Frequently Asked Questions

Questions frequently asked by current Computer Science students.

What are the degree requirements that I need to follow?

You need to follow the major requirements in the year you enter in. If you are a transfer student, you will be given a list of requirements when you transfer. If the requirements change while you are a student at Rensselaer, you can choose to follow the new requirements or continue to follow the current requirements of your class.

Degree requirements from the Catalog

If the degree requirements have changed since you have entered the program, you can follow the requirements that apply to your class or choose to follow the new requirements. For past degree requirements, please check the website or past Rensselaer Catalogs.

How do I add the CS major?

If you are a current RPI student who would like to add a major in Computer Science, you’ll need to submit the following three documents to David Goldschmidt:
CAPP report
You can email the documents to or drop them off at Lally 209.
Before you apply, you need to have completed CSCI-1200 Data Structures.
You will qualify for automatic admission to the Computer Science major if you meet one of the following criteria:
1)You have taken CSCI-1200 Data Structures at RPI and received a grade of at least B.
2) You have taken CSCI-1200 Data Structures and CSCI-2200 Foundations of Computer Science and your average in required CS courses is at least 3.0.The following courses will be included in your GPA calculation if you have taken them at RPI:
CSCI-1100 Computer Science I
CSCI-1200 Data Structures
CSCI-2200 Foundations of Computer Science
CSCI-2300 Introduction to Algorithms
CSCI-2500 Computer Organization
CSCI-2600 Principles of Software
CSCI-4210 Operating Systems
CSCI-4430 Programming Languages
Other CSCI courses you have taken will not be included in the GPA calculation because they are not required by name.
If you have taken a course more than once, only the most recent grade will be included in the GPA calculation.
If you have taken one of the above courses P/NC it will be treated as if you never took the course.If you are admitted to the major, you will need to re-take the course for a grade.
3) You did not take Data Structures at RPI but you have transfer credit for it, you have taken CSCI-2200 Foundations of Computer Science and at least one more of the subsequent courses at RPI, and your GPA in required CS courses taken at RPI is at least 3.0.
If you do not meet any of the above criteria, you can still apply, as long you have completed Data Structures. However, you should be aware that your application is not likely to be approved unless you are close to meeting the criteria and/or if there are special circumstances.

What are the requirements for the CS minor and how do I declare it?

A computer science minor requires CSCI-2300 Introduction to Algorithms, plus three additional four-credit courses at the 2000 level or above, excluding CSCI-2200 Foundations of Computer Science. At least two of these three additional courses must have a CSCI prefix, and at least two must be at the 4000 or 6000 level. One course may be chosen from the ECSE-x6xx or ECSE-x7xx family, excluding ECSE-4630, ECSE-4640, and ECSE-4720. Reading and independent study courses and courses required by name for the student's major cannot be used for the minor. The Pass/No Credit option cannot be used for these courses.

To add a minor in Computer Science, complete the Undergraduate Minor Approval Form. Contact David Goldschmidt for more information and to obtain the proper signature. Next get your advisor's signature and submit the completed form to the Registrar's Office.

What is a dual major and how do I declare it?

Computer science majors can get a dual major with any of the other majors available on the Rensselaer campus. In many cases students can get a dual major within the 128 credits of a single major since many courses can be counted twice. A dual major with engineering requires additional credits beyond 128. To add a dual major, complete the Undergraduate Change of Major/Change of Status form.

To fulfill the requirements for a dual major, simply fulfill all the requirements for each major. A course which meets requirements for both majors may be applied to both.

If your other major is in Management, Architecture, or HASS, we will accept MATH-1500 in place of MATH-1010. However, we recommend that you take MATH-1010 rather than MATH-1500 because MATH-1010 provides the best preparation for CSCI courses.

If your other major is Computer Systems Engineering or Electrical Engineering, CSCI-2500 Computer Organization may be replaced by ECSE-2610 Computer Components and Operations and ECSE-2660 Computer Architecture, Networks, and Operating Systems.

If you have questions about requirements, you should contact:

  • Your CSCI advisor for questions about CSCI requirements. 
  • Your advisor in your other major for questions about the requirements of that major.
  • Anjie Emeka (Sage 5208, x2576) for questions about HASS core requirements.

How do I transfer credits for a course taken at a different university?

To request transfer credit, complete the Transfer Credit Approval form. You can see the transfer credit guidelines on the form (on the top and on the back) and in the Academic Credit section of the Rensselaer Catalog. The form asks for a department approval signature. That refers to the department that teaches the same subject as the course for which you wish to receive transfer credit. For the Computer Science Department, the contact person is Professor David Goldschmidt.

How do I register for an independent study?

To register for an independent study, you must have a syllabus with clear learning objectives and evaluation form. The syllabus must be attached to the independent study form. Each independent study must be supervised by a faculty advisor who will assign you a grade based on your progress towards the learning objectives.

How do I participate in the undergraduate research program (URP)?

Rensselaer has a program called the Undergraduate Research Program (URP) to encourage undergraduates to get involved in the research of the faculty, either for pay or for course credit. Some students are even able to become co-authors of scientific papers. If you would like to find a URP project, look at our research and faculty web pages and then contact faculty in your area of interest to discuss possible projects.

Where can I find the descriptions of the special topics courses?

