M.S. Degree Requirements
Updated November 1, 2023
NOTE: The requirements below were modified for 2020-2021 by the program's Covid-19 policies.
- 45 unit minimum to confer the M.S. degree. All courses must be 100 level and above.
- 50 percent of those units must be in graduate-level courses (generally, at the 200-level or above)
- 36 of these must be graded units, passed with an average grade of 3.0 (B) or better. Any course taken as part of the 45 unit program must be taken for a letter grade unless the course is offered S/NC only.
- None of the 45 units to be counted toward the M.S. degree may include units counted toward an undergraduate degree (or other Master's degree) at Stanford or elsewhere. Course requirements for the M.S. degree in Symbolic Systems may be waived after a review by the program office. Waivers are granted at the discretion of the program, and only if evidence is provided that similar or more advanced courses have been taken and passed with a letter grade of B or its equivalent, either at Stanford or another institution, and as part of another degree program which the student has either completed or is pursuing in parallel with the Symbolic Systems M.S. degree. Waivers of Core skill area requirements for the M.S. degree must be approved by the end of the student's first quarter of enrollment in the program. Course requirements that are waived rather than fulfilled by courses taken at Stanford may not be counted toward the 45 units required for the Symbolic Systems M.S. degree.
- All general University requirements (minimum units, residency, and so on) for the master’s degree must be met through the proposed program of study.
- Work on the Master's thesis may account for up to 15 units, usually taken as Symsys 290, Master's Degree Project. Enroll in a section under your thesis advisor. If the advisor is not listed, please contact Dacien Sims, Student Services Officer, as soon as possible and no later than two days prior to the final study list deadline.
Covid-19 Grading Policy: The master's program in Symbolic Systems counts all courses taken in academic year 2020-21 with a grade of 'D-', 'CR' (credit) or 'S' (satisfactory) towards satisfaction of graduate degree requirements that otherwise require a letter grade, subject to a graduate GPA requirement of 3.0 or above in the courses that constitute a master's student's 45 required units. In addition, courses taken in the Spring Quarter of 2019-20 and passed with an S grade can count toward the 36 units of letter graded coursework required for the Master’s degree, provided the course is ordinarily offered for a letter grade.
An initial plan of study should be delineated on the M.S. Program Proposal Form and submitted prior to the end of the student's first quarter of study. The Program Proposal is subject to approval by the SymSys Program Office and should be sent to symsys-directors [at] lists.stanford.edu (symsys-directors[at]lists[dot]stanford[dot]edu), with a cc to the prospective project advisor, if in an approved project.
The final approved version of the M.S. Program Proposal, which should specify all the courses the student has taken and proposes as fulfillment of the unit requirements for the degree, is due by the end of Finals Week in the quarter prior to the student's expected graduation quarter. Advisor signature is required at this time.
Note: It is the student's responsibility to verify that they have met the program and University requirements, and any courses listed for a future quarter on their M.S. Program Proposal are scheduled to be offered. Failure by the student to verify that a course is scheduled to be offered will not be considered as grounds for a replacement petition, if a course listed on the Program Proposal form is not offered.
The MS program requires students to take advanced courses in four main skill areas: formal, empirical, computational, and philosophical, which must be taken in at least three of the following departments: Computer Science, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Psychology. Each course must be taken for 3 or more units and passed with a letter grade.
Advanced courses in each of the skill areas are defined below. The courses listed are examples of those that have been approved. Other courses may be approved if appropriate.
Formal: a proof-based course in logic and computational theory beyond the level of Phil 151.
- PHIL 252. Computability and Logic (same as PHIL 152)
- PHIL 254. Modal Logic (same as PHIL 154)
- PHIL 257. Decision Theory (same as PHIL 157)
- PHIL 352. Advanced Set Theory
- PHIL 356C. Logic and Artificial Intelligence (same as CS 257)
- PHIL 357. Research Seminar in Logic and Cognition
- PHIL 359. Logic Spring Seminar
- CS 154. Introduction to the Theory of Computation
- CS 157. Logic and Automated Reasoning
- CS 161. Design and Analysis of Algorithms
- CS 254. Computational Complexity
- CS 261. Optimization and Algorithmic Paradigms
Empirical: a course drawing on experimental or observational data or methods, beyond the level of PSYCH 50, LINGUIST 130A, or CS 109.
