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University of Pittsburgh    
2019-2020 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Oct 03, 2023
2019-2020 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Information Science, MS

Admissions Requirements

Applicants for graduate study must have earned a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university with a scholastic average of B (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) or better.

Prerequisites for admission to the Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) degree program include one three-credit college course in each of the following (the corresponding Pitt course numbers are indicated):

  • Programming: A course on structured programming using Java, C#, or C++. (INFSCI 0017  or CS 0401 )
  • Statistics: A course covering data collection, descriptive and inferential statistics is optimal. It should cover measures of central tendency and variability, regression, correlation, non-parametric analysis, probability, and sampling, Bayesian analysis, significance tests, and hypothesis testing. (STAT 0200  or STAT 1000 )
  • Mathematics: A college-level mathematics course, in discrete mathematics or calculus. (MATH 0120 , MATH 0220 , or MATH 0400 ). If a student has not taken this before enrollment, they may take INFSCI 2020  to meet this requirement.

Note: some specializations within the MSIS program of study require additional pre-requisite courses are not calculated in the total credits required to earn the degree. Please see the specializations details below.

The application for admission will require that the following be submitted:

  • two letters of recommendation
  • official transcripts
  • a recent score (within five years) on the Graduate Record Examination
  • Resume or CV
  • Statement of Intent, consisting of no more than 500 words and outlining your career goals.

International applicants must submit either the TOEFL or the IELTS results from within 2 years.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) degree is conferred upon students who have: 

  • acquired proficiency in the core areas of information science; 
  • obtained a substantial understanding of the larger problems, particularly the use, non-use, and misuse of information, and the function of information in a global society; 
  • completed a minimum of 36 credits that may include a practicum or thesis; 
  • satisfied the general University requirements relating to graduate degrees. 

A minimum of 36 credits is required to complete the general MSIS degree. Basic course requirements are as follows*: 

  • Six credits of course work in the Foundations area 
  • 18 credits of course work in the Systems and Technology areas (INFSCI 2500 required) 
  • Six credits of course work in the Cognitive Science or Cognitive Systems areas 
  • Six credits of electives-students may pursue a thesis or a practicum as one of the elective options. Students should know that a thesis is not a requirement of the MSIS degree.

*This distribution may vary depending upon the specialization.

Specific course requirements for the degree are outlined on the student’s AAR.

With the possible exception of six credits of advanced standing, all course work must be completed in residence in the MSIS degree program (i.e., registering while matriculated as an SCI student) at the University of Pittsburgh. 

The student’s advisor may approve certain exceptions to this policy: 

  • Up to six credits taken at other member institutions in the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE). 
  • Up to six credits of independent study course work may be applied toward a graduate degree in information science and will be counted as meeting one of the area (foundations, etc.) requirements. 
  • Up to six credits of upper-division (1000-1999) undergraduate course work may be applied toward a graduate degree in information science. These will normally be very specialized courses that meet some particular need. Prerequisite programming course work is explicitly excluded from this condition. Other credits (including the practicum or thesis) must be at the graduate level (2000 or 3000-course numbers). No University of Pittsburgh courses numbered below 1000 may be applied toward master’s degree requirements. 
  • Up to six credits of Practicum experience. Practicum credits are counted as electives. 

Approval for these exceptions must be obtained BEFORE enrollment in the course in question and must be documented with advisor approval. No combination of such exceptions will exceed nine credits. All requirements for a specialization or general degree requirements (i.e. two Foundation courses, two Cognitive courses, and six Systems and Technology courses) must still be met.  

Course substitutions and requirement exceptions must be obtained BEFORE enrollment in the course in question, must have the approval of the advisor, and must be documented through the Records Office. Substitutions and exceptions will be noted on the student’s Academic Advisement Report (AAR).  


Students may select a specialization in their application for admission. The student then follows a more stringent distribution of credits depending on their specialization.  As well, some specializations have additional pre-requisites for admission and therefore students may need to complete courses above and beyond the standard 36 credit requirement. 

