Master's Programs

Duke Computer Science offers a Master of Science in Computer Science and a joint program with Economics, the Master of Science in Economics and Computation (MSEC).

MS in Computer Science

The MS program combines a firm grounding in theoretical foundations with training in current technologies and applications. MS students graduate with the flexibility to pursue careers in research, or to go on to doctoral study.

NEW! The MS-CS program is also offered in a 4+1 year program format to Duke undergraduates, allowing them to complete the degree with a fifth year of study.

The department offers two program options for CS MS candidates: a course-only MS, or a project based MS. Both require 30 hours of course credits (10 courses), but the thesis/project option requires fewer credits from graded classes.

Both require an oral exam as a final milestone. For the course-only option, the exam is administered by a three-person committee appointed by the Department Chair. The course-only exam is based on a portfolio composed of research papers, project reports, presentations and other professional documents each student has produced during the course of the MS program.

For the project option, the student completes a research project under the supervision of a faculty advisor and a committee of 2 additional faculty members; a written report about the research describes the objectives of the work, the previous state of the art, the results obtained, and how to use the results of the project.  The student presents the report and defends the work in a public presentation before the committee.

Optional Concentrations

The two optional concentrations for the MSCS degree are:

  • Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning
  • Cybersecurity

If a student completes the requirements for a concentration, this will show up as an annotation on the student’s transcript. The concentrations are optional, and the student can get the MSCS degree without any concentration as well.

What you should know before applying:

  • The CS MS has received an average of 760 applications per year over the last 3 years and admits relatively few.
    • The department assumes admits are prepared to excel in rigorous computer science courses in the very first semester, and in fact, MS students take the same courses as PhD students.
    • An undergraduate major or minor in Computer Science is not mandatory, but a strong background in CS is. For example, students with degrees in Math or ECE and a strong background in CS often do very well.
    • Graduates of the CS MS program will have the skills to create software and take an industry job as a software developer, but the program emphasizes computer science rather than software engineering.

MS in Economics and Computation

The joint field of economics and computation has recently emerged from two converging intellectual needs, which has created the opportunity for a truly interdisciplinary program. in the short time since the program's founding, MSEC graduates have gone on to research jobs or PhD programs in CS, economics, finance, government, and business. Reflecting this strong interdisciplinary relationship, Duke University ranks 11th among institutions in economics and computation actively engaging in research from 2000-2020, according to

MSEC is a course-only MS, which requires 30 hours of course credits (10 courses), one of which must be a capstone course. The exam is administered by a three-person committee appointed by the Directors of Graduate Studies for the 2 disciplines; students choose whether to be examined in the Computer Science department or in Economics, and the committee has a majority of members from the department chosen. The exam is based on a portfolio, composed of research papers, project reports, presentations and other professional documents produced during the course of the MS.

What you should know before applying:

  • The MSEC program is designed to meet the needs of students with varied levels of exposure to either Economics or Computer Science, but a strong quantitative background is recommended.
  • Learn more about the MSEC requirements from the Duke Economics website.
  • This degree program classifies as STEM (CIP Code 45.0603: Econometrics and Quantitative Economics), and students in this program can apply for a 24-month STEM extension of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT).