Master of Science

Ideal Preparation for a Career or Doctoral Study

The Duke BME Master of Science (MS) degree provides a solid foundation of rigorous training and research experience to propel your career to developing new biomedical technologies.

The MS is an engineering degree comprising technical coursework and a thesis or project in a chosen discipline.

Master of Science students are also eligible to enhance their degrees through training in our certificate programs.

Your faculty advisors provide mentorship and Duke offers career services – preparing you to seek a career in industry or enter a doctoral program.

Degree requirements, detailed below, include:

  • 30 course credits
  • Thesis or project options

Application deadlines:


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Degree details

Degree Requirements

Our Master of Science students complete 30 course credits, and a thesis or project. Biology is integrated into your experience through a life science requirement, and the advanced mathematics requirement will provide you training in the analysis and manipulation of data.

30 Course Credits

For more about the course requirements, please see the Important Notes below

Concentration Areas

For non-thesis project option, at least 3 courses or 9 credits should be completed in one of these concentration areas:

  • Bioelectric Engineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomechanics and Mechanobiology
  • Biomedical Imaging and Biophotonics
  • Biosensors and Bioinstrumentation
  • Biotechnology
  • Computational Modeling of Biological Systems
  • Drug and Gene Delivery
  • Health Data Science
  • Immune Engineering
  • Medical Device Design
  • Neural Engineering
  • Synthetic and Systems Biology
  • Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

Important Notes

  1. Undergraduate courses may be taken, but cannot be used to fulfill degree requirements.
  2. Students may take up to 6 credits of independent study (BME 791 and BME 792) for a project in the same lab or in lieu of research credits for an MS thesis.
  3. Students may take 3 credits of Master of Engineering, Master of Engineering Management or other business/management courses as an elective.
  4. Other elective courses must be selected from Engineering, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Computer Science, or related disciplines. Additional course offerings may be substituted with consent of advisor.

Non-Thesis Project Option

Non-thesis MS students complete their degree by presenting a lab/course research project to their committee in a poster presentation.

The project is an opportunity for students to practice effective research strategies. Projects must be related to biomedical engineering and approved by the student's adviser. The formulation of the project plan is a collaborative, mentored experience. Successful project plans are those in which students can do the following:

  • State a research problem in a chosen area of study and demonstrate the value of the solution to the research problem;
  • Apply sound research methods/tools to problems in an area of study and describe the methods/tools effectively;
  • Analyze/interpret research data;
  • Draw valid conclusions from data and make a convincing case for the contribution of those conclusions in advancing knowledge within that area; and
  • Communicate their research clearly and professionally in both written and oral forms appropriate to the field.

Thesis Option

MS students engaged in research are encouraged to prepare and defend a thesis.


The Master's Thesis should follow the format defined in the Graduate School's Guide for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, and should include the following items:

  • An abstract with objectives and clearly stated unique contributions,
  • A survey and discussion/synthesis of pertinent literature, 
  • Discussions of the completed research tasks, including theory development, data collection, analysis, and documentation, and
  • A set of conclusions that emphasize new theoretical, modeling, or experimental contributions; or novel applications of existing theories.

The quality of the Master’s Thesis should allow the material to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Learn more information on the master's thesis from Duke's Graduate School website.


Upon the completion of the written thesis, the student must defend it orally. The thesis adviser must approve the thesis for the defense before its final submission to the faculty committee. In a letter to the Graduate School, the adviser will indicate that the thesis is ready for defense. The student is responsible for asking the DGSA/DMSA to announce the thesis defense. The defense takes place no less than one week after the student has submitted the thesis to the Graduate School and has presented copies to the faculty committee members. The oral presentation is a public event. The faculty committee generally meets with the candidate in a closed meeting following the open oral presentation. During the defense, the faculty committee may question the student on both the content of the thesis and the student's course work.

The possible outcomes of the Master's Examination are:

  • The student passes. A majority of supporting votes are required, in addition to the approval of the Advisor.
  • The student fails. Re-examination might be permitted upon the recommendation of the Advisor and the approval of the Director of Master's Studies.

Certificate Programs

Opportunities in biotechnology, medical device design, photonics and more. Learn more »

Admissions Profile

The minimum undergraduate GPA is 3.2. For international students, a minimum TOEFL score of 90 on the internet-based test is also required. The scores of GRE, TOEFL, and undergraduate GPA of recently admitted applicants were*:

  • GRE Quantitative: 161 - 168
  • GRE Verbal: 155 - 162
  • GRE Writing: 4.0 - 4.5
  • TOEFL: 104 - 114
  • UGPA: 3.3 - 3.7

   * Mid-50% range

Cost of Attendance

For complete cost of attendance details, visit The Graduate School at Duke website »

Financial Aid and Fellowships

Because many master's degrees are professional degrees rather than research degrees, most students pay their own tuition costs. Many students use student loans and believe there will be an excellent return on investment.

In certain circumstances, we provide limited financial aid to Master of Science (MS) students.

Diversity Scholarships

For MS, limited financial aid is available to highly qualified candidates through academic scholarships with an emphasis on increasing diversity within our master's degree programs.

Underrepresented minorities may receive up to 50 percent per year in tuition scholarship through our Diversity Scholarships. Additionally, up to $10,000 per year may be allocated for the student to gain experience in a research setting under the direction of a principal investigator (PI).

Externally Funded Scholarships

For MS students, we also offer support to recipients of select competitive externally funded scholarships, such as:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowships
  • Fulbright Scholar Program


Some departments will occasionally provide some reduced-tuition assistance, but most of our master's students pay through a combination of loans and their own money.

Also see Duke Graduate School Master Student Financial Aid webpage.

DoD SMART Scholarship Program

For US Citizens only – The Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program has been established by the Department of Defense (DoD) to support undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The program aims to increase the number of civilian scientists and engineers working at DoD laboratories. Learn more

Veteran's Benefits

Duke University offers information for veterans who are applying for VA benefits, including the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Federal Loan Programs

Duke University offers the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Programs for graduate students, including Stafford unsubsidized loans, Graduate PLUS, and Carl Perkins loans. Each of these loans has different terms and conditions, but they are generally deferrable until after graduation or until the student is enrolled for less than half-time.

These federal loans are available only to United States citizens and, generally, only to master’s students, because Ph.D. scholarships and fellowships typically exceed the cost of attendance. Visit the Duke Financial Aid website for more information and application procedures for student loans.

On-Campus Work

While enrolled in the program, many students work in a variety of places, such as campus libraries and various departments within Duke. Teaching assistantships are available in various departments, and some departments have research assistantships as well.

These positions are paid an hourly rate, and most students work between 10 to 20 hours per week. Positions are generally posted and filled just a week or two before classes begin each semester.

Career Services

The MS program provides outstanding career support to its students. Our career services include:

  • Academic job search strategy sessions
  • Non-academic job search strategy sessions for industry and governmental positions
  • Resume review and critiques
  • Interview skills training