Frequently Asked Questions
Below are questions we frequently hear from students who are considering graduate programs in engineering at Duke. We recognize this resource won't answer all your questions, but it's a start. Please feel free to contact the Director of Graduate Studies in the department(s) you're interested in to delve more deeply into our programs.
How do I know which degree—PhD, MS, MEng, or MEM—is right for me?
The Pratt School of Engineering has developed a comparison chart (pratt.duke.edu/grad) detailing the options for graduate education in engineering at Duke. Your choice of degree depends on your career goals.
Generally speaking, the Master of Engineering degree may be a better fit for you if you intend to work in industry following graduation. If you intend to work in academia or to go on to earn a PhD degree, the Master of Science degree may be a better choice for you. If you’re particularly interested in management and entrepreneurship, then our Master of Engineering Management degree may be a great fit.
What are the application requirements for engineering graduate programs at Duke?
You will need the following documentation to apply for all graduate engineering programs at Duke:
- An official transcript that states you hold a BS degree or equivalent in engineering or science.
- GRE (Graduate Record Examination) test scores
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score (if applicable), IETLS (International English Language Testing System) score*, or a waiver**
- Three letters of recommendation
- Written statement of purpose that describes your specific academic and career interests
*IELTS is less commonly submitted by applicants. The Master of Engineering and Master of Engineering Management Programs do not accept the IETLS.
The entire application process takes place online. The Duke Graduate School processes all applications for Master of Science and PhD programs. (See Duke Graduate School Admissions for requirements). The Pratt School of Engineering Professional Master’s Program Office processes all applications for Master of Engineering and Master of Engineering Management programs.
What are the minimum admissions criteria for engineering graduate programs at Duke?
The Pratt School of Engineering requires a minimum GPA of 3.2 from an undergraduate program in order to gain admission to the Master of Science or PhD degree programs. A minimum TOEFL score of 90 on the Internet-based test is also required. Be advised that the average scores for applicants admitted to our programs are generally higher than these minimum requirements.
We base admissions decisions on several factors, including letters of recommendation, your specific research interests, undergraduate coursework/preparation, and faculty match. Your GPA and GRE scores are important, but they're not the only pieces that factor into our evaluation. Admission to the Graduate School at Duke University is very competitive.
The average admissions scores for applicants recently admitted to the BME graduate program are as follows:
- GRE Quantitative: 165
- GRE Verbal: 160
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 162
- GRE Verbal: 159
- UGPA: 3.6
The average scores for applicants recently admitted to the CEE graduate program are as follows:
- GRE Quantitative: 161
- GRE Verbal: 160
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 163
- GRE Verbal: 154
- UGPA: 3.5
The average scores for applicants recently admitted to the ECE graduate program are as follows:
- GRE Quantitative: 166
- GRE Verbal: 156
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 166
- GRE Verbal: 159
- UGPA: 3.7
The average scores for applicants recently admitted to the MEMS graduate program are as follows:
- GRE Quantitative: 164
- GRE Verbal: 157
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 159
- GRE Verbal: 151
- UGPA: 3.5
Do I have to have a master’s degree before I apply to the PhD program?
A minimum of a bachelor's degree (or equivalent degree) is required to be admitted to the PhD program. While some of our students enter the PhD program after obtaining an MS degree, this is certainly not required. PhD students have the option to earn an MS degree en route to the PhD, but it is not a required step in earning the PhD.
What are the minimum admissions criteria for students without undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering?
The MS and MEng programs in BME admit students with undergraduate degrees in sciences and engineering. The minimum requirement is that the students have taken the following college level courses:
- Multivariable Calculus
- Introduction to Physics (mechanics) (or with accepted AP credit)
- Introduction to Chemistry (or with accepted AP credits)
My first language is not English but I studied in an English-speaking country prior to applying to Duke. Can the TOEFL requirement be waived?
For all our graduate programs — Master of Science, Master of Engineering, Master of Engineering Management, or PhD tracks — we require a valid TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IETLS (International English Language Testing System) score*, or a TOEFL/IETLS Waiver. IELTS is less commonly submitted by applicants.
