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Computer Science Degree Requirements

This Master of Liberal Arts, Computer Science degree field is offered online with one 3-week course required on campus here at Harvard University.

The primarily asynchronous format offers the most flexibility for international students and those with variable work schedules.

Getting Started

Explore Degree Requirements

Upcoming Term: Fall 2024

Course registration opens July 22 at 9 a.m. Eastern time.

Learn how to register →

Required Courses

  • Two people on a zoom call.

    Online core and elective courses

  • School building.

    On-campus precapstone course

  • Lightbulb in a hand.

    Final capstone project

12 Graduate Courses (48 credits)

The degree is for individuals with a strong technical background who are proficient in programming languages such as Java, Python, and C++.

Required Core Courses

  • 1 programming language course
  • 1 data structures course
  • 1 discrete math course
  • 1 algorithms course
  • 2 theoretical computer science courses
  • 1 data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning course
  • 1 cloud computing course
  • 2 software engineering courses
  • 1 computer science precapstone (on campus)
    • First offering will be summer 2025
  • 1 computer science capstone
    • First offering will be fall 2025

Browse Courses →

Precapstone: The Harvard 3-Week On-Campus Experience

Nearly all courses can be taken online, but you are required to come to Cambridge for the precapstone course, where you and your team, along with an industry partner, create the research design/protocol for your final capstone project. It is offered:

  • On campus during the 3-week summer session. The summer session offers our adult learners a traditional on-campus experience. Harvard Summer School offers housing, meal plans, and a prolonged on-campus experience here at Harvard University. Learn more about campus life at Harvard.

International students who need a student visa. To meet the on-campus requirement, you can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.

Capstone Course & Project

Capstone Sequencing: You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement.

The Capstone Experience: The team-based capstone project experience is a unique and valuable aspect of the master’s degree curriculum.

  • Real-World Projects: The capstone project experience is designed to give you the opportunity to work on real-world team-based projects in collaboration with industry partners and fellow students. The goal is to apply the skills and knowledge you have gained throughout the program to solve a pressing industry need.
  • Interdisciplinary Approach: You work in a team on a capstone project that address complex problems from multiple perspectives.
  • Innovation: The team-based capstone project experience is designed to encourage innovation and creativity. You will be encouraged to think outside the box and develop novel solutions to complex problems, providing you with a valuable opportunity to showcase your skills and knowledge.
  • Professional Development: The team-based capstone project experience is also designed to provide you with valuable professional development opportunities. You learn how to work effectively in teams, communicate your ideas effectively, and develop valuable negotiation and project management skills in various professional settings.

In-Person Co-Curricular Events

Come to Cambridge for Convocation (fall) to celebrate your hard-earned admission, Harvard career fairs offered throughout the year, HES alumni networking events (here at Harvard and around the world), and, of course, Harvard University Commencement (May).

Admissions

  • Diploma.

    Confirm your initial eligibility with a 4-year bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent.

  • Person climbing toward a flag.

    Take three courses in our unique “earn your way in” admissions process that count toward your degree.

  • Checking off a box.

    In the semester of your third course, submit the official application for admission to the program.

Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Be sure to visit Degree Program Admissions for full details.

Initial Eligibility

  • Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a 4-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated for equivalency.
  • If English is your second language, you’ll need to prove English proficiency before registering for a course. We have multiple proficiency options.

Earn Your Way In — Courses Required for Admission

To begin the admission process, you simply register — no application required — for the following two, four-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online).

These prerequisite courses count toward your degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses. They are investments in your studies and help ensure success in the program.

  • 1 programming language course
  • 1 data structures course

Course sequencing and grading. The two courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, but each course must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your second degree course, submit the official application to the program.

Don’t delay! You must prioritize the two degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • Avoid the loss of credit due to expired course work or changes to admission and degree requirements.
  • Ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • Avoid the delayed application fee.
  • Gain access to exclusive benefits.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 10 more courses after admission to earn the degree. Applicants can register for courses in the upcoming semester before they receive their grades and while they await their admission decision.

The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round to support accelerated degree completion.

  • You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).
  • You can enroll full or part-time with many degree candidates, after qualifying for admission, choosing 2 courses per semester (fall/spring) and 1 in the January term as well as summer.
  • Most fall and spring courses meet online once a week for 2 hours, while January and summer courses meet more frequently in a condensed format.

To Complete Your Degree

  • Trophy on a computer monitor.

    Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Clipboard with a pen.

    Complete your courses in five years.

  • Graduation cap and diploma.

    Earn your Harvard degree and enjoy Harvard Alumni Association benefits upon graduation.

Required GPA, Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Courses

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the 3 degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.

Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive 2 withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. Please note that a WD grade from a two-credit course will count as 1 of your 2 allowed WD grades. See Academic Standing.

Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.

Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years

Courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.

Further, you have 5 years to complete your degree requirements. The 5-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any 2 degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the 5-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work. Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the 5-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Computer Science. Degrees are awarded in November, February, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.