What are the MEng Program Requirements? An FAQ
What is the MEng Program?
The MEng Program is a five or five and a half year program that enables you to get your Bachelors and Masters degree in Course 6 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 MEng gives Course 6 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 MEng program will be explained.
Background: Why Is The MEng 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 MEng 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 curriculum. The MEng program takes an additional two or three semesters, and we might even give you a fourth term of support eligibility if you TA one or more terms and were not able to make a start on the classes and thesis during your senior year. Beyond that, no way. 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 MEng 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 for 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 MEng 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 $3000 a month plus full tuition and health insurance.
While MEng 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 and serving as a lab assistant, problem grader, or undergraduate TA. But there are no guarantees. One applies for a Course 6 graduate TAship here, while RAships are offered by students' research supervisors individually.
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 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 60 units.
It is important to get the registration right. If you are a TA, you ahould register for 24 units of 6.981, and you should register for 12 units of 6.THM (thesis) and no more than two classes. If you are an RA, you should always register for 12 units of 6.991 and twelve units of 6.THM (thesis) and no more than two classes.
Term limits: MEng students are only eligible for grad support during their first three regular grad terms (summers don't count). If a student has been a graduate TA at least once or has unusual circumstances that have delayed progress on the thesis or classes, the student may request one additional term (a fourth term) of support eligibility. Even if support is not an issue students should not expect to spend more than four terms on their MEng.
What are the details of the MEng Requirements?
How many Units are needed?
The MEng requires another 90 units (in total) beyond the units that are 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 a Course 6 AAGS or by advisor approval an AAGS from another department (non-6 AAGS).
The additional units beyond the AAGS classes 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 classes 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. 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.
Be sure to study the MEng Thesis Guide very carefully.
How does the Thesis Proposal work?
Students can find their MEng thesis in their junior or senior year and work on it through SuperUROP or UROP. They do not register for 6.THM until the summer or fall of the graduate year. It's important to submit a thesis proposal just as soon as you've found a supervisor and agree on what the project will be. Do NOT wait to write up the proposal and get it approved. The major part of the work of the thesis should not be started until after the proposal is submitted.
Students who have not submitted a proposal previously must do so no later thant the end of their first MEng term and at least one term before completing MEng. It's important to understand that the most important component of the MEng Program is the thesis, not the classes.
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. For the 6-7 MEng degree one must receive the 6-7 degree with or before the 6-7 MEng and complete the MEng restricted electives and the required classes in computational biology, biology or CS. See https://www.eecs.mit.edu/ug/6-7MEng.
What is the MEng Concentration?
To ensure depth, three subjects (chosen from among the two undergraduate AUS and the four Course VI AAGS) must be from the same concentration field. In addition, students must have two subjects from the restricted electives list, and the Masters thesis.
What MEng progress is required each term?
MEng students are expected to make significant progress on their theses each term and take at least one class (as long as they have class requirements remaining) every term. Taking your classes first before starting the thesis or completing the thesis before taking the classes is not acceptable, as it makes the program take much longer.
What are Buckets?
One important term to know for MEng is ‘bucket'. This refers to the process of designating subjects in either the undergraduate or graduate program. The reason this needs to be done is that most MEng students wisely start taking graduate classes and MEng restricted electives 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 toward the 66 unit graduate credit requirement or the 42-unit AAGS requirement, subjects taken while a student is an undergraduate must be moved explicitly to the graduate program from the undergraduate program after the student becomes an MEng grad student.
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, may 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 early in your final MEng term. 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