M.S. in Informatics

In the Master of Science in Informatics program, you will engage more deeply in an intellectual conversation with research and science. An M.S. degree typically opens up advanced career opportunities, both in industry and as preparation for a Ph.D.

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M.S. Course Requirements

The M.S. in Informatics is a 30-credit degree program, which takes one to two years to complete on a full-time basis. The M.S. in Informatics requires a minimum of 30 credits at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level, with at least 18 credits at the 500 or 600 series combined; 27 of the 30 credits must be earned at Penn State. Candidates will complete either a thesis or scholarly paper.

A complete discussion of degree requirements can be found in the Graduate Bulletin.

Program Milestones

In addition to coursework, the M.S. in Informatics program includes several milestones:

  • You will select a graduate faculty member as your adviser and begin working with your adviser by mid-September of your first year.
  • In conjunction with your adviser, you will determine by the end of your first semester if you will complete a thesis or scholarly paper.
  • You will formally select your M.S. degree committee no later than the completion of your first year of study.
  • You will defend your thesis or submit your scholarly paper for approval.

Specialty Courses

Within the 30-credit M.S. program, you will complete at least 12 credits of specialty area coursework. A specialty area course could be in IST, law, business, education, engineering, the liberal arts, or any area that is linked to the information sciences. You can take courses from a variety of these subjects, or you can enroll in a series of courses concentrated on one discipline. The College of IST currently offers concentrations in cybersecurity, data sciences, and human-centered design, but note that not all courses are offered every semester.

Cybersecurity is a constant challenge for individuals, businesses, and governments. There is no shortage of publicity surrounding security failures, breaches, and cyberattacks. The increasing dependence on technology to power critical infrastructures across the globe exposes vulnerabilities, and a successful cyberattack can have far-reaching consequences. In fact, it is estimated that hackers are stealing $250 billion each year in intellectual property, including weapons designs, source code, and trade secrets from consumer industries.

Sample Courses*

  • IST 543: Foundations of Software Security
  • IST 554: Network Management and Security
  • IST 564: Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management
  • IST 815: Foundations of Information Security and Assurance
  • IST 820: Cybersecurity Analytics

*Course offerings are dependent on minimum enrollment numbers and faculty availability

In today’s information society, professionals who can make sense of big data are in high demand. The Data Sciences concentration is part of an intercollege initiative between the College of Information Sciences and Technology, the College of Engineering, and the Eberly College of Science to meet that need. The program educates students on the technical fundamentals of data sciences, with a focus on developing the knowledge and skills needed to manage and analyze large-scale, unstructured data to address an expanding range of problems in industry, government, and academia. As a result, graduates will possess the core skills and problem-solving approaches to compete for leading-edge analytics positions across many different industry sectors.

Sample Courses*

  • IST 557: Data Mining: Techniques and Applications
  • IST 558: Data Mining II
  • IST 597: Special Topics: Machine Learning
  • STAT 500: Applied Statistics

*Course offerings are dependent on minimum enrollment numbers and faculty availability

Human-centered design integrates, applies, and develops human and computational sciences through creating and evaluating interactive systems. HCD researchers study specific fields of human practice and work domains, using ethnography, survey, and interview methods; laboratory experiments; field deployments; session logging; and data mining. They create advanced user interfaces and applications incorporating mobile and collaborative technologies, interactive visualizations, and a wide range of interactions. They study the social, cognitive, and affective aspects of the user experience, as well as consequences for communities, organizations, and society. HCD research increases the chance that new information technologies can be used and enjoyed by people for real purposes. HCD researchers are user advocates first and technology advocates second.

Sample Courses*

  • IST 520: Foundations in Human-Centered Design
  • IST 521: Human-Computer Interaction: The User and Technology
  • IST 525: Computer-Supported Cooperative Work
  • IST 526: Development Tools and Visualizations for Human-Computer Interaction

*Course offerings are dependent on minimum enrollment numbers and faculty availability

Funding Opportunities

Financial support for M.S. students is not guaranteed. In special circumstances where there are research or teaching support needs, an M.S. student may receive funding in the form of a part-time wage payroll position for up to 20 hours per week. Positions terminate at the conclusion of each semester and carry no guarantee of renewal.

For other financial aid, contact the Office of Student Aid for information on loans and grants or the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards for information on internal and external fellowships.

Graduate Research

Our students and faculty are engaged in cutting-edge projects in a variety of research areas, collaborating extensively with scholars within and outside the college on cutting-edge interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary research.

Our research aims to solve society’s most challenging problems that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries—from responding to natural disasters to improving human health and well-being, from protecting national security to making sense of big data, from exploring the connections between gender and technology to utilizing GIS for humanitarian efforts.

Their work is done in the college's research centers and labs, which are led by national and international scholars that cover a broad spectrum of research areas. In addition to our own facilities, we maintain relationships with related centers and labs across the Penn State campus and collaborate around the world.

Additional Resources


Office of Graduate Programs

E103 Westgate Building
University Park, PA 16802

Resident Programs
(814) 863-0591

Online Programs
(814) 863-9461