General Degree Requirements

Graduate students may pursue work leading to any of the following types of degrees: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Science (ScD), Engineer's degrees, Master of Science (SM), Master of Architecture (MArch), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Business Analytics (MBAn), Master in City Planning (MCP), Master of Engineering (MEng), and Master of Finance (MFin). Graduate programs are described in individual department statements, and in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs section.

Each graduate student is officially enrolled in a degree program. The programs are not limited, however, to subjects offered in a single department. Subjects and research programs may be chosen from several departments, given the approval of the departmental faculty advisor to ensure that the overall program is integrated and well balanced with respect to a major field of study.

A student who expects to come to MIT for an advanced degree after earning an undergraduate degree elsewhere should give careful attention to undergraduate prerequisites as outlined by each department or program elsewhere in this catalog. For more specific information, a student should consult the department or program in which he or she wishes to enroll.

MIT degrees are "residence" degrees in the sense that a major portion of the work must be done on campus in association with the faculty, other graduate students, and the Institute community. The amount of time required to attain any one degree varies.

Master's Degree

Master of Science With and Without Specification

For the degree of Master of Science, the student must have satisfactorily completed a program of study of at least 66 units of subject credit, of which 42 units shall be graduate subjects, and a thesis, approved by the department in which he or she is enrolled. If 34 units and the thesis are in a single approved program, as determined by a departmental committee on graduate students, the degree will be recommended with specification in this program; otherwise, the degree will be recommended without specification. The same high standard of academic performance in a program approved by a departmental committee on graduate students is required for either degree.

The choice of area of specialization must be approved by the committee on graduate students of the department in which the student is enrolled. Approval of the entire program must be obtained from this committee and from the student's faculty advisor. A special interdepartmental committee, approved by the dean for graduate education, may be appointed to supervise a program in an interdepartmental field.

The satisfactory completion of the master's degree requires the student to be in residence as a full-time regular graduate student for a minimum of one regular academic term (not the summer session). Every degree candidate working on a thesis must register for thesis in all terms during which his or her thesis research or writing is actually in progress and during the term his or her name appears on the degree list.

Master of Architecture

The graduate degree Master of Architecture is awarded upon the satisfactory completion of a program of study of at least 312 units of graduate subject credit approved by the Department of Architecture and the completion of a thesis, both acceptable to the Department of Architecture. The program requires three and one-half academic years of residence. Advanced entry may be considered for students with a preprofessional bachelor’s degree in architecture. The degree requirements for students pursuing advanced entry will depend on the student academic experience and waived requirements, but will be no less than two and one-half years of residence, as well as satisfactory completion of 164 units of graduate subject credit and a thesis, both acceptable to the Department of Architecture.

Master of Business Administration

To be awarded the degree of Master of Business Administration through the two-year MBA program, the student must satisfactorily complete a program of study of at least 189 units that includes a set of required core subjects, at least 144 units of elective graduate subject credit, and four regular academic terms in residence, as acceptable to the Sloan School of Management.

To be awarded the degree of Master of Business Administration through the one-year Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership, the student must satisfactorily complete a program of study of at least 171 units that includes a set of required core subjects, and at least 48 units of graduate subject credit acceptable to the Sloan School of Management.

To be awarded the degree of Master of Business Administration through the two-year Executive MBA (EMBA) Program, the student must satisfactorily complete a program of study of at least 174 units that includes a set of required core subjects, plus three graduate-level restricted electives taken at designated times throughout the program.

Master of Business Analytics

To be awarded the degree of Master of Business Analytics, the student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 66 units of graduate subject credit from within a program of study that includes a slate of required and elective subjects, a project class, a proseminar, and a summer capstone experience. The candidate must also have been in residence as a graduate student for at least two academic terms. A summer term is also required.

Master in City Planning

To be awarded the degree of Master in City Planning, the student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 126 units of graduate subject credit. The student must also complete a thesis acceptable to the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and have been in residence for a minimum of two regular academic terms.

Master of Engineering

To be awarded the graduate degree of Master of Engineering with specification of the field in which the student has specialized, the student must satisfactorily complete at least 66 units of subject credit (including at least 42 graduate units) and a thesis which collectively constitute a structured program of at least 90 units acceptable to the department of the School of Engineering in which the student is enrolled. The candidate must also have been in residence for a minimum of one regular term.

