Swanson School of Engineering
Mission: The mission of the Swanson School of Engineering is to produce highly qualified engineers and creative new technology through academic excellence.
Vision: The faculty and staff at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering will be recognized for providing excellent educational programs, for conducting leading-edge research, and for creating innovative industrial partnerships.
Swanson School of Engineering leaders are committed to:
Scholarship and creativity
Collegiality and open-mindedness
Student satisfaction with their University experience
Diversity in the school's staff, faculty, and student body
Accountability for their performance
Quality in teaching and research
Shared governance and responsibility
Graduate study in engineering is designed for those professionals who wish to further develop the ability to apply engineering principles to the solution of the problems of modern society. The programs are flexible and can be used by those interested in industrial production, research, design, management, teaching, and related technical positions in both the public and private sectors.
The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering offers graduate education leading to the Master of Science degree in bioengineering, chemical engineering, computer engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, and petroleum engineering. All Swanson School of Engineering MS degree programs have two tracks: a professional track and a research track. The school offers PhD degrees in chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering. Also offered are several dual degree and certificate programs and a joint degree program.
The Swanson School of Engineering is housed in the Michael L. Benedum Hall of Engineering. Inquiries and correspondence concerning graduate study should be addressed to the graduate coordinator of the appropriate department or program. Inquiries of a general nature can be sent to:
- University of Pittsburgh
- Swanson School of Engineering
- Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
- 152 Benedum Engineering Hall
- Pittsburgh, PA 15261
All applicants will be judged on their own merits. For recent graduates of an ABET-accredited program, admission will be based primarily on the undergraduate academic record. Typically a B average (cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale) or better is required for admission, and most programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Applicants should check each program's specific requirements.
Applicants from non-ABET accredited programs also are considered on an individual basis with emphasis given to academic achievement, area of study, career orientation, and work experience. Depending on the program, applicants who do not have an engineering degree may have to take certain prerequisite courses before beginning their graduate engineering degree program. Applicants may be admitted provisionally until specified prerequisites are completed and/or a 3.00 grade point average is achieved.
Graduate Special Student – A student not currently enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh will be granted temporary admission typically only for one term but at most for a total of six credits. Students in this classification cannot earn credits toward the completion of degree requirements at the University of Pittsburgh with the following exception: Students who are unable to meet the deadline for filing an official application for admission may be granted temporary admission status by the appropriate graduate coordinator. Regular admission must be granted within the first term of registration as a Special Student. Graduate credits earned during temporary admission period can be applied toward the degree. Approval from the appropriate graduate coordinator is required.
(1) U.S. citizens or permanent residents should:
a. See the Swanson School of Engineering Web site for the online application, or contact a departmental graduate coordinator for the application material.
b. Apply online or return the completed application material with a check or money order for $40 payable to the University of Pittsburgh. This application fee is not refundable.
c. Ask the registrars of all undergraduate and graduate schools attended to send transcripts of records to the University of Pittsburgh; Swanson School of Engineering Office of Administration; 749 Benedum Engineering Hall; Pittsburgh, PA 15261. An official transcript of the undergraduate record is required unless the applicant is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.
Once all application material, including the application fee and complete transcripts, are received, the application will be reviewed. The deadline for the fall term is March 1; the spring term deadline is July 1; and the summer term deadline is February 1. All applications for financial assistance should be received by February 1 for admission the following fall term.
Please see Graduate Admissions of International Students in the front section of this bulletin for University regulations on admissions of international students.
(2) International Students: In addition to academic review by the Swanson School of Engineering, the admissions officer, Office of International Services (OIS) will also process international student applications for non-academic qualifications. The document needed to apply for a non-immigrant visa will be issued only after the applicant has been admitted and has provided evidence of adequate financial support and English language proficiency. The procedure for international applicants is as follows:
a. Preliminary inquiries concerning graduate programs, research, and financial aid may be directed to the departmental graduate coordinator. Applications for graduate study are available from www.engineering.pitt.edu, the graduate coordinator, or the University of Pittsburgh, Swanson School of Engineering, Office of Administration, 749 Benedum Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15261. The non-refundable application fee for international students is $50.
b. Following review (and acceptance) by the department based upon the applicant's academic qualifications, the international student admissions officer will review the applicant's financial and language qualifications to determine eligibility for a visa document.
c. Prior to completion of registration, entering engineering graduate students with TOEFL scores of less than 100 on the iBT (or equivalent) must take an additional test of English language proficiency administered by the English Language Institute (ELI). International students who are citizens of countries where English is the official language, international students who have completed degrees at regionally accredited institutions in the U.S., and international students who have results on the TOEFL above 100 on the iBT (or equivalent) may be exempted from taking the additional test of English language proficiency by the student’s academic department.