- CS 224N. Natural Language Processing (same as LINGUIST 284)
- CS 224U. Natural Language Understanding (same as LINGUIST 188, LINGUIST 288)
- CS 229. Machine Learning
- CS 376. Research Topics in Human-Computer Interaction
- LINGUIST 230B. Semantics and Pragmatics I
- LINGUIST 245B: Methods in Psycholinguistics (SYMSYS 195L)
- NBIO 206. The Nervous System
- NBIO 258. Information and Signaling Mechanisms in Neurons and Circuits
- PSYCH 204. Computation and Cognition: The Probabilistic Approach
- PSYCH 204A. Human Neuroimaging Methods
- PSYCH 209. Neural Network Models for Cognition
- PSYCH 220A: Probabilistic Models of Cognition: Reasoning and Learning (CS 428A)
- PSYCH 251. Experimental Methods
- PSYCH 252. Statistical Methods for Social and Behavioral Sciences
- STATS 200. Introduction to Statistical Inference
- SYMSYS 245. Cognition in Interaction Design
Computational: a Computer Science Department-listed course that either (a) includes CS 107 as a prerequisite, or (b) lists CS 106B or 106X, together with one or more courses from the mathematical or Formal Methods Core of the SymSys undergraduate major, as prerequisites.
- CS 108. Object-Oriented Systems Design
- CS 110. Principles of Computer Systems
- CS 142. Web Applications
- CS 143. Compilers
- CS 145. Introduction to Databases
- CS 168. The Modern Algorithmic Toolbox
- CS 210A. Software Project Experience with Corporate Partners
- CS 221. Artificial Intelligence: Principles and Techniques
- CS 224N. Natural Language Processing (LINGUIST 284)
- CS 224U: Natural Language Understanding (LINGUIST 188, LINGUIST 288, SYMSYS 195U)
- CS 224W Machine Learning with Graphs
- CS 234. Reinforcement Learning
- CS 229: Machine Learning (STATS 229)
- CS 246. Mining Massive Data Sets
Philosophical: a course in the area of Philosophy of Mind/Language/Science/Epistemology or Metaphysics at the 200 level or above, certified by the instructor as worthy of graduate credit.
Note that the undergraduate versions (numbered below 200) are not acceptable for this requirement.
- PHIL 207B: Plato's Later Metaphysics and Epistemology
- PHIL 213: Helenistic Philosophy
- PHIL 234A: Phenomenology: Animals
- PHIL 237: Wittgenstein
- PHIL 257: Decision Theory
- PHIL 267D. Philosophy of Neuroscience
- PHIL 281. Philosophy of Language
- PHIL 283. Self-Knowledge and Metacognition
- PHIL 284: Topics in Epistemology
- PHIL 286. Philosophy of Mind
- PHIL 286A. Self-fashioning
- PHIL 287. Philosophy of Action
- PHIL 327. Scientific Philosophy: From Kant to Kuhn and Beyond
- PHIL 348. Evolution of Signaling
- PHIL 359. Topics in Logic, Information, and Agency
- PHIL 361. Philosophy of Social Science: Social Scientific Methodology
- PHIL 377. Rational and Social Agency (same as POLISCI 333)
- PHIL 387: Topics in Philosophy of Action: Planning and Human Practical Organization
Pre-project Research Requirements
Pre-project research requirements, including the Project Area Statement (PAS) and Qualifying Research Paper (QRP).
Individual Development Plan
Submission of an Individual Development Plan, approved the student's primary thesis advisor, by June 1st of the year prior to the student's first full academic year working their primary advisor.