SM and ME Course Requirements

[Part of the Policies of the CHD, August 2019]

The following course requirements apply to all SEAS S.M. and M.E. degrees. Note that the term "course" refers to a standard Harvard semester-length "half course", i.e., a 4-unit FAS course or its equivalent.  2-unit courses such as AP 299qr count as "half of a course" in the context of these requirements.

  1. Eight letter-graded courses are required for the degree (or twelve for the S.M. in Data Science.).  As many of these as possible should be SEAS 200-level courses. M.E. students must take eight additional non-letter-graded research-oriented courses at the 300-level that result in the completion of the required M.E. thesis.
  2. At least four of the eight courses must be offered through SEAS or taught by a SEAS faculty member in another FAS department.
  3. At least five of the eight courses must be 200-level SEAS/FAS technical courses, not including reading and research courses (299r), seminar/project courses (298, 297, 294, possibly with letter postfixes), or innovation or communication courses. The remaining three courses should be from SEAS, FAS departments, other Harvard schools, or MIT.  (Note: for MIT courses students should attach the course syllabus and the catalog description when submitting their program plan, indicating MIT G-level status).
  4. Up to three of the eight courses may be 100-level SEAS/FAS courses. As a guideline, having one 100-level course will generally not lead to any concern; having two 100-level courses requires at least some justification (i.e., that the courses are necessary prerequisites for 200-level courses); having three will generally lead to close examination by the CHD.  Courses at lower than the 100-level, including all General Education courses, may not be counted towards the degree.
  5. Only one reading and research (299r), seminar/project (298, 297, 294, possibly with letter postfixes), innovation, or communication course can count among the eight courses. An exception is that two such courses are allowed in a CSE S.M. program plan.  S.M. students who are writing a thesis may include up to two 299r courses.
  6. Harvard Extension School courses may not be included in the program plan.
  7. Transfer credit is not accepted toward the degree.
  8. No 300-level courses may be included in the program plan.  ES 399-TIME and AC 399-TIME may not be included in an S.M. or M.E. Program Plan.
  9. Exceptions to these requirements are considered by petition to the CHD. 

S.M. and M.E. degree grade and area-specific course requirements

In addition to fulfilling the SEAS-wide course requirements, S.M. and M.E. students are required to satisfy the applicable area-specific requirements described in the drop-down lists that follow, as well as the grade expectations in the final drop-down listing.

MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences - Master of Science Course Requirements

Consistent with other SEAS Master of Science programs, in order to count towards the Master of Science degree requirements, elective course plans for MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences students must be approved by the SEAS Committee on Higher Degrees (CHD). 300-level courses and sub-100-level courses may not be included in the Program Plan. No course completed with a grade less than C may be included, and students must achieve a B or better average letter grade in the courses for the degree.

Class of 2023

I. Master of Science Course Requirements - eight letter-graded four-credit courses:

A. ES 280: Designing Technology Ventures

B. ES 234: Technology Venture Immersion 

C. ES 285: Design Theory and Practice 

D. ES 292a: Launch Lab/Capstone I

E. ES 292b: Launch Lab/Capstone II

F. One 200- or 100-level SEAS or SEAS-equivalent technical elective (see II below)

G-H. Two additional technical electives chosen from SEAS or FAS 200/2000-levels or MIT G-levels (see III below)

  • If elective F is not a 100-level, one of the remaining electives could be 100/1000-level or a class from another Harvard school.

 

II. Technical Courses - By default, the following are considered to be 200-level SEAS or SEAS-equivalent technical electives:

  • Almost all 200-level courses offered through SEAS.
    • Exceptions include seminar, project, or reading and research courses (e.g., any 294, 297, 298, or 299 course whether or not the number is followed by letters), courses focusing on innovation, entrepreneurship, or written/verbal communication, and “Great Papers”-type courses (e.g. AC 221, AP 227, ES 236a/b, ES 238, ES 239, ES 256).
  • Any FAS 200-level technical course taught by a SEAS ladder faculty member ("SEAS-equivalent"). Most 200-level courses in natural sciences and quantitative fields will be technical, with similar exceptions as for SEAS courses (although FAS departments do not follow the same numbering conventions for seminar and project classes).
  • Physics 223 (Electronics for Scientists)

III. MIT Courses

  • Two G-level MIT technical courses may be taken as electives, pending review by the Committee on Higher Degrees (CHD) for approval for technical graduate-level rigor and adherence to the applicable section of the CHD Policies: "Courses taken by cross-registration should cover subjects not otherwise available in FAS: that is, they should not be taken in place of or in addition to any comparable FAS course without good and sufficient reasons."
  • In order to be equivalent to a 4-credit FAS course, an MIT class must count for 9-21 units.
S.M. in Applied Mathematics - for PhD and AB/SM students only

Ph.D students in Applied Mathematics may receive the S.M. in Applied Mathematics en route to the Ph.D by completing 8 courses from their approved Ph.D. Program Plan that meet the SEAS S.M. requirements described above. 

A.B./S.M. students who are candidates for the S.M. in Applied Mathematics, and Ph.D. students in other subjects who wish to receive the S.M. in Applied Mathematics en route to the Ph.D., must fulfill the following minimum area requirements:

  • Four 200-level AM courses, including AM 201 and AM 205 (unless one or both are not offered in a timely fashion).  Note that AM 104 and AM 105 are prerequisites for AM 201, and are effectively prerequisites for many other 200-level Applied Mathematics classes.
  • Two additional SEAS or FAS 200-level technical classes, whether from Applied Mathematics or not.
  • Demonstration of breadth across the mathematical sciences.  At least one course in Statistics is strongly recommended, at the 100 or 200 level.
  • At least two of the non-AM classes must represent a specific application area.

