Computer Science Master's Degree - Computational Biology

Computational Biology

Online Program Overview

Degree Level
Master's Degree
Total Credits
Fully Online
Contact Us
Minimum GPA
Qualifying Exam
GRE Required


The Computational Biology Track is intended for students who wish to develop working knowledge of computational techniques and their applications to biomedical research. Recent advances in high-throughput technologies, e.g., for DNA sequencing and for measuring RNA expression via DNA microarrays, are changing the nature of biomedical research. They empower fundamental new understandings of biological mechanisms with far reaching applications to biological and medical sciences. To fulfill this promise, new computational techniques are needed to analyze genome sequences, protein structures, metabolic and regulatory pathways, evolutionary patterns and the genetic basis of disease. The computational-biology track seeks to provide state of the art understanding of this concomitant growth of high-throughput experimental techniques, computational techniques to analyze their data, the resulting new understandings of biological mechanisms and their applications to pharmacological and medical practice (from diagnosis to drug design).

"It was very nice to be able to watch the lectures at my leisure. I've already gushed to anyone who'll listen about how great your program is."
Ray Siu, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center

Admissions Requirements

Degree required for admission: Most candidates have completed an undergraduate degree in computer science. Applicants with degrees in other disciplines and a record of excellence are encouraged to apply; these applicants are required to have completed at least six prerequisites: 4 computer science courses covering the foundations of the field and 2 math courses. 

Examples of computer science courses would be courses offered through an undergraduate computer science program: Intro to Computer Science (COMS W1004 or COMS W1007), Advanced Programming (COMS W3157), Data Structures and Algorithms (COMS W3134 or W3137), which is a prerequisite for most of our graduate-level courses, or/and Discrete Math (COMS W3203).  For the math prereqs, students are encouraged to take linear algebra and differential equations. 

Please note that these must be taken at a university (can be online) and must be grade- and credit-bearing.  MOOCs such as courses on Coursera and edX do NOT meet this requirement. These courses are not offered here at Columbia Video Network, but may be taken at another online institution or your local university.  Work experience does not waive this requirement.

GPA required: Most students admitted have earned a grade point average above 3.5 (out of 4.0); a GPA of at least 3.3 is required. 

GRE requirements: General test required. A subject GRE test is not required but may be helpful in strengthening your application. 

Competence in English: If you have not earned a degree from an undergraduate or graduate institution in which the instructional language was English, you may be required to take the TOEFL/IELTS.

Other application requirements: 3 recommendation letters, transcripts, resume, and a personal-professional statement are required. All application requirements in the Graduate Application must be completed as specified in the application. For answers to your most common admissions questions, please review our FAQ page here.

Students must complete at least 30 points of graduate coursework as outlined below.

1     Security Track requires::

         - Breadth Courses

         -Required Track Courses (15 pts)

        - Track Electives (6 pts)

        -General Electives (6 pts)


2     5 required courses (15 pts): COMS W4118 (OS), COMS W4156 (Adv. Software Engineering), COMS W4180 (Network Security), COMS W4187 (Security Architecture and Engineering), and either COMS W4261 (Introduction to Cryptography) or COMS E6185 (Intrusion Detection).


3     2 elective courses (6 pts) selected from the list of Elective Track Courses; at least 1 of these courses must be a 6000-level CS course.


4     1 general elective graduate CS course (3 pts), at 4000-level or above.


5    Must have 6 points at the 6000-level, at least 3 of these 6000-level points must be selected from the list of Elective Track Courses.



Students must complete at least 30 points of graduate coursework as outlined below.

1     Computational Biology track requires:

        - Breadth courses
 (12 pts)

        - Required Track courses (6 pts)

        - Track Electives (6 pts)

        -General Electives (6 pts)

2     2 required courses (6 points): COMS W4761(Computational Genomics) and either COMS W4771 or SIEO W4150.

3     6 elective points at the 6000-level, at least 3 of these 6000-level points must be selected from the list of Elective Track Courses.

