Computer Science Master's Degree - Foundations of Computer Science

Foundations of Computer Science

Online Program Overview

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

The Foundations of Computer Science track is intended for students who wish to develop state of the art knowledge of the theoretical foundations of Computer Science. The theory of computation plays a crucial role in providing solid foundations for all areas of Computer Science, including systems, artificial intelligence, security, and circuit design. This track will help you develop leading-edge knowledge of theoretical Computer Science and its applications.

"In terms of CVN's online coverage of the course, I do find it of very high quality. I have tried distance learning elsewhere, but CVN is by far the best I have seen."
Josh Perfetto, Student

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. 

We accept applications on a rolling basis, which means there are no deadlines to apply.  Please submit your degree applications no later than 4 - 6 weeks before the semester you wish to enroll.

Prof. Xi Chen is the advisor for Masters students following this track. E-mail Prof. Chen at [email protected] For answers to your most common admissions questions, please review our FAQ page here.

Overall Requirements

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

  • Breadth requirement courses
  • Two required track courses: CSOR W4231 and COMS W4236
  • One course from the Elective I list (3pts)
  • At least three courses from the Electives II list (not including the course chosen from the Electives I list), two of which must be 6000-level (9pts)
  • One general elective graduate course at the 4000 or 6000 level (3pts)


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 information, visit the CS Foundations Track page.

Breadth Requirement

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

Required Track Courses

  • CSOR W4231: Analysis of Algorithms I
  • COMS W4236: Introduction to Computational Complexity

Track Program: Electives I

Candidates are required to complete one (1) of the following courses:

  • COMS W4203: Graph Theory
  • COMS W4205: Combinatorial Theory
  • COMS W4241: Numerical Algorithms and Complexity
  • COMS W4252: Computational Learning Theory
  • COMS W4261: Introduction to Cryptography
  • COMS W4281: Quantum Computing

Track Program: Electives II

Candidates are required to complete three courses from the following list (excluding the course already taken). At least two of these must be at the 6000 level.

  • COMS W4203: Graph Theory
  • COMS W4205: Combinatorial Theory
  • COMS W4241: Numerical Algorithms and Complexity
  • COMS W4252: Computational Learning Theory
  • COMS W4261: Introduction to Cryptography
  • COMS W4281: Quantum Computing
  • COMS W4995: Visit the topics courses page to see which apply for this track
  • COMS W6204: Topics in Graph Theory
  • COMS E6232: Analysis of Algorithms II
  • COMS E6253: Computational Learning Theory II
  • COMS E6261: Advanced Cryptography
  • COMS E6291: Theoretical Topics in Computer Science
  • COMS E6998: Visit the topics courses page to see which apply for this track
  • COMS E6901: Projects in Computer Science (advisor approval required)
  • CSEE W6180: Performance Analysis
  • ELEN E6718: Algebraic Coding Theory
  • ELEN E6970: Resource Allocation and Networking Games
  • IEOR E4150: Introduction to Probability and Statistics
  • IEOR E4407: Game Theoretic Models of Operation
  • IEOR E6400: Scheduling: Deterministic Models
  • IEOR E6606: Advanced Topics in Network Flows
  • IEOR E6608: Integer Programming
  • IEOR E6610: Approximation Algorithms
  • IEOR E6613: Optimization I
  • IEOR E6614: Optimization II
  • IEOR E6711: Stochastic Models I
  • IEOR E6712: Stochastic Models II

General Electives

Remaining points from any qualifying Computer Science graduate course (4000- and 6000- level). Students may take up to 3 points of non-CS/non-track course approved by the advisor. Please complete a non-track approval form, get your advisor’s approval, and forward it to CS Student Services.

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, COMS 4721, ELEN 4903, IEOR 4525, STAT 4240, STAT 4400/4241/5241 – as part of their degree requirements.

Known non-track courses: IEOR E4550y Entrepreneurial business creation for engineers

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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