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Master's Degree Overview

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Master of Science Degree

The master’s degree is offered under the general regulations of the university as set forth in the Stanford Bulletin.

Students currently studying for a PhD degree and who do not have a MS in CEE may request this degree be added to their record. Check with the department’s student services office for more information.

Three approaches to the MS degree

The department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers the following focused programs of study leading to a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering:

MS Degree Program Faculty Coordinator(s)
Atmosphere and Energy Mark Jacobson
Environmental Engineering Oliver FringerAli Boehm
Structural Engineering and Geomechanics Kincho Law
Sustainable Design & Construction Martin Fischer


Master of Science in Engineering is available to those who wish to follow a program of interdisciplinary study that does not conform to any of the predefined graduate sub-plans in Civil and Environmental Engineering. The program must be coherent with a well-defined objective and must be approved by your advisor and the department chairperson before being reviewed by the School's Office of Student Affairs.

Coterminal MS Program (either MS/CEE or MS/Engineering)
Undergraduates with strong academic records may apply to study for a MS (CEE or Engineering majors) degree while completing their bachelor's degree(s). Applications may be made upon completion of 120 units but no later than early in the 11th quarter of undergraduate study and at least four quarter in advance of MS conferral. Students not meeting these deadlines will be required to apply through the regular graduate admissions process. The quarter following completion of 180 units is the first graduate quarter (the first quarter of graduate tuition level). Applications are available at the registrar’s website. Additional Supplemental Questions are required.

Application for transfer from the MS/CEE or other MS programs, or for direct admission as a coterminal student, should be submitted before completing 18 units of the proposed MS/Engineering program.


If you do not have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (or its equivalent) from an accredited curriculum, you must complete those undergraduate courses that are considered important for entry into the CEE graduate program. This may include any undergraduate courses that are prerequisites to the required graduate courses for your MS program. When such entry requirements must be fulfilled, you may need more than 45 total units to obtain the master’s degree.

Graduate students are advised to confer with their program’s academic advisor to review program course requirements and identify any deficiencies throughout their study. Any changes or adjustments to the program will require the advisor’s consent.

Course work

Students admitted to graduate study with the bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (or its equivalent) from an accredited curriculum can normally satisfy the requirements for a MS degree by completing a minimum of 45 units of courses at Stanford following an approved program of study; see Program Proposal for a Master’s Degree (PDF) subject to the following conditions:

  • For the Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering, at least 30 units must be at the graduate level (courses numbered 200 or above) and at least 24 units must be from the School of Engineering. In addition, each CEE program area (see table above) has specific coursework requirements.
  • The Master of Science in Engineering has two requirements:
    • The program must be a coherent one with a well-defined objective.
    • The program of courses must include at least 23 units at the graduate level (courses numbered 200 or above) within the School of Engineering and for which the student receives a letter grade.

No thesis is required. Students are generally advised to select the letter grade if it is taken to fulfill a subplan requirement. Up to six units of the total MS program may be of the CR/NC grade type. Consult with your advisor as to the maximum units acceptable for courses with the grade type of S/NC or seminar type courses. Finally, your advisor and the department chairperson must approve your program of study.

Coterminal MS in CEE or Engineering must meet the requirements noted herein. No course taken prior to Autumn of Sophomore year may be used as part of the required 45 graduate units. Courses cannot be transferred once the undergraduate degree is conferred. All course transfer requests should be submitted no later than the quarter prior to intended conferral quarter.

Non-acceptable units

Units earned in courses below the 100 level may not be accepted toward the minimum requirements for this degree. Non-technical courses, such as remedial English-language instruction (those checked as required on the Report on English Screening), music courses and physical education, may not be included in the 45 units of required course work. Students may take any courses they wish beyond the 45 program units.

NOTE: students with “required” or “strongly recommended” remedial English courses (such as Linguistics 693A, etc.) must complete these course or have them waived before applying for graduation.

Academic performance

In order to be recommended for the master’s degree, you must achieve a grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.75 in the Stanford courses listed in the 45 units of graduate study on your Program Proposal for a Master’s Degree (PDF).

The GPA is calculated as follows: A=4, B=3, C=2 and D=1; a plus ( ) modifier adds 0.3 and a minus (-) modifier subtracts 0.3. More information at: How the General University GPA is Determined.

Graduate Study Minimum Progress in CEE:

Course grades: MInimum GPA of 2.75 for M.S. degree students in the quarter being evaluated.

Credit hours passed: students enrolled for 11 or more units must pass at least 8 units per term that count towards their degree by the end of each term. Those registered for 8-10 units must pass at least 6 units per term that count towards their degree by the end of each term.

Course type limits: exceeding (6) CR/NC units for Ltr-CR/NC grading basis courses, program seminar or research unit restrictions, non-CEE courses, 100-level course limits

Courses that may not count for credit: ESL (English as a Second Language), Art, Music, PE/Athletic, and lower than 100-level courses.

Program proposal for a master’s degree

No degree can be recommended for conferral unless this document has been filed and represents an accurate program of study. Meet with your advisor during your first quarter of graduate study to agree upon a proposed program of coursework. Submit a Program Proposal for a Master’s Degree (PDF); regardless of how many quarters it will take you to complete the requirements (45 units) for the degree. This form is available from the registrar’s website.

List courses in the order in which they will be taken, grouped by quarter and including only the 45 units that should be considered for the degree. When your advisor and the department chairperson have approved this form, this list of courses becomes your official program of study for the master’s degree.

Revising your program

If your actual course work changes after submitting the Program Proposal for a Master’s Degree (PDF) (and it probably will), you must file this with the Department. If you make any further changes to your program, no matter how minor, you must submit another revised program form.

When your principal advisor and the department chairperson have approved this form, the revised list of courses becomes your official program for the master’s degree.

Extending your program

The program authorization (time limits) for completion of master’s degree programs are as follows:

  • Honors Cooperative students have five years from the beginning of their first quarter of enrollment in the program.
  • Coterminal students have three years after the quarter in which they have completed 180 units.
  • All other master’s degree students have three years beginning with the first quarter of enrollment.

These time limits are based on calendar years, not registration quarters. Leave of absences do not extend or expedite the expiration of the program authorization.

Review your situation with your advisor as soon as you realize that you may be unable to complete the requirements of your program of study within the prescribed time limits. If it is agreed that more time will be required, you must submit an Application for Extension of Candidacy or Master’s Program before your program authorization expires. This form may be used to extend the time limits for completion of your master’s degree program for up to one year. Extensions require a review of your academic progress and advisor approval.

After obtaining your advisor’s signature, submit ALL forms to the department’s office of student services.