Frequently Asked Questions
While you are selecting a graduate degree program we know that you will have questions. Below are answers to questions we frequently hear from applicants.
If you have a question that is not answered below, please feel free to contact the Director of Graduate Studies.
How do I know which degree—PhD, MS, MEng, or MEM—is right for me?
We have an option that is right for you! You might begin your path by reviewing our degree comparison chart.
The chart quickly details options for graduate education in engineering at Duke. As you make your choice, consider your career goals.
We offer highly-ranked graduate degree programs in:
Many of our Master of Science (MS) graduates continue on to elite PhD programs, or preparation for leadership for engineering positions in industry or government. A Master of Engineering (MEng) degree provides rigorous technical training in combination with business education – excellent preparation for a career in today's high-tech industries.
If you’re particularly interested in management and entrepreneurship, then our Master of Engineering Management (MEM) degree may be a great fit.
Our globally ranked PhD programs provide outstanding technical training to prepare you for research leadership in any academic, government or private realm. Visit http://pratt.duke.edu/grad to learn about all our programs, and then select your interest area to learn even more about our discipline-specific doctoral and master's degree offerings.
What are the application requirements for engineering graduate programs at Duke?
Our entire application process takes place online.
The Graduate School at Duke processes all applications for:
The Pratt School of Engineering Professional Master’s Program processes all applications for:
In general, you will need the following documents to apply for any graduate engineering program at Duke:
- An official transcript that states you hold a BS degree or equivalent in engineering or science.
- GRE (Graduate Record Examination) test scores
- Three letters of recommendation
- Written statement of purpose that describes your specific academic and career interests
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score (if applicable), IETLS (International English Language Testing System) score1, or a waiver2
1 IELTS is less commonly submitted by applicants. Please note: our Master of Engineering (MEng) and Master of Engineering Management (MEM) programs do not accept the IETLS score.
2 Consider the program to which you are applying, and then read the Duke Graduate School minimum scores and TOEFL/IETLS Waiver Policy, Master of Engineering Management (MEM) TOEFL Waiver Policy, and Master of Engineering (MEng) TOEFL Waiver Policy
As a PhD applicant, what do I need to do to be considered for financial support?
No additional action is required on your part. Each application to our PhD program is automatically considered for financial support when it is reviewed.
Applicants are encouraged, however, to pursue external funding opportunities, such as National Science Foundation Fellowships.
Most applicants admitted to our PhD program are offered a fellowship or research assistantship, or a combination of the two.
Fellowships are typically awarded by our academic departments, but some students may also be awarded one of The Graduate School's competitive fellowships for incoming students. The financial support awarded to PhD students generally includes a stipend, tuition payments and payments for most Graduate School fees.
The Graduate School also provides health insurance for PhD students in years 1-6 and to all research assistants regardless of year in the program, as well as child care subsidies to full-time PhD students with dependent children who require child care.
Do I have to have a master’s degree before I apply to the PhD program?
No. A minimum of a bachelor's degree (or equivalent degree) is required to be admitted to the PhD program. While some of our students enter the PhD program after obtaining an master's degree, this is certainly not required. PhD students have the option to earn an Master of Science (MS) degree while on route to their PhD, but it is not a required step in earning a PhD.
Do I need to provide proof of financial ability when I apply to a Duke PhD program?
No. Doctoral (PhD) students are accepted with financial support to sufficiently cover the costs of their education. However, admitted students who are married and those who have dependent children must provide proof of financial ability to support their families.
Child Care Subsidy
The Graduate School at Duke offers subsidies of up to $5,000 per year for admitted PhD students who have children that require child care. Learn more.
How do I choose a PhD adviser?
The process can begin before you are admitted. After you apply, our faculty may contact you to invite you to interview. At that interview, you'll meet our faculty and see their labs before a formal offer is made. We call this "Day One Mentorship."
Once you are admitted, we then help you assemble your Advising Team. Your team will include your research adviser, your departmental adviser, the director of graduate studies, a five-member dissertation committee, and the department chair.
However, we do help PhD students to change advisers if the fit is not good, or if their research takes them in a different direction.
How do I match my interests with the research and curriculum within a Duke graduate program?
Why not sign up to receive Duke Engineering Now, our free email newsletter?
Browse Our Departments
Each of our departmental websites has rich content detailing our faculty and their work. Find faculty profiles, including lists of recent scholarly publications, as well as research summaries and much more for our departments of:
- Biomedical Engineering
- Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Give Us a Call
We enjoy talking to prospective students. Email or call the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) of the department in which you are interested. The DGS will be happy to talk to you, answer your questions and suggest additional sources of information.
If you find an individual Duke faculty member with whom you'd like to work, please feel free to call or email her or him to discuss your mutual interests. Phone numbers and email addresses are listed for nearly all of our faculty members on our departmental websites.
Visiting Duke? We'd love to meet you. If you call or email us a week or more before your trip, we can arrange for you to meet with a current student and get a tour.
How long will it take to complete a PhD program at Duke?
Each student has an individual experience, but PhDs are typically completed in four to six years.
Average Degree Completion Time
- Biomedical Engineering - 5.7 years
- Civil and Environmental Engineering - 4.9 years
- Electrical and Computer Engineering - 4.5 years
- Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science - 4.5 years
Is there a teaching assistant (TA) requirement?
Yes. We consider teaching an integral part of the Duke PhD experience. Teaching assistantships prepare future doctoral degree holders by providing important experience in the development of communications skills generally, and of the teaching skills of lecturing, tutoring and grading.
