MS in Mechanical Engineering
With a mechanical engineering graduate program ranked 16th among public university peers by U.S. News & World Report, our program is one of the top-ranked in the nation. We offer paths to customize your degree in support of your unique interests and career goals, a variety of specialty courses taught by experts in the field, entrepreneurship resources and events like New Venture Challenge, and opportunities for high-impact research in air quality, biomedical, materials, mechanics of materials, micro/nanoscale, robotics and systems design, and more!
Venture Partners at CU Boulder notes that the University of Colorado has ranked fifth for startup creation, according to the latest report by the Association of University Technology Manager (AUTM). The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has ranked the CU system 14th among the “Top 100” institutions nationwide for recent patent activity.
If you are interested in conducting research during your time at CU Boulder, be sure to check out our Research Overview Slides. This resources will help you get to know our faculty members and their unique capabilities and areas of expertise.
We hope to see your application during our active application periods!
MS Degree Overview
MS Minimum Requirements
MS students must complete a minimum of 30 graduate-level credits at the 5000 level or higher. The majority of courses are 3-credits each so the degree is normally earned by completing 10 courses.
- Of these 30 credits, at least 18 credits (~6 courses) must be mechanical engineering department courses (MCEN)
- Up to 12 credits (~4 courses) may be taken outside of the department.
- Many of our students personalize their degree by taking advantage of enrolling in courses from other engineering disciplines such as aerospace, computer science, and engineering management.
- Must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA to remain in good academic standing (B average)
- See title below "MS Degree Programs" for specific course requirements for each program
As a prospective MS student, you have multiple programs from which to consider from (see all options below).
Please note: Applicants are only admitted into the MS Professional program.
Applicants who are interested in pursuing the MS Thesis program can begin a search for a potential faculty advisor upon an admission offer (see MS Thesis title for more information).
Before reaching out to faculty about serving as a potential thesis advisor, please review faculty profiles as well as the research overview slides. This should give you an idea of how your research interests align with current Mechanical Engineering faculty. You are also welcome to find a thesis advisor from other engineering departments such as aerosapce and civil engineering, or computer science.
MS Professional or Thesis students interested in pursuing focus areas can enroll in any combination of coursework they would like. Focus areas are not restrictive* and students can schedule their coursework around their interests and skills.
- The most popular option by our MS Professional and Thesis students because students make their own degree "focus" by taking courses from multiple focus areas (ex/ Biomedical and Materials) or creating their own type of focus area.
- Students pursuing the Flex Option may take whichever courses best meet their professional goals.
- Train engineers to interface engineering and medicine with design and problem solving to improve human health.
- Employs quantitative methods in physics, chemistry and biology to develop innovative medical technologies.
- Draw from our strengths in biomechanic (the application of classical and quantum mechanics to analyze biological systems) and product design to tackle current and emerging medical challenges, including those in areas of biomaterials, tissue engineering, imaging and theranostics.
- Recommended Coursework
Developing novel environmental sensors and models, software, and data analytics that will be used for everything from reducing traffic to enhancing crop growth, from improving infrastructure safety to greenhouse gas emissions assessment.
Research addresses monitoring and impact assessment on scales spanning from local (building-scale) to regional and global; from fundamental science to applied social science and community-driven research; and from computational studies to field-based experiments in remote locations.
The University of Colorado Boulder is uniquely situated amongst one of the world’s greatest ecosystems of academic institutions and national labs engaged in atmospheric research. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are located within 30 minutes of CU Boulder.
- Recommended Coursework
Train engineers in advanced methods of engineering analysis and modeling for exploration, simulation and optimization of mechanical engineering systems.
Develop theoretical understanding of physical systems and build skills in applying advanced mathematical techniques.
- Recommended Coursework
- *Specific Course Sequencing is required in the Design focus area
- Begins in the fall semester and culminates four semesters later.
- Develop design engineers that are industry oriented, experimentally-prepared, self-directed, creative and innovative, and differentiated professionals with project management experience.
- Recommended Coursework
- Faculty members carry out research in many different areas including polymers, thin films, soft actuators, battery materials, laser ultrasonics, flash sintering, nanomaterials for energy, heat transfer and meta materials.
- Mechanics of materials is an area focusing on quantitative description of the motion and deformation of solid materials subjected to forces, temperature changes, electrical voltage or other external stimuli.
- Apply theoretical modeling, computational simulation and experimental characterization to study a wide range of soft materials, from biological tissues and gels to smart polymers.