The following sections describe the specializations; the specific distribution of credits for the individual specializations are outlined on the student’s AAR. 

Students select their specialization on the application for admission and may change it until the end of the term in which they are to complete 18 credits. A form and instructions for changing specializations is available on the School’s Current Students web page

Students who do not meet their chosen specialization’s requirements for graduation will automatically be changed to the general MSIS track. 

Specializations are noted on a student’s final transcripts as “Degree awarded in Master of Science in Information Science with a concentration in [specialization].” 

Big Data Analytics

The Big Data Analytics specialization will provide the graduates of the MSIS degree program with the essential in-depth knowledge of technologies relevant to big data management. Coursework will cover the design and maintenance of infrastructure to efficiently store, easily access, and transfer over wide area networks, extremely large amounts of data. However, the volume and diversity of data make it extremely challenging to store, retrieve, analyze and utilize this information. As society will soon be routinely trying to use petabytes of data stored in multiple formats across different platforms, experts are needed who have the skills and knowledge to design, develop and deploy complex information systems and applications that deal with multi-terabyte data sets.

Students should have an undergraduate data-structures course in addition to the standard MSIS admissions pre-requisites. While this course can be taken after admission, it would require that 13 courses rather than 12 be taken to complete the degree. 

Database and Web Systems

Storage and distribution subsystems are fundamental components of any information system. As information moved to digital form, storage systems evolved into various forms of database systems. In the environment we call the World Wide Web, people interact with databases and information storage systems through web protocols using web-based interfaces to facilitate distribution.

The database and web systems specialization covers both fundamental concepts of modern database management systems (DBMSs) and advanced issues that typically arise in the context of large-scale-enterprise data management. Coursework is focused on developing practical skills in building and administering realistic database systems, data integration, data warehousing, and Web-based data management. Database research projects offer tremendous opportunities for students in specialties including scalable architectures for wide-area environments with heterogeneous information servers, query optimization in highly distributed databases, and wireless and mobile databases.

The web systems coursework introduces current Web technologies including XML, and new distributed architectures for service provision.

Students should have an undergraduate data-structures course in addition to the standard MSIS admissions pre-requisites. While this course can be taken after admission, it would require that 13 courses rather than 12 be taken to complete the degree. As well, students are encouraged to have programming experience in more than one language (C# or C++ and Java are the ideal combinations). 


The goal of the Geoinformatics specialization is to provide students in the MSIS degree program with both the breadth and depth of knowledge in geoinformatics required for solving real-world problems. Students will gain the unique knowledge and skills necessary to facilitate the design, development, and deployment of complex systems and applications in a rapidly emerging geoinformatics profession. Graduates of the Geoinformatics specialization will be able to deploy and manage geoinformation systems in industry, conduct research in geotechnologies, and pursue PhD research in geoinformatics. 

Human-Centered Computing

Human-centered computing (HCC) is concerned with the development and management of systems in which the central focus is the user. The systems should be: aware of the user, easy to use, ubiquitous, and intelligent. In the final analysis, human-centered systems improve workplace satisfaction, capitalize on information in the environment, and act on behalf of the user. Current research in HCC focuses on the building of adaptive interfaces, navigation through information spaces, social computing, and the use of virtual environments in information science. Within this specialization, you will take courses to help you to understand humans and model their preferences, interests, and knowledge; analyze explicitly and implicitly generated data; and design systems with natural and intuitive interfaces. 

Information Security

Providing security and assurance to information systems has emerged as one of the most daunting technological and social challenges of recent times. Major corporations and private industry are expending a great deal of resources to develop cybersecurity technology to secure their information systems. The School is pleased to meet the expected demand for professionals trained to protect information systems by offering the security specialization. This track will provide a unique education in the development, design, and deployment of secure information systems with an emphasis on networked information systems. It will produce information technology professionals with the ability to meet special security challenges (e.g., intrusion detection) posed by conventional and emerging network information systems.