This procedure applies also to international applicants who are already in the United States.
The University reserves the right, even after the arrival and enrollment of a student from another country, to require, at the student's expense, individual curricular adjustments whenever particular deficiencies or needs are found. This may include enrollment without credit in English as a Foreign Language or other prerequisite courses. New international students are encouraged to use the services of OIS for help in adjusting to the United States and to facilitate their total educational experience.
The Swanson School of Engineering provides a considerable amount of financial assistance to highly qualified, full-time graduate students. Applicants interested in being considered for financial assistance including teaching and research assistantships must also complete a graduate assistantship application available at www.engineering.pitt.edu and should check with the department of their choice for any additional information concerning applications for assistantships. All applications for financial assistance should be received by February 1 for admission the following fall term.
Financial aid includes:
- Fellowships awarded to students of outstanding ability, usually as an unrestricted grant.
- Traineeships awarded to students for training in selected areas.
- Teaching assistantships and teaching fellowships awarded to exceptionally well-prepared students in return for assistance in laboratories, recitation sections, and other instructional duties. Partial to full tuition scholarships are provided with these assistantships.
- Research assistantships awarded to students for assistance on research programs. Partial to full tuition scholarships are provided as part of the assistantship.
Three types of advisors are primarily responsible for guiding engineering students through their program:
The graduate coordinator is the faculty member responsible for the operation of the department's graduate program. The coordinator supervises the operations of admissions, registration, course scheduling, assignment of advisors, graduation, and academic disciplinary procedures. The graduate coordinator generally is the best source of information and advice when questions arise or problems are encountered during graduate study.
Each student is assigned a faculty advisor when admitted into a graduate program. This advisor assists the student in planning a course of study and is responsible for approving the student's registration and all course changes. Once the student begins thesis or dissertation research, the duties of the faculty advisor are assumed by the student's major research advisor.
Major Research Advisor(s)
The major research advisor (or advisors if joint advisors are designated) is the graduate faculty member who directs the student's research and supervises the preparation of the thesis or dissertation. Generally, the major advisor also serves as the chair of the final oral examination (defense) committee for the student's thesis or dissertation.
Responsibility for Academic Progress
It is the responsibility of students to check their academic progress by contacting either the departmental graduate coordinator or their faculty advisor. The student should also become familiar with the program degree requirements and pertinent academic regulations.
Probation, Suspension and Dismissal
A graduate student whose cumulative GPA falls below 3.00 will be placed on academic probation for the following term. If the student’s cumulative GPA remains below 3.00 for the next academic year term (i.e., the cumulative GPA is below 3.00 for two successive academy year terms), he or she can be suspended or dismissed. Students will normally be suspended for one calendar year; students who are dismissed will not be re-admitted to the Swanson School of Engineering. Students on probation are not eligible to take the PhD preliminary evaluation or the MS or PhD comprehensive examination, and will not be graduated.
Course Work for Graduate Credit
Only graduate courses will count for graduate credit (i.e., 2000 or 3000 level courses). Students may not use undergraduate courses taken at either the University of Pittsburgh, or another university to satisfy a graduate requirement.
No more than two online courses (six credits total) may be taken for graduate credit. These course must be:
1. Offered by an appropriate academic graduate program.
2. Suitable for the student’s academic program and typically not available on the University of Pittsburgh campus
3. Approved by the graduate coordinator and then approved by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
Residency and Statute of Limitations Requirements
A graduate student may complete all requirements for the MS degree on a part-time basis. All degree requirements for the Research MS degree, must be fulfilled within a period of four calendar years after the student's first registration for graduate study; within five calendar years for a Professional MS degree.
Master of Science Programs
All departments in the Swanson School of Engineering offer MS degree programs that have two tracks: a professional track and a research track. The differences are detailed below. Students may transfer no more than six credits of appropriate graduate course work from another graduate program at the discretion of the graduate coordinator in satisfying the course requirements of both the professional and research MS degrees.
