To erase any confusion, this question is geared entirely towards requirements and expectations of academicians. I am not asking for recommendations for universities or research topics, nor am I asking about preparation for a non-academic career. Additionally, I am speaking from a United States point of view.

Briefly, here is my backstory. A few years ago I graduated with a bachelor's in computer science. During that time I took a part-time adjunct instructor position with a local community college, where I quickly discovered that I loved teaching and the academic environment. In short, I have decided that I would like to make it a full-time career.

On to my question/concern... I am currently looking into research-focused masters degree programs so that one day I can pursue a doctoral degree. I have discovered that a lot of the computer science masters degree programs can require a certain level of mathematical knowledge or even taking research focused math classes.

Is there anything I need to do in order to prepare for my CS masters degree journey in terms of brushing up on mathematics, or other subject areas for that matter? Is it possible to sign up for a program anyway, and just go back through some of my books and notes on an "as needed" basis? I would prefer the second option, not sure if either is possible at this point!

  • Your profile says a CE degree, which is sometimes but not usually the same as a CS degree. (In particular, most bachelor degree programs in CS have somewhat significant math requirements as well as courses on automata and on algorithms that are basically math classes.) Can you clarify? Jan 25, 2019 at 2:33
  • @AlexanderWoo Computer science and engineering.
    – Snoop
    Jan 25, 2019 at 2:44
  • Did your degree include: discrete math, linear algebra, a course that covered Turing machines and proved the halting problem was unsolvable, a course that introduced algorithms for some problems and proved some of these algorithms did what they claimed and took approximately some number of operations? Jan 25, 2019 at 19:48
  • @AlexanderWoo yes to all of that except for the Turing and Halting...
    – Snoop
    Jan 25, 2019 at 19:59
  • Unless you're planning to do research in theory, you probably have enough mathematics. (Of course, it depends on the level at which the mathematics was taught; in particular it matters whether you were expected to come up with some proofs on your own, just repeat the proofs told to you in class, or not expected to really engage with the proofs at all.) Jan 26, 2019 at 3:33

2 Answers 2


I returned to graduate school after working in industry as a software engineer for three years. It took about a semester to get back into the swing of coursework, and research was new to me since I hadn't really done any as an undergraduate. These weren't really difficult aspects of the move. I think that if you were well prepared for this program when you completed your BS degree, then you'll be able to pick it back up without too much difficulty.

The hardest part though was the change in my personal financial circumstances. My income dropped by 80%. Fortunately, I'd paid off my car loan, my student loans were put on hold while I was in graduate school, and I'd managed to save up some money (the equivalent of a year's TA stipend.) In order to make ends meet, I had to move into a house with roommates. Between my TA stipend and savings, I was able to make it through four years of graduate school without taking out more loans.


Sure it's possible and some small fraction of people have industry experience (or teaching experience or military service or what have you). Has always been this way. It's a minority but normal. (Actually in good MBA programs its the expectation. And in law and medicine its very normal, not as rare. In research it's rare but just because of the population not going that way, not because of schools discouraging it.)

In terms of math prep, I donno. Guess you should look at different programs and talk to them (good chance to talk about other things in general also). Maybe there are programs where it matters more/less your math background. Maybe you can get some individual calibration on your specifics, which this forum sometimes discourages.

Finally, your title and then question text itself are a little confusing. Are you asking about math requirements for CS MS (which would be an issue regardless of your interregnum) or for how the interregnum is looked at.

  • Sorry about the confusion, so I am not asking about the course requirements specifically as I can look those up on the curriculum webpage of any university. I am asking more... from someone who has had experience with a CS masters, is the level of mathematics/concepts where I can just get prepared on my own? Or do I have to go through some remedial courses or something? How is that handled?
    – Snoop
    Jan 25, 2019 at 2:18
  • I guess first you have to figure out if there is a gap or not. Doesn't seem like we really know that for sure. Sometimes on the Net, you will hear super hard requirements (like physics undergrads should have taken real analysis) that are not really the norm. I recommend to "calibrate" and not by just looking on the web (do that, sure) but talking to the departments. They will know if admitted candidates are normally well over the "bar", just meeting the bar, or even if many exceptions are made. Plus we don't know your capabilities.
    – guest
    Jan 25, 2019 at 2:21
  • I really hadn't thought of the whole "calibration" thing. That could work to help me identify the right program, I thought it was pretty much cut and dried on a single application and maybe a letter of recommendation alone.
    – Snoop
    Jan 25, 2019 at 2:23
  • In terms of how to remediate a gap (if we establish there really is one and an important one, not a nice to have), graded courses are ideal. Self study remediation, auditing a course, etc. is not as strong, but still very common. Just do what makes sense. Life is an optimization process with constraints on time and money. I would probably lean to self study since at least you ARE a CS and going into CS. This is a bit different if we are talking core courses and you were really switching fields (e.g. a chemist wanting to do physics Ph.D. really is lacking most of the undergrad).
    – guest
    Jan 25, 2019 at 2:24
  • This is good stuff, when you say "not as strong", what are you comparing it to?
    – Snoop
    Jan 25, 2019 at 2:29

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