Master of Science Program

The Master of Science (MS) in Mechanical Engineering at Rice University is a research graduate program that includes a thesis.

For a non-thesis degree tailored for professionally-focused students looking to expand their engineering knowledge to further their careers, check out our Professional Master's Program.


Full-time students seeking the M.S. degree are expected to complete all the requirements for the degree within two calendar years following entrance into the program. Continuation in the program beyond this time limit will require special approval of the department.


The minimum semester hours of course work (a course usually consists of 3 semester hours) required for the MS degree are tabulated as a function of the degree held upon entrance into the program. Students with a five-year BS, 12 hours; with a four-year BS, 18 hours; and with a 4-year BA, 24 hours. In all cases, a student's specific course of study is formulated in consultation with the departmental adviser (thesis director) and must be approved by the department.

Preliminary Candidacy Evaluation

All entering graduate students pursuing a thesis degree program will be subject to a Preliminary Candidacy Evaluation (PCE) for the highest degree program they intend to pursue. The evaluation will be conducted by the end of the second semester of enrollment in the MECH graduate program. Students are responsible for working with their advisor to ensure that their PCE is conducted in a timely fashion. The evaluation will be based on a review of the academic performance up to the time of evaluation, including performance in course work and graduate research in the form of course grades, course ranking, GRE scores, and other relevant information. The reviewed material will be made available to the student being reviewed. A panel of MECH faculty members selected by the research adviser and approved by the director of graduate studies will conduct the evaluation. There will be three panel members for the M.S. degree and their evaluation will normally result in one of the following:

  • Approve preliminary candidacy
  • Approve preliminary candidacy conditionally, and specify conditions
  • Extend the period of evaluation, and re-evaluate the student, at the latest, by the end of the third semester of enrollment
  • Disapprove candidacy

Research & Thesis

Each candidate for the M.S. degree must complete a thesis demonstrating ability in research of a fundamental nature (analytical or experimental). It is expected that the research will be of sufficient importance and quality that positive results would lead to publication. Instructions for preparation of theses can be obtained at the appropriate time through the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Candidates for the M.S. degree must register for Research and Thesis (MECH 800) during the year preceding the anticipated date of graduation.

The student must select a thesis director during the first semester of study. Active research should begin by the end of the first semester.

Candidates for the MS degree who are not on campus and who have completed all requirements except the thesis must register for Research and Thesis (MECH 800) every semester until graduation.

Language Requirement

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University does not have a foreign language requirement for its graduate degrees. It is recommended that every student is proficient in at least one computer language.

Final Thesis Defense

Upon completion of the thesis, a committee comprised of at least three members will examine each candidate for the M.S. degree. Two, including the committee chair, must be members of the department. The third member can be from another department at Rice or, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies (or Department Chair*) and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, a tenured or tenured-track faculty member from another university with academic standing comparable to Rice’s. The thesis must be made available to the members of the examining committee at least two weeks before the examination date. The oral examination will consist of questions concerning the candidate's grasp of the fundamental principles underlying his/her field of study. In connection with this review, the guidance of the thesis director should be sought. Should the candidate fail in this examination, he/she is allowed to repeat it once with the approval of the committee. Public notice of the MS oral examination must be given by posting an announcement on the departmental bulletin board at least one week prior to the examination.

* When the DGS is on the committee


The minimum residence requirement for the MS degree is one semester of full-time study at the university.

Thesis Deadline

Students must observe the deadlines set by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) for submission of the final thesis to receive their degree for either January or May conferral. Otherwise, students have six months from the date of defense to submit their final thesis to GPS.

Graduate Seminar

All MS students must attend at least 75 percent of the MECH seminars for their first two years and must register for MECH 606 in their required seminar attendance period.

Instructional Assistance

All MS students are required, as part of their research degree program and educational experience, to provide instructional assistance to the department. This instructional assistance, which could be in the form of grading, lecturing, assisting in labs, or developing course material, will not exceed ten hours per week for two semesters.

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If if you have questions about applying to our MS program, check out our Application FAQ.

Ready to apply? Visit our Graduate Admissions to review the requirements and submit your application to Rice University.