How do I apply/enroll in the Co-Term and/or Graduate program in Computer Science?

If you are an RPI undergraduate Computer Science student interested in staying on for a Master's degree, you need to decide whether or not you want to apply to the co-terminal program. In the co-terminal program, you remain on undergraduate financial aid for up to five years, and you receive your BS at the same time that you complete the MS. If you apply for the regular MS program, you can apply for graduate funding (which usually offers more than undergraduate funding), and you complete the BS before you start the MS. Either way:

  • The admission decision will depend on whether a CS faculty member agrees to become your research supervisor.
  • Credits taken before you are admitted to the MS program may be applied to the MS if they are not needed for the BS.
  • The minimum undergraduate GPA needed for admission is 3.0.
  • You must meet the same MS requirements, including completing a thesis. Details of the MS requirements are available here.
  • You will be considered a graduate student effective with the semester listed on your certificate of admission, so starting from that date, you will be responsible for fulfilling graduate student requirements, such as colloquium attendance.

How to apply to the co-terminal program

  • Apply before the end of the first semester of your senior year.
  • Apply when you have taken at least 90 credits (including those currently in progress).
  • Email the Graduate Program Administrator,, if you have any questions.
  • Find a CS faculty member who is willing to supervise your research. For a list of faculty research interests, see
  • Complete the co-terminal application at, and attach a copy of your CAPP report. Ask your undergraduate advisor to review your Planner (the last page of the application) and to sign the application.
  • Complete the Plan of Study form (available in pdf or Word). You may need to revise this form several times, and it may be easier to make revisions if you do the form in Word. See this document for details about completing the Plan of Study form. After you have completed the form, have the Graduate Program Administrator review it. After it has been reviewed, sign the form and ask your research supervisor to sign the form.
  • Bring the completed application, CAPP Report, and Plan of Study to the Graduate Program Administrator.  They will check the forms, obtain the Graduate Program Director signature, and submit the forms to the Office of Graduate Education.
  • If you want to take a graduate-level course prior to your admission to the coterminal program, complete the approval form for an undergraduate to take a graduate level course. Do not register for a course at the 4000 letter and assume that you will be allowed to change to the 6000 level of the same course retroactively after being admitted to the coterminal program.

How to apply to the regular program

  • The application deadline is August 15 to be admitted for the spring semester and January 1 to be admitted for the fall semester. These are recommended deadlines. We will review your application even if it is submitted late.
  • Email the Graduate Program Administrator,, if you have any questions.
  • Complete the Master's application at You will need to submit a statement of background and goals, GRE General Test scores, and recommendation letters. Admissions can access your RPI transcript, so you don't need to submit that. RPI students don't need to pay the application fee.

Your application will be reviewed by faculty in your area of interest. Be sure to indicate your research interest area in your application. Although it is not required, it is to your advantage to talk to faculty you are interested in working with. For a list of faculty research interests, see

How do I apply to become a mentor in Computer Science?

The application site is announced in various mailing lists such as, and on online forums such, as soon as possible after the semester ends for mentors for the following semester. The application closes 1 week prior to the start of the semester. Recommendations are highly encouraged, so if you are interested in a particular class, you should contact the professor for that class for any questions regarding mentoring for that class.  You can also ask a former graduate TA for a recommendation.

If you have any general questions about being a mentor, please email the Instructional Support Coordinator,

How do I get involved with the Rensselaer Center for Open Source (RCOS)?

RCOS is open to all who are interested in joining. Our advice is to attend one of the meetings for RCOS and ask for information. More information at

What is the co-op program and can I get academic credit for my co-op?

Many Computer Science majors are involved in the co-op program. They typically work for a semester and a summer with a large firm such as IBM, GE, or Microsoft assisting in their software development. This is a popular program because, in addition to earning money, it allows students to apply the knowledge that they have acquired in the classroom to "real world" problems.

Under some circumstances, undergraduate Computer Science majors may receive academic credit for their computer science co-op or work assignment experience. Graduate students are not eligible for credit for co-op. In order to receive credit, students must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. As soon as the student has determined to seek credit for the experience, s/he must notify the CS Department through either her/his academic advisor or the Undergraduate Curriculum Chair (Professor Cutler). In no case can this be later than two months after the co-op experience has started. An advisor for the co-op credits will be assigned by the department.
  2. Shortly after starting the co-op experience and in any case no later than three months into the co-op, the student must submit a written report to the advisor outlining the activity for which academic credit will be requested.
  3. After completing the co-op, the student must submit a detailed written report to the advisor describing the activities, and including sample code and other documents as required by the Computer Science faculty advisor.
  4. The student must provide written verification from the co-op supervisor.

Academic credit will only be awarded to activities that have some academic content. Activities such as routine code development, maintaining databases, etc cannot receive academic credit. At most 4 credits will be awarded to co-op or work assignments. Consistent with the department policy on independent study courses, this credit may not be counted as a Computer Science Option.

What are the career opportunities for Computer Science students?

A Rensselaer undergraduate education in computer science makes our students highly desirable for industrial employment after graduation. The average starting salary for the class of 2015 was $93,909 (between $60,000-$105,000), the highest among all the majors in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  The salary survey of graduate can be found here

Comprehensive career development services are provided by Rensselaer's Career Development Center.

Job postings for RPI CS majors are available from AfterCollege.