What are the MEng Program Requirements? An FAQ
What is the MEng Program?
The M.Eng Program is a five or five and a half year program that enables you to get your Bachelors and Masters degree in Course VI simultaneously (or in sequence). You can think of it as a four-year bachelors degree and a two-year masters condensed through advanced planning and integration.
Joining M.Eng gives Course VI undergraduates the advantages of being able to work on a thesis project, being able to take more classes, especially advanced, graduate ones, and study their field in more depth. It can also be useful to have a Masters degree rather than just a Bachelors degree before one enters industry or applies for doctoral programs.
In this document, the details of the graduate portion of the M.Eng program will be explained.
Background: Why Is The M.Eng Program So Complex?
When the program was designed, the intent was to make the process of combining the two degrees smooth and transparent. Unfortunately, the reality is not quite that simple. Describing a few of the reasons for this will help explain some of the complexities in the program.
Students are one reason the program has become less transparent. Many students want to get their Bachelors after four years instead of waiting until they have completed their Masters. For some, this is because they want to walk with their class at commencement, while others have parents who want them to have a degree after four years. There are also students who choose to defer M.Eng and go to work, for which they need their Bachelors.
Students are not the only reason why this program's implementation is not simple. The Institute adds quite a bit of complexity to the program. The rest of MIT has quite strict separations between undergraduate and graduate students. With the exception of a few basic things, once you become a grad student, different processes and rules govern your education. Having a hybrid program that combines undergraduate and graduate study does not conform to the basic structure of MIT.
The Graduate MEng Program
What is Undergraduate Vs. Graduate Status?
The purpose of this document is to give the details of the graduate portion of M.Eng, and thus the undergraduate requirements will not be discussed. If you need more information on them, please go to the undergraduate programs/curriculum. The M.Eng program takes an additional two or three semesters, or possibly four if you TA one or more terms. At least in your last regular semester, you must be an official graduate student. Since becoming a graduate student means you transfer to being a new category of student, with different Institute rules, the Institute does not let students switch their status back and forth. You are, therefore, NOT allowed to switch back to being an undergraduate once you declare yourself a grad student. If you have not received your bachelors degree when you become a grad student, you have both statuses: you are both an undergraduate and a graduate student. The graduate status has more weight, and thus if there are conflicts in the rules, the graduate rules usually apply. If you have both statuses, you are still eligible for eight terms of undergrad housing. Once you have received a Bachelor of Science degree and no longer have undergraduate status, you can no longer UROP or live in undergraduate housing.
How does one Become a Graduate M.Eng Student?
The process for becoming a grad student once you're admitted to M.Eng is simple: all you have to do is send email to Anne Hunter, indicating for which term you wish to become a graduate student.
When Should One become a Graduate MEng Student?
If a student has a source of graduate funding, and is far enough along with the requirements, he or she will often choose to become a grad student in the fourth year (eighth term). You must have at least 180 units beyond the GIRs and all but one or two of the GIRs completed to become a grad student early. You do NOT have to have completed all of the requirements for your undergraduate degree. Besides funding, another reason to become a grad student earlier than the fifth year is to be able to get the MEng early, at the end of that term, as you need to be a graduate student at least one regular, i.e., not summer or IAP, semester to get the Masters. There are also a few students who choose to become a graduate student later than the beginning of the fifth year. Generally, this happens when students have a source of funding that requires them to be only an undergraduate or if they are behind in their requirements.
What about Funding?
One important component of the grad years is funding and registration. They very much go hand in hand, since the type of funding you have as a graduate student determines what you can register for. Of course, if you pay your own tuition or have support that doesn't go through MIT at all, none of this applies.
There are two major sources of funding for M.Eng students: Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships. Each are like half-time jobs where you work around 20 hours a week either assisting in the teaching of a class or doing research, which is usually a superset of your thesis research. Full-time assistantships pay a monthly stipend of about $2,500 a month plus full tuition and health insurance.
While M.Eng funding is available for many, students cannot rely on finding it. It's important to start working on finding it during the junior year by doing UROPs or serving as a lab assistant, problem grader, or undergraduate TA. But there are no guarantees.
What are the Registration Limits for RAs and TAs?
When you have either a full-time TAship or a full-time RAship you can only register for two twelve-unit subjects plus thesis and assistantship credit. There are NO exceptions to this. This makes it very, very important that you have, at most, six subjects left to complete both for the bachelors and masters when you become a graduate student. If you hold only a half TAship or a half RAship, then you can register for one more class, but you only receive half of the stipend and half of your tuition. You receive credit for thesis, TAships and RAships each term, so that you are almost always registered for 48 to 51 units.
