Requirements for MS and PhD

Masters of Science

The master's degree requires 30 credits. There are several different approaches to obtaining an MS in Materials Science and Engineering:

Research Masters

A student completing a research MS is required to have completed 24 credits of taught courses and 6 credits of research under the supervision of a member of the MSE graduate faculty. The MS degree culminates in the student writing a research dissertation that is presented to an MS thesis committee. This degree usually takes around two years to complete as a full time student. Link to more details.

Taught Masters

For the taught MS the student must complete 30 credits of taught courses. For completion of the MS a final presentation of a paper in front of a faculty committee is required. The topic of the paper must be within the field of Materials Science and Engineering. Depending on how many courses a student takes per semester this degree is completed in one to two years. Link to more details.


While most students study for their degree on a full-time basis (at least 9 credits per semester) there are a number who take courses on a part-time basis (typically 3-6 credits per semester). This is a particularly attractive option for students who are continuing to work in industry or at Government research labs. Given the 30 credit requirement part-time students should expect to take more than two years to complete their degree.


Undergraduate students in the MSE program with at least a 3.0 GPA (preferably >3.2) may apply to the graduate program and through the Graduate School to continue without interruption to complete the MS degree. There is still a requirement to complete 30 academic credits and either a research dissertation of a final presentation of a paper in front of a faculty committee. Link to more details.

Doctor of Philosophy [PhD]

The Ph.D. requires 36 credits of academic courses and 36 research credits.  A written doctoral thesis is required. The Ph.D. degree is usually done on a full time basis and requires four to five years. Part-time study is also possible, but this can take significantly longer and is highly dependent on the individual students circumstances. Most students studying for a Ph.D. are supported as a Graduate Assistant (GA), a Teaching Assistant (TA) or via a Fellowship during their studies. The financial support package varies depending on the exact mechanism. It typically includes payment of full tuition, medical insurance, and a stipend of around $30,000/year.

Completing the Ph.D. is a multi-step process that requires the candidate to pass a qualifying exam after a year of studying. The exam is offered in January and May of each year. It is designed to determine that the candidate has demonstrated the intellectual ability to complete a Ph.D. and is capable of conceiving, organizing, proposing, and conducting high quality independent research. All students who wish to proceed to a Ph.D. must pass the qualifying exam. It can be taken a maximum of two times.

After the qualifying exam a thesis proposal is given by the candidate to their Ph.D. thesis committee, typically after two years of study. The proposal is intended to determine the candidate’s ability to write a short document (20 pages) and make an oral presentation based on their research project. Of particular importance is demonstrating how their research will extend the existing knowledge in the field and how they propose to complete the research in the available timeframe. At this stage the candidate may receive an MS degree if the thesis proposal has been successful.

The Ph.D. culminates with a written doctoral thesis and the candidate doing a defense of their research to an audience of faculty and students. This is followed by a closed question and answer session with the Ph.D. thesis committee. Link to more details.