Students should have an undergraduate data-structures course in addition to the standard MSIS admissions pre-requisites. While this course can be taken after admission, it would require that 13 courses rather than 12 be taken to complete the degree. 

Sub-tracks within this Specialization

Students pursuing the Security Assured Information Systems (SAIS) specialization can select key courses relevant to another discipline or area of interest. Students can select several courses relevant to Big Data Analytics, Health Informatics, or Database and Web Systems that will also meet the requirements of the SAIS specialization. Thus, the student can complete the SAIS specialization, while also acquiring the core skillset and knowledge related to these other critical areas.

Please note: The SAIS specialization must be officially declared via the Graduate Academic Plan (Degree/Specialization) Change Form; it will appear on your transcript. Sub-tracks do not need to be declared, are not tracked for graduation or degree progress purposes, and will not appear on the transcript.

Telecommunications and Distributed Systems

The Telecommunications and Distributed Systems (TDS) specialization focuses on one of the fastest growing Information Technology fields. Distributed computing involves the study of information systems in which the data and computational processing are spread over more than one computer-usually in a network. Networking is critical to efficient communication among widely distributed participants and has become the backbone of industries ranging from Telecommunications firms to healthcare systems. Thanks to the Internet and more powerful computation/communication devices, industry and society are demanding more pervasive networks, more efficient and effective information systems, and more professionals trained to design and manage these complex and vital systems.

With this specialization, students will gain the knowledge and skills to face the challenges of deploying, designing, and managing distributed applications across networked systems. Graduates will be able to design and manage client-server and peer-to-peer systems, manage network-based information systems, and design networks and systems that are secure.

Students should have an undergraduate intro to Telecommunications and Networking ( TELCOM 2000 - INTRODUCTION TO TELECOMMUNICATIONS ) course in addition to the standard MSIS admissions pre-requisites. While this course can be taken after admission, it would require that 13 courses rather than 12 be taken to complete the degree.  

Master’s Degree Program with GSPIA

The School of Computing and Information (SCI) has a joint agreement with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). The program allows students to complete the Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) degree and one of three degrees in GSPIA simultaneously. To be admitted fully into the joint program, students must be accepted first by GSPIA and then by SCI. 

Students wishing to enter this program need to submit the regular MSIS online application form, along with two recommendation letters, an official transcript, and a copy of GRE or GMAT. International students have additional submission requirements. It is recommended that GSPIA students apply after their first term in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

All students are expected to have completed the pre-requisites established for the MSIS degree program. 

Course of Study for Joint Degree Students

The course of study for the Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) degree under the joint agreement consists of a minimum of 30 credits in the MSIS program, plus an additional 30-39 credits at GSPIA depending on the selected area of study. Students must have a minimum of 24 credits of residency at SCI by the completion of the degree. Students should consult with the Records Office before enrolling in classes each term in order to ensure they are enrolling under the appropriate school code. 

*Please be aware that there is a small tuition differential between the two schools.*

Degree requirements are outlined on the student’s Academic Advisement Report (AAR).

Additional Requirements

Grading Policy

Each student must maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) for all credits of graduate level coursework for either degree or the certificate. Failure to maintain a 3.0 GPA in any term will result in the student being placed on academic probation immediately. If the student does not raise the GPA to a 3.0 after the next nine credits, the student will be dismissed from the program in which he or she is enrolled.

Grades for Individual Courses

All students in the Information Science/Telecommunications degree programs must earn satisfactory grades in each course taken. A grade of C-, D+, D, D-, F, and Unsatisfactory are unacceptable for graduation credit. A course for which such an unsatisfactory grade is earned must be repeated if it is a course that is a degree requirement (e.g., INFSCI 2000 or INFSCI 2500/2592). Courses may be repeated only once. Elective courses need not be repeated; another course may be taken to replace it. However, the original course remains on the transcript and a higher grade must be earned to maintain a 3.0 GPA.

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