Master of Science (SM) Degrees

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (SMME)
Master of Science in Ocean Engineering (SMOE)
Master of Science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (SMNAME)
Master of Science in Oceanographic Engineering (SMOGE, joint MIT/WHOI degree)


A Master of Science degree is the first graduate degree offered in MechE. It is awarded for the completion of a program of advanced study, together with a thesis that is considered to be the centerpiece of a student’s graduate experience.

A typical Master’s degree consists of six twelve-unit subjects plus a thesis, and is designed to take a full-time student three regular (fall and spring) terms to complete. Students with a research assistantship will not be able to finish in less than this time because of the limitation on the number of subjects they are allowed to take per term (see Types of Financial Aid Available). At the same time, there is no reason, other than the uncertainties or requirements of research, why they should take longer.

The Master’s thesis is essentially a research (or development, or design) apprenticeship under a faculty supervisor, and as such is usually the major contributor to the student’s professional maturation. Incoming students are urged to find a thesis project and supervisor without undue delay. There are several reasons for avoiding delay. For one thing, the SM thesis is a substantial piece of work and takes time to mature. For another, a student who begins thesis work associates him/herself not only with a faculty member, but usually also with a research group or laboratory where s/he meets other faculty and experienced graduate students from whom to learn and get good advice. It is usually a mistake to think that the degree can be attained more efficiently by taking the coursework first, and putting off the thesis work to the last term.

A student’s thesis supervisor usually also serves as the academic advisor. If the thesis supervisor is not a MechE Department faculty member, the student should seek academic advice from an MechE faculty member whose research interests are close to his/her own (such as the departmental thesis reader), or from the Graduate Officer.

Writing Ability

Requirement for all incoming graduate students – native and foreign.

72 Credit Units

36 units: At least three 12-unit graduate-level Course 2 subjects (one of them can be a special graduate subject that has been approved by the Graduate Officer via email)
12 units: One graduate-level Course 18 subject
24 units: Graduate-level courses


The centerpiece of a student’s graduate experience.


The Master of Science (SM) degree is expected to be fully-funded.


Students must successfully fulfill the MechE Department’s writing ability requirement.

  • Students must successfully complete at least 72 graduate-level credit units of coursework, not including credit received for (a) 2.991 (if taken) and (b) thesis work. Following approval by the Graduate Officer and the Institute, certain advanced undergraduate subjects that go beyond the MIT MechE Department’s undergraduate degree requirements may be used to satisfy up to 24 units of graduate credit. The Institute requires such subjects to be upgraded to graduate level by completing additional work that needs to be certified by an instructor of a graduate subject as sufficient for obtaining credit towards that subject. Approval should be sought prior to taking such subjects.
  • The program is expected to include at least three 12-unit graduate-level MechE Department subjects. Upon approval by the Graduate Officer, up to one special subject can be used to satisfy this requirement. Approval should be sought prior to taking a special subject.
  • Students must take at least one graduate-level mathematics subject (12 units) offered by MIT’s Mathematics Department. No waivers are allowed.
  • A minimum grade point average of 3.5 (A=5, B=4, C=3, D=2, F=0) must be maintained in graduate school. No credit will be awarded for subjects taken on P/D/F basis. Credit for classes taken under the special grading policy announced for the Spring and Fall of 2020 will be awarded in accordance with Institute regulations. Up to a maximum of 12 units of subject 2.989 (Experiential Learning in Mechanical Engineering) may be counted towards the 72-unit credit requirement.
  • Students are allowed to transfer credit toward their Master’s degree from graduate subjects taken previously at MIT or another accredited institution, and not used as part of the credits required for an undergraduate or graduate degree. The limit is 24 credit units if the subjects were taken outside MIT. Transferred subjects must have a grade of B or higher. No thesis units may be transferred.
In the MechE Department, the thesis is considered to be the centerpiece of a student’ s graduate experience. The student must complete an acceptable SM thesis under the supervision of an MIT faculty member or a Senior/Principal Research Scientist/Engineer who holds an appointment in the MechE Department. The thesis is an original work of research, design, or development. The supervisor signs and accepts the thesis upon completion. If the supervisor is not a member of the MechE Department, a reader who belongs to the MechE Department faculty must also endorse the thesis. Entering Master’s degree candidates
  • must notify the MechE Graduate Office, Room 1-112, of their thesis supervisor within six weeks of registration
  • must submit a completed thesis by a due date set by MIT, typically no later than one week before the beginning of the examination period. All key dates can be found here.

The three Ocean-related Master’s degrees maintain a distribution requirement as described below . The SMME degree does not have a distribution requirement.

  • Master of Science in Ocean Engineering (SMOE). A graduate subject in each of the following areas is required: (i) Marine Hydrodynamics (2.20); (ii) a subject that emphasizes professional practice in ocean environment, such as Design Principles for Ocean Vehicles (2.22); and (iii) a subject in Acoustics and Sensing (e.g., 2.066), or Structural Mechanics (e.g., 2.080J), or Structural Dynamics (e.g., 2.060J).
  • Master of Science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (SMNAME). A graduate subject in each of the following areas is required: (i) Marine Hydrodynamics (2.20 or a more advanced subject) and (ii) at least 24 units in their area of concentration. (Background requirements in Introduction to Naval Architecture (e.g., 2.701) and Ship Power and Propulsion (e.g., 2.611) can be waived if previously taken as an undergraduate; otherwise, these subjects need to be taken at MIT.)
  • Master of Science in Oceanographic Engineering (SMOGE): The MIT/WHOI Joint Program Handbook for Oceanographic Engineering lists the requirements for this degree.

All incoming graduate students are encouraged to take the seminar subject 2.991 Introduction to Graduate Study in Mechanical Engineering that introduces students to various aspects of graduate student life in the MechE Department, MIT, and the Boston area. It meets for 1 hour each week during the Fall term. Students who do not have a confirmed research advisor by Registration Day, and students whose research advisors are based outside the MIT campus (e.g. a hospital or Draper Labs), are required to take this seminar class.

Double SM Degrees

  • Students registered in another engineering department at MIT who wish to earn a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Ocean Engineering, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, or Oceanographic Engineering simultaneously with a Master’s degree with specification in their own department may do so by satisfying both departments’ requirements, with the credit unit requirements satisfied separately, but with a common thesis. Such programs of study must be approved in advance by the Graduate Officers of both the departments involved. A student who had previously applied for, but was denied, admission to the MIT MechE Department is not eligible to get a dual degree from the MechE Department. The Department’s procedural requirements are the following: (i) A petition for the dual master’s degree in the MechE Department must be filled out, and adhered to. The student must be admissible to the MechE Department. (ii) The student must select a MechE faculty member as a thesis reader. That faculty member must accept this responsibility by signing the petition. (iii) Items (i) and (ii) must be completed well in advance of thesis completion, but no later than June 1 of the year before the student expects to graduate.

    Completion of a double SM degree in Mechanical Engineering does not imply admission to the MechE department. Students who want to pursue any other degree in the Department must follow the normal application route for that particular program.

  • The preceding also applies to students registered in Mechanical Engineering who wish to earn an SMME degree simultaneously with one of the Ocean-Engineering Master’s degrees offered by the Department. In this case item (ii) above is modified as follows: the MechE faculty member who serves as the thesis advisor must accept this responsibility by a letter to the MechE Graduate Officer, and ensure that all requirements for the dual degree are met.