.

Whom should I contact if I still have questions?

We welcome further questions. Please contact our Professional Programs Coordinator.