SM and ME General Course Requirements

[Part of the Policies of the CHD, August 2019]

The following course requirements apply to all SEAS S.M. and M.E. degrees. Note 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.  Courses at lower than the 100-level, including all General Education courses, may not be counted towards the degree.
  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. 
Grade Expectations

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.

For regular (terminal) masters students, failure to maintain a cumulative 3.00 or better average grade or receipt of any unsatisfactory grade may require that the student withdraw from the program, thus terminating degree candidacy. 

A regular S.M. candidate whose average grade at the end of the first semester is between 2.50 and 3.00 normally will be warned that he/she will not complete the requirements for the degree at the end of the second semester unless a cumulative 3.00 or better average grade is achieved.  Should the student fail to satisfy the requirements for the S.M. degree at the end of the second semester, continuation for a third and final semester will be granted provided there is reasonable assurance that the degree requirements can be completed at the end of that semester.  A regular S.M. candidate whose SEAS average grade at the end of the first semester is less than 2.50 but who could achieve a cumulative 3.00 or better average grade at the end of the second semester, working as a full-time student, normally will be warned that continuation for a third and final semester is contingent upon a marked improvement in performance sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that the requirements for the S.M. degree will be completed at the end of the third semester.  A regular S.M. candidate who could not achieve a cumulative 3.00 or better average grade at the end of the second semester normally will be required to withdraw at the end of the first semester, thus terminating degree candidacy.

Harvard Summer School and GSAS Special Student coursework

A limited number of acceptable graduate-level courses taken as a Special Student in GSAS or when registered in the Harvard Summer School may be included in SEAS graduate program plans if completed with an honor grade (“B-“ or higher); however, acceptable offerings are rarely available through the Summer School. Students needing remedial work, in computer programming for example, may nonetheless find Summer School or Extension courses of interest. Not more than a total of four graduate-level courses taken as a Special Student or in the Summer School may be included in a Master's program plan. Harvard University employees who take courses for academic credit under the Tuition Assistance Plan are treated as though they had registered as Special Students, for purposes of SEAS graduate degree programs, should they subsequently be admitted to GSAS.