Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Programs

Find answers to common questions by prospective graduate students below. In addition to these questions, the Penn State Graduate School also provides a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the application process and more. Still have a question? Reach out to

What graduate programs are available?

Our academic departments and schools deliver graduate programming that spans more than 20 engineering disciplines. We offer master of science (M.S.), master of engineering (M.Eng.), doctoral (Ph.D.), and graduate certificate (G.C.) options that align with your unique goals and interests. View our discipline areas and degree options »

What are the admissions requirements?

Admissions requirements depend on your program of interest. Learn more about specific requirements by reviewing our discipline areas and degree options »

What is the cost of a Penn State graduate degree?

Graduate program costs vary depending on residency, the length of your program, full-time or part-time status, semester enrolled, campus, and more. Review tuition and fees schedules »

What types of funding and financial aid are available?

Prospective graduate students have access to numerous types of financial support, both internal and external, to cover or defray the costs of graduate education. These include teaching and research assistantships, scholarships and fellowships, loans and other aid, and the Advancing Master’s Program. Learn more about funding and support opportunities »

How can I be considered for funding?

For the best chance of consideration for funding, you can take the following steps:

  • Submit a complete and competitive application by highlighting your academic achievements, relevant coursework, research and/or industry experience, and any other relevant qualifications directly related to your program of interest.
  • Apply early as many funding opportunities have limited availability and are often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Explore assistantship opportunities within your desired program as a form of funding. These positions typically involve working as a teaching assistant or research assistant while pursuing your degree.
  • Review fellowship and scholarship opportunities. Thoroughly research and apply for relevant opportunities, as they can provide financial support for tuition, research expenses, and living expenses.
  • Research external funding sources such as national or international scholarships, governmental grants, industry-sponsored programs, and professional organizations that provide financial support for graduate work in engineering.
  • Maintain a strong academic performance as many funding opportunities consider academic merit as a significant criterion. Strive to maintain a high GPA and demonstrate strong performance in your coursework and research to be competitive for funding opportunities.

Remember that funding availability and criteria vary by program, department, and academic year. It’s important to consult with the specific program or department within the College of Engineering for the most accurate and up-to-date information about funding opportunities.

What is the average length of a graduate program?

The average length of a graduate program in the College of Engineering varies depending on the specific degree and the discipline. Here are some general guidelines for the typical length of graduate programs:

  • M.Eng. programs: Most M.Eng. programs are designed to be completed within one to two years of study, depending on the specifics of the program, field of study, course load, enrollment status, and other factors. In some cases, students may choose to complete an M.Eng. degree on a part-time basis, extending the duration of the program.
  • M.S. programs: Most M.S. programs are designed to be completed in two years of full-time study. However, the program duration can vary based on factors such as the specific program, whether you are pursuing a thesis or non-thesis option, and whether you are attending on a part-time or full-time basis.
  • Ph.D. programs: Doctorate programs generally require a more extended period of study compared to master’s programs. On average, Ph.D. programs in the College of Engineering take between four to five years to complete, although this can vary depending on your research topic and personal progress in the program.

It’s important to note that these are general estimates, and the actual length of a graduate program can be influenced by many factors including your individual progress, research requirements, course load, internship and/or paper requirements, funding commitments, etc. Part-time study and co-op experiences may also impact the overall duration of a program.

To get a more accurate representation of a program’s length and how your individual circumstances influence that, email, visit your intended program of study’s website, or reach out to a graduate program representative for the program.

What is the faculty-to-student ratio?

The ratio depends on the specific department or program and is influenced by factors such as the number of faculty members and the size of the graduate student cohort in each department. For the most up-to-date faculty-to-student ratio information, contact the department directly. 

What kinds of support services are available?