Students seeking an S.M. in Applied Mathematics should construct a coherent Applied Mathematics program plan with their assigned SEAS graduate advisor. 

  • The AB/SM program is for currently enrolled Harvard College students only. Follow this link for more information. 
  • PhD students' questions can be directed to the Director of Graduate Education, John Girash.
S.M. in Applied Physics - for PhD and AB/SM students only

Harvard Ph.D. and A.B/S.M. students seeking an S.M. in Applied Physics must fulfill the following area requirements:

  1. Four of the eight required courses must be 200-level Applied Physics courses or 200-level Physics courses taught by SEAS faculty.  ES 240, ES 273, ES 274 and ES 277 count as 200-level Applied Physics courses toward this requirement.
  2. The remaining four courses must be technical/scientific.

Candidates for a terminal S.M. degree in Applied Physics (including the A.B./S.M.) are advised against including a 299r class in their Program Plan. Ph.D. students seeking the S.M. en route may include one 299r as a “technical/scientific” course in #2 above.

  • The AB/SM program is for currently enrolled Harvard College students only. Follow this link for more information. 
  • PhD students' questions can be directed to the Director of Graduate Education, John Girash.
S.M. in Computer Science - for PhD and AB/SM students only

Harvard Ph.D. and AB/SM students seeking an S.M. in Computer Science must fulfill the following area requirements:

  1. Five of the eight required courses must be 200-level courses specifically covering topics in computer science. Generally this means they must be offered as courses in Computer Science. AM 220 is also considered to be a computer science course in this context.  In particular, for Computer Science graduate degrees, Applied Computation courses may be counted as 100-level courses, not 200-level courses. The CHD may approve exceptions.
  2. At least one of these five 200-level courses must be in Theory. There is no specific list of Theory courses; this rule is enforced by the faculty advisors and the CHD. However, in almost all cases, any class with a course number CS 22x or CS 231 is acceptable as a theory course.
  3. Just as we expect all students obtaining a S.M. to have experience with the theoretical foundations of computer science, we expect all students to have some knowledge of how to build large software or hardware systems, on the order of thousands of lines of code, or the equivalent complexity in hardware. That experience will be evidenced by coursework. In almost all cases a course numbered CS 26x or CS 24x will satisfy the requirement (exceptions will be noted in the course description on my.harvard). Students may also petition to use CS 161 for this requirement.  For projects in other courses, the student is expected to write a note explaining the project, include a link to any relevant artifacts or outcomes, describe the student's individual contribution, and where appropriate obtain a note from their class instructor.
  4. CS 290 or CS 290hfa/b cannot be used towards the S.M. degree.

Please note that 200-level courses in fields outside SEAS will be examined carefully. Generally, the CHD is looking for two things in such courses. First, it is expected that the course will be comparable in technical level to a SEAS course. Second, the overall program must be coherent. Taking a course in economics because it might apply to computing is not automatically considered coherent. Taking an economics course in game theory along with appropriate relevant 200-level computer science courses in Artificial Intelligence that apply that theory could be part of a coherent program.

  • The AB/SM program is for currently enrolled Harvard College students only. Follow this link for more information. 
  • PhD students' questions can be directed to the Director of Graduate Education, John Girash or to the Computer Science Director of Graduate Studies at cs-dgs@seas.harvard.edu.
S.M. in Data Science, and S.M. or M.E. in Computational Science and Engineering

Students seeking an S.M. in Computational Science and Engineering or in Data Science should refer to the programs' specific requirements. Questions can be directed to the Daniel Weinstock, Director for Master's Education.

S.M. in Engineering Sciences - for PhD and AB/SM students only

There are no additional course requirements beyond the SEAS-wide requirements. Harvard Ph.D. and AB/SM students seeking an S.M. in Engineering Sciences should construct a cohesive program plan in the appropriate subfield (Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Science and Engineering, or Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering) with their assigned SEAS graduate advisor.

  • The AB/SM program is for currently enrolled Harvard College students only. Follow this link for more information. 
  • PhD students' questions can be directed to the Director of Graduate Education, John Girash.
Grade Expectations - for all S.M. and M.E. degrees including MS/MBA

No course completed with a grade less than C (for the S.M. degree) or B- (for the M.E.) may be included in the Program Plan; the average grade of the courses on the Program Plan must be a “B” or higher.

For regular (terminal) masters students, failure to maintain a cumulative 3.00 or better average grade or receipt of any unsatisfactory grade may require that the student withdraw from the program, thus terminating degree candidacy. 

A regular S.M. candidate whose average grade at the end of the first semester is between 2.50 and 3.00 normally will be warned that they will not complete the requirements for the degree at the end of the second semester unless a cumulative 3.00 or better average grade is achieved.  Should the student fail to satisfy the requirements for the S.M. degree at the end of the second semester, continuation for a third and final semester will be granted provided there is reasonable assurance that the degree requirements can be completed at the end of that semester.  A regular S.M. candidate whose SEAS average grade at the end of the first semester is less than 2.50 but who could achieve a cumulative 3.00 or better average grade at the end of the second semester, working as a full-time student, normally will be warned that continuation for a third and final semester is contingent upon a marked improvement in performance sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that the requirements for the S.M. degree will be completed at the end of the third semester.  A regular S.M. candidate who could not achieve a cumulative 3.00 or better average grade at the end of the second semester normally will be required to withdraw at the end of the first semester, thus terminating degree candidacy.