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Graduate School in Computer Science

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  1. Graduate School in Computer Science Dr. Daniel Ernst / Dr. Paul Wagner UWEC Department of Computer Science

  2. Messages • Graduate school in CS is an option you should consider – there are many rewards for the work you do • There are a variety of graduate programs fitting various needs and goals • If you’re an A or B student who works hard, you can be very successful in graduate school

  3. Topics • Reasons to consider graduate school in computer science • Types of graduate degrees • What graduate school is like / how it’s different than undergraduate • Moving on from courses to research • How to succeed in graduate school • Application procedures and deadlines • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) • Jobs in graduate school • Jobs after graduate school

  4. Reasons To Consider Graduate School • Good • You want to study one or more areas of computer science in more depth • You’re interested in teaching computer science at the university level • You’re interested in research • Medium • You want to increase your marketability in the work force • May want to get some work experience first • Note: some employers pay for graduate study (more so for Masters, area that helps in your job)

  5. Reasons Not To Consider Graduate School • Several Variations on a Theme • You’re not ready for the real world • You want to postpone the decision about which job to take • You’re not sure what you want to do • If Not Sure, Go to the Other Side of the Fence • Work for a while • Come back to graduate school later

  6. Types of Graduate Degrees • Masters • Course-Only • Project • Thesis • Professional • Ph.D.

  7. Masters – Coursework Only • Example • U of M MSC degree • 31 credits of coursework • Advantages • Can take advanced courses in new areas • Higher level work • Courses may fit for particular purposes (e.g. work) • Disadvantages • No significant work outside of courses • Extension of undergraduate work

  8. Masters - Project • Example: • U of M MS in CS, Plan B and Plan C • Plan B – 31 credits, 3 cr. project course • Plan C – 31 credits of coursework, includes 100 hours of project work, including presentation • Advantages • Project allows for application of courses • Project involves focused interest area • Disadvantages • Project is not same as research • May not be original idea, may not need to show benefits, etc.

  9. Masters - Thesis • Example • U of M MS in CS, Plan A • 31 credits, including 10 thesis credits • Advantages • More likely to do advanced research • Disadvantages • Less coursework • Masters thesis may grow in scope to Ph.D. thesis • Personal suggestion (PJW): save thesis for Ph.D.

  10. Masters - Professional • Example • U of M MSSE • Must be an industry professional with >= 1 year of experience • 2-3 courses for 4 semesters, all on Friday or Saturday • Capstone project (similar to Masters Plan B) • Advantages • More applied program • Excellent fellow student body • Overall excellent degree for those in industry • Disadvantages • Not a research degree

  11. Ph.D. • Example: • U of M Ph.D. in CS • 43 credits of coursework (varies) • 24 credits of thesis • Advantages • Good combination of coursework and research • Chance to work in depth with thesis advisor • Disadvantages • Research is difficult, no guaranteed end point • Large time commitment (2-10 years)

  12. Ph.D. Steps • Breadth Requirement • Usually satisfied by course work • Preliminary Written Examination • Often on one major area, several minor areas • Given large reading list in advance • Preliminary Oral Examination (committee) • Can be on all coursework or thesis proposal • Thesis Proposal and work • Final Oral Examination (committee) • Present and defend your thesis

  13. Advisor and Committees • Choosing an Advisor • Consider the instructors you get along with in the areas you’re interested in them • Talk to them about their interests and yours • If fit is good, ask if you can work with them • Committee Membership • Often several CS members, several outside (non-CS, but related department) members • Work with your advisor to build a compatible group

  14. Thesis • Thesis definition • A large written paper on an original topic • Smaller for Masters, less expectation of original work • Larger for Ph.D., must be original work • Components • Identify topic area • Something of interest to you and your advisor • An area where you can make a contribution • Background research • Development of ideas • (Often) development of prototype system • Measure of contributions • Identification of issues, future work • Writing it up, presenting it

  15. Which Type To Apply For? • Ph.D programs generally offer more support • Scholarships • TA and RA opportunities • If any possibility of Ph.D., apply for this • Can always stop with Masters if don’t want to continue • Many students sign up for Ph.D. program, get a Masters “along the way” • Many Masters programs can be viewed as roughly a subset of a Ph.D. program

  16. What is Graduate School Like? • Students • Higher level – more even playing field • More diverse • Courses • Often more theory, not as applied at UWEC CS • Assignments tend to be larger, less direction, but still manageable • Often use teaching assistants (advanced grad students) • Instructors • Diverse • Focused on research, may be harder to access out of class

  17. Moving On From Courses To Research • Courses • Instructor-driven • Fixed schedule • Ends in fixed time • Research • Student-driven • Open schedule • Won’t get done if you don’t do it

  18. How To Succeed In Graduate School • Realize that you’re not an imposter • You can do it! • Get all work done • Need to multi-task, start early • Talk to TAs and professors • Getting to know people makes it easier • Keep up with reading • Network with other students

  19. How To Succeed In A Ph.D. Program • Remember that there’s no fixed deadline • You need to try to set a schedule, keep making progress • Your advisor should help you with this • Success stems from persistence, not brilliance • Keep at it • You’ll have successes and failure along the way; keep moving

  20. So you want to go to graduate school… How to choose a grad school, get admitted, and how to pay for it

  21. Evaluating Schools • Basic Information: • Rankings • USNews annual graduate school rankings • • Program information on each school’s website • Specific Interests: • Look through research periodicals and proceedings • Ask people who know • Faculty • Industry researchers

  22. Scouting a Specific School • Two general levels to look at for a school • Department level: • What are the requirements for the degree? • What is the average time for a degree? (PhDs, mostly) • How are the graduate students funded? (what %?) • Program Strengths level: • Are there any faculty that work in an area that you’re interested in? • If you don’t have a specific interest – do they have good breadth?

