Stanford University
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M.S. Degree Requirements

NOTE: The requirements below are modified for 2020-2021 by the program's Covid-19 policies.

General Requirements

  • 45 unit minimum to confer the M.S. degree. All courses must be 100 level and 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 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. 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. 
  • 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 Lisa Woodcock, Student Services Officer, as soon as possible and no later than two days prior to the final study list deadline. 

Program Proposal

An initial plan of study should be delineated on the Program Proposal Form prior to the end of the student's first quarter of study. 

The final version of the 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. 

Course Requirements

The MS program requires students to take advanced courses in four main skill areas: formal, empirical, computational, and philosophical; and in at least three of the following departments: Computer Science, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Psychology. Each course should be taken for 3 or more units.

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.

Completion of three quarters of the Symbolic Systems Program M.S. Seminar, SymSys 291


Pre-project Research Requirements

Pre-project research requirements, including the Project Area Statement (PAS) and Qualifying Research Paper (QRP). 

Master's Thesis

Completion of the Master's Thesis. Work on the project (SymSys 290) may account for up to 15 units of a student's program.