Prospective Student FAQs

Computational Science and Engineering Program General Information

How is the CSE program different from a traditional computer science (CS) degree program?

The CSE program includes emphases in foundational areas such as high-performance computing, computational data analysis and machine learning, modeling and simulation, discrete algorithms, and numerical and scientific computing. It is inherently interdisciplinary, integrating topics in computer science, mathematics, science, and engineering and including one or more application domains where computing skills could be used to solve real-world problems. Students are required to take courses outside of computer science to develop broader computational skills and deeper knowledge in application areas, such as biology or finance. 

A computer science program typically includes a wider range of traditional computer science areas and is not intended to be interdisciplinary.  Students may take little to no coursework outside of computer science and may not be interested in application areas. 

What is a home unit in the CSE program?

Each student chooses to apply to the CSE program through a specific “home unit,” which is a School/Department that will serve as the student’s academic and administrative home within the CSE program if the student is admitted. Application deadlines, financial assistance and lab space are typically determined by the rules and practices of each home unit. In addition, in many home units there is an expectation that students will select some courses from the home unit. See the CSE Student Handbook for more information. 

How should I select a home unit in the CSE program?

You should choose a home unit that aligns with your background and interests. For Ph.D. and M.S. thesis students, an important consideration is the home unit of the program faculty with whom you have the closest research interests, since your research advisor(s) must be a CSE program faculty member in your home unit. In general, students homed in a particular discipline will be expected to have some proficiency background or demonstrated interest within that discipline; for example, students homed in the School of Physics would be expected to have or to develop some expertise in physics. 

I am interested in your master’s degree program, but my undergraduate degree is not in computer science, mathematics, a physical science (e.g., physics, chemistry, or biology) or engineering. Can I still be considered for admission?

Yes, students from any undergraduate background are encouraged to apply. All aspects of the applicant’s background will be considered, including work or other academic experience. The curriculum does require a certain amount of background in mathematics (e.g., multivariable/vector calculus, linear algebra, probability/statistics) and computing (e.g., computer programming, data structures, algorithms) to succeed, and you should be prepared to explain your background in these areas if it will not be clear from your academic transcripts. In some cases, students may be required to strengthen their background, e.g., by completing preparatory coursework before admission or during the first semester. 

My background isn’t in computers, but I’ve worked with them a lot. What types of prerequisite courses should I take to prepare me for the program?

Students entering the program should have developed a proficiency in programming in a high-level language. Languages like Python, MATLAB, C/C++, Julia, FORTRAN, Java and others may be used in the CSE discipline, depending on the application. Computer science courses in software design and development, algorithms, and data structures would be useful, as well as some introduction to computer architecture/systems. Students with limited background in these traditional computer science topics may still gain admission, but should expect to take some additional coursework,  such as CSE 6010: Computational Problem Solving. 

Am I eligible for this program? What computing and math background should I have?

If your interests and background align with the program, absolutely! Both M.S. and Ph.D. students will need appropriate background in computing (e.g., computer programming, data structures, algorithms) and mathematics (e.g., multivariable/vector calculus, linear algebra, probability/statistics) to succeed. You should be prepared to explain your background in these areas in your application if it will not be clear from your academic transcripts. We also offer coursework to help students with strong programming backgrounds quickly learn traditional computer science topics like data structures, algorithms, and systems and to help students review topics in linear algebra and probability. Please also review Application Requirements.  

Can I change my home unit after I have been admitted to the program?

Possibly; such a change requires the approval of the home unit to which you would like to transfer. At the Ph.D. level, an important consideration in granting such requests will be whether a potential research advisor(s) in the home unit to which you wish to transfer has been identified and has expressed a commitment to supporting you. Please contact the home unit to which you would like to transfer for further information about the process.

How long does it take to complete the program?

M.S. students usually complete the program in three semesters (e.g., fall, spring, and fall). Sometimes students take an additional semester (e.g., M.S. thesis students). The time to complete a Ph.D. degree depends on your research area and topic but is often around five years. It is not uncommon to take longer than five years. Prior graduate coursework and research may shorten the time to complete a Ph.D. degree. 

If I am admitted to the master’s program and later decide that the Ph.D. degree is what I really want, do I have to reapply as a Ph.D. applicant?

As a current Georgia Tech student, you would not have to formally reapply through the Georgia Tech Office of Graduate Studies, but you would need to provide application materials to the CSE home unit of your choice seeking to change your degree level to Ph.D. These application materials would be evaluated as if you were a new Ph.D. applicant, but would factor in your recent academic history at Georgia Tech as well as interest from a potential Ph.D. advisor. If you are a current M.S. student interested in changing to the Ph.D. level, please contact the CSE home unit coordinator of your desired Ph.D. home unit. 

School of Computational Science and Engineering Ph.D. programs

Which Ph.D. programs can I apply to through the School of Computational Science and Engineering?

The School of Computational Science and Engineering participates in five Ph.D. programs: the interdisciplinary Computational Science and Engineering, Machine Learning, Bioinformatics, and Bioengineering programs as well as the Computer Science program.

If the program I am interested in is offered through multiple Schools, how do I choose which one to apply to?

