Professional Master’s Program


Step 1

Review the Graduate School Admission Requirements

Satisfy the Graduate School requirements with respect to undergraduate grade-point average, bachelor’s degree, English proficiency, and international financial information.

Submit three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a CV/Resume, and a personal statement. In addition, applicants are encouraged to submit any additional information deemed relevant. The GRE general test is recommended but not required at this time due to difficulties related to COVID.

Step 2

Complete UW’s Graduate School Application

If you would also like to be considered for the traditional MS program (or the PhD program) as well as the PMP, indicate this on the “Program Selection” webpage. You you do not need to upload duplicate sets of everything: You may use the same application materials for both applications. If you are admitted to both, you can select which program to attend.

The deadline for the traditional MS or PhD is December 15. If you apply after that date, you can only apply to the PMP. Any other options selected will be ignored by the admission committee.

Step 3

Submit the Supplemental Application

As a part of the electronic application, you will be directed to a page that requires supplemental information for the computer sciences  department. For the PMP, please enter information regarding your work experience. The supplemental application is where you can upload additional materials (e.g. thesis, project, or research paper).

If you are also applying for either the traditional MS or PhD, you will be required to complete these supplemental applications as well. Be sure to submit your application for the traditional programs by December 15.

Step 4

Send GRE and TOEFL/IELTS scores (if required) to the Graduate School

We recommend but do not require at this time (due to difficulties related to COVID) the GRE General Test. We do not require the subject GRE. If you choose to take the GRE, please arrange for test scores to be sent electronically (no paper copies) to the Graduate School by using the UW–Madison institution code (1846). Since the university stores scores in a centralized database, the department code you choose does not matter. GRE scores are accepted if the test is taken within five years of the start of the admission term.

TOEFL or IELTS scores are accepted if the test is taken within two years of the start of the admission term.

Transcript Procedure

Please do NOT not send paper transcripts to the department. We require that you scan a copy of your official transcript (issued by your college or university) from each university and college you have attended and upload it to your electronic application. Although many colleges now allow students access to their academic record to print, we do not consider this an official transcript. Your application will be considered incomplete unless it contains uploaded official transcripts from each postsecondary institution you have attended. If you are offered admission, you will be required to submit paper official transcripts to the Graduate School. Please do not send them until they are requested.

Degree Requirements & Curriculum

Complete at least 30 credits, with an average grade of at least B, distributed as follows:

  • Fifteen credits must be received for core graduate-level CS courses numbered 700-889. Specific offerings of CS courses 837, 838, and 880 are counted as core classes only with approval of the Graduate Advising Committee.
  • All remaining credits must be received for courses at 400 level or higher.
  • CS 799 (Master’s Research) and CS 790 (Master’s Thesis) can be taken at most three times, for a maximum total of six credits, which count toward the 15-credit requirement above. Enrolling in CS 799 for an independent study first requires faculty member permission. Most independent studies are worth 2-3 credits, depending on the amount of work planned. There are no lectures to attend for this course but may require weekly meetings, mutually determined by student and professor. When taking CS 799, the student can study and write an in-depth survey on a research topic that is relevant to his or her work or examine how the course materials can be applied to his or her everyday work
  • No more than three credits can be received for attending CS seminar courses offered by various groups in the department, or department-wide colloquiums (ex: CS 900 or CS 915). Only one credit can be earned per semester. For CS 900 credit, students must attend at least four seminar lectures.

Many CS courses have research-intensive project components. PMP students can elect to do instead a project that studies research papers in depth, surveys a cutting-edge topic, or examines how to apply what they learn to their daytime work. In addition, PMP students have the option of conducting independent studies under the supervision of our faculty. Based on the above requirements, below is a sample course plan that allows a working professional to complete the PMP in two years:

  • Year 1, fall: CS 564, CS 577
  • Year 1, spring: CS 784, CS 770, attend seminars for 1 cr
  • Year 1, summer: CS 799 (3 cr of independent study)
  • Year 2, fall: CS 540, CS 799 (3 cr of independent study), attending seminars for 1 credit
  • Year 2, spring: CS 764, CS 760, attending seminars for 1 credit

Prior Coursework
A student may apply up to 14 credits of prior course work to meet PMP requirements and must complete at least 16 credits in the PMP (to meet the current residency requirement). Please see the Graduate School’s policy on Prior Coursework, including credit limits and tuition differential payment.

Coursework in other departments
Students enrolled in the Professional Master’s Program are not allowed to enroll in courses in other departments. Exceptions need to be approved by a faculty advisor.

Advising requirements
At the start of the program and each year thereafter, students will need to submit a tentative plan of study to be approved by their assigned faculty advisor. Students are welcome to meet with their assigned faculty advisor to further discuss their program plan of study.

Course offerings
We will consider offering a subset of our CS courses in the evenings, to ensure that those students who cannot take time off work to attend our regular daytime courses can attend these evening courses. Currently we do not offer online courses, but will consider them as the program grows.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the difference between the Professional Master’s Program and the traditional MS 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 MS program. Instead, applicants to the traditional MS program or the PhD program are automatically considered for admission to the combined MS/PhD 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 MS degree or a PhD degree.

In contrast, the Professional Master’s Program (PMP) is a terminal MS program. It targets working professionals who want to pursue an MS 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 MS program at UW–Madison, not on their potential to do research leading to a PhD degree.

What kind of MS degree would PMP participants receive?

The department grants only one MS degree, with two named options leading to it: the traditional MS program and the Professional Master’s Program. PMP graduates will receive the exact same MS degree that students in the traditional MS 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: “Master of Science—Computer Sciences, Major: Computer Sciences, Option: Professional Program.”

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

You would need to apply to the academic track in computer sciences in order to undertake a PhD. Strong applicants have completed at least two semesters of PMP coursework.

Can international students apply to the PMP?

Yes. We have a large number of international students in our regular MS/PhD 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.

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Can I apply to both the traditional MS/PhD program and the PMP?

Yes. When you apply, you will eventually see a page titled “Program Selection,” with three options: traditional MS, PhD, and professional MS. You can select any combination of these three. If the combination that you select includes traditional MS or PhD, you will be evaluated for the traditional MS/PhD program (based primarily on your potential to do research and complete the PhD program, as mentioned earlier). If the combination that you select includes professional MS, you will be evaluated for the PMP (based primarily on your potential to complete the Professional Master’s Program).

If you are admitted into both programs, you may decide which one to attend.

Keep in mind that the deadline for the traditional MS or PhD is December 15, while the application deadline for PMP is March 15. If you apply after December 15, you will only be considered for the PMP. Applications received after this date for the traditional MS/PhD will not be reviewed.

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

No. In this case, you may upload the same personal statement for both programs.

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.

Is full-time work experience required to be eligible for admission?

Full-time work experience is preferred; however, it is not a hard requirement for admission. Use the work experience section in the supplemental application to describe any kind of professional or work experience, including internships, research, part-time positions, etc.

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 traditional MS/PhD 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.

Whom should I contact if I still have questions?

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