What is the Difference Between the Traditional/Standard MS and the Professional MS?

The MS degree program allows you to specialize in a particular topic in the aerospace field. Traditional MS students are admitted into a specific focus area and are required to complete a focus area curriculum. In addition to meeting focus area curricular requirements, you will choose one of the options below to meet graduation requirements:

  • MS thesis
  • Graduate Projects I & II
  • Completing a certificate
  • Course-based option (for AUT and FSM only).

Funding is not guaranteed for master’s students. Although in rare cases you can be supported by faculty directly, the department does not guarantee that support.

The Professional MS degree (ProMS) offers a more flexible coursework-only program. As a ProMS student, you do not have to follow a specific focus area curriculum and can customize your degree based on your personal interests; however, 18 credits in ASEN, including a math course from the list of approved math courses is required. Note: ProMS students are ineligible for any university funding (TA/RA/fellowships) but may pursue hourly positions including Teaching Facilitator (TF) positions.

Both the MS and ProMS degrees require 30 total credit hours (10 courses).

Of the 30 total credit hours for both degrees:

  • 24 credit hours, equivalent to 8 courses must be at the 5000 level or above
  • 18 credit hours, equivalent to 6 courses must be ASEN courses (EMEN 5405 counts as ASEN)
  • 3 credit hours, equivalent to 1 course must meet the math requirement (see Appendix B in the Graduate Student Handbook)
Paths Toward Graduation

The Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering Sciences can be obtained via one of two options: the Traditional MS or the Professional MS.

Traditional MS –

Study is aligned with one of the Focus Areas. This choice requires completion of Focus Area-specific curricular requirements and one of the four options below:

  • *MS Thesis – Engage in meaningful research resulting in a thesis document and successful thesis defense. Students are required to complete 6 credit hours of ASEN 6950 (Master’s Thesis).*
  • Complete Graduate Projects I and II (ASEN 5018 and 6028) (see Section 6.3.2 of the Graduate Student Handbook and our Graduate Projects page).
  • Complete an approved certificate (See Appendix C and our Certificates Page).
  • Fulfill requirements for Focus Area-specific course-based MS curriculum (AUT and FSM only).

*Thesis Option: Write or defend a master’s thesis. Students must: 

  • Secure a thesis advisor. You cannot declare this as a track toward graduation until you have acquired a thesis advisor.
  • Complete the thesis plan form on the graduate school website.
  • Contact their Graduate Program Specialist/Advisor to register for 6 credits of master's thesis credit during the add period. Students typically enroll for 3 masters thesis credits each semester over a two-semester period. The course number is ASEN 6950. Students cannot register for thesis credits by themselves. Note: Masters thesis credits cannot be applied toward the PhD program.

Professional MS (ProMS) -

Offers a more flexible, course-based curriculum, not aligned with a specific Focus Area curriculum.


Early in the semester in which you are expecting to graduate, there are some required steps:

  1. Apply to graduate in Buff Portal with your master's degree.
  2. Complete your Candidacy Application.

There are some additional required items if applicable to your degree plan:

  • If you are completing an AES certificate, complete the Certificate Award Request Form.
  • If you are completing an MS thesis, ensure you have done the following at least 2 weeks before your defense date (if not sooner):

Please ensure you are following any deadlines provided to you by the department. You can view more information regarding required steps for graduation and general deadlines on the Graduate School’s Deadlines for Master’s Degree Candidates page.


Tuition & Fees

For all tuition and fee-related questions, please visit the Bursar’s Office page.


The MS is self-funded, meaning the department is unable to provide centralized, guaranteed support. There are some funding options you can apply to/seek out. Please see the links and information below.

Enrollment Status

There are two sets of rules defining full-time.

1. The first set of rules is imposed by the Graduate School. In order to be considered a full-time student under the Graduate School criteria, you must be enrolled in:

  • 1 hour master's thesis OR
  • 5 hours of graduate level coursework OR
  • 8 hours of graduate and undergraduate coursework combined OR
  • 12 hours of undergraduate coursework OR
  • 1-3 hours of Master’s Candidate for Degree^.

2. The second set of rules is imposed by the federal government for federal financial aid purposes. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid with questions.

  • Full-time: A graduate student who is enrolled in at least 6 semester hours* in a fall, spring or summer term.
  • Half-time: A graduate student who is enrolled in at least 3-5 semester hours* in a fall, spring or summer term.

*Excludes Master’s Candidate for Degree^ courses (ASEN 6949). They cannot be included in the semester hour calculation for financial aid eligibility and/or loan deferment.

^Master’s Candidate for Degree course(s) (ASEN 6949) is what a student would enroll in if additional time is required to complete an MS thesis. 

Transferring Credits

Transfer credit is defined as any credit earned at another accredited institution, credits earned on another campus of the CU system, or credits earned as a non-degree student within the CU system. Credit may not be transferred until you have completed 6 credits of graduate level coursework as a degree-seeking student on the CU Boulder campus with a 3.0 GPA. The following limits apply:

Note: Transfer credits typically transfer in as general electives that count towards your 30 credit hour requirement. If you would like specific transfer credits to count towards specific course requirements (i.e. math, focus area specific course, etc.) then you will also need to submit an academic petition.