Professional MS Track
The professional track consists of 30 credits (10 courses). The faculty of the degree-granting unit determines the actual course content and requirements. These programs typically have a set of required core courses. Students may have an opportunity for more in-depth study in a particular area of interest through a two- or three-course concentration. As a professional degree, while no thesis or comprehensive examination is required, the department may require a special projects course.
The professional MS programs are oriented toward full-time students seeking a career in industry, and part-time students currently working in industry. Certain programs may be offered off campus at industrial sites. Although students who have an undergraduate degree in a technical area (e.g., mathematics, physics, computer science, or chemistry) may be accepted, depending on the particular program, they may be required to take certain prerequisite courses. Interested students should contact the appropriate graduate coordinator for specific details.
Research MS Track
The research track is primarily for those students who wish to pursue the PhD. Students in this track will be advised to take those courses best suited for a research degree. The MS research track requires a minimum of 24 course credits, depending on the selected option and six credits of thesis. The department may also specify credit distribution requirements for courses in the major and related areas. The student should see his or her major advisor for detailed information. Students working under the MS research option may be required to present a thesis that demonstrates marked attainment in some area of the student's major subject. Acquisition of the methods and techniques of scientific investigation should also be demonstrated. Some programs may permit a project to be completed in place of the thesis. The University transcript will include an entry indicating that the student is in the research MS track. A comprehensive examination or equivalent is required. Normally the final oral exam for the thesis meets the requirements of the MS comprehensive exam.
A graduate student may commence MS thesis work only after obtaining full graduate status.
A graduate student should initiate preliminary thesis and research work as early as possible. Once research and thesis work has begun, the student must register for thesis credits in each succeeding term until successful completion of the thesis and the final oral examination. Exceptions to this rule can be made only upon the recommendation of the student's major advisor.
Only 6 credits of MS thesis may be used as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MS degree. Before completion of the thesis, the student will receive a grade of I (incomplete) at the end of each term. After successful completion of the thesis and the final oral examination, all I grades will be changed to S grades.
MS Thesis Oral Examination (Defense)
The purpose of this examination is to evaluate the student's MS thesis and is part of the MS thesis requirements as specified by the program. For additional information on the thesis exam, see Thesis Option under Regulations Pertaining to Master of Arts and Master of Science Degrees.
Residency and Statute of Limitations Requirements
A graduate student may complete all requirements for the MS degree on a part-time basis. All degree requirements for the MS degree, however, must be fulfilled within a period of four calendar years after the student's first registration for graduate study.
All graduate students preparing a thesis or dissertation must complete a participation form. The signed participation form and the necessary payment receipt documentation are to be submitted to the Swanson School of Engineering Office of Administration. After receiving approval the student will go to the ETD Online System and follow the instructions in the Format Guidelines Manual for submission of an ETD. Questions and problems can be addressed by contacting the School of Engineering Office of Administration.
Joint MD/PhD Degree Program
The MD/PhD program offers selected students an opportunity to earn MD and PhD degrees simultaneously from the School of Medicine and certain departments in the Swanson School of Engineering. Interested applicants should contact the MD/PhD program at M211 Scaife Hall, 412-648-2324 for further information.
Joint MBA/MS Degree Program
The Swanson School of Engineering and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business have established joint MBA/MS programs with each of the seven engineering departments. These programs are designed to meet the clear and growing need felt by various industry sectors for managers with sophisticated business and engineering skills. In today's environment, such cross-functional skills are essential in addressing multifaceted problems involving issues related to product development, quality, information systems, modeling and quantitative analysis, finance and accounting, international relations, and marketing.
Both full-time and part-time options are available. The full-time option can be completed in two academic years, whereas the part-time option may typically require a period of four to five years. The programs generally consist of 64.5 credits full time (or 69 credits part time). It is designed for students with undergraduate degrees in engineering and, in some cases, the physical sciences, preferably with industry work experience. Candidates must meet the admissions criteria of both the MBA program and the specific MS engineering program of interest.
Students accepted into the program will be expected to complete both degrees concurrently and pay full tuition. Courses will be scheduled in such a manner as to preclude students from receiving one degree before the other.
This program is only for those students seeking a professional MS engineering degree. Students interested in the research MS engineering degree track will not be admitted. Further, because of the high credit demand, students in the program will not be able to hold either research or teaching assistant positions. Students who enrolled in the joint degree program are expected to complete both degrees.
