Thesis or Non-Thesis Option

The Department of Computer Science offers both a thesis and a non-thesis master's degree. Here are some factors to consider while deciding which option is best for you.

The Non-thesis Master's Degree

A non-thesis master's degree can be completed in less time than a thesis master's. The final project usually takes one or two semesters, while the thesis takes at least two semesters.

Most students can complete the non-thesis course requirements in four long semesters by maintaining a moderate-to-high course load (9-12 credit-hours/semester). Most part-time students can complete the degree in about four years (one course per term, including summers).

Another advantage of the non-thesis option is you usually can plan your program and predict when you will complete your degree. Completing a thesis can be a more variable endeavor.

The Thesis Master's Degree

The time to complete a thesis master's varies, but it usually takes longer than a non-thesis degree.

Full-time students typically take 28-30 months to complete their course work, plan and carry out their thesis research, and write their thesis. Part-time students take four years or more.

So, why choose to take the extra six months to complete a thesis master's degree...? Here are some possible reasons.

You want to work on a more ambitious project than typically encountered in the classroom.

Depending on your thesis topic, you may gain specialized skills and knowledge that makes you more attractive to certain employers. A thesis may be especially valuable if you hope to work for research or cutting-edge development companies.

Any company, however, should appreciate your ability to complete a nontrivial project and to present your work orally and in writing (critical skills in industry).

You want to work closely with faculty and network with potential colleagues.
You will be supervised by one of the faculty, and-depending on the research project-you might work with other research staff and faculty members. They may be able to bring your work to the attention of colleagues who could hire you.
And because they have worked with you over several months, they can tell potential employers more about your abilities than the fact that you got an "A" in their class.

You plan to get a Ph.D. later.
A master's thesis gives you a chance to try your hand at research, the central task in earning a Ph.D, and see whether you enjoy it. Moreover, completing a master's thesis demonstrates research experience and strengthens your application to Ph.D. programs.

You like a challenge.
While completing a master's thesis, you learn how to understand the research literature in your field, how to write for a scholarly audience, and how to present your work in writing and as a lecture. In addition, you will learn more about your topic than you would ever learn in a classroom.

You hope to get funding for your thesis research.
Some research projects may have funding for specific work that could constitute a suitable thesis. A student who is willing to tackle such a project for their thesis might be able to arrange partial funding (e.g., tuition waiver) for part or all of the research phase of the thesis.

It should be emphasized, though, there are no guarantees of funding even if you write a thesis.

Should you write a thesis? Only you can answer that. Most students choose the non-thesis option, understandably. But for others, a thesis master's degree is a worthwhile investment.

For more information, contact the Department of Computer Science at cs@lamar.edu or write to

Department of Computer Science
Lamar University
Beaumont, Texas 77710