Teaching assistants aide undergraduate courses by:
- Setting up and conducting laboratory exercises
- Conducting recitation classes
- Grading homework
- Supplementing faculty office hours
Engineering PhD students at Duke are required to fulfill two teaching assistant (TA) assignments as a degree requirement.
Duke provides Teaching Assistant Training to our PhD students before they enter an undergraduate classroom as a TA for the first time. Learn more about our TA training program.
May I take courses in other departments and across Duke?
Yes! We encourage students to build an interdisciplinary educational experience tailor to their future plans. Duke offers a wide range of opportunities, and students are encouraged to work with their advisers to develop plans that take full advantage of course opportunities in the School of Medicine, Sanford School of Public Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment, and the Duke basic science departments.
My first language is not English, but I studied in an English-speaking country before applying to a Duke PhD program. Can the TOEFL requirement be waived?
All our doctoral (PhD) programs require a:
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), or
- IETLS (International English Language Testing System) score1, or
- a TOEFL/IETLS Waiver
1 IELTS is less commonly submitted by applicants.
More Information on Waivers
What are the minimum admissions criteria for engineering graduate programs at Duke?
We require an undergraduate degree, but one in the sciences or engineering is not strictly required. We base admissions decisions on several factors, including letters of recommendation, your specific research interests, undergraduate coursework/preparation, and faculty match. Your GPA and GRE score are important, but they're not the only pieces that factor into our evaluation.
We consider all applications holistically and recognize that there are several ways of demonstrating proficiency. For example, a strong score on the quantitative section of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), along with positive letters of recommendation speaking to your technical acumen may be sufficient.
If you do not have an undergraduate degree in the sciences or engineering, be sure to address this in the statement of purpose you submit with your application.
However, please know that admission to the Master of Science (MS) and Master of Engineering (MEng) programs in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) does require technical proficiency typically gained through an undergraduate degree in the sciences or engineering.
Minimum GPA and TOEFL Score
We require a minimum GPA of 3.2 from an undergraduate program in order to gain admission to the Master of Science (MS) or PhD degree programs.
If applicable, a minimum TOEFL score of 90 on the Internet-based test is also required.
Average Admissions Scores for Recently Admitted Applicants
- GRE Quantitative: 165
- GRE Verbal: 160
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 162
- GRE Verbal: 159
- UGPA: 3.6
- GRE Quantitative: 161
- GRE Verbal: 160
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 163
- GRE Verbal: 154
- UGPA: 3.5
- GRE Quantitative: 166
- GRE Verbal: 156
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 166
- GRE Verbal: 159
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 164
- GRE Verbal: 157
- UGPA: 3.7
- GRE Quantitative: 159
- GRE Verbal: 151
What career development services are available for graduate students?
In addition to the support provided through faculty advising within the department, the Duke Career Development Center offers assistance and extensive resources for graduate students. These services include counseling during graduate studies, and also professional and career counseling and support for exploration of employment opportunities upon completion of graduate study. The Duke Career Center offers confidential advising services, electronic magazine and scholarly society links, fellowship and grant links, graduate school and thesis/dissertation guides, networking information, research directories, writing and research online resources, and career and employment resources, among others.
As program completion nears, graduate students may choose to use the Duke Career Center resources to explore a broad range of employment sectors, including higher education, government, or the corporate world. There is information and training on career planning, interviewing and job search skills, resume and cover letter writing, academic and industry job searches, job listings and employment opportunities, employer research and profiles, on-campus recruiting and graduate student career symposia, and one-on-one resourcing with a PhD career counselor and through periodicals and journals widely available at the Center. The Career Library and Job Room provide a wealth of printed and database materials on career fields and specific employers. In addition, by signing up for the Career Center's mailing lists, news of career-related workshops, employment sector trends, job announcements and strategies for job hunting, or tips for exploring employment options can be delivered to your personal e-mail box.
The goal of the Duke Career Development Center is to assist graduate students in exploring career options and in locating employment opportunities that match their special interests and expertise. Career-related information and advice are readily available, and Career Counselors will work with degree candidates to develop strategies for handling transition from graduate study into college/university teaching, administration, or other professional careers. Advising on career-related concerns is confidential, and feedback on the format and content of the cv, resume, cover letter, abstract, or grant proposal is also provided.
To explore the many services offered through the Duke Career Development Center, you may visit their website at career.studentaffairs.duke.edu.
Master of Engineering (MEng) students may take advantage of dedicated resources in the Pratt School of Engineering for career services. For more information, see: meng.pratt.duke.edu/about/career-services.
Master of Engineering Management (MEM) also has dedicated career development support. For more information, see: memp.pratt.duke.edu/campus/career-services.
What does it cost to attend Duke for a PhD student in engineering?
The Pratt School of Engineering and The Graduate School at Duke share a strong commitment to financially supporting students admitted into a doctoral (PhD) program.
Generally speaking, The Graduate School covers the tuition and fees for a PhD student’s first five years at Duke. After that, students are responsible for tuition and fees, and most students obtain external or departmental funding that helps cover those costs.
At the Pratt School of Engineering, we offer aggressive incentive packages for outstanding PhD students with external support such as National Science Foundation Fellowships.
The Graduate School also covers health insurance for years 1-6, if students choose the Duke student medical insurance plan.
Students wishing to be considered for financial awards administered by The Graduate School should check the appropriate box of their online application, and make certain that a complete application is received by the deadline date for the fall semester.
Find complete cost of attendance details on The Graduate School website.
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 PhD students in engineering are required to attend 12 contact hours of RCR training. Learn more about RCR.
What is the residence requirement for Duke PhD students?
The minimum residence requirement for PhD students is one (1) academic year of full-time registration at Duke completed before graduation.