Admission Requirements to the Graduate Programs in CSE


The Department of Computer Science and Engineering reviews applications to its graduate programs twice per year. The deadlines are:

  • For Fall semester admission, February 1.
  • For Spring semester admission, October 1.

Application Process

All applications should be submitted online using this site:

Online Application to Graduate School

In addition to the basic application form, applicants should submit the following additional documentation.

  • Scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
  • Transcripts of all prior academic work.
  • Two letters of recommendation, preferably from prior professors.
  • A resume listing relevant work experience, publications, and projects.
  • For international applicants, scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing Systems (IELTS) or Duolingo English Test.

Admissions decisions can be made based on unofficial copies of test scores and transcripts, but admitted students must submit official copies to complete the admissions process.

Decision Criteria

Each application will be evaluated by a departmental admissions committee, which makes an official recommendation to the Graduate School. The Graduate School makes the final decision and notifies the applicant of the decision.

Applications are evaluated based on a variety of factors, including the content and quality of prior work, the content of the reference letters, and standardized test scores. The following guidelines are generally expected, but not necessarily sufficient, for admission.

  • An undergraduate degree from a college or university of recognized standing, with a B average or better for all work completed (i.e., a grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale).
  • A strong background in Computer Science or Computer Engineering, including courses in the following subjects. (The USC undergraduate courses corresponding to these requirements appear in brackets.)
    1. Programming, with emphasis on structured programming and on elementary data structures [CSCE 145, CSCE 146]
    2. Discrete Mathematics [MATH 174]
    3. Calculus [MATH 141, MATH 142]
    4. Computer Organization [CSCE 212]
    5. Algorithms and Data Structures [CSCE 350]
    6. Operating Systems [CSCE 311]
  • For the Ph.D. program, GRE Quantitative scores of 165 or higher, and GRE Verbal of 150 or higher.
  • For the M.S. and M.E. programs, GRE Quantitative scores of 160 or higher and GRE Verbal scores of 145 or higher.
  • For the M.S.E. program, GRE scores suitable for admission to the M.S. and M.E. programs, or at least three years of relevant work experience.
  • For international applicants, a TOEFL score of 80 or higher, or an IELTS score of 6.5 or higher, or a Duolingo score of 115 or higher.

Because admission is competitive, not all candidates satisfying these minimal standards can be admitted.

The Cyber Security Certificate and Accelerated Masters programs have their own admissions requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a Bachelor degree, can I apply for your Ph.D. programs directly?

Yes, applicants with Bachelor degree only and a desire to pursue Ph.D. are encouraged to apply for our Ph.D. programs directly.

How do I submit official transcripts, test scores, and recommendation letters?

All supporting documents should be submitted to the Graduate School.

What are the reporting codes for test scores?

The reporting code for both GRE and TOEFL scores is 5818.

How do I apply for an assistantship?

All admitted applicants are automatically considered for teaching assistantships (TAs), without any separate application process. The department generally makes TA offers starting in March. Faculty in the department may also offer research assistantships (RAs) to incoming graduate students; interested students should contact the faculty members directly.

The application deadline has passed. Can I still apply?

In some circumstances, we may be able to process applications submitted after the official deadline. Use this form to contact us for more information.

I don't have an undergraduate degree in computing. Can I still apply?

An applicant who clearly has good potential for success in the graduate program but does not satisfy the computer science background requirements may be granted Conditional Admission. Conditionally admitted students will be required to complete a set of courses specified by the Graduate Director before they can petition for regular status. Students who have not yet taken the GRE will not be admitted in this category. After students complete the background requirements, they will be granted regular admission status.

Can I take graduate-level courses without working toward a degree?

Any domestic student who has an undergraduate degree and can profit by taking graduate courses in Computer Science, but who does not intend to work towards an advanced degree in Computer Science, may be admitted as a non-degree student. Details about non-degree status are available in the USC Bulletin. This category is not available for international applicants.

I have already earned a degree from a university in an English-speaking country. Do I need to submit TOEFL or IETLS scores?

If you have a degree from a university in the US, UK, or Canada, we can waive the language test requirement.

I have more questions that aren't answered on this page. Who should I contact?

Administrative questions about the application process should be directed to the Graduate School. For program-related questions specific to Computer Science and Engineering, please use this form to contact us.