- Read the Duke Graduate School minimum scores and TOEFL/IETLS Waiver Policy, the Master of Engineering Management TOEFL Waiver Policy, and the Master of Engineering TOEFL Waiver Policy.
* The Master of Engineering and Master of Engineering Management Programs do not require a minimum TOEFL score. The Master of Engineering and Master of Engineering Management Programs do not accept the IETLS. For more information, see MS and PhD, Master of Engineering, and Master of Engineering Management.
What is the cost of attending graduate school at Duke?
The cost of attendance and explanation of fees for the MS and PhD programs can be found on the Duke Graduate School's website.
We offer aggressive incentive packages for outstanding PhD students with external support such as National Science Foundation Fellowships.
Information regarding tuition and financial aid for the Master of Engineering program can be found at meng.pratt.duke.edu/apply/tuition-financial-aid.
Information on tuition and financial aid for the Master of Engineering Management program is available at memp.pratt.duke.edu/apply/tuition-financial-aid.
Do I need to provide financial proof (i.e., proof that I can afford to pay for graduate studies at Duke) when I apply?
Financial proof that you can afford to pay for graduate studies is not required at the time of application. However, accepted Masters students are required to show proof of financial ability to maintain their cost of living and cost of study. More information may be found on Duke's Graduate School’s website. PhD students are accepted with financial support to sufficiently cover these costs. However, if the student is married and has dependent children, the students must document that there are sufficient funds to support his or her family.
I have applied to the PhD program. What do I need to do to be considered for financial support?
All applicants to our PhD program are automatically considered for financial support when their applications are reviewed. No additional action is required on the part of the applicant. Applicants are encouraged, however, to pursue external funding opportunities, such as NSF fellowships.
The large majority of applicants admitted to our PhD program are offered a fellowship or research assistantship, or a combination of the two. Fellowships are typically awarded by the departments, but some students may also be awarded one of the Graduate School's competitive fellowships for incoming students. The financial support awarded to PhD students generally includes a stipend, tuition payments and payments for most Graduate School fees. The Graduate School also currently provides health insurance for PhD students in years 1-6 and to all research assistants regardless of year in the program.
I have applied to the Master of Engineering (MEng) Program. What do I need to be considered for financial support?
All applicants are considered for departmental scholarships. See our MEng website for more information regarding tuition and financial aid in our Master of Engineering program.
How do I match my interests and aptitudes with the available research and curriculum opportunities within a given graduate program?
Students are encouraged to evaluate possible areas of interest by familiarizing themselves with faculty research through faculty web pages and then reviewing faculty journal publications. Read the department newsletters posted online for each department—these provide a nice snapshot of faculty activity across the board. In addition seminars targeted at first year graduate students will provide exposure to a variety of research topics.
We also encourage you to contact the department's Director of Graduate Studies, and to arrange to interact with current graduate students. Directly contacting professors can also be an effective approach in identifying mutual interest in research programs.
How do I choose an adviser?
PhD students are recruited to a specific lab when the admission offer is extended. Students generally remain with the same adviser throughout their degree completion. However, we do help students to change advisers if the fit is not good or if their research takes them in a different direction. All master's students enter the program under the Director of Master's Studies. If they decide to pursue a research track, the research adviser of that lab generally becomes their adviser.
Can I take courses in other departments and across Duke?
Yes. We encourage students to build an interdisciplinary educational experience that suits their needs. Duke offers a wide range of opportunities for students to take advantage of our centrally located School of Medicine, the Sanford Institute for Public Policy, the Nicholas School for the Environment, and Duke departments of chemistry, physics and mathematics, etc.
How long will it take to complete a MEng or MS program here at Duke?
Both programs require 30 units of course credit, which usually translates to 10 courses. Most students complete these 10 courses in three or four semesters, which means that they have earned a master's level degree in 1.5 or 2 calendar years.
