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University of Pittsburgh    
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 23, 2021
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Information Science, MS

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MSIS Admissions Requirements

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 )

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 specialization details below.

MSIS 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.

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 exceptions must be obtained PRIOR to enrollment in the course in question and must be documented with the advisor’s initials on a completed plan of study (available on the school’s Intranet). No combination of such exceptions will exceed 9 credits. All requirements for a specialization or general degree requirements (i.e. 2 Foundation courses, 2 Cognitive courses, and 6 Systems and Technology courses) must still be met.

General Track Requirements

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

  • 6 credits of course work in the Formal or Applied Foundations area
  • 18 credits of course work in the Systems and Technology areas (INFSCI 2500  required)
  • 6 credits of course work in the Cognitive Science or Cognitive Systems areas
  • 6 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.


Students may elect a specialization on 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 plans of study. Plan of study worksheets are available of the school’s Intranet. Students who elected a specialization are expected to review and follow the requirements of that area.

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 Intranet.

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

This specialization will expose students to the fundamental concepts of distributed systems and provide the necessary knowledge and skills to design and develop network-based information systems with a focus on e-business emphasizing systems and technology. This track will provide the system-oriented theory as well as knowledge and skills required for e-business, e-government and other integrated collaboration 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. As well, students are encouraged to have programming experience in more than one language - C or C++ and Java are the ideal combination.


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 iSchool is pleased to meet the expected demand for professionals trained in protect information systems by offering the SAIS 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.

Telecommunications and Distributed Systems

The TDS specialization includes coursework in networking protocols, client-server systems, distributed database management systems, and Web services. MSIS students who choose this specialization will learn how to deploy, design, manage, and protect distributed applications in networked systems.

Students should have an undergraduate intro to Telecommunications and Networking (TELCOM 2000 ) 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 Degree Program with GSPIA

The School of Information Sciences (SIS) has entered into a joint agreement with Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). The program allows for 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 by both GSPIA and SIS.

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.

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 the selected area of study. Students must have registered under each school code (GSPIA or SCI) for at least 24 credits by the completion of the degree; Students should consult with Student Services staff 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.*

A plan of study worksheet outlining specific requirements is available for Joint Degree students on the school’s Intranet.

Academic Advising/Plan of Study

Each student is assigned an academic advisor at the time of admission to graduate study. These assignments are made primarily on the basis of the student’s background and interests as shown in the application. The student may at any time elect to change advisors: any such change requires the consent of the new advisor and must be reported to the Program. Forms for changing advisors are online through the school’s Intranet.

At the time of initial registration or before the completion of the first term, the student is encouraged, but not required to, fill out and discuss the plan of study with their advisor.

A Plan of Study is a series of courses designed to meet the minimum exit competencies judged by the faculty to be necessary for employment as an information professional. Students coming into the program without prior course work or work experience in the areas covered by the Plan of Studies should adhere fairly closely to the suggested plan. If there has been course work or experience in one or more of the content areas of the program, students are permitted to substitute and take courses in an area in which additional background is needed.

All Plans of Study must have the approval of the advisor. Each student must insure that the Plan of Study meets all of the program requirements for graduation. At the completion of the program, the advisor will sign the Plan of Study signifying recommendation of the student for graduation. If the courses completed on the student’s transcript do not correspond with the Plan of Study as filed, there may be a delay in approval for graduation.

Grade Policies for the Department of Informatics and Networked Systems

Maintenance of a 3.0 QPA

Each student must maintain a 3.0 Quality Point Average (QPA) for all credits of graduate level coursework for either degree or the certificate. Failure to maintain a 3.0 QPA in any term will result in the student being placed on academic probation immediately. If the student does not raise the QPA 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 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 /INFSCI 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 QPA.

Satisfactory/Audit (S/N) Grading System

Students are permitted to earn at most six credit hours with the grading option S as part of the credits required for the degree. An S grade is equated with a grade of B, B+, A-, A or A+. Course performance equivalent to a B- or lower will result in the assignment of an audit (N grade) and will not count towards graduation. A grade of satisfactory (S) has no quality points associated with it and is not used in computing the QPA (quality point average).

Students must decide by no later than one week after the end of the add/drop period which grading system they propose to use for each of their courses. This decision may not be changed, nor may a grade of one kind received for a course be changed to a grade of the other kind.

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