New computer science master’s degree will fill need for advanced computer and software industry graduates

Marshall  soon will offer a high-demand master of science degree in computer science, following last week’s  approval of the program by the Marshall University Board of Governors at its regular meeting.

The MSCS is designed to provide students with the knowledge, skill and professional practices to develop complex software systems and will prepare students who desire to pursue further graduate work leading to the Ph.D.

“A master’s degree in Computer Science (MSCS) is long overdue at Marshall University,” said Dr. Venkat Gudivada, a professor in the College of Information, Technology and Engineering (CITE),  who did much of the primary work on the new degree. “Given the high demand for computer science graduate education and excellent job opportunities, this new degree will serve the needs of the southern West Virginia population and beyond. As software has deeply entrenched in all aspects of our lives, computer science graduate education is a critical component for economic growth in the state with potential for software startup companies.”

The new degree was proposed by the Weisberg Division of Computer Science in the College of Information Technology and Engineering. It requires 30 credit hours of graduate work.

Gudivada said that, according to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics job openings in 2020 will be in the computing discipline. The 2011 average annual pay for software professionals was $96,250, and the same for software managerial positions was $125,660, based on labor statistics, Gudivada said.

“According to a 2013 Forbes report, software development is the occupation that created the most jobs in the U.S.,” Gudivada said. “Forbes also ranks a master’s degree in computer science as the second best master’s degree for jobs.”

A bachelor’s degree in computer science is often inadequate for computing jobs given the rapid advances in the field, Gudivada said.

“West Virginia companies such as MATRIC and BrickStreet Insurance find it hard to recruit people with advanced software knowledge and skills,” he said. “A leading-edge, graduate degree in computer science education will produce highly sought-after professionals capable of thriving in the challenging environments demanded in today’s business world. Because our society is becoming increasingly dependent on technology for every aspect of our lives, computer scientists are sought after in pretty much every industry and in a wide range of capacities.”

In addition, “this new program will contribute to attracting more international students to Marshall’s campus,” he said.

Prior to the start of their studies, students are required to complete a plan of study in consultation with their academic advisers. All students must take CS 620-Applied Algorithms and CS 660-Big Data Systems. Working with their advisers, students will then select courses from a menu that includes database systems, bioinformatics, information retrieval, software design, software testing, machine learning, visual analytics, computer architecture, software specifications, artificial intelligence principals and methods and high performance computing.

Students then choose a thesis option or a project option. They must summarize their thesis work in a formal written document and deliver an oral presentation. Thesis work is typically done over two semesters. Students select a topic for the project option in consultation with their academic adviser. Project work requires effort equivalent to a three-credit-hour course and is typically completed in the last semester of study.

In other news, the board approved an updated policy to allow registered support animals on Marshall’s campuses, which brings the university into compliance with federal law concerning individuals with disabilities.  The policy defines the difference among pets, service animals, and support animals, and outlines the rules and regulations regarding where they are allowed on campus.

Sandra Clements, director of the Office of Disability Services, said students seeking support animal accommodation  must provide documentation of a psychological evaluation where the student has been diagnosed with a disability and a doctor has outlined that a specific support animal is necessary and appropriate for the student. Also required is documentation of vaccinations and a statement from a veterinarian that the support animal is healthy enough to be on campus and around people.

“As with any special accommodation, there is a specific process,” Clements said. “It’s a process that requires a 30-day period to allow for verification of documents and review of the situation for the Office of Disability Services.”  If the student requires university housing, there are specific Housing and Residence Life rules the student must follow, Clements said.

Other than service and approved support animals, Marshall  does not allow animals or pets on campus.