Carnegie Mellon Engineering

College of Engineering Graduate Student Policies  

In Graduate Education programs, students will work closely with the department faculty in their chosen field. However, the College of Engineering establishes standards for graduate education that apply across all programs. These standards are articulated in the college policies. Use the links on the right to review a specific policy or scroll through the text provided.


Cross Registration

Cross-registration is available through neighboring institutions (e.g., the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University) and the grade earned for courses completed during the Fall or Spring semester will appear on the Carnegie Mellon transcript. Course and/or distribution credit may be granted by petition to the department for courses not used for a previous degree requirement.


Grading Policy

The general grading policy used by the College of Engineering is described on the university grading policy page.  The following are college-specific policies for graduate grading.

Project work may be given an S (Satisfactory) grade on a semester-by-semester basis, but a letter grade (A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-,D+, D, or R) must be given in the final semester for a multi-semester project. The units with an S grade are counted toward degree requirements but are not included in computing the average grade.

Course work or graduate project units with a grade of C- or lower are not acceptable toward graduate degree requirements.

M.S. Degree

Most, but not all, College of Engineering M.S. programs require 96 units. For those that require 96 units, the average grade of 96 units applied to the degree shall be at least B, and the student may choose any 96 units of the first 120 units attempted to compute the grade average. Individual departments and programs may have specific requirements regarding grades in certain courses. For M.S. programs that require more than 96 units, such as the programs of the Information Networking Institute, the program-specific grading policies and degree requirements apply and should be consulted.

(policy revised 5/21/2009)

Course Electives

Courses counted as electives toward MS degrees in CIT must be at the 300 level of above. Courses numbered as xx-299 or lower do not qualify as MS degree electives.

(policy revised 2/17/16) 

Policy on Course Drop and Withdrawal by Graduate Students

College of Engineering graduate students may drop a course on-line on or before the deadline published in the official university calendar. This deadline is two weeks after mid-semester grades are due. The deadline to drop a half-semester mini course is the last day of the fourth week of the mini course. When a course is dropped by the deadlines, the course is removed entirely and disappears from a student’s academic record. After the official university deadline to drop, graduate students may withdraw from a course on-line on or before the last day of classes, excluding final examinations. The deadline to withdraw from a half-semester mini course is the last class day of the mini course. When a College of Engineering graduate student withdraws from a course between the official university deadline to drop a course and the last day of classes, a “W” (Withdrawal) is assigned as a grade, which appears on the student’s academic record. This “W” grade does not affect a student’s QPA.  A graduate student can petition the department head to remove a W grade from their transcript if there are extenuating circumstances.

(policy created 5/21/2009)


Double Counting of Course Units for M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees

No course that has been counted toward another degree can be counted toward fulfilling course requirements in graduate programs, unless explicitly authorized for a particular program as set forth in the specified requirements for the program, or by the department head(s) of the primary department(s) of the graduate student.

(policy created 4/14/2009)


Graduate Student Consulting

Full time graduate students within the College of Engineering are ordinarily expected to devote their full attention and energies to their educational and research endeavors. Classwork and research assignments are planned to completely occupy full time students, thus effectively precluding outside employment and consulting.

All full time students are generally advised to decline such work and concentrate on their graduate studies. In exceptional cases, there may be opportunities for outside consulting or employment which would provide helpful experience in addition to financial remuneration.

Before assuming such commitments, all full time graduate students are urged to consult their academic advisors and/or department heads about such opportunities. Students receiving financial aid in the form of research or teaching assistants or fellowships are required to obtain consent from both their academic advisor and department head for any such outside employment or consulting.

Student Maternity Accommodation

Female students who anticipate the delivery of a child during the course of a semester may need to take time away from their academic responsibilities. There are two Maternity Accommodations: 

  • Short-Term Maternity Accommodation – A short term absence from academic responsibilities up to a maximum of six (6) weeks.  Short-Term Maternity Accommodation may be extended by two (2) weeks, for a total of eight (8) weeks, where a longer absence is medically necessary.  Prior to the absence students must work with relevant university faculty and staff to adjust their course work, research, teaching and other academic responsibilities during the period of absence.  This may include extensions of time to complete assignments, incomplete grades, and/or dropping courses, shifting research responsibilities and adjusting TA assignments.  Students who take a Short-Term Maternity Accommodation will remain enrolled.
  • Formal Leave of Absence– A formal leave of absence under the Student Leave Policy.  Generally, the Student Leave Policy permits students to take a leave of absence for a full-semester, mini-semester, or for the time remaining in the semester during which the leave is taken.  Students who take a Formal Leave of Absence drop all remaining courses for the semester and are unenrolled for the semester.  International students must consult with the Office of International Education before considering this option due to visa implications. 

