Graduate Education FAQs
Important: The discussion here solely refers to the Master’s in EPP and Ph.D. in EPP programs. For information on the Master’s in E&TIM, please refer to the E&TIM webpage. For information on the Master’s in ESTP, please refer to the ESTP webpage.
For more graduate programs in the College of Engineering, please visit this page.
General Background Questions
Should I be interested in EPP for graduate school?
- You are an engineer, scientist or mathematician interested in working in technical areas that affect social and policy issues such as the environment, energy, transportation, risk, regulation, information technology, internet commerce and security, telecommunications, engineering education, national and international technology development and exchange, or international peace and economic development.
- You recognize that the technical details matter in many policy issues, and you wish to obtain or enhance advanced disciplinary skills in engineering and science.
- You recognize that the technical details are not all that matters, and you wish to learn and apply knowledge and methods in the social and behavioral sciences, economics, political science and law.
- You wish to make a real and lasting contribution to the way we solve, learn and teach about engineering and public policy issues, and in so doing, improve yourself and the world (sounds mushy, but we believe that among world-class competence, employability and idealism, you should strive for all three).
- You would like to do this along with other enthusiastic, friendly and collaborative students, faculty and staff.
If I've decided that I don't like engineering or science or that I really don't want to work on problems of a technical nature, should I apply to EPP?
No. EPP's goal is to train our students to become leaders in their respective fields who are able to fully understand and address technical issues and how they intersect with society. We do not train engineers and scientists to 'do away' with their traditional roots, but rather to use their technical backgrounds to help them more fully comprehend the complex problems of engineered systems in society -- problems such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, computer privacy and security, communicating risks to the public, and so on.
What if I have little or no background in engineering, science, or math, is EPP the right program for me?
In applicants' transcripts, we look to see that you have an undergraduate (or potentially a master's) degree in engineering, science, math or computer science; or at a minimum, you have taken courses in the physical or life sciences, or computer science, and courses in math and physics. If we do not see this, our most likely advice to you will be to take courses of this type and apply later. For the EPP Master's program, we consider social scientists with an interest in technology issues and a strong quantitative background.
What are the differences between the EPP Master’s programs and the Ph.D. program?
How can I learn more about the EPP graduate programs?
The Application Process
How do I apply for the EPP Master’s or Ph.D. program?
What do you look for in an applicant? How important are grades, the quality of undergraduate or previous graduate programs, recommendations, work experience, the candidate's statement of interest, and the interview? What are the minimum GRE scores?
In making admission decisions, we look for a balanced record of previous preparation and accomplishment, and indications of high potential for future growth and development. We look for an alignment between what you say you want and what we believe we can provide. We do not look for the same measures of accomplishment and potential in each student. We value a diversity of skills, backgrounds and outlooks in our department. Our experience with current and previous students has shown that a diverse group of students, faculty and staff leads to a more creative, innovative and productive place to work, teach and learn.
We attempt to learn as much about applicants as possible to aid in our decision. Your previous schooling provides some indication of whether or not you are adequately prepared to succeed and thrive in the rigorous academic environment at EPP and Carnegie Mellon. Your grades suggest your ability and willingness to work hard and benefit from courses and related learning opportunities. Beyond grades, we look for indications of breadth of interests, policy interest or experience, motivation, and verbal skills. Recommendations provide insight into research skills, work habits, creativity, and interpersonal skills. Pertinent work and other "real world" experience is valuable, and many of our recent students bring the maturity, insight and motivation gained from applying their knowledge and skills in the world.
Is there a minimum GRE score requirement?
No. The GRE provides a standardized way of evaluating some aspects of the math, verbal and analytical skills of applicants, and we consider them as one part of a holistic assessment for each applicant. We do not have a minimum requirement, and we do not screen out applicants below any particular threshold.
Who should I ask for recommendation letters?
The most informative recommendations are written by those for whom you have done technical work or research similar to the type you will do as a graduate student in our program. Most often, this will be a professor in engineering or science with whom you have taken a course with a significant opportunity for assessing your skills and potential (such as a course with a significant project component, an undergraduate (or previous Master’s) thesis advisor, etc. It may also be a professor in the social sciences or humanities. Supervisors or even co-workers in current or recent jobs are also often able to provide useful insights, however, we may be less likely to know how their point of reference compares to expectations at Carnegie Mellon. Depending on how long it has been since you have been out of school, some combination of one or two (usually two) professors and one or two work supervisors (usually one) is the most common choice. Recommendations from family members, scoutmasters or famous and important people who are friends of your family, but for whom you have not worked, are generally ignored.
Do I have to take the TOEFL, Duolingo, or IELTS exam?
Whether you are an international or domestic student, you are required to take the TOEFL (or Duolingo, or IELTS) if English is not your native language and you have not previously received a four-year degree from a U.S. university. Carnegie Mellon prefers TOEFL scores above 102, scores for Duolingo 120/160 and above, and scores for IELTS above 7.5. If your scores are below these thresholds, we may also opt to call you to evaluate your English further.
Carnegie Mellon's TOEFL code is 2074.
- DuoLingo scores should be sent to:
Carnegie Mellon University – College of Engineering
- IELTS test scores should be sent to:
Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering
431 Hamerschlag Drive
ANSYS Hall Suite 250
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
My international institution provides English-version copies of my transcript. Do I still need to go through a transcript verification service? Will you accept an evaluation report from XYZ Corporation?
When you are applying, you will need to submit your transcripts and GPA based on a 4.0 scale. You may use the free tool from the World Education Services to calculate your GPA.
If you are accepted, we require that all international academic documents be verified by a transcript verification service. The verification not only provides courses in English and grades on the U.S. scale, but it also provides services to our committee members should they have questions regarding the transcript.
If you find another transcript evaluation service that you would prefer to use, please ensure it provides all stated requirements:
- Accredited evaluation agency
- Office in the United States
- Customer service contact phone number our Admissions Committee may call
- Course-by-course evaluation service
Here are a few verification agencies you may consider using, please contact us if you have any questions:
Can I arrange an interview or a visit to the department?
We generally do not arrange interviews with our faculty, or extensive visits for applicants until we have had a chance to review your full application and determine whether your admission is likely or at least reasonably possible. If a faculty member is interested in interviewing you, they will reach out to you directly. If, however, you happen to be in Pittsburgh for other reasons and would like an introductory visit, please let us know.
After we have had a chance to review all of our applications, our admissions committee may invite some admitted students to come to campus for a visit day. This visit to our campus is usually the last, but critically important step towards an admitted student deciding if they want to enroll. We may pay for part of your expenses depending on the availability of funding.
During our visit days, you will meet with faculty, staff and current students, and email links to our current and former students are provided. During your visit, be yourself, ask lots of questions, and enjoy the visit.
Can I be considered for the both the EPP Master’s and Ph.D. program without having to apply separately?
If I am not admitted, may I reapply in subsequent years?
Yes, you may re-apply one additional time. Please keep in mind that we will be looking for new information on accomplishments and transcripts since your initial application. You will need to complete a new application and pay the application fee in order to apply the second time.
If I am admitted, but subsequently decide I am not yet ready to enter graduate school, may my admissions offer be deferred?
Yes. However, offers of financial aid cannot be deferred. We re-evaluate our ability to provide you with financial support in the year of planned enrollment, since project and funding conditions can change.