Master of Science in Systems Engineering

Master of Science (MS) is a graduate degree for those who desire not only to acquire fundamental knowledge but also to contribute to the advancement of knowledge through independent, original research.

ESE offers two MS programs: in CE and SE. The unifying elements underscore the interrelationships among modern civil, environmental and systems engineering. Both programs provide a springboard for careers as an academician, as a researcher, as a consultant or in management/leadership within a university, institute, industry, or government setting. ESE master’s programs include three components:

  • Coursework to gain fundamental and advanced knowledge
  • Research conducted in a collaborative environment leading to a thesis and scholarly papers
  • Engagement in UVA’s intellectual life

See below for information on the Systems Engineering MS program, or download the ESE GRADUATE HANDBOOK

Admissions Criteria

The deadlines for MS applications with financial aid requests are Jan. 6 for fall semester and Sept. 30 for spring semester. Applicants may apply to both the CE and the SE programs concurrently. All ESE faculty are eligible to advise students enrolled in the CE and/or SE MS programs. We accept applications from candidates with degrees from all engineering and some affiliated backgrounds. In some cases, candidates who do not have engineering or similar credentials will be offered conditional admission, which will require them to take selected undergraduate coursework in addition to the coursework required for their MS.

Most accepted MS students receive financial aid. Funding offers take the form of graduate research assistantships (GRAs), graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs) and/or various fellowships. The department’s default stipend for master’s students is $26,250 per year. Funded offers also include tuition and health insurance. Some MS students are funded by third-party entities (e.g., their employer or government or military agencies), and a small number of students are self-funded.

Engineering School Requirements

Engineering School requirements for MS degrees are described on the UVA GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING’S INFORMATION WEBPAGE. This page also addresses admission requirements, rules and regulations pertaining to financial assistance and outside employment, and other matters. The portion of the Engineering School’s website devoted to CURRENT GRADUATE STUDENTS contains many helpful resources, including required forms.

Time limit: All requirements for the MS degree must be completed within five years after matriculation to the graduate program.


The MS in SE requires 30 credits of coursework and research beyond the BS program. The following requirements should be met:

  • Nine credit hours of core courses: SYS 6001, plus six credit hours from SYS 6003, SYS 6005, SYS 6007 and SYS 6021.
  • At least 15 credit hours of elective courses distributed thusly:
    • At least three credit hours of systems engineering courses at the 6000 or 7000 level. (These credit hours cannot be earned through Independent Study SYS 6993 and SYS 7993; Supervised Project Research SYS 6995 and SYS 8995; Graduate Teaching Instruction SYS 8997 and SYS 9997; Thesis SYS 8999; and Dissertation SYS 9999.)
    • No more than three credit hours of Independent Study SYS 6993 or SYS 7993.
    • No more than three credit hours of Supervised Project Research SYS 8995.
    • Two courses of Systems Engineering Colloquium (SYS 7096). The student should register for one course in each semester of the first year of study.
  • At least six credit hours of Thesis SYS 8999 (of which six count toward the 30- credit requirement). 

  • Special Circumstances
    • Prerequisites: The student who does not have the prerequisites (i.e., calculus, linear algebra, probability and statistics, computer programming) should take articulation courses. These courses cannot be used to satisfy the degree requirements.
    • Equivalent Courses: The student who, prior to enrolling in our graduate program, has already taken a course equivalent to a core course may petition the graduate programs director for the substitution of the core course by an elective course.
    • Transfer Credit: Up to six credit hours of graduate courses may be transferred. Only courses with a grade of B or better that have not been applied toward another degree may be transferred. The request for credit transfer must include the following documents: a completed Request Approval of Transfer Credits form, a description of course content and level, and an official transcript. The documents are provided to the ESE Student Services Coordinators to facilitate processing of the request. If the student is already admitted into a UVA program, then the request for credit transfer must be pre-approved before the course is taken.

A student must be the author or coauthor of at least one technical manuscript under review or accepted into a conference or journal before scheduling their final thesis defense.

Thesis and Committee

MS students will work with their advisor to identify a suitable master’s research topic. Up to six of the 30 credits toward the MS will typically comprise thesis research via the SYS 8999 listing. The MS candidate and their advisor will also select an MS thesis committee comprising at least three UVA faculty members. One of these three members may be from outside ESE. At least two of the three members must be faculty members with non-zero percentage appointments in ESE. The thesis committee must review and approve the student’s academic requirements report, written thesis and oral thesis defense. MS students should check the accuracy and completeness of their academic requirement report in the Student Information System (SIS) frequently, at least at the start and end of each semester and in consultation with their faculty advisor. The Appointment of Final Examination Committee form to appoint the MS thesis committee must be submitted at least 14 days before the proposed final defense date to the ESE student services coordinators, as they will obtain the SE graduate program director approval and submit the request form to the graduate office. Degree candidates must apply for graduation in SIS at the beginning of the semester in which they’re expected to graduate.

It is the candidate’s responsibility to email the ESE student services coordinators their announcement information which consists of the committee members list with the chair and advisor identified, the meeting date, time, and location information, and the thesis defense title and abstract at least two weeks before the final defense. The ESE student services coordinators will provide the chairperson with the relevant forms (Report on Final Examination and Thesis and Dissertation Assessment) for the final defense. In addition, after successful completion of their final defense, the candidate must submit the dissertation via Libra (see Graduation Procedure).

Seminar Series

ESE is committed to providing members of our community with the opportunity to learn from a wide range of scholars and practicing engineers through seminars. These seminars are organized as (a) our weekly Graduate Colloquium, led by our Graduate Student Council, and (b) Distinguished Speakers invited by our faculty on an ad-hoc basis. As an essential component of graduate education, MS students should register for at least two semesters (preferably in their first year) of SYS 7096 with zero credit hours and are expected to participate in the ESE and UVA seminars regularly and actively.

Training and Engagement

MS students are expected to be good citizens of the department by engaging in required training activities and participating in departmental activities (e.g., symposiums, workshops, social events).

Administrative Forms

It is important that graduate students submit administrative forms related to degree requirements in a timely manner to the ESE student services coordinators. These forms can be found on the Engineering School’s webpage for current engineering graduate students.