Master of Finance

To be awarded the Master of Finance (MFin) degree, the student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 66 units of graduate subject credit from within a program of study that includes a slate of required subjects, restricted and general electives, and a proseminar. The candidate must also have been in residence as a graduate student for at least two consecutive academic terms (fall and spring). In most cases, a summer term is also required.

Simultaneous Registration for Two Master's Degrees

Single thesis. This degree plan is intended for qualified graduate students who seek academic recognition in two professional fields that, although distinct, have a substantial intellectual connection. The degree plan requires a balanced choice of academic subjects, made with the advice of each of two departments, and by selection of the thesis topic.

To satisfy the minimum requirements for the program, the student must complete (in addition to thesis units) at least 132 units of subject credit, of which 66 units are unique to each department. At least 42 of each group of 66 units must be graduate subjects. In those instances where, for a single regular master's degree or program, a department or program has established unit requirements in excess of the foregoing minimums, the department or program requirements prevail. Such excess of units in one department may not be applied to the program in the other department.

A student pursuing a Master in City Planning in addition to a second master's degree must have both programs approved in the usual way, but the subject units for the Master in City Planning can be lowered at the discretion of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Individuals who wish to qualify for a Master of Science degree in Real Estate Development, in addition to a Master of Architecture or Master in City Planning degree, will be required to satisfy all the subject requirements of each program. Specifically, candidates for the Master of Architecture degree must take 164 subject units (of which 96 units must be graduate subjects), and Master in City Planning degree candidates must take 126 subject units (of which 42 units must be graduate subjects). Individuals who wish to qualify for the master's degree in Real Estate Development also must take at least 66 subject units unique to this program, of which at least 42 units must be graduate subjects. Students may submit a single thesis provided it is acceptable to the graduate committees of each program. It is expected that such dual degree candidates will be in residence at least one term longer than expected if enrolled in a single degree program.

Participation in a dual degree program is limited to students who are already registered in one department and who meet the admissions criteria of the second department. At least two regular terms prior to completion of the program, the student must submit to each department a statement of educational objectives along with a detailed program plan that includes a description of the proposed thesis topic. The total program must meet with the approval of each department, and a petition approved by the dean for graduate education describing the program must be filed with the Registrar's Office.

The thesis research must be conducted under the supervision of an approved member of one of the two participating departments, with the other department providing a thesis reader. The thesis must be of superior quality. The single thesis cannot be used to satisfy the thesis requirements of any additional graduate degree programs.

In special cases, the standing committee of an approved interdisciplinary program may act in lieu of one of the two participating departments.

Two theses. Occasionally an individual, already admitted for graduate study, may wish to pursue simultaneously two distinct master's programs, fulfilling the thesis requirement with a separate thesis for each degree program. In such cases, the usual unit requirements for each program apply separately. Registration for two degrees is contingent upon approval by the second department of a request for admission. Such a request can be initiated by a petition approved by both departments and approved by the dean for graduate education.

Simultaneous Award of Bachelor's and Master's Degrees

An undergraduate student of the Institute who is enrolled as a candidate for the bachelor's degree may be admitted by a department as a candidate for the master's degree. Students must register as graduate students for at least one regular academic term (not the summer session) to be recommended for the simultaneous award of the bachelor's and master's degrees. The thesis submitted for the master's degree may also be accepted by the department in fulfillment of the undergraduate thesis requirement, if any. A student wishing to pursue this type of academic program must apply for graduate admission in the usual way.

Engineer's Degree

The program for an engineer's degree requires more advanced and broader competence in engineering and science subjects than for the master's degree, but with less emphasis on original research than a doctoral program. In general, the engineer's degree requires two academic years beyond an undergraduate degree.