- Cover a long list of current and emerging technologies including tissue engineering, membrane filtration, stretchable electronics, smart materials, medical robots and innovative surgical devices.
Materials: Recommended Coursework
Mechanics of Materials: Recommended Coursework
- Involves micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (MEMS and NEMS) for transducers, sensors and actuators.
- Strengths include atomic, nano, micro fabrication technologies and advanced packaging.
- Visible, active programs are also underway in nano and microscale characterization, simulation and design of materials.
- Research focuses on identifying fundamental principles and methodologies that enable engineered systems to exhibit intelligent, goal-oriented behavior, and developing innovative instruments to monitor, control and manipulate systems.
- Research in the Robotics and Systems Design Area typically leverages three core competencies in service to diverse needs in such areas as healthcare, security, education, space and ocean exploration, and autonomous systems in air, land and underwater.
- Faculty and students participate in several major sponsored research centers, including the Army’s Micro Autonomous Science and Technology (MAST) CTA, and the AFOSR Center of Excellence on Nature-Inspired Flight Technologies and Ideas (NIFTI).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Is an MS in Mechanical Engineering worth it?
- What can I do with an MS in Mechanical Engineering?
- Why pursue an MS degree in Mechanical Engineering program from others?
- What differentiates CU Boulder's mechanical engineering program from others?
- How much does an MS Mechanical Engineering degree cost at CU Boulder?
- How long will it take to get my degree?
- Is the MS program offered fully online?
An MS degree in Mechanical Engineering can often lead to higher earning potential compared to a bachelor's degree (~$9,500 average per year). Many industries place a premium on advanced education, and employers may offer higher salaries to individuals with specialized knowledge and skills.The additional expertise gained during an MS program can make you a valuable asset to employers, potentially leading to quicker career advancement and increased chances of securing promotions. An MS degree also broadens your skill set and knowledge base, making you eligible for a wider range of job opportunities. Many research and development roles, leadership positions, and specialized engineering positions are often reserved for candidates with advanced degrees.
The field of mechanical engineering is dynamic, with advancements in technology and methodologies occurring regularly. Pursuing an MS allows you to stay current with the latest industry trends, tools, and techniques.
Finally, specializing in a particular area of mechanical engineering through the MS program can make you a sought-after expert in that niche. Specializations such as design, robotics, materials science, and more can set you apart from other candidates and enhance your career prospects in those specific fields. Employers often seek individuals with specialized knowledge to address specific challenges and contribute to innovation in their industries.
Master's students in mechanical engineering not only acquire advanced fundamental and leadership skills but also benefit from exposure to a multidisciplinary environment. The modern landscape of mechanical engineering demands a comprehensive understanding of issues such as material interactions, the behavior of materials in diverse conditions, and the intricate design and optimization of highly complex, interconnected systems due to the increasing complexity of modern mechanical systems and equipment.
Proficient mechanical engineers excel in translating scientific and mathematical theories into practical applications, particularly when mentored by globally recognized researchers who are enthusiastic about imparting their knowledge and expertise to their students.
Mechanical engineers holding an MS degree enjoy a spectrum of possibilities. They can pioneer startups derived from their research, secure patents for groundbreaking technologies, conduct research in national labs and diverse industries, and more!
Post-Graduation Outcomes: Graduates from this degree become engineering professionals in either industry or the government sector. Our students go on to work at companies such as: Ball Aerospace, Apple, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and more! You can learn more about post-graduation career outcomes in this interactve dashboard (look at top tabs of "Top Industries", "Top Occupations", and "Top Employers".
An MS in Mechanical Engineering offers versatility in the job market, enabling professionals to work in renewable energy, biomechanics, air quality, robotics, project management, construction, and more. Choosing mechanical engineering allows exploration across multiple areas of interest, facilitating interdisciplinary research and collaboration. It can be a practical choice for individuals transitioning from related backgrounds, providing flexibility in research focus and professional outcomes.
The CU Mechanical Engineering MS program distinguishes itself through a unique approach that allows students to tailor their degrees by offering the flexibility to take up to four out of ten courses from disciplines outside the Mechanical Engineering department. This customization extends to diverse areas such as the Art department, catering to those with a focus on design engineering. A majority of our students will take courses from other engineering disciplines such as Computer Science, Aerospace Engineering, and Engineering Management. Furthermore, within our program, we stand out with the rich variety of class offerings that align with individual interests and aspirations.
