Applications for admission to the traditional M.S./Ph.D. program are accepted from students with undergraduate majors in many different fields, including computer science, mathematics, engineering, psychology, linguistics, economics, physics, philosophy and business. Minimally, the student should have had some programming experience (including courses in data structures and machine organization) and should have had a year of college-level mathematics at the level of calculus or above. Strong students can sometimes be admitted to graduate work in CS without having had programming experience or mathematics courses as described, but they will have to make up the deficiencies.

The department does not distinguish between traditional M.S. and Ph.D. students at admission time. Several of our Ph.D. graduates started out as M.S. students and later on decided to switch to the Ph.D. track. Students on the Ph.D. track are encouraged to obtain an M.S. along the way.

Students applying to the traditional M.S./Ph.D. program may also consider applying to the Professional Master’s Program (PMP), provided they have at least one year of current or prior work experience. To apply to the PMP, simply select the option "Computer Science MS--Professional Program" during the application process, in addition to selecting the options for the traditional M.S. or Ph.D. programs.

Most students admitted to the traditional M.S./Ph.D. program are offered financial aid.

Standard application process

This is the process for all applicants other than current UW-Madison graduate students.

Applications are normally accepted for fall semester admission only. Completed applications are due no later than December 15.

Applications run through the Graduate School. Departmental requirements for admission are more stringent than those of the Graduate School. The following items are essential for an application to be considered by the department:

  • Letters of recommendation. All applicants, whether requesting financial aid or not, must have three letters of recommendation. Recommendations are submitted online to the Graduate School as part of the application process.
  • GRE general scores. All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), offered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and request that ETS send the scores to UW-Madison. Applicants should sign up to take the GRE at the earliest possible date. Processing of scores takes up to six weeks.
  • Official school records. Official transcripts are required from each institution where the applicant did prior academic work. Applicants are required to scan their official transcripts into the graduate school application. Paper transcripts or electronic transcripts will not be accepted during the application process. If an institution does not issue official transcripts, a letter from an administrator of the institution should be scanned into the application instead. The letter should include: (a) year of admission, (b) number of years enrolled at the institution, (c) reference to the quality of work (analysis of grading system), (d) evidence that examinations were passed, (e) diploma certifying degree, class and year, and (f) General Certificate of Education or equivalent.
  • Evidence of English proficiency. Each applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score.  See the Graduate School requirements for more details.

Further information:

Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator if you have any remaining questions.

Application process for current UW-Madison graduate students

Graduate students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program at UW-Madison need to follow a different procedure for:

  • Obtaining a second MS in CS, provided that they already have a record in CS graduate courses that is uniformly excellent. Applications are accepted three times during each academic year, with deadlines of
    • one week before the start of classes in the Spring term for admission in Spring term,
    • the last day of classes in Spring term for admission in Summer term, and
    • one week before the start of classes in the Fall term for admission in Fall term.
  • Changing the major to CS, with the intention of completing a PhD in CS. Applications are normally accepted for fall semester admission only, and the deadline is January 1.
  • Switching from the professional track in CS to the traditional track in CS, with the intention of completing a PhD in CS. Applications are normally accepted for fall semester admission only, and the deadline is January 1.

Further information: