Choosing a Degree

Which type of graduate degree is right for you? The answer to that question depends upon your professional goals.


What do you imagine yourself doing in 10 years? 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? Will you work in a research lab, or serve as a university professor building your own research program while teaching and mentoring students? Are you planning to use your engineering degree as a springboard into a different field such as medicine, law or business? Do you want to improve your skills and marketability in your current career? How much time are you willing to invest in a graduate engineering degree?

Whatever your goals, UVA Engineering has a graduate degree that can help you get there.

Master's Degrees

Two types of master’s degrees are available. Strong emphasis is placed on research for the Master of Science (M.S.) degree. The focal point of the M.S. is a thesis describing research accomplished in close cooperation with the student’s faculty advisor. The degrees of Master of Engineering (M.E.) and Master of Applied Science are professionally oriented and do not require a thesis.

  • The Master of Engineering (Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, and Systems Engineering), the Master of Computer Science, and the Master of Materials Science and Engineering 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. Master of Engineering, Master of Computer Science, and Master of Materials Science and Engineering degrees are ideal for students who want to enhance their qualifications for a career in an engineering field. In addition to the resident Master of Engineering degree programs, UVA offers two special programs, described below, that enable working professionals to earn a degree while continuing their careers.
  • The Master of Science degree includes both coursework and a research component that culminates in a research thesis. Master of Science degrees, which are usually completed within two years, provide higher qualifications for employment and also prepare students for doctoral studies. Students in Master of Science degree programs earn 24 credits in coursework and at least 6 credits in supervised research, which culminates in a research thesis. Master of Science students are eligible for, but not guaranteed, financial aid in the form of teaching or research assistantships, which include stipend or wages, tuition, and health insurance. Master of Science students are required to satisfy a period of residency as full-time students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. This means that the student, whether taking courses or doing research, is expected to be fully engaged in the academic community, to participate in planned and impromptu discussions with faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, and to actively contribute to intellectual discourse within the School. During the period of residency, which is at least three semesters excluding summer, a student should have no major conflicts of commitment. Substantial employment obligations, for example, would generally be in conflict with the residency requirement.

Ph.D. Degrees

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is regarded by many as a symbol that its bearer has achieved an in-depth understanding of a segment of human knowledge and has contributed significantly to that knowledge. The Ph.D. requires a program of advanced study in courses and research, satisfactory completion of Ph.D. examinations, and submission of a dissertation based on independent, original research.

  • 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 Master of Science, Ph.D. programs require a period of residency as full time students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. This means that the student, whether taking courses or doing research, is expected to be fully engaged in the academic community, to participate in planned and impromptu discussions with faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, and to actively contribute to intellectual discourse within the School. During the period of residency, which is at least three semesters excluding summer, a student should have no major conflicts of commitment. Substantial employment obligations, for example, would generally be in conflict with the residency requirement. Ph.D. programs in engineering usually require five to seven years of graduate study. Because of their significant contributions to the research programs, most Ph.D. students receive financial aid in the form of teaching or research assistantships, which include stipend or wages, tuition and health insurance.

Graduate Programs for Working Professionals

UVA Engineering has a strong history of supporting professionals in Virginia and beyond who know that advancing their careers means advancing their education. We offer two master's programs for working professionals:

  • The Accelerated Master’s Program in Systems Engineering (AMP), taught by full-time faculty of the Department of Systems and Information Engineering and the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, is a one-year Master of Engineering degree program conducted in an “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.
  • The Online Professional Master's Degree programis a collaborative, online part-time degree program offering Master of Engineering degrees in Chemical, Civil, Electrical & Computer, Materials Science, Mechanical & Aerospace and Systems Engineering. Courses are delivered in a real-time, interactive format and are available to admitted degree seeking students as well as those not in a degree program. Visit the Online Professional Master's Degrees program website for more information.