Combined BS/MS Frequently Asked Questions
I have loads of questions. Who's my advisor?
Combined BS/MS students continue to work with the CSE undergrad advising staff along with the faculty advisor for the program, Deiter Fox. Crystal Eney and Elise Dorough work most closely with this program on behalf of the ugrad advising team.
What classes will I take as a grad student?
Courses available to each student vary by quarter and individual preparation. You'll select most classes from these areas:
- Master's courses in our PhD program (called "quals" courses)
- Professional Master's Program courses
- 400-level courses (note that 400-level courses can apply to graduate credit requirements only when taken after you become an official grad student - not while you are an undergrad)
- Courses that fulfill one of the "check-box" requirements: a capstone and an approved writing course; these may be done as an undergrad
Advisors will send course suggestions and keep you up-to-date on new offerings. However, a number of variables make it impossible to compile a comprehensive list of courses that will work for all BS/MS students: some grad courses may only be appropriate if you've taken an undergrad course in the area; some may be appropriate only if you haven't taken the undergrad version because they will be too similar; some PMP courses may assume extensive professional experience. We also want to help students plan manageable schedules, and new grads may not realize the workload of some grad classes. We'll meet with you individually to plan your classes.
Can I get more info on the 'quals' courses?
Quals courses are Ph.D.-track master's courses (highlighted on the CSE teaching schedule). Many of these will be appropriate for BS/MS students, but the workload will likely be significantly greater than your 400-level CSE courses. Most Ph.D.-track grad students take one or two quals courses each quarter (with no other courses). Even if you're a super strong and motivated student who successfully took three upper-division CSE courses concurrently, you should not plan for more than one, possibly two, quals courses each quarter. We'll talk to each of you individually about specific courses and schedules.
PhD-track courses not highlighted on the teaching schedule as quals courses are much less likely to be appropriate for BS/MS students. They typically require PhD quals courses as prerequisites.
When can I take 400-level courses?
400-level CSE courses taken after you're officially coded as a grad student can count toward the program. 400-level courses taken while you're still an undergrad (even if they go beyond any undergrad requirements) cannot count except to "check off" the Capstone or Approved Writing requirements.
What's the Planning Worksheet?
One requirement of the program is an individualized plan for each student. We'll meet with you before you begin the program to talk about your interests and options and to outline a tentative plan of courses. If your interests change, we can adjust this later. Remember to watch your inbox for the deadlines by which new students should submit this plan.
What are the 590 research seminars? Should I take one of these or attend the colloquia?
Most of the CSE research areas have a 590 seminar each quarter. In these seminars, grad students read and present on recent academic articles relevant to the research area. You get one credit for each 590 seminar you take. You also get one credit for enrolling in CSE 519 or 520 and attending CSE colloquia. As listed on the degree requirements page, you need four credits of research seminars or colloquia, so you should plan to take one seminar and/or attend the colloquia each quarter, for a total of four credits.
How does research fit into my degree requirements?
Some BS/MS students may participate in research, either as a paid RA or for credit. The degree requirements page shows how research can apply to your graduate requirements. If you're interested in research, you should contact faculty directly to discuss your interests and see what work they may have available. If you or your potential research advisor has questions about how research can work as part of your masters' degree, contact an undergrad advisor or the program faculty advisor.
Can I be a TA?
TA positions may be available for some BS/MS students and would be paid at the graduate pay rate (full tuition, plus a stipend). Note that due to budget restrictions, we do not expect to be able to offer TA positions to all interested BS/MS students.
Can I fund my year of masters courses as a TA?
BS/MS students who get a TA position will be paid the graduate TA rate; this includes a monthly salary, plus full tuition, for 20 hours of work per week. Graduate TA rates take effect once you're officially coded as a graduate student; admitted students who are still undergrads still earn the standard undergrad TA rate. Due to budget restrictions, we do not expect to be able to offer TA positions to all interested BS/MS students. You may apply to TA, but please prepare a back-up plan for paying the full tuition for the program. Keep in mind that if you do not TA, you'll likely be able to finish the program more quickly, spending less on tuition and earning a salary sooner.
Where do BS/MS students fit in with other CSE students? Should I stop hanging out with undergrads? Can I attend events for Ph.D. students?
We hope BS/MS students will continue to be active in the CSE community. Some career- or research-related undergrad events may be appropriate, and BS/MS students are invited to the graduate TGIF happy-hour events each Friday (usually in the atrium; look for email announcements).
We expect that BS/MS students will likely form their own social circle as well since you occupy a unique position in the department. Welcome events for BS/MS students should help you meet your BS/MS peers. If you have ideas for other BS/MS events, let advisors know.
Is this master's going to be viewed as equal to a "real" masters?
CSE BS/MS students take real graduate courses and receive a real diploma (it reads "Master's of Science in Computer Science & Engineering"). We require 40 credits for the masters, four credits beyond the standard minimum of 36 the UW requires for master's programs. CSE BS/MS students can earn a master's degree in a relatively short amount of time because they integrate their bachelor's and master's requirements -- completing the same amount of work normally required for both a BS and MS but compressed into roughly three years total.
Realistically, master's programs vary, and the reputation for this program will be established by the students currently enrolled. Individuals will determine how valuable this program is for them by designing their curriculum and utilizing the extra time here for research, internships, networking, and other opportunities.
How much of a salary boost will a master's give me?
Your salary prospects depend on your individual qualifications. However, it's reasonable to expect that an extra year of advanced coursework, professional networking, and (for some) research, plus an additional summer for one more internship, will give students a noticeable boost in salary and job prospects. CareerBuilder.com reports that a master's degree translates into $21,530 more in salary per year. The NSF reports a differential of $17,000 per year.
How are statewide budget cuts going to affect the BS/MS program?
Budget details are currently tentative. We're moving ahead with the program but will not increase enrollment beyond a dozen students per year. Limited availability of TA positions will affect some students who hoped to fund their degree by being a TA. Research may be positively affected, thanks to stimulus funding for research. We don't have any more-specific predictions, but we encourage admitted students to explore all options for funding their degree.
Can I go to a Ph.D. program after the combined BS/MS?
Maybe. Competitiveness for Ph.D. programs depends on many factors, but it's reasonable to expect that an extra year of advanced coursework, networking with faculty, and research opportunities would benefit students in applying to Ph.D. programs. However, remember that this program is designed as a stand-alone master's degree, not as a transitional piece between undergrad and Ph.D. work. We encourage strong students who know they want a Ph.D. to apply directly to Ph.D. programs. If you're uncertain of you interests, contact a CSE advisor or the program faculty advisor. Our grad advisor and other faculty could also give insight into your options or your particular area of interest.
Questions or concerns?
Please contact the BS/MS Advising Team if you have any questions or concerns not addressed on this page.