Carnegie Mellon also offers financial assistance to female students who give birth to a child:

  • Interest Free Loan – Any female student who gives birth to a child is eligible to apply for an interest-free Maternity Loan from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. 
  • Stipend Continuation – Doctoral students who receive an academic stipend funded by Carnegie Mellon are eligible to continue to receive stipend funding for up to six (6) weeks during a Short-Term Maternity Accommodation.  Continued academic stipend funding may be extended by two (2) weeks, for a total of eight (8) weeks, if an absence longer than six weeks is medically necessary.  Doctoral students who take a Formal Leave of Absence will no longer b eligible to continue to receive stipend funding.

For more information, please review the Student Maternity Accommodations Protocol. For questions regarding support for stipend-supported doctoral students, please first contact your department head. If needed, your next contact regarding the support is the College of Engineering's Associate Dean of Graduate and Faculty Affairs.


Interdisciplinary Degrees

If the formal graduate curricula do not suit the needs of a student, an individual curriculum can be designed to meet the student's abilities, interests, and professional objectives utilizing the educational resources of Carnegie Mellon.

The student is encouraged to consider courses offered by the other colleges of Carnegie Mellon, such as the Mellon College of Science, the School of Computer Science, the Heinz School, and the Graduate School of Industrial Administration.

The student obtains a faculty advisor, who, together with two other Carnegie Mellon faculty members for a master's degree and at least three other faculty members for a Ph.D. degree, constitute an advisory committee to oversee the student's research, specify degree requirements (within the general requirements of the university) and recommend the student for the degree upon completion of the program.

The degree attached to the particular program generally will not be offered by Carnegie Mellon departments since the intention of the individualized program is to increase the options available to students.

All curricula and degrees must be reviewed by an Ad Hoc Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies and written approval should be obtained from the committee before starting a curriculum program. This committee is chaired by the Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affiars, who, with at least two other college faculty members, makes a recommendation for approval to the Engineering College Council. Students who are interested in this program should contact the college's Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs.

The degree would be offered by the College of Engineering. Requests for Interdisciplinary degrees are reviewed by the Associate Dean with advice from college faculty, and approved by the Engineering College Council. Normally for Ph.D. students the faculty advisor and home department would be within the college. Interdisciplinary Ph.D. students in the College of Engineering must usually satisfy one component of an engineering department Ph.D. comprehensive examination.


Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Education

The College of Engineering fully supports the position of the university on research ethics, as stated on the Office of Research Compliance site: "Carnegie Mellon University promotes the responsible conduct of research through high standards of ethics and accountability in planning, conducting and reporting research. The responsible conduct of research is demonstrated through behavior that meets generally accepted standards. These standards are set forth by state and federal regulations, institutional policies, professional codes of conduct and personal convictions."

The College of Engineering graduate students participating in research will be required to take the appropriate on-line training offered by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). For college graduate students, the CITI physical science module package is recommended rather than the module package for engineers, although both are acceptable. Please check with your department for which Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) course(s) it requires. The courses are available at CITI's Website. Select Carnegie Mellon University as your participating institution when you create your account.

The course(s) may take a few hours to complete but can be done over a period of time. Upon completion of the course(s), print the certificate(s) of
completion for submission to your department's graduate coordinator.

Further information about the Carnegie Mellon program for Responsible Conduct of Research Education is available at the Office of Research Compliance.

(policy created 8/20/2010)


M.S. Degree

A candidate for the Master of Science degree must complete satisfactorily the requirements specified by the major department or program in addition to the general requirements of the College of Engineering. The degree usually requires one academic year of full-time study beyond the B.S. degree.

