Carnegie Mellon University

Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find the information on graduate admissions?

Please see the FAQ for graduate admissions.

Where can I find detailed information on Biomedical Engineering graduate programs?

Please refer to the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Student Handbook.

Where can I find the information on Pittsburgh as a city?

Please refer to the Visitor Information, in addition to the web pages of the College of Engineering and Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. See also Popular Pittsburgh.

Can I switch from Research-Option M.S. Program to Practicum Option?

Research-Option M.S. students may switch to Practicum Option at any time. Due to the larger number of course units required for the Practicum Option, students are advised to make the switch as early as possible. Students may petition to count up to 12 units of accrued research units toward the practicum requirement. Once switched, the student is not allowed to switch back.

The performance of Research-Option students is reviewed at the end of the first semester. Students who lack the preparation or strong motivation for research may be moved to the Practicum Option.

Can I switch from the BME MS-Applied study to BME MS-Research?

BME MS students can switch from M.S. in Biomedical Engineering – Applied Study to M.S. Degree – Research only after the first semester in the program. However, if a student intends to switch from M.S. in Biomedical Engineering – Applied Study to M.S. Degree – Research, the student should start contacting potential research advisors during the first semester.

Can I switch from M.S. Program to the Ph.D. Program?

M.S. students who wish to continue with Ph.D. education at Carnegie Mellon University must apply to the Ph.D. program according to the regular admissions policy. The student does not have to pay the application fee or to retake any standardized tests unless requested by the Department. The student is required to submit three letters of recommendation with at least two coming from Carnegie Mellon University faculty. Acceptance into the program will depend on both qualifications of the student and the availability of financial support in the area of interest.

How is the research advisor assigned for Research-Option M.S. students?

Research-Option M.S. students enjoy a wide choice of advisors. The first  month after matriculation serves as the matching period, when the student interacts with any Biomedical Engineering faculty members to explore possible projects of mutual interest. The Department then makes the assignment, taking into account the input from both the student and potential advisors. To ensure the quality of mentoring, the Department may limit the number of students entering a group. Therefore, students are encouraged to identify multiple advisors of interest.

How is the length of M.S. education determined?

Students in the Practicum-Option M.S. Program graduate after meeting all the course requirements. The standard length of the program is 16 months of full-time residence (3 semesters not counting summer at minimum 36 units per semester). Some students including most Carnegie Mellon graduates may be able to complete the requirements within 9 months. There is a minimum full-time requirement of one semester for all the Practicum-Option M.S. students.

Students in the Research-Option M.S. Program must deliver a satisfactory research report in addition to meeting course requirements. In the great majority of cases, this requires substantially more than the minimal 24 units of research before the report meets the standard. The standard length of this program is 21 months of full-time residence (4 semesters not counting summer at minimum 36 units per semester), although some students may be able to meet the requirements within 16 months.

Students must graduate without delay as soon as they meet all the degree requirements.

What is the policy for part-time enrollment for MS students?

Part-time MS enrollment is an option for special circumstances, such as students who would like to pursue an MS degree while maintaining external employment. Students must either apply directly to a separate part-time MS program or file a petition to move from the full-time to the part-time Program. Note that US immigration regulations do not allow Carnegie Mellon University to issue visa documents for the part-time MS program.

How is the research advisor assigned for Ph.D. students?

In cases when there is an unequivocal agreement between a student and a faculty member to work together, the assignment may be made upon admission. Otherwise, the student may be informed of several potential advisors prior to the decision date. The student will then spend the first month interacting with these potential advisors. An assignment is made based on the input from both the student and potential advisors.

How is the length of Ph.D. education determined?

The length of Ph.D. education is typically determined by the time required to develop a comprehensive dissertation. The student, advisor and thesis committee are expected to work together to define a realistic plan and timeframe for completion. Most direct Entry students graduate in 4.5 to 5 years, while Advanced Entry students may graduate in approximately 4 years.

Members of the Biomedical Engineering faculty convene each semester to discuss the progress of each student. This process allows the Department to identify students who may be falling behind and provide proactive guidance to place the student back on track.

How long does financial aid last for Ph.D. students?

Direct Entry students can expect to receive continued support for up to 4.5 years while Advanced Entry students should anticipate funding for up to 4 years. Extension of financial aid beyond these periods may be granted upon petition.

Continuation of the financial aid is dependent upon a satisfactory progress evaluation each semester. Students performing below expectation may lose financial support.

While in most cases the support comes primarily from advisor's research funds, the Department is committed to maintaining the continuity of Ph.D. research and financial aid irrespective of funding status of the advisor.

What is the Department’s policy on outside employment?

Ph.D. and Research-Option M.S. students are expected to devote their full-time effort to graduate education, thus the Department forbids employment or operation of business while the student is in full-time status. Exception may be granted by petition if the employment is determined as an enhancement to graduate education. Practicum-Option M.S. students may pursue outside employment as long as it does not violate the (immigration) law and the student is able to maintain a QPA of 3.0 or higher.

What is the Department's policy on summer employment?

Ph.D. students are funded for full-time, year-round work, and are therefore not permitted to accept summer employment while receiving a stipend. If a summer employment opportunity is deemed relevant to the thesis research, the student should contact the Department for permission before accepting the position. The student may be allowed to collect the normal stipend plus an allowance for extra expenses, e. g. for maintaining a second dwelling place.

Research-Option M.S. students should discuss summer employment/internship offers with the research advisor and the Department prior to taking any breaks during the summer, which is generally very important for completing the research project. Practicum Option M.S. students are free to accept summer employment although foreign students must check with the Office of International Education to make sure that the empolyment does not violate any law.

What is the Department’s policy on outside fellowships?

The Department supports student effort to seek outside funding. Ph.D. students receiving external support other than through family or personal investments must notify the Department. The stipend administered by the Department may be adjusted according to the departmental stipend policy.

What is the Department’s policy on vacation time?

Other than official University holidays, time off should be cleared in advance with the student's advisor to ensure that research progress or deadlines are not affected. A student is not a normal university employee and does not receive any pre-allocated vacation time.

How do I pay my tuition bill?

Carnegie Mellon University offers several methods for tuition and fee payment. Please refer to the Hub web site for details about Billing & Payment and payment options.

BME PhD Employment Destinations

The CMU PhD program prepares students for research careers in industry and research and teaching careers in academia. Of note, CMU’s Future Faculty training program is available to all PhD students. As a result, the majority of our recent graduates have been hired as post-doctoral researchers or as teaching faculty. For more information please see the following file from CPDC.