Frequently Asked Questions


What are the application requirements?

Students may apply to the BME graduate program with a B.S. or equivalent degree from an accredited institution.

Do I need to provide financial proof (i.e. proof that I can afford to pay for graduate studies at Duke) when I apply?

Financial proof is not required at the time of application.  However, accepted Masters students are required to show proof of financial ability to maintain their cost of living and cost of study.  More information may be found on the Graduate School’s website at  Ph.D. students are accepted with financial support to sufficiently cover these costs.  However, additional funds must be proven for a spouse and children. 

What are the admission criteria for M.S. Applicants?

Electronic submission of the Graduate School application, including official transcripts, official GRE general test scores, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and TOFEL test scores for international students. 

What are the admission criteria for M.Eng. Applicants?

Electronic submission of the Pratt School of Engineering application, including official transcripts, official GRE general test scores, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and TOFEL test scores for international students.  

What are the admission criteria for PhD Applicants?

Electronic submission of the Graduate School application, including official transcripts, official GRE general test scores, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and TOFEL test scores for international students.

My first language is not English but I studied in an English-speaking country prior to applying to Duke.  Can the TOEFL requirement be waived?

Students who have completed at least two years in a college or university whose primary language is English may request a waiver and state why an exemption should be granted.  The sole language of instruction at that college or university must also be English. 

What can I do to improve my chances of admission?

It is advised to be specific in your application about the area(s) within biomedical engineering that interest you.  You may also contact any faculty whose work interests you to ask that they review your application in consideration of openings they have in their lab.  Other important things to note in your application are any work experience or internships you have completed within the field. 


How long will it take to complete a Ph.D. program here at Duke?

The average time to degree is 5.7 years.

Do I have to have a master’s degree before I apply to the PhD program?


Master’s Programs

What’s the difference between a Master of Engineering, a Master of Science in engineering, and a Master of Engineering Management program?

The M.S. is a research oriented degree, intended for students that wish to continue in research or in further educational programs (M.D., Ph.D, M.D./Ph.D, etc.).  The MEM degree is for students with an interest in serving as a manager in a technology oriented enterprise.  The M.Eng blends aspects of both programs, providing business background to better help students compete for technical positions  industry.

How do I know which type of master's degree is the best fit for me?

A detailed comparison of the Master’s degree options can be found here:

What types of funding are available for master's students?

Because the Master of Engineering Program is a professional degree rather than a research degree, most students pay their own tuition costs. Many students take out loans and feel there will be an excellent "return on investment" when they get out into the work force. Similarly, most M.S. students pay their own tuition costs but some aid may be available.

I'm applying to the MS program and I want to pursue the project or thesis option.  How do I do this? 

Upon arriving on campus, MS students are encouraged to identify potential research advisors with whom they may execute a project.  Students with project of substantial depth may, in concurrence with their advisor, elect to write and defend a Master’s thesis. 

How do I know whether a master’s level program or a doctoral program is right for me?

Doctoral level programs require a substantial time commitment of up to 6 years and provide a highly specialized research experience.  Master’s level programs require less time commitment but offer increased flexibility upon completion. 

How long will it take to complete a MEng. or M.S. program here at Duke?

It is generally a three-semester program but could go longer for students who write and defend a thesis.


How do I choose a course of study?

Students are encouraged to evaluate areas of interest by familiarizing themselves with faculty research, either online or via print publications.  In addition, a series of seminars, targeted at first year graduate students, provide exposure to a variety of research topics.

How do I choose an adviser?

Ph.D. students are recruited to a specific lab when the admission offer is extended.  Students generally remain with the same adviser throughout their degree completion.  However, there is a mechanism in which students may change advisers if the fit is not good or if their research takes them in a different direction.  All Masters students enter the program under one adviser.  If they decide to pursue a research track, the research adviser of that lab generally becomes their adviser.

Am I required to be a teaching assistant (TA) as part of this program? What are normal TA responsibilities?