The following engineer's degrees are awarded:

  • Civil Engineer (CE)
  • Electrical Engineer (EE)
  • Engineer in Aeronautics and Astronautics (EAA)
  • Engineer in Computer Science (ECS)
  • Environmental Engineer (EnvE)
  • Materials Engineer (MatE)
  • Mechanical Engineer (MechE)
  • Naval Engineer (NavE)
  • Nuclear Engineer (NuclE)

The requirement for such a degree is the satisfactory completion of a program of advanced study and research approved by the appropriate department or interdepartmental committee of the School of Engineering. The minimum program consists of at least 162 subject units (exclusive of thesis units) and the completion of an acceptable thesis. The candidate must also have been in residence for a minimum of two regular academic terms. Every degree candidate working on a thesis is expected to register for thesis in all periods during which the thesis research or writing is actually in progress and during the term his or her name appears on the degree list. A department may accept a master's thesis of superior quality for the engineer's degree only if the student intends to use that document to fulfill the requirements of a single master's degree.

Doctoral Degree

Doctoral degrees are offered by various departments and programs within each of MIT's five schools; see each school's description for the lists of degrees. A list of the interdisciplinary graduate degrees offered at MIT, including those offered by the MIT-Harvard Health Sciences and Technology Program and the Joint Program with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is available in the section on Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs. MIT offers the degrees of Doctor of Science and Doctor of Philosophy interchangeably in the engineering and science departments (except biology and brain and cognitive sciences) and from the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program. These degrees certify creditable completion of an approved program of advanced study in addition to a research dissertation of high quality based on original research.

The two Institute requirements for a doctorate are completion of a program of advanced study, including a general examination, and completion and oral defense of a thesis on original research.

The course of advanced study and research leading to the doctorate must be pursued under the direction of the departmental committee on graduate students for at least four academic terms. In some cases, the required period of residence may be reduced, but in no instance can it be reduced to less than two regular academic terms and one summer session.

A student is enrolled in a program of advanced study and research approved by the department. The thesis research is in this same area, but the program often includes subjects reaching into several departments. If the field requires substantial participation by two or more departments, an interdepartmental faculty committee, approved by the dean for graduate education, should be appointed to supervise the student's program.

Each doctoral candidate must take a general examination in his or her program of study at such time and in such manner as the departmental or interdepartmental committee approves. This examination consists of both oral and written parts.

Nonresident Doctoral Thesis Research Status

Nonresident status is intended for doctoral students who have completed all requirements other than the thesis. Thesis research is ordinarily carried out while the student is in residence at the Institute. However, on some occasions, it may be essential or desirable that the student be absent from the campus during a portion of his or her thesis research or writing. Permission to become a nonresident doctoral candidate must be obtained from the Dean for Graduate Education at least one month prior to Registration Day of the term during which the student wishes to register in this category (a fee will be assessed for late requests). A student who is permitted to undertake nonresident thesis research must register as a nonresident doctoral candidate and pay a substantially reduced tuition. For the first three regular academic terms, tuition is approximately 5 percent of regular full tuition. Thereafter, it is charged at approximately 15 percent.

Nonresident students have limited access to the facilities and academic life of the Institute. However, they are permitted access to the libraries and athletic facilities and have the same student health privileges and options as resident students upon payment of the appropriate fees. For the first three semesters of nonresident status, a student may receive fellowship support from MIT for an amount up to 5 percent of tuition per semester. After the third semester, nonresident students can no longer receive fellowship support from MIT. Eligibility for federal loans and sponsored billing remain unaffected for the length of nonresident tenure. Consult the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education or see Graduate Policies and Procedures for additional information on nonresident status.

Minor Program

Although there is no Institute requirement of a minor for the doctoral degree, certain departments require that candidates take a number of subjects outside their major field.

Language Proficiency

There is no Institute language requirement; however, several departments require that a candidate be able to read or speak one or two foreign languages with intermediate competence. A student may satisfy the requirement in one of three ways: by fulfilling the requirement before entrance by passing one or more intermediate or advanced subjects with a grade of C or better; through examination by the Global Studies and Languages Section; or by taking a two-term subject in a language or languages offered by the Global Studies and Languages Section. Depending on student demand, the section offers a choice of two-term language subjects, stressing the ability to read or speak in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, or Spanish. For the purpose of the second alternative, the section gives written examinations in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish twice a year at the end of each term. Examinations in other approved languages are arranged individually upon request.