The general requirements include the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 96 units of academic work at Carnegie Mellon. A minimum of 60 units (including graduate project units) must be graduate level work from the College of Engineering, MCS or SCS. The satisfactory completion of a master's degree comprehensive examination may also be required according to departmental policy. A master's thesis may be required by the major department in lieu of, or in addition to, other requirements. Specific requirements can be obtained from each department or program:


If a thesis is submitted in partial fulfillment of degree requirements, it must meet the approval of the instructor in charge of the work, the department head, and the dean. The completed thesis should be prepared following the M.S. Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation Document Standards and must be submitted to the department by the specified due date for the semester in which completion is planned. Any publication derived from the thesis should be prepared in consultation with the faculty advisor, and should acknowledge that the manuscript was derived from a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science at Carnegie Mellon.

(policy revised 1/7/2010)

Ph.D. Degree

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is granted by Carnegie Mellon to candidates who give evidence of proficiency, high attainment, and research ability in the field of their major work, and who have satisfied the specific coursework and other requirements of the department in which they are enrolled. Doctoral candidates are required to maintain full-time residence at Carnegie Mellon for a minimum of one year.

Please also see our policies specifically related to College of Engineering Ph.D. Qualifications, Dissertation, and Degree and our M.S. Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation Document Standards.


Part-Time Graduate Programs

For part-time students, certain graduate courses may be offered on a rotating basis in two- or three-year cycles. The Master of Science degree requirements can usually be completed on a  part-time basis within three to four years, in part through the substitution of additional course work, or project work for a graduate research thesis project according to the departmental stipulations. All students are encouraged to complete the degree program as rapidly as possible.

All part-time Ph.D. degree candidates must complete one academic year (two full semesters) in residence on a Carnegie Mellon campus after beginning studies in the Ph.D. program. The two semesters in residence do not have to be contiguous. The purpose of the residency requirement is to ensure that all Ph.D. graduates of the College of Engineering have spent time interacting closely with college faculty members and graduate students as part of their Ph.D. experience. The time in residence also ensures an adequate opportunity to prepare for and complete the Ph.D. qualifying examinations at the beginning of Ph.D. studies. Consequently, students intending to become Ph.D. degree candidates must consult their faculty advisors concerning the appropriate format and timing of their qualifying examinations and residency before or upon initiation of Ph.D. studies. Special situations may warrant modifications of the residency requirement, e.g., pursuit of a Ph.D. degree by a Carnegie Mellon staff member. Petitions for modification of the residency requirement must be approved by the relevant department head(s) and the Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs.

(policy revised 4/14/2009)


Resolution of Grievances

Graduate students are expected to discuss any concerns or grievances initially with members of their academic departments, including their academic advisor and Department Head, as appropriate. If a student wishes, the Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs of the College of Engineering is available for consultation. All such discussions will be considered confidential at the request of a student.

If resolution of an academic grievance or concern cannot be obtained within their academic departments, graduate students may file a formal appeal of academic actions to the Associate Dean for Garduate and Faculty Affairs of the college. In accordance with the Carnegie Mellon Student Handbook, such appeals will ordinarily be heard and decided by the Engineering College Council. Written materials and findings of such appeal processes are considered confidential for all parties involved.

If a resolution cannot be reached by this process, an appeal may be made to the Provost at the request of either the student or the college.

Contacts for the college and departments are given below:


College of Engineering
Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs

Biomedical Engineering
Yu-li Wang, Department Head
Crystal Hall, Graduate Program Administrator

Chemical Engineering
Lorenz Biegler, Department Head

Civil and Environmental Engineering
David Dzombak, Department Head
Maxine Leffard, Graduate Program Administrator

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Jelena Kovačević, Department Head

Energy Science, Technology & Policy
David L. Landis, Executive Director
Nora Siewiorek, Assistant Executive Director

Engineering and Public Policy
Douglas Sicker, Department Head

Information Networking Institute
Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Director

Materials Science and Engineering
Greg Rohrer, Department Head
Suzanne Smith, Administrative Associate/Graduate Coordinator

Mechanical Engineering
Allen Robinson, Department Head
Chris Hertz, Graduate Program Administrator

Silicon Valley Campus
Steven Rosenberg, Director


M.S. Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation Due Dates

August and December Graduates:
M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations must be submitted to the department two days before the Final Grades Due date. The department must submit the signed thesis or dissertation to the Dean by the Final Grades Due date.

May Graduates:
M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations must be submitted to the department 10 days before the Final Grades for Graduating Students Due date. The department must submit the signed thesis or dissertation to the Dean by the Final Grades Due date.

