Master of Science and Master of Engineering Course Requirements

Master of Science (S.M.) and Master of Engineering (M.E.) degree eligibility

Ph.D. candidates in SEAS and GSAS may earn the S.M. degree en route in any SEAS area, and A.B. candidates in Harvard College with sufficient Advanced Standing may be admitted for S.M. candidacy through the A.B./S.M. program. SEAS also offers terminal S.M. or M.E. degrees in these areas only, and no others:

  • Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) [S.M. or M.E.]
  • Data Science [S.M. only]
  • Engineering Sciences: Electrical Engineering [S.M. or M.E.]
  • Engineering Sciences: MS/MBA program

 

S.M./M.E. Program Plan and approval process by the CHD

Any student seeking an S.M. or M.E. degree from SEAS must submit an S.M. or M.E. Program Plan form (available here) to the SEAS Committee on Higher Degrees (CHD).  Terminal S.M. and M.E. students must submit program plans before study card day in the Fall term of their first year.  A.B./S.M. students must submit plans by early April of junior year, and should note that the final opportunity to submit a revised plan is for the first CHD meeting of their senior spring term, usually in January.

Exception: A SEAS Ph.D. student seeking an S.M. degree whose Ph.D. program plan in the same area has been approved by the CHD can receive an S.M. in that area en route to the Ph.D. with no further approval required, provided that the courses selected to apply towards the degree satisfy both the SEAS-wide and area-specific S.M. course requirements. Note that transfer credit is not accepted toward the S.M. degree, even if it has been approved toward the Ph.D.

 

SEAS-wide S.M. and M.E. course requirements

The following course requirements apply to all SEAS S.M. and M.E. degrees (areas may have additional requirements). The MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences program has a more prescribed curriculum, with information available hereNote that the term "course" refers to a standard Harvard semester-length "half course", i.e., a 4-unit FAS course or its equivalent. 

  1. Eight letter-graded courses are required for the degree (or twelve for the S.M. in Data Science.).  As many of these as possible should be SEAS 200-level courses. M.E. students must take eight additional non-letter-graded research-oriented courses at the 300-level that result in the completion of the required M.E. thesis.
  2. At least four of the eight courses must be offered through SEAS or taught by a SEAS faculty member in another FAS department.
  3. At least five of the eight courses must be 200-level SEAS/FAS technical courses, not including reading and research courses (299r), seminar/project courses (298r, 297r, 294r), or innovation or communication courses. The remaining three courses should be from SEAS, FAS departments, other Harvard schools, or MIT.  (Note: for MIT courses students should attach the course syllabus and the catalog description when submitting their program plan, indicating MIT G-level status).
  4. Up to three of the eight courses may be 100-level SEAS/FAS courses. As a guideline, having one 100-level course will generally not lead to any concern; having two 100-level courses requires at least some justification (i.e., that the courses are necessary prerequisites for 200-level courses); having three will generally lead to close examination by the CHD.
  5. Only one reading and research (299r), seminar/project (298r, 297r, 294r), innovation, or communication course can count among the eight courses. An exception is that two such courses are allowed in a CSE S.M. program plan.  S.M. students who are writing a thesis may include up to two 299r courses.
  6. Harvard Extension School courses may not be included in the program plan.
  7. Transfer credit is not accepted toward the degree.
  8. No 300-level courses may be included in the program plan.  ES 399-TIME and AC 399-TIME may not be included in an S.M. or M.E. Program Plan.
  9. Exceptions to these requirements are considered by petition to the CHD. 

No course completed with a grade less than C (for the S.M. degree) or B- (for the M.E.) may be included in the Program Plan, and students must achieve a "B" or better average letter grade in the courses for the S.M. or M.E. degree.

Further details on these guidelines and other exceptions (e.g., GSAS special students, S.M. and M.E. thesis timelines) can be found in the Policies of the Committee on Higher Degrees document on the CHD page

 

Area-specific S.M. and M.E. course requirements

In addition to fulfillling the SEAS-wide course requirements listed above, S.M. students are required to satisfy the following applicable area-specific requirements.

Applied Mathematics S.M.

Ph.D students in Applied Mathematics may receive the S.M. in Applied Mathematics en route to the Ph.D by completing 8 courses from their approved Ph.D. Program Plan that meet the SEAS S.M. requirements described above. 

A.B./S.M. students who are candidates for the S.M. in Applied Mathematics, and Ph.D. students in other subjects who wish to receive the S.M. in Applied Mathematics en route to the Ph.D., must fulfill the following minimum area requirements:

  • Four 200-level AM courses, including AM 201 and AM 205 (unless one or both are not offered in a timely fashion).  Note that AM 104 and AM 105 are prerequisites for AM 201, and are effectively prerequisites for many other 200-level Applied Mathematics classes.
  • Two additional SEAS or FAS 200-level technical classes, whether from Applied Mathematics or not
  • Demonstration of breadth across the mathematical sciences.  At least one course in Statistics is strongly recommended, at the 100 or 200 level.
  • At least two of the non-AM classes must represent a specific application area

Students seeking an S.M. in Applied Mathematics should construct a coherent Applied Mathematics program plan with their assigned SEAS graduate advisor.  Questions can be directed to the Applied Mathematics Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Yiling Chen.