4     6 credits of general elective graduate courses, at 4000 level or above; at least 3 of these points must be CS graduate courses.

5     At least 3 elective points must be selected from courses in biological departments.

6     Students, who waive track requirements using previous courses, may complete the 30 graduate credits by expanding their electives selected from (a) the list of required track courses; (b) the list of elective track courses; or (c) other graduate courses.


Students must complete all core courses and selected electives for a total of 30 graduate points of academic work via CVN while maintaining a minimum grade point average of 2.7. All degree requirements must be completed within 5 years of the beginning of the first course credited toward the degree. This includes courses taken in the non-degree program.


Course List

For the most up-to-date course information, visit the CS Computational Biology page.

Breadth Requirement

All students must complete the Breadth Requirement. Visit the breadth requirement page for a list of courses.

Required Track Courses

Students are required to complete the following courses. Students who have taken equivalent courses in the past and received grades of at least a B may apply for waivers and take other CS courses instead.

  • CBMF W4761: Computational Genomics

And one of the following two courses:

  • COMS W4771: Machine Learning or SIEO W4150: Introduction to Probability and Statistics

Elective Track Courses

Students are required to take 2 courses from the following list, at least one of which must be a 6000-level course. Other courses on this list may be used as general electives or waiver replacements when the student has received a waiver.

  • COMS W4111: Database Systems
  • COMS W4252: Introduction to Computational Learning Theory
  • COMS W4772: Advanced Machine Learning
  • COMS W4995: Visit the topics courses page to see which apply for this track
  • COMS E6111: Advanced Database Systems
  • COMS E6901: Projects in Computer Science
  • COMS E6998: Visit the topics courses page to see which apply for this track
  • STAT G6101: Statistical Modeling and Data Analysis
  • ECBM E4060: Intro to Genomic Info Sci & Tech
  • EECS E6720: Bayesian Models for Machine Learning
  • EECS E6894: Deep Learning for Computer Vision and Natural Language Processing

General Elective Courses

Students are required to complete at least 6 additional graduate points at, or above, the 4000 level; at least 3 of these points must be CS, the other 3 points may be a technical or non-CS/non-track elective approved by the track advisor. Please complete a non-track approval form, get your advisor’s approval, and forward it to CS Student Services. At most 3 points overall of the 30 graduate points required for the MS degree may be non-CS/non-track.

*Due to a significant overlap in course material, MS students not in the Machine Learning track can only take 1 of the following courses – COMS 4771, ELEN 4903, IEOR 4525, STAT 4240, STAT 4400/4241/5241 – as part of their degree requirements.

Tuition & Fees

2022 - 2023 Tuition & Fees

Please note that all tuition and fees are in U.S. dollars and are estimated. Tuition and most fees are prescribed by statute, and are subject to change at the discretion of the Trustees.

CVN Credit Tuition: $2,362 per point (Credit Hour)
CVN Fee: $395 non-refundable fee per course
Transcript Fee: $105 non-refundable one-time fee
Tuition Deposit: $1000 (More information on our Resources page)

Estimated cost of one nondegree course: $7,586
Estimated total cost of certification (four courses): $30,029.00

Estimated total cost of MS (ten courses): $74,915.00
*Estimated total cost of DES (ten courses plus a minimum of 12 research credits): $104,049.00

Graduate Admission Application Fee: $150 non-refundable one-time fee
Certification Program Application Fee: $150 non-refundable one-time fee

Late Registration Fee: $100 non-refundable fee

CVN Withdrawal Fee: $75, plus prorated tuition and all non-refundable fees
For example: A three-credit course would be $7,086 + transcript fee $105 (one-time) + CVN fee $395 = $7,586

*Assumes DES student enrolls in two six-credit research courses.

For Drop/Withdrawal fees and dates, refer to the Academic Calendar for the current term.

Please note: CVN no longer offers courses for audit.


Payment should be mailed to:

Columbia University
Student Account Payments
P.O. Box 1385
New York, NY 10008-1385

Before you mail your check or money order, please take careful note of the following requirements to ensure the timely processing of your payment:


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