Department of

Electrical Engineering

Serving society through excellence in education, research, scholarship, and public outreach


III. M.S. Program in Electrical Engineering

The M.S. degree may fill several different objectives. It can be a terminal degree or it can focus toward preparing for the Ph.D. The M.S. degree can be research oriented or it can emphasize graduate level course work. These various objectives are possible because of a choice between preparing an M.S. thesis or an M.S. paper. Course requirements are different for the two options.

One other option available is that a student who is admitted to one program may concurrently pursue a second master's degree.  Instructions and application forms are available from the graduate program staff assistant, 121 EE East.  Both programs and the dean of The Graduate School must approve concurrent degree program requests.

Regardless of what options are chosen, several general requirements must be met. At least 50% of the total course credits required (excluding colloquium and research credits) must be electrical engineering courses. The student’s program shall include no more than 3 credits of individual studies (596) and only members of the Department of Electrical Engineering graduate faculty may instruct electrical engineering individual studies courses. The undergraduate independent studies course (EE 496) will not count toward the program credit requirements. At most, 9 credits taken at the 400 level may be counted toward the degree requirements, though students can and often do take credits beyond degree requirements. Students may take relevant 400-level technical courses from other graduate programs as long as they do not duplicate other course work they have taken. All students are expected to complete one credit of colloquium (EE 500) for two semesters. Degree requirements should be completed during a 6-year period.

Students who have deficiencies in the use of spoken or written English may be required to take courses in these topics in addition to the usual degree requirements.

Courses have been grouped into areas for the purpose of incorporating a breadth requirement into the M.S. program. These areas are:

  • Communications, Computers, Networking, and Signal Processing
  • Control and Power Systems
  • Electromagnetics and Optics
  • Electronics and Photonics

The most recent listing of 500-level courses by area can be found on the last page of this booklet. It should be noted that some CSE courses are included in one of the areas. Not all courses are included in the listings. Only these listed courses are acceptable for the breadth requirement. If a student wishes to satisfy the breadth requirement by taking an electrical engineering special topics course (EE 597), he/she must request approval from the graduate coordinator before the beginning of the semester in which the course is scheduled.

A.  Supervision and Advising

Students will be assigned temporary academic advisors at the beginning of their first semesters, unless they were offered a research assistantship at the time of their admission. The new M.S. student will consult with possible research supervisors to identify a research advisor with whom they will formulate plans, including courses to be taken and the choice between thesis and paper option. The research advisor may suggest and approve relevant technical courses from other closely related departments to be included in the M.S. program. The student and advisor will also identify other faculty members who will serve on the student's committee. By the end of the second semester, the student should complete the “Option and Committee Membership Approval Form” requesting the approval of the student’s committee, tentatively identifying the research topic, and choosing the thesis or paper option. The committee members and the graduate program coordinator ultimately sign the student’s thesis or paper approval form.

B.  M.S. Committee Specifications

A student's M.S. committee must have at least two members who are Department of Electrical Engineering graduate faculty and at least one member who is tenured or tenure-track in the Department of Electrical Engineering. The chairperson or one co-chairperson must be a Department of Electrical Engineering graduate faculty member and have a tenured/tenure-track appointment or a joint, courtesy or dual title appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering. All persons serving as chair or co-chair of a committee must be members of the Penn State graduate faculty. The committee may have additional members who are Penn State graduate faculty or who have professorial appointments in the Department of Electrical Engineering or in a department related to the research topic. The committee may also have special members who have expertise in the MS candidate’s research area and who would normally carry significant supervisory responsibilities. The special members should hold a PhD degree and must be approved by the EE Graduate Program Coordinator. Members of the Penn State graduate faculty or persons not affiliated with Penn State who have particular expertise in the student’s research area may serve as signatories who will read and approve the thesis or paper but are not required to attend the defense or presentation. The committee must be appointed by the end of the second semester in the program.

C.  Thesis Option

The degree requires 32 credits including 24 technical course credits (50% or more must have an EE designation) with at least 15 credits at the 500 level, 2 colloquium credits, and 6 thesis credits identified as E E 600 (thesis research). At least one course must be taken at the 500 level in two of the previously mentioned four areas to complete the breadth requirement. (A list of 500-level courses by area is on the inside back cover of this booklet.) EE 597(X) courses must be approved by the Graduate Program Committee (by petition to the Committee) prior to scheduling, to be used to satisfy the breadth requirement.

Original research, usually requiring at least two semesters of work (nominal 6 credits), is expected for a thesis. The work should be an in-depth investigation intended to extend the state of the art in some specialty area. Mere application of some existing engineering technology is generally not sufficient.