Applied Physics S.M.

Students seeking an S.M. in Applied Physics must fulfill the following area requirements:
  1. Four of the eight required courses must be 200-level Applied Physics courses or 200-level Physics courses taught by SEAS faculty.  ES 273, ES 274 and ES 277 count as 200-level Applied Physics courses toward this requirement.
  2. The remaining four courses must be technical/scientific.

Candidates for a terminal S.M. degree in Applied Physics (including the A.B./S.M.) are advised against including a 299r class in their Program Plan. Ph.D. students seeking the S.M. en route may include one 299r as a “technical/scientific” course in #2 above.

Questions can be directed to the Applied Physics Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Federico Capasso.

Computational Science and Engineering S.M. and M.E., Data Science S.M.

Students seeking an S.M. in Computational Science and Engineering or in Data Science should refer to the programs' specific requirements. Questions can be directed to the Associate Director of Graduate Studies in Computational Science & Engineering, Daniel Weinstock.

Computer Science S.M.

Students seeking an S.M. in Computer Science must fulfill the following area requirements:

  1. Five of the eight required courses must be 200-level courses specifically covering topics in computer science. Generally this means they must be offered as courses in Computer Science. In particular, for Computer Science graduate degrees, Applied Computation courses may be counted as 100-level courses, not 200-level courses. The CHD may approve exceptions.
  2. At least one of these five 200-level courses must be in Theory. There is no specific list of Theory courses; this rule is enforced by the faculty advisors and the CHD. However, in almost all cases, any class with a course number Computer Science 22x is acceptable as a theory course.
  3. Just as we expect all students obtaining a S.M. to have experience with the theoretical foundations of computer science, we expect all students to have some knowledge of how to build large software or hardware systems, on the order of thousands of lines of code, or the equivalent complexity in hardware. That experience will be evidenced by coursework. In almost all cases a course numbered CS 26x or CS 24x will satisfy the requirement (exceptions will be noted in the course description on my.harvard). For projects in other courses, the student is expected to write a note explaining the project, include a link to any relevant artifacts or outcomes, describe the student's individual contribution, and where appropriate obtain a note from their class instructor.
  4. CS 290hfa/b cannot be used towards the S.M. degree.

Please note that 200-level courses in fields outside SEAS will be examined carefully. Generally, the CHD is looking for two things in such courses. First, it is expected that the course will be comparable in technical level to a SEAS course. Second, the overall program must be coherent. Taking a course in economics because it might apply to computing is not automatically considered coherent. Taking an economics course in game theory along with appropriate relevant 200-level computer science courses in Artificial Intelligence that apply that theory could be part of a coherent program.

Questions can be directed to the Computer Science Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Les Valiant.

Engineering Sciences S.M: Bioengineering

There are no additional course requirements beyond the SEAS-wide requirements. Students seeking an S.M. in Engineering Sciences: Bioengineering should construct a cohesive Bioengineering program plan with their assigned SEAS graduate advisor. Questions can be directed to the Director of Graduate Academic Programs, John Girash

Engineering Sciences S.M. and M.E.: Electrical Engineering

There are no additional course requirements beyond the SEAS-wide requirements. Students seeking an S.M. in Engineering Sciences: Electrical Engineering should construct a coherent Electrical Engineering program plan with their assigned SEAS graduate advisor. M.E. students must fulfill the SEAS-wide S.M. requirements of eight courses plus eight additional research-oriented courses at the 300-level that result in the completion of the required M.E. thesis. Questions can be directed to the Director of Graduate Academic Programs, John Girash

Engineering Sciences S.M.: Environmental Science and Engineering

There are no additional course requirements beyond the SEAS-wide requirements. Students seeking an S.M. in Engineering Sciences: Environmental Science and Engineering should construct a coherent Environmental Science and Engineering program plan with their assigned SEAS graduate advisor.  Questions can be directed to the Director of Graduate Academic Programs, John Girash

Engineering Sciences S.M.: Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering

There are no additional course requirements beyond the SEAS-wide requirements. Students seeking an S.M. in Engineering Sciences: Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering should construct a cohesive Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering program plan with their assigned SEAS graduate advisor.  Questions can be directed to the Director of Graduate Academic Programs, John Girash

Engineering Sciences MS/MBA

The Master of Science in Engineering Sciences component of the MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences joint degree program has a specific curriculum, consistent with the SEAS-wide requirements given on above, which is described here.

General S.M. or M.E. questions

Current Harvard students should direct their questions about the SEAS S.M. or M.E. program to the SEAS Director of Graduate Academic Programs, John Girash. Prospective students and applicants should direct their questions to SEAS's Graduate Admissions Office.