How long will it take to complete a PhD program here at Duke?
Each student has different a different experience. The range for PhD completion is 4-6 years. Each department's average time is as follows:
- Biomedical Engineering - 5.7 years
- Civil and Environmental Engineering - 4.9 years
- Electrical and Computer Engineering - 4.5 years
- Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science - 4.5 years
Am I required to be a teaching assistant (TA) as part of this program? What are normal TA responsibilities?
Teaching is considered an integral part of the graduate experience. It prepares future PhD holders for a possible academic career by providing experience in lecturing, teaching laboratory experiments, and tutoring individual students. It helps develop skills in communicating ideas and fair grading.
Teaching assistants are used in undergraduate courses to:
- Set up and conduct laboratory exercises
- Conduct recitation classes
- Grade homework
- Supplement the faculty office hours
PhD students are required to fulfill two teaching assistant (TA) assignments as a degree requirement. M.S. students have no such degree requirement, however, qualified students may TA as a paid position. Qualified applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA, be recommended by a primary faculty member, and have taken and done well in the class. Master of Engineering students are not eligible for TA positions.
What are the residency requirements?
In accordance with Duke Graduate School policies, minimum residency requirements must be met before graduation. They are one academic year with at least two successive semesters for a Master's degree and one academic year beyond the Master's for a doctoral degree. Please note that this residency requirement is independent from an additional requirement of six (or five) semesters of paid tuition.
The low-residency option for the Master of Engineering Management is discussed on the MEMP site.
What is RCR – Responsible Conduct of Research?
“RCR” stands for "Responsible Conduct of Research." At Duke, RCR training embodies the full range of ethical responsibilities of those engaged in research and teaching. It encompasses not only the obligation to conduct research and teach with integrity, but also to ensure that the rights and interests of original sources, human subjects, and/or animal subjects are protected. All PhD students in engineering are required to attend 12 contact hours of RCR training. Learn more about RCR.
What career development services are available for graduate students?
In addition to the support provided through faculty advising within the department, the Duke Career Development Center offers assistance and extensive resources for graduate students. These services include counseling during graduate studies, and also professional and career counseling and support for exploration of employment opportunities upon completion of graduate study. The Duke Career Center offers confidential advising services, electronic magazine and scholarly society links, fellowship and grant links, graduate school and thesis/dissertation guides, networking information, research directories, writing and research online resources, and career and employment resources, among others.
As program completion nears, graduate students may choose to use the Duke Career Center resources to explore a broad range of employment sectors, including higher education, government, or the corporate world. There is information and training on career planning, interviewing and job search skills, resume and cover letter writing, academic and industry job searches, job listings and employment opportunities, employer research and profiles, on-campus recruiting and graduate student career symposia, and one-on-one resourcing with a PhD career counselor and through periodicals and journals widely available at the Center. The Career Library and Job Room provide a wealth of printed and database materials on career fields and specific employers. In addition, by signing up for the Career Center's mailing lists, news of career-related workshops, employment sector trends, job announcements and strategies for job hunting, or tips for exploring employment options can be delivered to your personal e-mail box.
The goal of the Duke Career Development Center is to assist graduate students in exploring career options and in locating employment opportunities that match their special interests and expertise. Career-related information and advice are readily available, and Career Counselors will work with degree candidates to develop strategies for handling transition from graduate study into college/university teaching, administration, or other professional careers. Advising on career-related concerns is confidential, and feedback on the format and content of the cv, resume, cover letter, abstract, or grant proposal is also provided.
To explore the many services offered through the Duke Career Development Center, you may visit their website at career.studentaffairs.duke.edu.
Master of Engineering (MEng) students may take advantage of dedicated resources in the Pratt School of Engineering for career services. For more information, see: meng.pratt.duke.edu/about/career-services.
Master of Engineering Management (MEM) also has dedicated career development support. For more information, see: memp.pratt.duke.edu/campus/career-services.
Do you have Conditional Acceptance policy?
No, the MS and MEng programs in BME do not offer conditional admissions.