Ph.D. students are required to fulfill two teaching assistant assignments as a degree requirement.  M.S. students have no such degree requirement, however, qualified students may TA as a paid position.  Qualified applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA, be recommended by a primary BME faculty member, and have taken and done well in the class.

What is RCR – Responsible Conduct of Research?

“RCR” stands for "Responsible Conduct of Research."  At Duke, RCR training embodies the full range of ethical responsibilities of those engaged in research and teaching.  It encompasses not only the obligation to conduct research and teach with integrity, but also to ensure that the rights and interests of original sources, human subjects, and/or animal subjects are protected.  All Ph.D. students in Engineering are required to attend 12 contact hours of RCR training.

What are the residency requirements?

The minimum residence requirement is one academic year of full-time registration at Duke (that is, two consecutive semesters of full-time tuition).

What if I need to take a leave of absence?

A leave of absence form must be submitted and approved by the BME Director of Graduate Studies and filed and approved through the Graduate and/or Pratt School.  Students are eligible to take two semesters of leave during their tenure at Duke.  It is not mandatory that they be consecutive.  The Summer Semester does not count toward the two-semester limit.

Can I take courses in other departments and across Duke?

Students are permitted to take courses in departments across the university and also at several participating universities in the area. The content of these courses will dictate how these credits are counted towards degree requirements.

Career Development

Where do graduates of this department go for careers?

Graduates of the BME program have gone on to careers in industrial research and development groups, to advance new products and techniques for health services and in biological science markets; in medical centers, to improve health services and to engage in research which may be basic or clinical; and in academic institutions, to expand or initiate biomedical engineering programs.

What career development services are available for graduate students?

There is a Career Center as part of the Duke University Graduate School, which holds workshops and recruiting fairs with companies seeking biomedical engineers.  Counselors are also available by appointment for expert confidential counseling or drop-in advising. M.Eng students may take advantage of dedicated resources in the Pratt School of Engineering for career services.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition is charged on a per-semester basis for Ph.D. students, and on a per-unit basis for Masters students. For all Ph.D. students, a charge for tuition will be levied for six semesters of graduate study. With prior approval from the Graduate School, one semester of credit may be granted for those entering with a previous graduate degree or for non-degree work done at Duke prior to matriculation.

All graduate students enrolled in the Biomedical Engineering program will be charged a registration fee for every semester of residence. All entering students will be charged a one-time mandatory fee for transcripts. This fee entitles the student to an unlimited number of Duke transcripts.

All full-time students in a degree program are assessed a fee each semester for the use of Student Health Service. This fee is distinct from Health insurance, and does not provide major medical coverage. Students will be charged for health insurance in the fall semester unless they provide proof of other health insurance.

Other fees may also apply. Please consult the Duke University Graduate School Bulletin for the current schedule of fees and tuition.

Financial Aid

After students are admitted, applications from those who have so requested are reviewed with respect to questions of financial assistance. For University-based support these decisions are usually made in the early spring and all anticipated openings committed at that time. Research support awards may be made at any time, and new grants could be the source of graduate student support arising at a late date.

Students pursuing a terminal Masters degree are generally not awarded financial assistance. Ph.D. candidates in biomedical engineering are eligible for financial assistance from several sources. The Graduate and Engineering Schools of Duke University both offer fellowships to outstanding students. A number of traineeships, supported by funds from federal training programs, are awarded primarily to students at advanced stages of their graduate work. For students working at an advanced level in research programs, support is sometimes available from research grants made to the faculty. Whenever possible, Ph.D. program applicants are encouraged to pursue individual fellowships from foundations or federal sources.

All financial assistance is awarded on a year-to-year basis. Every effort is made to award continuing support to graduate students who are progressing satisfactorily; as a result, one factor in the amount of financial assistance available for new students is the number of students graduating the preceding year. Although predicting the future likelihood of financial assistance is hazardous, historically Duke BME has been fortunate in obtaining financial assistance from one source or another for a high percentage of graduate students, particularly doctoral-degree candidates.