(policy revised 1/7/2010)


M.S. Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation Document Standards

Preparation of M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations must follow College of Engineering standards and specifications.


Transfer Credit & Special Students

Applicants with a degree of Bachelor of Science may be admitted as part-time special students with no intention of working toward a graduate degree. Some of them may wish to become degree candidates later. Even though the applicant may have been admitted as a non-degree student, courses taken at Carnegie Mellon with a grade of B or better will be counted toward the degree, provided that such courses fall within the requirements of the degree sought.

Up to 24 units (two courses) of graduate work completed at other universities, with a grade point average of 3.0 or better, may be given transfer credit, provided that such course work is part of the graduate program leading to the degree sought. These units cannot have been used toward a previous degree at another university. Such transfer credit is not granted prior to admission to the graduate program and must be approved by the department after the student has satisfactorily completed at least 36 units of graduate courses at Carnegie Mellon.

This policy is subject to change within the individual academic departments and programs. Download the Graduate Transfer Credit Request form.


College of Engineering Policy on Joint Degrees with EPP

The unique  doctoral program in Engineering and Public Policy provides opportunities for advanced graduate study of both the technical and policy aspects of a broad range of topics at the interface of technology and policy. EPP and any College of Engineering department can agree to offer a joint Ph.D. degree (i.e., one degree with two fields listed in the title) to a particular student.

Students interested in pursuing a joint Ph.D. degree must apply to the second department within the first academic year of Ph.D. study. Students cannot apply for a joint Ph.D. degree program upon initial entry; initial Ph.D. applications must be to one department only. If both departments agree to admit a student to a joint Ph.D. program, the student must either pass the Ph.D. qualifying exams of both departments or pass a mutually agreed upon shared exam.

In addition, the student must either meet the course requirements of both departments or meet a mutually agreed upon set of course requirements. The doctoral committee for a joint Ph.D. student must include representation from both departments involved, and the dissertation topic should make significant contributions in both fields. The extent to which the dissertation research speaks to both fields must be discussed explicitly at the proposal stage and revisited by the doctoral committee over the course of the degree program.

(policy created 9/27/2007)


College of Engineering Policy on Statute of Limitations for Masters Degree Studies

All units required for a masters degree in the College of Engineering, whether earned in residence or transferred from another institution, must be recorded on the transcript within six years of the date on which the student enrolled in the program. This statutory period can be extended by the college's Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs for special circumstances that do not make it possible for the student to complete the requirements within the statutory period. Any request for a waiver of the statute of limitations for masters degree studies must be approved by the head of the department or program offering the masters degree, and by the college's Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs. The waiver request must explain the exceptional circumstances that warrant an extension. For cases in which a waiver is granted, the waiver will cover specific courses and will specify a time period for completion of the program.

(policy created 2/26/2009)


College of Engineering Integrated Master's/Bachelor's (IMB) Degree Program Policy

To enable students in any College of Engineering Department’s undergraduate (UG) degree program to continue seamlessly into that Department’s main master’s degree program. In order to be awarded the Master’s degree in the IMB degree program, the student must also earn their BS degree, either simultaneously with the Master’s degree or in a semester prior to the awarding of the Master’s degree.

College of Engineering Policy
Following is the college's policy for admission into the integrated master’s/bachelor’s (IMB) degree program. The requirements for completing the master’s degree and bachelor’s degree remain unchanged.

  • GPA: Students admitted to this IMB degree program should have a minimum GPA of 3.0; exceptions can be made by the Department on the basis of other factors including extenuating (e.g., medical) circumstances, improvement in grades, strong recommendation letters, etc.
  • Number of Units: Students will declare their intention to apply to this IMB degree program after completing the number of units completed typically by students in that department after the first five semesters.
  • Graduate Status: All IMB degree program students must have graduate status once they have completed their BS degree and beyond eight semesters IMB degree program students must have full-time graduate student status in at least one (e.g., their final) semester whether or not they have already completed their BS degree.

The application process for this IMB degree program will be straightforward. Students will be able to indicate their intent to join the IMB degree program via e-mail or a web interface. There will be no need for a formal application process involving a formal application, application fee, GRE scores, recommendation letters, official transcripts and a statement of purpose.

(policy created 5/04/2012)