Full-time students will register for the program through the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business for four semesters at the one-year MBA tuition rate.
Doctor of Philosophy Programs
The general PhD requirements of the Swanson School of Engineering are listed below. Further information concerning departmental requirements and options can be found under each departmental program description.
Entrance to the PhD Program
A graduate student who has received the Master of Science degree in one engineering program area or has equivalent preparation is eligible to enter a doctoral program in that same area. To be accepted for a doctoral program, a graduate student must have achieved a superior scholastic record and shown great promise for conducting independent research. A prospective doctoral student should have a cumulative graduate grade point average of at least 3.00 in graduate course work. Evidence of research aptitude, including favorable recommendations, is required. Exceptionally well-qualified students may be permitted to enter the PhD program without an MS degree according to the established criteria and qualifications set by each department. Admission to a doctoral program does not include any implication concerning admission to candidacy for the PhD degree.
Course and Dissertation Credit Requirements
An objective of the PhD program is to attain a high degree of competence in the student's chosen field of specialization. Completion of the PhD program requires a total of 72 credits, of which at least 18 must be for dissertation research. The graduate faculty determines the minimum course requirements for each PhD program. Typically each program has a core of well-coordinated courses followed by advanced course work in one or more specialty areas, with the number of course credits varying among programs. Additional course work may be prescribed in accord with the student's specific needs. However, all PhD students must take a minimum of 24 credits of graduate level didactic coursework (2000 or 3000 level). A student may further attain the required degree of competence beyond these 24 credits by other means including independent study under faculty supervision. Regardless of how the required competence is obtained, it must be certified by passing the appropriate series of examinations.
Students who have been formally admitted to PhD candidacy may register for dissertation research. Preliminary dissertation research can be done as part of an appropriate departmental course. The number of dissertation credits for which a student registers should be commensurate with the independent research effort to be undertaken during the term. Minimum registration is 3 credits per term. Of the minimum 18 credits of dissertation research, at least 12 credits must be for the program's PhD dissertation research course (3999). These may be taken only after admission to candidacy; the other 6 credits may be in the department's pre-candidacy PhD research course.
Doctoral students who have completed all credit requirements for the degree, including any minimum dissertation credit requirements, and are working full time on their dissertations may register for Full-Time Dissertation Study, which carries no credits or letter grade but provides students full-time status. Students so enrolled are assessed a special tuition fee.
Once a student registers for dissertation research (3999), he or she must continue to register for dissertation research in successive terms (not including the summer term) until the final oral examination has been passed, unless the student is eligible to register for Full Time Dissertation credit. (In special cases the major advisor may request that this requirement be waived.) Upon successful completion of the final oral examination, all I grades will be changed to S grades.
Doctor of Philosophy Evaluation/Examinations
To complete the PhD program, students must pass the preliminary evaluation and the comprehensive and final oral examinations. Students who have less than a 3.00 cumulative GPA are considered to be on probation and will not be permitted to take any of these examinations.
Preliminary Evaluation (Qualifier)
See Preliminary Evaluation under Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees for an overview of the purpose of this examination, and then review the school-specific information below. This examination is usually taken within the first two to four terms of graduate study and is a first step toward the student's formal admission to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Each program determines the exact format and content of this examination, which usually consists of written and oral components. Qualifier examinations are usually given once a year at a time specified by the program.
See Comprehensive Examination under Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees for an overview of the purpose and regulations regarding this examination, and then review the school-specific information below. The nature and timing of this examination is determined by the department; it may be combined with students' formal presentation of their dissertation proposal. However, the Comprehensive Examination cannot be taken until at least one full term after successfully completing the Preliminary Examination. The formal thesis proposal should be scheduled as soon as the candidate is prepared to present his/her topic and research plan, since there must be at least two full terms between its successful completion and the Final Oral Examination.
Final Oral Examination (Defense)
See Final Oral Examination under Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees for an overview of the purpose and regulations regarding this examination, and then review the school-specific information below. The final oral examination determines the acceptability of students' dissertations and their ability to comprehend, organize, and contribute to their chosen field of research. One copy of the dissertation must be submitted to each member of the doctoral committee at least two weeks before the date set for the final oral examination. Because a portion of the defense is open to the public, the student should ensure that the dissertation defense is formally announced on both the School’s webpages and its videos monitors, at least two weeks prior to the defense date. Further, this examination cannot occur sooner than two full terms following the formal thesis proposal.