It is important to get the registration right. If you are a TA, you must register for 24 units of 6.981, and you can register for 3 units of 6.THM (thesis) if you are taking two classes or 12 units of thesis if you're only taking one class, for a total of no more than 51 units. If you are an RA, you should always register for 12 units of 6.991 and twelve units of 6.THM (thesis).
What are the details of the M.Eng Requirements?
How many Units are needed?
The MEng requires another 90 units (in total) beyond the units that are already required for the undergraduate degree(s), broken down like this:
66 units of credit, of which at least 42 units must be Approved Advanced Graduate Subjects (AAGS) credit
24 units of Thesis (6.THM)
The 42 units of Approved Advanced Graduate Subjects (AAGS) classes must be fulfilled by taking three and one half or four AAGS. Almost all MEng students will, therefore, have four 12-unit classes, which means 48 units of credit in Course VI (6.xxx). The fourth one can be in any department as long as it is an AAGS or by advisoer approval (non-6 AAGS).
The additional units needed to get to 66 units almost never come from classes taken specifically for this requirement, but come from RA, TA, or VI-A credit, or excess undergraduate units (over the 180 units beyond the GIRs required of undergraduates) in the form of headers and AUS taken to complete the undergraduate subject requirements.
Because most subjects have twelve units, most students end up with at least 96 (48 + 24) units in their graduate program rather than 90.
How do Thesis Units work?
The thesis units work a bit strangely. Except for TAs, students register for 12 units of 6.THM in each graduate term that they are working on their thesis, but at the end, no matter how many more units of thesis they've registered for, only 24 units worth of impact will be felt on their grade point average (thesis is letter-graded), and none of the excess thesis units add up to any unit total.
Students who are TAs and need to take two classes may only register for 3 units of thesis (they register for 24 units of 6.981 for their TAship for a maximum of 51 total units for the term), so they may need to register for thesis during IAP and/or summer to get the required minimum of 24 units.
Be sure to study the MEng Thesis Guide very carefully.
How does the Thesis Proposal work?
Students register for 6.UAT, often in the fall of their senior year and generally for 6.UAP in the following spring term, and must submit a formal, letter-graded thesis proposal. They do not register for 6.THM until the summer or fall of the graduate year, after the proposal has been submitted.
Students who have not submitted a proposal previously must do so by the last day of classes of the first term they take 6.THM, at least one term before completing MEng..
What are the Subject Requirements?
In order to get the MEng degree, it is necessary to fulfill the requirements of and receive either the 6-1, 6-2 or 6-3 degree, before or at the same time as the MEng degree. The three-subject MEng Concentration and two restricted electives are required, as well as the Masters thesis.
What is the MEng Concentration?
To ensure depth, three subjects (chosen from the two AUS and four Course VI grad H subjects) must be from the same concentration field. In addition, students must have two subjects from the restricted electives list and a Masters thesis.
What are Buckets?
One important term to know for MEng is ‘bucket'. This refers to the process of allocating subjects to either the undergraduate or graduate program. The reason this needs to be done is that most students start taking graduate classes before they are graduate students, and have excess undergraduate units they can move up into their graduate program to satisfy their graduate unit requirements. To count as graduate classes, subjects taken while a student is an undergraduate must be moved explicitly to the graduate program from the undergraduate program.
One way of thinking about this is to think of having a bucket which collects units for your undergraduate degree and another bucket that collects graduate units. You only get the graduate bucket after you become a graduate student. “Doing buckets” is the process of moving the units, in the form of specific classes, between the two buckets. Since Institute unit and Department subject requirements are separate systems, it is possible to use the units of a certain class in the graduate program, and use it to fulfill a department requirement for the undergraduate program. The department MEng requirements are seamless with the undergraduate requirements, not just the difference between the bachelors and the MEng department requirements.
The graduate GPA and, to a lesser extent, the undergraduate GPA, can be affected by which subjects are placed in the graduate program. Students, therefore, will want to have some input over which subjects are placed in their graduate ‘bucket'.
Because this can get tricky, and can depend upon the individual's preferences, buckets should only be done in person. In order to do buckets, just go to the Undergraduate Office. It is important that bucket selection be done only once, as it imposes a burden not just on the Course VI Undergraduate Office, but also on the Registrar's Office. Buckets must be permanently arranged at the time that a student is placed on the degree list to graduate. Therefore, please be sure that your buckets are arranged by Add Date of your final term as an MEng student. Unless there is a real problem, like having barely enough units, arranging buckets only takes a few minutes. It can take weeks, however, for the changes to be reflected.
Anne M. Hunter