Both the Computer Science Ph.D. program and the interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs in which the School of CSE participates (Computational Science and Engineering, Machine Learning, Bioinformatics, and Bioengineering) are offered through multiple Schools. When you prepare your application for any of these programs, you will need to choose to apply through one of the participating Schools, which will oversee the review of your application. You should choose the School whose faculty research interests best align with your own. In particular, your Ph.D. research advisor will need to be a member of that School’s faculty as well as a member of the program’s faculty. If you apply to a Ph.D. program through the School of CSE, it is highly recommended that you express interest in working with at least one member of the School of CSE faculty.

Do I need to know what research problem I want to study before applying?

In most cases, it is not necessary to know at a detailed level the type of research problem you want to study. However, faculty are heavily involved in reviewing applications, and students typically are matched with research advisors when offers of admission are extended to facilitate involvement in research from each student’s first semester. Describing your past research projects and your research interests and goals as a Ph.D. student will help faculty to assess whether there is a good alignment with current opportunities. 

Can I be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program after the bachelor’s degree, without a master’s degree?

Yes.  A master’s degree is not required to enter the Ph.D. program.

Can I change my Ph.D. degree program after applying, after being accepted, and/or after matriculating at Georgia Tech?

In many cases, yes. Please contact  

How long does it take to complete the Ph.D. program?

The time to complete a Ph.D. degree depends on your research area and topic but is often around five years. It is not uncommon to take longer than five years. Prior graduate coursework and research may shorten the time. 

Application Information

When do you admit new students?

Most home units, including the School of CSE, admit students only in the Fall semester. Please contact your desired home unit if you wish to enroll during Spring.

What is the minimum TOEFL score?

See information about Georgia Tech’s English proficiency requirements; some home units may have higher requirements.  

Is the GRE test required?

The GRE general test is required for CSE M.S. applications by most home units, but it is optional for applications at the Ph.D. level for any School of CSE Ph.D. program.

What codes do I use to send GRE and TOEFL scores?

Please use Institute code R5248 for the GRE general test and Institute code 5248 for the TOEFL.  

What kind of letters of recommendation should I obtain?

We prefer letters that can speak to your academic capabilities and, for Ph.D. students, potential to conduct research. Often, letters from faculty at universities or scientists in research laboratories can speak to these issues in a compelling way.  Nevertheless, a professional reference from your current supervisor in your place of employment, if applicable, may complement academic references, especially if you have been out of school for a while. Professional references should address your technical skills and abilities.

Can I apply to more than one Georgia Tech program, degree level, and/or home unit?

You may apply to as many programs, degree levels, and/or home units as you wish, but each application will require a separate application fee. 

Where can I find information on cost of attendance?

The Office of the Bursar provides information on tuition and fees. Both the CSE program and the School of CSE Ph.D. programs use the first line of graduate tuition labeled “Master & PhD Candidates.” Rates for fall semesters are typically available around June. Note that tuition does not necessarily increase every year. 

I have accepted your offer of admission for this fall semester, but I want to wait one semester/one year to start. Is this possible?

An admitted applicant is sometimes allowed to defer their admission for up to one year. Such situations are handled on a case-by-case basis.  Please contact your home unit. Deferrals of more than one year are not allowed; a new application would be required and admission would not be guaranteed.

I did not receive an offer of admission to this program, but I feel that my record is very strong. Can you give me feedback on how to strengthen my application?

Our degree program is quite competitive; due to space and other limitations, we can only enroll a small number of students and must decline many qualified applicants. The decision to accept is based on many factors including the academic background, letters of recommendation, test scores (if applicable), expressed area(s) of interest, available funding for Ph.D. applicants, specific faculty interest in the student, and available space. Many of these factors are not visible to students. Unfortunately, due to the volume of applicants, we cannot give specific feedback for any one student.  

I have accepted an offer of admission and will be a new student in the School of CSE/College of Computing. Where can I find a list of everything I should be doing between the time I am accepted and the time I will arrive at Georgia Tech?

The College of Computing maintains a list that covers many important topics for Admitted Graduate Students. Students in other units may find the list useful as well, but may need to locate some unit-specific information. 

Current GT Students: Adding/Changing to the CSE Degree

I am a graduate student at GT. How do I add the CSE degree as a second degree or change my degree program to CSE?

You will still need to apply, but as a current student you will use a different process. Contact the home unit to which you wish to apply for further information about the process of adding/changing to the CSE degree for that unit. The School of CSE has a single annual deadline of February 1 to apply to add/change to the CSE M.S. degree. 

If I am getting two M.S. degrees, can courses be double counted towards both degrees?

Georgia Tech policy generally allows up to six credits (two courses) to be counted toward two different MS degrees; some dual-degree programs have been specifically approved to allow more sharing. 

Can courses be transferred if switching from another MS degree program?

All relevant prior courses taken before your program change can be applied to help fulfill the requirements of the CSE M.S. program. 

Online/Distance Learning

Can the CSE M.S. degree be completed remotely?

At present, no. Many courses are offered only in person through the Atlanta campus.  

Can the CSE Ph.D. degree be completed remotely?

In most cases no, at least not entirely.  Many courses are offered only in person through the Atlanta campus, and the research component of the Ph.D. degree requires working closely with a faculty advisor. Thus, completing the program requirements likely would not be possible without spending time on the Atlanta campus. With approval from their advisors, some students  can spend part of their time in the program away from campus, especially after they have completed early degree requirements, such as coursework and the qualifying exam, and have established their dissertation topic.