Frequently Asked Questions

1) Is the degree the same as the one from the main campus in Blacksburg?

Yes. The same standards and requirements are applied to a degree earned from the Northern Virginia Center as are required in Blacksburg.

2) Where are the classes held?

Most classes are taught at Northern Virginia Center(NVC), located at the intersection of Route 7 and Haycock Road, just off Route 66 at Exit 66. The NVC is located adjacent to the West Falls Church Metro Station.

3) When do classes meet?

Fall and spring semester classes meet once a week for 16 weeks, Monday through Friday evenings. Classes are scheduled at 4 p.m. and at 7 p.m. A summer semester is compressed into 12 weeks and classes also meet once a week.

4) Are classes televised from Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus?

Most classes are taught on-site by permanent faculty or adjunct professors drawn from the dynamic workforce of Greater Washington D.C. A few classes are taught via interactive television from Blacksburg to NVC or vice-versa.

5) Must I wait until I am formally accepted into the program to start classes?

Applicants may take up to four classes as a commonwealth campus (non-degree) student. Commonwealth admission is administered by the Graduate School directly.

6) Will classes taken as a commonwealth capmus student count towards my master's degree if I am accepted?


7) How long does it take to be reviewed by the admissions committee?

The department review time depends on the applicant. All application requirements must be completed before the Graduate Admissions Office passes your application on to the department. Once a complete application is received, it takes about 2 weeks to review.

8) What are the prerequisites for admission?

The prerequisites are discrete mathematics, data structure and algorithm, linear algebra, calculus, probability and statistics, a programming language, computer organization, and operating systems.

9) Can I take prerequisites concurrently with courses in my program?

No. Students must complete their prerequisites before starting classes unless explicitly stated in their acceptance letter.

10) How long does it take to complete the master's degree?

Most students are working professionals at high-technology companies and government institutions around the Beltway. Working professionals typically finish the program in about 6 to 8 semesters (at 1 to 2 courses per semester) Full-time students typically finish in 3 to 4 semesters (at 3 to 4 courses per semesters).

11) Are transfers allowed?

Yes, up to 9 credit hours may be transferred for MS students and up to 15 credit hours may be transferred for Ph.D. students.

12) What is the procedure for transferring course?

When you are accepted, complete a transfer credit form indicating which Virginia Tech course you wish to transfer. Include a syllabus of the course taken, name of the book used, an outline of the chapters in the text, and any homework or tests you have saved. Finally, provide an original transcript with the grade you received. Only original materials, including transcripts, will be accepted for evaluating credit transfer applications.

13) If I am admitted to another Virginia Tech program, can I take CS course?

Yes, you may take CS courses if you meet the prerequisites. However, you cannot earn a CS degree without being formally admitted to the program.

14) Must my undergraduate degree be in computer science?

No, your degree can be from any discipline, but you are required to meet the program prerequisites.

15) Are GRE/TOEFL tests an absolute requirement?

Yes. The GRE is required of all applicants unless you already have a Ph.D. from a recognized institution. The TOEFL is required for all applicants who have not graduated from a university in the United States.

16) What are the minimum scores you will accept?

Under normal circumstances, your GPA must be at least 3.0 and your TOEFL score must be at least 550/213/79 (PBT/CBT/iBT; same as the university minimums). We do not advertise minimum GRE scores. It is important to note that these scores and grades are not the primary/only criteria we use for decisions. People with lower scores might be accepted and people with higher scores might be declined, because the main factor we are interested in is potential for success in research.

17) Can I send unofficial copies of transcripts/test scores?

You can. But your application will not be considered complete by the graduate school until they have received official copies. Applications must be complete before they are forwarded by the Graduate School to the CS Department for review. We hence recommend that you schedule your GRE/TOEFL exams well in advance of the application deadline and send official copies of your transcripts as early as possible.

18) Where should I furnish my letters of recommendation from? Academic professors? Supervisors from my industrial work experience? Other?

Request letters from people who can provide a detailed assessment of your capability to engage in graduate studies/research, i.e., those who have had ample opportunity to observe you in studies/work. Since we are a research oriented graduate program, we look for evidence of research ability in these letters. Ideally, you should request letters from your most recent academic program and perhaps one letter from your most recent work experience (if applicable).

19) I am interested in the M.S. program. Should I apply for the coursework/thesis option?

Graduate programs across the US are recognized for their contribution to research. We would like grad students to come here, participate in research projects, publish/disseminate their work, and become famous. Doing a coursework option is available, but all other things being the same, research-track students have an edge over coursework students in admissions decisions. But before you check "thesis" on the admissions form, you would need to have a well developed idea of what area of computer science you plan to do research in, who you plan to work with, what your past projects have been, etc. so it is clear that you will be successful on the research track. Hence, letters from people who can attest to your independent/research abilities, any prior publication record, and your experience in independent/unstructured study projects are examples of things the admissions committee takes into account.

And of course there are lots of advantages to do the thesis option. For instance, you only need to do 21 course credits (7 courses) for the thesis option but 33 course credits (11 courses) for the coursework option. More information on these degree options are available in the graduate handbook.

20) What are the deadlines for submitting an application for acceptance/admission to the Computer Science program?

To be considered for admission during a given semester, all application materials must reach Virginia Tech by December 15 for the following Fall semester. We no longer accept applications for Spring semester. Due to the high volume of applications received, it is strongly recommended that you apply well in advance. This is particularly true for international applicants and any applicant who desires financial assistance. To be competitive for fellowships/assistantships for Fall semester, applicants are strongly advised to make sure their application is complete by December 1.