Beyond flexibility, our program is designed to nurture adaptability, equipping students for a wide array of career paths, including academia, industry research, consulting, nonprofits, national laboratories, startups, and more. CU Boulder's Mechanical Engineering ensures a robust foundation for students, facilitating diverse and rewarding career trajectories. Emphasizing collaboration, students have ample opportunities to engage with different industries and national labs. This collaborative environment not only enhances research prospects but also augments post-graduation opportunities.
In addition to academic strengths, we foster a strong sense of community among our graduate students. Regular community events such as the fall picnic, heritage feast, spring picnic, a summer Pride event, and coffee hours provide occasions for MS students to connect. Moreover, our program ensures student representation and a voice on the graduate committee, allowing MS students to actively contribute to decision-making and policies, shaping the overall experience for everyone in the program.
Finally, an MS degree in mechanical engineering is not just about studying—it’s about doing. Original research and hands-on experience are a focus of on-campus, experiential courses.
Tuition is dependent on your residency status, either resident (within Colorado) or non-resident (out-of-state and/or international). Graduate tuition is dependent on credits enrolled in within each semester (the MS degree credit requirement is 30 credits).
You can view the past and current year rates (by credit) on the Tuition and Fee Rate Sheets on the Bursar's Website. Under the Graduate Heading there, the MS Professional degree program's rates are noted under the "Professional Master's" sheet (view the residency status that matches your own). We recommend to look at the 15-credit amount of tuition and doubling that rate to get an estimate idea of a 30-credit degre cost. There is also a helpful Bill Estimator on the Bursar's Office website which calculates tuition based on residency, credit hours, and mandatory student fees
NOTE: If a student obtains a faculty advisor and transitions to the thesis MS program after admission, the student's tuition is are noted on the "Graduate" sheet (view the residency status that matches your own). There are potential scholarship programs for non-resident MS Mechanical Engineering Thesis students since the "Graduate" tuition rate is higher than a "Professional Master's" non-resident tuition rate.
You also may be eligible for certain outside fellowship opportunities. Find more information by visiting our MS Funding and Fellowships webpage.
An MS student will typically take two years to complete the degree. However, it is not uncommon for students to finish both earlier and later than this two-year average. The MS degree credit requirement is 30 credits minimum. With most graduate courses being worth 3-credits, that is an estimated 10 courses to complete the degree. The majority of students take 2-3 courses / 6-9 credits per formal (Fall/Spring) semester. Therefore, taking 2-3 courses / 6-9 credits per formal semester keeps students on track for a two-year / four-semester program completion.
Please note that if you choose to pursue the Mechanical Engineering / Engineering Management Dual Degree, certificates, and other add-ons to your education, you are likely to extend beyond the two-year timeline. Students who are taking coursework while also working part or full-time jobs sometimes choose to take 1-2 courses in each semester and finish in a 3-4 year timeline. Some students will also choose to complete summer courses to accelerate their degree obtainment. Full-time enrollment for graduate students is 5 credits or above. Master's degree students (MS) have four years from the semester in which they are admitted and begin coursework to complete all degree requirements.
Regardless of the time taken to complete the MS, primary emphasis is on remaining at CU Boulder while being in good academic standing and taking high-quality and interactive coursework that satisfies the requirements of the MS degree.
Currently, there is not a formal all-online degree available for application and admission in the MS Mechanical Engineering program.
The majority of Mechanical Engineering courses are on-campus so professors and faculty have an expectation of students to be present in-person. There are remote (synchronous) and hybrid (remote and in-person component) course options in the Mechanical Engineering department but those are minimal compared to the in-person offerings. Finally, with the allowance of up to 12 credits outside of the Mechanical Engineering department applying towards the MS degree, students commonly take remote and online (asynchronous) courses in outside departments (ex/ Engineering Management).
Our graduate community is truly special. You will join a multicultural graduate program that includes faculty, staff, and students from all over the world. Our faculty, staff, and student leaders will frequently advertise community events and professional development activities to support you and your unique experience. You will also have access to seminars, colloquia, and workshops delivered by notable engineering leaders in education, research, and industry.
Our graduate program leadership is committed to cultivating an environment of respect and belonging. We actively partner with our graduate student-led organizations, including the Committee for Equity in Mechanical Engineering (CEME), our K-12 outreach student organizers, and the Graduate Student Advisory Board (GSAB). If you join us in Boulder, we hope that you will particiate in of these groups; they are a great way to make lifelong friends and to contribute to our graduate program's unique and supportive culture.
- MS Admissions
- Undergraduate Admissions
- Bachelor's–Accelerated Master's Admissions
- PhD Admissions
- Certificate Program Admissions