  23. Getting Accepted by Graduate Schools • A typical graduate school application will ask for: • Undergraduate Transcripts • GRE Scores • Letters of recommendation (usually 3) • Statement of Purpose • “My goal is to get a MS/PhD degree because…” • A basic interest survey (sometimes) • TOEFL scores (international applicants) • There will typically be 2 deadlines for applications • The first is for admission and consideration for financial aid (assistantships) • The second is usually for admission only

  24. Getting Accepted by Graduate Schools • Example websites:

  25. The GRE – Yes, another standardized test • All graduate programs will ask for you to take (and report the score) for the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) “The GRE® General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study.”

  26. The GRE – Yes, another standardized test • There are 3 categories on the GRE: • Verbal Reasoning (130-170) • Quantitative Reasoning (130-170) • Critical Thinking and Analytical Writing (0-6) • These scales have changed multiple times in the last few years • 5 years ago: 3 categories, each 800 points each (a la SAT) • 3 years ago: 3 categories, two are 800 points, one is 0-6 • This year: new scoring • This may make it tricky to compare your scores to what departments are looking for – the percentiles may be a better indicator

  27. Preparing for the GRE • You will be much more comfortable with the GRE if you do a little preparing before taking the exam • Look at the samples and scoring criteria on the ETS website • • Take a sample exam • • The exam is taken through UWEC Testing Services • Call early to make an appointment!

  28. Inside the Graduate Admissions Committee • What graduate schools are looking for: • Good students - GPA > 3.0 (at the lowest) • Good letters of recommendation! • PhD students • Interested (Motivated) Students

  29. Visiting Campus • If you are admitted as a student, many campuses will coordinate official visit weekends, or help you schedule a personal visit to campus • You’ll get information about the: • Department structure • Course requirements for your degree • Financial Aid availability • In addition, you will often be scheduled to meet with several faculty members who do research in your area of interest • Learn about what projects there are • If you find something that’s interesting, say so!

  30. Affording Graduate School • The preferable ( if you can get it ) funding method is an assistantship • Funding for your education provided by NSF, DARPA, the college or department • Usually includes a tuition waver and a stipend (salary) • Along with this usually comes health insurance, etc. • Usually preference (for first years) to PhD students • Working outside of graduate school is another option • Often done by Masters degree students ( generally “frowned upon” for PhDs ) • Many companies will pay (or help pay) for graduate studies while you are working • Difficult to pursue the degree full-time

  31. Assistantships • Fellowship ( i.e. scholarship ) • Your funding comes from (usually) a 3rd party • The NSF, a company (Intel, IBM, etc), the graduate college, etc. • Ideally, this would free you up to focus on your research • Reserved for top students (or very motivated ones!) • Research Assistantship • Your funding comes from the resources of a faculty member • You are paid to work on a research project • This project may or may not be what you’re doing for your own thesis • Teaching Assistantship • Your funding comes from the department • You are paid to teach (or TA) a department course

  32. Financial Aid “Package” • Quite a few schools are now giving out a semi-guaranteed package of funding that comes with your admission • i.e. “We guarantee that you will have an assistantship (of some type) for the first year” • After that, its your problem (although if you do well, you should be ok) • Some graduate schools are becoming aggressive in recruiting excellent students • Have been known to offer up to 5 years of guaranteed funding

  33. Congratulations, you’ve got a graduate degree! (Now what?)

  34. Intellectual Freedom Rule-of-Thumb • The “higher-level” your degree is, the more flexibility and freedom you will have to decide the direction of your future work.

  35. Masters Degree • If you’ve been funded by a company, often they will have a new position in mind for you (that you’ve been “training” for in grad school). • Depending on how much they supported you, this may or may not be binding • Otherwise, finding a job can come from a variety of directions • The usual “career fair”-type resume/interview process • Through meeting people at conferences, meetings, or departmental speakers • Often involves your research interests lining up with theirs • Through contacts your research advisor has • Teaching options: If you want to teach in college you will be able to with a masters degree – but only at smaller colleges, and not in a tenure-track environment.

  36. PhD Degree Option 1 • Industry Research • Be part of a company’s research and development • These will usually be technology “bread and butter” firms • (Directly involved in creating technology, not in using it) • May range from being in a research group at a major company lab … • (IBM, Google, Intel, Microsoft) • …To starting a new company based on your research… • Google & Yahoo, for example, were started by graduate students • …To leading the technical development direction of a company • (with time)

  37. PhD Degree Option 2 • Academia • The “ultimate” in freedom for choosing your work • (Also the “ultimate” in self-motivation!) • The “Research I” University • Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, etc. • Your major job is to be a leader in research and mentor graduate students • You teach ~ 1 class per term, just to keep the taxpayers happy • The Regional University • Teach ~2-3+ classes per term and focus on undergraduate students • Try to keep up in your research area • Or do research about how to teach! • Several levels in-between

  38. Good Luck!