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Which Degree is Right For You?


The answer to that question depends on your professional goals. What do you imagine yourself doing in ten years? Are you an assistant professor building your own research program while teaching students and mentoring graduate students? Do you see yourself working in a large corporation designing new products or processes, or starting your own company and bringing a product or service to market?  Are you planning to use your engineering degree as a springboard into a different field such as medicine, law or business? How much time are you willing to invest in a graduate engineering degree?

U.Va. Engineering offers three types of graduate engineering degrees:

  • The Masters of Engineering and Masters of Applied Science (Computer Science, Engineering Physics, and Materials Science) degrees are graduate professional degrees based exclusively on coursework. They enhance the professional instruction of the bachelor’s program in engineering or applied science, providing greater knowledge and deeper understanding in a specific field. These degree programs require 30 credits of course work as part of an approved plan of study. Some may require a research project as part of a supervised research course but none require a master’s thesis.  Masters of Engineering and Masters of Applied Science are ideal for students who want to enhance their qualifications for a career in an engineering field.  In addition to the resident Masters of Engineering degree programs, U.Va. offers two special programs that enable working professionals to earn a degree while continuing their careers. See below:
  • Masters of Science degrees include both coursework and a research component that culminates in a research thesis.  Masters of Science degree, which is usually completed within two years, provides higher qualifications for employment as well as preparing students for doctoral studies.  Students in Masters of Science degree programs earn 24 credits in coursework and at least 6 credits in supervised research which culminated a research thesis.  Masters of Science students are eligible for but not guaranteed financial aid in the form of teaching or research assistantships. Masters of Science students are required to satisfy a period of residency as full time students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.  
  • The Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D., degree is the highest academic degree conferred and prepares individuals for careers in teaching and research at the university level and as researchers in government and industry research labs.  A Ph.D. candidate must complete an approved program of study tailored to the individual students’ interests, perform satisfactorily on a Ph.D. examination to determine if the student has assimilated and is able to integrate a body of advanced knowledge, and submit and defend a dissertation based on independent, original research that makes a significant contribution to the student’s field of study.  Some students bypass a master's degree and enter a Ph.D. program immediately after their bachelor’s degree, while other students complete a master's degree before entering a doctoral program.  Like the Masters of Science, Ph.D. programs require a period of residency as full time students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. PhD programs in engineering usually require five to seven years of graduate study. Because of their significant contributions to the research programs, most PhD students receive stipends and tuitions fellowships as teaching or research assistants.

Off-Grounds Programs

  • The Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (CGEP) is a part-time degree program offering Masters of Engineering degrees in Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical & Aerospace, and Systems Engineering with regular graduate courses taught via video conferencing at receive sites throughout Virginia and at selected out-of-state locations.  Visit the CGEP website for more information.  
  • The Accelerated Masters Program in Systems Engineering (AMP), taught by faculty of the Department of Systems and Information Engineering and the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, is a one-year Masters of Engineering degree program conducted in a “executive” format. Students meet in Charlottesville for one full week in late May, twenty weekends throughout the year and a final week during the following April. Visit the AMP website for more information.