Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve heard of a thesis vs. non-thesis option for an MS degree. Is the Project Track Master’s program a thesis or non-thesis program?

A thesis provides students with an opportunity to “cut their teeth” on important, challenging, open-ended research problems. These are tremendous learning opportunities, and a “thesis experience” is highly valued by industry. In the Project Track program, the ambitious, yearlong, team design project (within the Ideas to Innovation course sequence) serves a comparable role to that of a thesis. Although it is not technically a thesis, the project is comparable to a MS thesis in terms of providing an extensive opportunity to apply technical concepts.  

How does the Project Track Master's program differ from the traditional thesis or non-thesis MS program?

The Project Track Master's program is designed to prepare students for careers in industry. The major difference is the yearlong design project during in which student teams take projects from start to finish while learning the success skills needed to turn ideas into products and businesses. Compared to a coursework-only MS program, the Project Track provides an opportunity to develop a significant component of a student’s technical portfolio (i.e., the year-long project). A second difference is that students in the Project Track Master's program acquire more technical breadth than is possible in the traditional program. A unique suite of one-credit courses can be utilized to build this breadth while balancing course loads in various terms. A third difference is the close interaction with partners in industry that occurs in the Project Track Master's program.

Is the diploma/degree given for the Project Track Master's different from the regular MS ECE program?

No. Students who graduate from the Project Track Master's program will receive the exact same diploma/degree that all master’s students in ECE receive - the MSECE degree. The Project Track Master's program is a specific concentration within the regular ECE Master’s program with several curricular innovations, such as a suite of unique “breadth at the edges” one-credit courses, a yearlong project with professional skills integrated, etc.

After completion of the program, your Purdue transcript will indicate a Concentration in Innovative Technologies.

How long does it take to complete the program?

There are two nominal timelines for completing the program. The “standard” option requires approximately 1.5 academic years (Fall/Spring/Summer/Fall). The “accelerated” option can be completed in one calendar year (Fall/Spring/Summer). The “accelerated” option requires a relatively heavy course load (12 credits in each of the Fall and Spring semesters and 6 in Summer), which requires a dedicated focus on coursework during those academic terms. In either of these options, the yearlong project will have to be completed in the first year since it is a team project.  It may also be possible to complete additional coursework online through Purdue Online Learning. Extensions beyond the 1.5 academic-year timeline will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The traditional MS program typically takes about two years to complete. How can students complete the Project Track Master's program in a shorter period of time?

Both programs require 30 credits. Students in the traditional MS program are typically half-time students. The Project Track Master's program is an ambitious program for students who are able to devote a full-time effort. Note that the accelerated program is a 12-month program – two semesters plus the summer. The suite of one-credit courses can be used to balance the course loads in various semesters, and online courses can be utilized to accumulate additional credits (e.g., in advance of coming to campus).  It is also possible for students to transfer up to six graduate credits from other universities, provided that those courses have not been used to satisfy requirements for other degrees.

Can I start in the Spring semester?

All admissions will be for the Fall semester. A student may, however, request to defer admission to Spring semester due to logistical delays in coming to campus or in order to complete some coursework during the first fall semester in residence. Students should be aware that the yearlong design project course (Ideas to innovation) only begins in the Fall and then runs through Spring and Summer, so a Spring semester start date will require additional semesters (beyond 1 calendar year) in the program.

Can I start my degree online and complete it on campus?

Yes! We offer a rich online curriculum to help you start right away from where you are now. In addition, you can start your project online.

Can I participate in a corporate internship during the summer?

Students in the Project Track are allowed to participate in summer internships. In order to satisfy the Project Track requirements, students must complete Ideas to Innovation-III either during the Summer (online) or during the second Fall in residence at Purdue.  International students should consult with ISS regarding visa requirements related to returning to campus for at least one academic term following an internship.  Students planning to apply for a summer internship should notify the instructor of the Ideas to Innovation course during the first eight weeks of their first semester in the program (e.g., students starting in Fall 2020 and intending to apply for a Summer 2021 internship should notify their instructor within the first eight weeks of the Fall 2020 semester).  This will allow advance planning for course offerings as well as coordination of team project topics.

Are international students in the project-track MSECE eligible for CPT?

Yes, the project-track MSECE is a STEM program within the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Students who leave campus for the summer for CPT will finish their Ideas to Innovation coursework in the following fall semester.

How do I apply for admission into the Project Track Master's program?

On their applications, students designate whether they are applying to the Project Track, Thesis Track or Coursework-only Tracks within the MS program.  If admitted, students are generally offered admission directly into the track they designate. Formal enrollment in the thesis track requires identification of a faculty advisor for the thesis work. Students who indicate interest in the thesis track but who are unable to find a faculty member willing to supervise their MS thesis will be placed in the Project Track.

Can I begin in the traditional ECE MS program and transfer into the Project Track Master's program the second year.

Except in the circumstances described above for thesis track students, transfer from the thesis track or coursework-only MS program into the Project Track Master's program is not automatic. However, students in the other tracks may apply for admission to the Project Track Master's program and, if admitted, all coursework credits acquired while in the other tracks will count towards the Project Track Master's program.

I am unsure as to whether I will be pursuing a career in industry or go on for a Ph.D. Is this the program for me?

While the Project Track Master's program is designed to prepare students for careers in industry, we also believe that it is superb preparation for Ph.D. studies.

Can a student in the project-track MSECE be a TA or RA?

No.  RA (research assistantship) positions are generally associated with the thesis-track MS program.   Students receiving TA (teaching assistantships) are eligible to enroll in either the thesis- or coursework-only tracks.

Once I’m on campus, can I switch to the MS thesis track?

Yes, if you find a faculty member who commits to serving as your thesis advisor. However, due to the large number of ECE MS and PhD students at Purdue, the likelihood of finding a thesis advisor and switching to the thesis track is low.

Students in the Project Track Master's program are not eligible to receive financial support (e.g., teaching assistantships and research assistantships) whereas the regular Master’s program allows students to receive such financial assistance. Does it still make financial sense for a student to enroll in the Project Track Master's program?

The average time to graduation in the regular Master’s program is over two years, whereas the Project Track  Master's program is designed to be completed in one calendar year. This means that by the time students in the regular Master’s program graduate, students who joined the Project Track Master's program would have been out in industry working for a year. According to 2017 data collected from graduating Purdue University students, the average starting salary for new MSECE graduates was $95,082. Compared to this income for one year, the tuition for one year of the Project Track Master's program is $37,116.50 for non-residents and $13,614.00 for residents. As is evident from the above data, Project Track Master's students are likely to come out ahead financially overall, due to the decreased graduation time.

What pathways to positions in industry does this program provide?

This program will provide students with opportunities to develop a design portfolio of relevance to industry. Company-sponsored design topics represent one of the pathways toward defining team projects.  In addition, individuals from industry will be involved in presenting topics related to industrial design and product development approaches.