Penn State and the College of Engineering offer various support services to aid graduate students throughout their graduate academic journey. Some of the support services available to graduate students include:

  • Advising: As a graduate student, you’ll have access to advisers who provide guidance and assistance with course selection, degree requirements, academic planning, and program progress tracking to ensure you are on track for graduation.
  • Career services: The College of Engineering provides career services and resources to help graduate students explore career options, develop job search strategies, and enhance professional skills. Services include resume, curriculum vitae, and cover letter assistance; interview preparation; career counseling; job fairs; networking events; and more. Learn more »
  • Research support: Graduate students often engage in research projects as part of their programs. The college offers support services to help students with research-related activities, including access to research facilities and equipment, research grant or funding support, and collaborating with faculty members on research initiatives.
  • Workshops and professional development: The college offers workshops and seminars designed to enhance graduate students’ professional skills and academic success. Topics may include research areas, research ethics, presentation skills, grant writing, teaching techniques, and more.
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) resources: Penn State promotes DEIB across the University and within the College of Engineering. Support services include resources, organizations, and events that foster an inclusive environment and provide support to students from diverse backgrounds. Learn more »
  • Mental health and wellness: Penn State offers counseling and psychological services to support the mental health and well-being of graduate students. Services include individual counseling, group therapy, workshops, and resources for stress management and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Learn more »

It's important to proactively explore the available support services and reach out to relevant program or department offices or advisers. These resources can provide valuable assistance and help students make the most of their experience at Penn State.

What networking opportunities are available?

Penn State offers various networking opportunities for students to connect with professionals, alumni, and peers. Available networking avenues include:

  • Student organizations: Many College of Engineering programs have graduate student associations or organizations. These groups often organize networking events, workshops, seminars, and social activities that provide opportunities for graduate students to interact with their peers, share experiences, and build connections. Learn more »
  • Professional development events: Events specifically tailored for graduate students may include career panels, industry speaker series, workshops on networking skills, and sessions on job search strategies. These events promote engagement with professionals in various industries and provide insights into career paths and opportunities.
  • Research conferences and symposia: Penn State hosts research conferences and symposia at the department, college, and university levels. These events provide platforms for graduate students to present their research findings; interact with fellow researchers; and network with faculty members, industry professionals, and other graduate students from different institutions.
  • Alumni network: Penn State has a strong and extensive alumni network, which offers opportunities for graduate students to connect with alumni in their respective engineering fields. Alumni may participate in career panels, mentorship programs, networking events, or offer internships or job opportunities.
  • Professional organizations and societies: Graduate students are encouraged to join professional organizations and societies relevant to their field of study. These organizations often host conferences, workshops, and networking events where students can engage with professionals, researchers, and fellow students in their field. Learn more »
  • Career fairs and recruitment events: The College of Engineering’s Career Resources & Employer Relations hosts career fairs and recruitment events where graduate students can interact with potential employers, industry representatives, and recruiters. These events provide opportunities for networking, learning about job opportunities, and making connections for internships or employment after graduation. Learn more »
  • Graduate Exhibition: Penn State organizes an annual Graduate Exhibition, which showcases research and creative work by graduate students across various disciplines. This event allows students to present their work, interact with attendees, and build connections with peers and faculty members from different fields. Learn more »
  • Professional development workshops: Workshops focus on networking skills, effective communication, and building professional relationships and provide practical guidance and strategies for students to enhance their networking abilities.

It’s important for graduate students to stay informed about networking events and opportunities in their department and across the college and the University. Students can reach out to departmental advisers, graduate program coordinators, and Career Resources & Employer Relations to learn more about upcoming events and networking resources available within the College of Engineering. 

What is the job placement rate for graduates of the College of Engineering?

Penn State has a strong reputation in the engineering industry, and College of Engineering graduates are sought after by employers. The University’s extensive alumni network and connections with industry partners often contribute to job placement opportunities for graduates. Specific job placement rates vary depending on individual factors such as field of study, degree level, work experience, and the overall job market at the time of graduation.

Penn State offers various resources and support services to assist students with their career development and job placement opportunities. These include career fairs, on-campus recruitment events, networking opportunities, access to career services, and job placement offices. Visit the College of Engineering’s Career Resources & Employer Relations and Nittany Lion Careers to learn more about available opportunities for students and alumni.