Academics and Student Affairs

Advisor and Committee

Plan of Study

PhD Prelim Exam Scheduling

Grade Requirements

Graduation Procedure

Academic Advising System: WBAAS

For more recent information and details on the department's academic procedures and system visit the CS Graduate Program website

Advisor and Committee

All students, including coursework-only MS degree, thesis MS degree and PhD degree students, will be initially assigned with an advisor on admission. MS thesis and PhD students can subsequently change their advisor after identifying a CS faculty member to be the thesis advisor for supervising thesis/dissertation research.

A student working toward an MS Thesis Option must select a thesis advisor by the end of his or her first year. A Ph.D. student must select a thesis advisor within 3 months of passing the PhD qualifying process. In practice, choosing an advisor and beginning active work under their guidance within your first two semesters in the department can make a big difference in how quickly you proceed through the program toward graduation.

Each student will have a committee. For course-only MS students, the committee is the advisory committee consisting of three faculty members normally assigned by the department, with the advisor being the advisory committee chair. For thesis option MS and PhD students, the committee is the thesis committee with the thesis advisor being the thesis committee chair. Students should consult with their advisor to form a committee.

Plan of Study

The student and the advisor work together to compose a Plan of Study (POS). Plans of study are due by the end of the second academic semester for all Master's students, and are due by the end of the third academic semester for doctoral students. A POS serves as both a plan of the coursework/schedule of work remaining, and also a contract between the student and the Department. The courses which are detailed on the Plan of Study are designed to meet both the educational goals of the student and the requirements of the Department and Graduate School.

For MS students, create your POS using this MS POS form. For PhD students, create your POS using this PhD POS form. The department also maintains a web app allowing you to fill out and print your POS online.

Your POS must satisfy the credit distribution requirement and the breadth requirement specified in the CS Graduate Handbook for your degree.

If your POS contains transfer credit hours, you need to first obtain approval of the transfer credit hours by filling in a Credit Transfer Request form for each transfer course (a course not taken at VT) that you want to include on your POS. Each credit transfer request form together with supporting materials such as catalog description of the non-VT course taken, course syallbus, homeworks/exams, etc. should be submitted to the department (Program Director) for approval prior to your POS submission.

If your POS contains courses (including transfer courses) taken more than 5 years, you need to fill in a Course Justification Request Form to justify why these courses can be included into your POS. All your committee members must sign on the form.

Your POS must specify a committee. For non-thesis students, your committee comprises your advisor and two CS faculty members assigned by the department and your POS needs the signature approval of the Program Director and the advisor. For thesis students (MS or PhD), your committee formation must satisfy the rule and requirement specified in the CS Graduate Handbook, and your POS needs the signature approval of the Program Director and all members of the committee. An external committee (not a VT faculty) requires a prior approval from the Grad School. For each external committee member, you need to submit a Graduate Committee Service Approval form along with a copy of his/her CV for approval. Once you obtain POS signature approval, submit your signed POS form to the CS Program Coordinator in room NVC 309 with a cc to the Program Director for POS entry into Banner. You should see your POS status in HokieSpa in a week or two after submission.

After the POS is submitted and approved, if the initial plan must be modified, it needs the approval of the student's advisor and committee. For thesis students, the student's committee members may also be changed to adjust for changes in the goals of the thesis or dissertation as the research work progresses. To change a Plan of Study, fill out a copy of the Request for Plan of Study Changes form. Get signatures from your advisor and committee members. Then submit the change of POS form to the CS program coodinator.

PhD Prelim Exam Scheduling

1. Make sure you have an approved Plan of Study on file. If you are not sure, you can check your HokieSpa account. Click on Degree Menu, then click on Graduate Student Degree Menu, then click on Plan of Study. If you do not have an approved Plan of Study on file, schedule a meeting with your advisor to discuss the POS and to put together a committee.

2. Reach out to your committee to informally schedule a date, time and place for your Prelim. Some committee members may need to attend the exam by WebEx. Keep in mind when you are finding a date with your committee, that the Graduate School needs at least 2 weeks’ notice to approve the Preliminary Exam. So, choose a date at least a month ahead to give all committee members a chance to reply and the Graduate School time to approve.

3. Once you have a date and time for the exam, email Roxanne at to ask her to reserve a room at the Northern Virginia Center. Let her know if you will need WebEx and about how many people you expect to be in the room with you. If you want a room at the Arlington Research Center, you’ll need to contact staff there.

4. Once a room has been reserved, you can go into the ESS system to request your Preliminary Exam. Go to and log in.

5. Fill out the required information. When you come to choosing a building, for the Northern Virginia Center, it is a little tricky. You will want to choose Va Tech-UVA NOVA Center from the drop-down list.

6. Once you have completed and submitted the form, it will be sent to the Graduate School. They will send each of your committee members an email asking them to approve the scheduling of the exam. Then, the Graduate School itself needs to approve the exam. You will be notified via email when the exam has been approved.

Grade Requirements

The University requires that the average GPA for those courses listed on the Plan of Study be at least 3.0, and that each individual course on the Plan of Study receive a grade of C- or better. All courses that can be taken for a grade must be taken for a grade rather than pass/fail. CS 5994 and CS 7994 are offered EQ only. CS 5974 is offered pass/fail only.

Graduation Procedure

Students who anticipate completing their degree in a given semester must go to HokieSPA to submit their AFD before the deadline (normally Oct. 1 for Fall and March 1 for Spring) to apply for graduation. Follow the links under Degree Menu --> Graduate Student Degree Menu --> Application for Degree to submit AFD. In addition, a degree-seeking student must already have a POS approved by the department and the Graduate School. In the semester during which a degree-seeking student is to graduate, the student must submit a Final Exam Request Form to the department and the Graduate School specifying the committee (as in the approved POS), and exam date, location (Va Tech-UVA NOVA Center) and time. The Final Exam Request Form should be submitted by the student via HokieSpa three weeks prior to the exam date.

For MS-coursework option students, the Final Exam Requirement is satisfied by passing CS 5974 Independent Study (3 credit hours) and there is no need to physically take the final exam. Your Independent study faculty supervisor must send an email message to the Program Director advising whether to accept or reject your report. NCR campus MS-coursework students alternatively can satisfy the Final Exam Requirement by passing a CS 6000-level course with a project component.

For MS-thesis and PhD students, the final exam requirement is satisfied by a successful oral defense of the thesis research with CS 5994 (for MS-thesis) or CS 7994 (for PhD) research hours. All MS Theses and PhD Dissertations must be submitted to the Electronic Theses and Dissertations system (see the ETD Homepage) by the deadline.

Also students starting in fall 2014 or after must satisfy the ethics requirement before graduation. A full-time student could satisfy the ethics requirement by taking CS 5944 three times, Responsible Conduct of Research offered online at, and Conflicts of Interest Training offered online at A part-time student is not required to take CS 5944 but must take the last two online training courses to satisfy the ethics requirement.