Admission to PhD Candidacy
See Admission to Candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree under Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees for the requirements for admission. An Application for Admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree must be filed after these requirements have been met.
In order to have the dissertation topic approved, the student must prepare, in consultation with the major advisor, a dissertation proposal. A formal dissertation proposal conference will then be held in which the members of the doctoral committee will review the proposal and either accept, revise, or reject it. Depending on the department's procedure, this conference may be held in conjunction with the comprehensive examination. Approval of the proposal does not imply either the acceptance of a dissertation prepared in accord with the proposal or the restriction of the dissertation to this original proposal.
If the dissertation proposal is accepted by the doctoral committee, the student is formally admitted to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Such admittance to PhD candidacy must be accomplished at least two terms before the student plans to graduate.
See Doctoral Committee under Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees for an overview of the committee's make up and responsibilities. In addition, the following school-specific rules apply in the School of Engineering:
Faculty who hold a secondary appointment but actively participate in the department will be considered as internal rather than external members of the doctoral committee. Hence, they may serve as the major advisor. Faculty members whose secondary appointment within the department is viewed as a courtesy appointment may be considered as an external committee member, but cannot serve as the student's sole committee chair (major advisor).
The composition of the Doctoral Committee must be approved by the department’s graduate coordinate and either the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs or the Associate Dean for Research prior to the presentation of the formal dissertation proposal. In certain cases the graduate coordinator or associate dean may recommend one or more additional members of the committee if appropriate. Once the dissertation proposal is approved, the student is expected to meet annually with his/her Doctoral Committee.
If a committee member leaves the University, that member can continue to serve as an internal committee member provided that he/she has an adjunct appointment in the student’s home department. If the major advisor (committee chair) leaves the University, then a new major advisor must be appointed by the graduate coordinator and approved by the associate dean. The new major advisor will typically be selected from among the remaining committee members. The former major advisor may remain on the committee as a member, but only if he/she has an adjunct appointment. The graduate coordinator and School administration must be informed of any proposed committee changes in the term they occur.
A major advisor has an obligation to assist the student to the successful completion of his/her dissertation. In those rare cases where the major advisor no longer feels that he/she can adequately work with the student, then it is incumbent on the department chair and graduate coordinator to meet with the committee and, if it is decided that the student is able to complete the dissertation, then select a new major advisor, typically from among the remaining members of the committee, and a replacement committee member appointed.
Each student must prepare a dissertation embodying an extended original, independent investigation of a problem of significance in the student's field of specialization. The dissertation must add to the general store of knowledge or understanding of that field. Dissertations must be written in English.
A dissertation submitted to the Swanson School of Engineering in partial fulfillment of the requirements for an advanced degree must be free from any restriction, other than the author's copyright, concerning its publication by any agency outside the University. Any publication of a dissertation must be with appropriate acknowledgment to the University of Pittsburgh. After the dissertation has been prepared and approved by the major advisor, the final oral examination can be held.
Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD)
All graduate students preparing a thesis or dissertation must complete a participation form. The signed participation form and the necessary payment receipt documentation are to be submitted to the Swanson School of Engineering Office of Administration. After receiving approval the student will go to the ETD Online System and follow the instructions in the Format Guidelines Manual for submission of an ETD. Questions and problems can be addressed by contacting the Swanson School of Engineering Office of Administration.
The policies enumerated above represent minimum requirements. In certain cases, individual departments may have stricter requirements. It is the ultimate responsibility of the student to understand the policies/requirements of his/her graduate program.
The Swanson School of Engineering has had a longstanding co-op program for the undergraduates, and in 2011 a program for graduate level students was approved, due to a number of requests from graduate students and employers. With the renewed emphasis on professional master degree programs and the development of such initiatives as the MS/MBA, GEL (Global Engineering Leadership) and 3+1+1 (first three years at a home institution, a fourth year at the SSoE to earn the BS degree, and a fifth year at the SSoE to earn an MS degree) programs, there is a strong need to provide graduate students, including international graduate students with a work opportunity that is an essential part of their education. This also includes PhD students who desire to take a term off in order to obtain industrial experience and perspective. Not only does the program provide them with needed experience, but it enables them to earn a reasonable amount of money over a 15 week work rotation. For more information, please visit http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/coop/.