At the beginning of the research, each student should obtain a "Thesis Guide" from the Thesis Office web page. Thus, the written or graphical materials generated from time to time can be in the format acceptable to The Graduate School. Thesis deadlines, which are available here, or from the Academic Affairs Office, should be carefully noted as well. Committee members may request periodic progress reports that may contain materials that will appear in the thesis. As work is satisfactorily completed, the grade of ‘R’ is assigned to 600-level credits.

Two weeks prior to the thesis defense, the completed thesis should be delivered to the committee members. The student shall provide a copy of their thesis to committee members as each member prefers, either as pdf attachment to email or as a hard copy. Also at this time, a defense date must be scheduled with the department’s graduate program staff assistant who will provide assistance with the room reservation and publicity for the public presentation. All committee members must attend the defense. After the defense, all members of the committee and the department head will sign the signature page of the approved thesis. If the thesis needs modifications, then members may sign after they see the revised version. (When the department head is appointed as a committee member, the committee must have at least three members or two members and an approved signatory to satisfy the Thesis Office requirement for three signatures on the thesis.)  These individuals will also sign a thesis completion report to be placed in the student’s file.  As soon as the thesis is in its final form the student must complete the following:

  • Provide copies of the approved thesis to all committee members.
  • Upload thesis on the Grad School Thesis Office website as indicated in the Thesis Guide.
  • Pay thesis fee on-line.
  • Submit the thesis approval page with the signatures of all the committee members and the Department Head.

D.  Paper Option

The degree requires 34 credits including 30 technical course credits (50% or more must have an EE designation) with at least 21 at the 500 level, 2 colloquium credits, and 2 credits of E E 594 (paper research).  At least one course must be taken at the 500 level in two of the previously mentioned four areas to complete the breadth requirement.  (A list of 500-level courses by area is on the inside of the back cover of this booklet.)  EE 597(X) courses must be approved by the Graduate Program Committee (by petition to the Committee) before scheduling, to be used to satisfy the breadth requirement.

The paper is intended to be a relatively short document compared to the thesis. Typically, it is the length of a manuscript prepared for submission to a journal. The work should be done while a student is enrolled in the M.S. program at Penn State. The paper should be written according to the standards set for an IEEE publication and should represent a contribution to a specific engineering activity. It should depict application at the state of the art. Interdisciplinary activity is encouraged.

In conjunction with the paper, the student is required to make a presentation on the work. The student must schedule the paper presentation through the graduate program staff assistant who will arrange the proper publicity and reservations. All committee members must attend the presentation. The paper should be delivered to the committee members and the presentation scheduled at least two weeks prior to the event. The student shall provide a copy of the thesis to committee members as each member prefers:, either as pdf attachment to email or as a hard copy.

The student must fulfill the 2-credit paper research requirement by registering for E E 594.  A grade of 'R' is submitted if the work is satisfactory. When the paper is successfully completed, all committee members and the department head will sign a paper completion report that will be kept with a copy of the paper in the student’s file.

E. Integrated Undergraduate Graduate MS Degree

Undergraduate honors students may apply to the EE Graduate Program to earn their MS degree simultaneously with the BS in EE. The following guidelines apply:

  • Completion of an MS Thesis with novel content, possibly building on Senior Honor’s Thesis, guided by EE graduate faculty member.
  • Take GRE no later than the summer after the junior year.
  • Completion of the Senior Honor’s Thesis by the end of the 8th Semester.
  • Submission of Senior Honor’s Thesis proposal report during either student’s 6th or 7th semester.
  • Submission of an MS thesis plan at the time of submission of Senior Honor’s Thesis
  • As many as twelve academic credits earned by the IUG Scholar may be applied to both undergraduate and graduate degree programs (double- counted).
  • 50% or more of the courses proposed to count for both degrees must be at the 500 level.
  • Thesis credits may not be double counted.
  • Undergraduate honors requirements must be met by courses listed on your undergraduate transcript.
  • When an IUG Scholar completes both the undergraduate and graduate degrees simultaneously, both degrees are in the same program, and where the program head approves, the master’s thesis may be submitted in lieu of the undergraduate honors thesis. Otherwise, two separate theses are required.

F.  M.S. Time Limits

The Department of Electrical Engineering has established a six-year time limit for completion of the M.S. degree.

The M.S. committee must be appointed by the end of the second semester. The thesis defense or paper presentation must be scheduled and a copy of the thesis or paper provided to all committee members at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date.