Chemical Engineering Master’s Degree Program

Traditional chemical engineering uses instruments to do what chemistry alone cannot do.  Modern chemical engineering is highly interdisciplinary, and impacts many industries.  A degree in chemical engineering gives you career flexibility, and an M.S. degree can offer more career opportunities.

The M.S. Program is intended to extend and broaden an undergraduate education with fundamental knowledge in different fields. The degree may be terminal, or obtained on the way to the Ph.D. The degree is offered under both the Thesis Plan I and the Comprehensive Examination Plan II.

M.S. Time Limit Policy: Full-time M.S. students are permitted seven (academic) quarters in which to complete all requirements. While there is no written time limit for part-time students, the department has the right to intervene and set individual deadlines if it becomes necessary.

Program and Course Requirements

The requirements for the Chemical Engineering M.S. degree are as follows:

  1. All students must complete a total of thirty-six (36) units
    • Five (5) required core courses (CENG 210A, CENG 221A, CENG 221B, CENG 251, CENG 252 - 20 units)
    • One course, 4 units that are either CENG or STEM graduate or upper division courses (upper division is limited to 12 units)
    • FOR M.S. THESIS PLAN - 12 units of CENG 299. Additional information and requirements in the M.S. Thesis Plan section.
    • FOR M.S. COMPREHENSIVE EXAM PLAN - Three (3) electives - 12 units of CENG or STEM graduate or upper division courses (upper division is limited to 12 units). Additional information and requirements in the M.S. Comp Plan section.
    • No more than two (2) applied mathematics courses (MAE 294AB, MATH 210AB, or MATH 270AB).
    • No more than a total of eight units of CENG 296 may be applied toward the course work requirement. 
  2. Students must enroll in CENG 205 every quarter. CENG 205 units DO NOT count toward the degree requirement units. See “Courses” for descriptions.
  3. Students can take courses outside of CENG but need to be STEM graduate courses. If they are not, they will not be counted towards degree requirement courses.
  4. Students either complete a Master’s Thesis (Plan I) or pass a Comprehensive Exam (Plan II) as described below. Students should consult with their advisors before selecting a plan for completion of degree requirements.
    • Plan I: Thesis Plan: Thesis Plan students must secure a thesis faculty advisor before enrolling for 299 courses. They must also pass a thesis examination presented to a Thesis Committee.
    • Plan II: Comprehensive Examination: The comprehensive exam is given in early Spring and covers topics covered in the core courses. A score of at least 60% is needed for M.S. students. Note: The exam cannot be taken without having completed the core courses.
      • This exam can only be retaken once. Failure to pass the exam may result in termination from the program. Transfer to the M.S. Thesis Plan is not permitted.
  5. Students must meet M.S. requirements established by the university, and the department requirements
  6. A student cannot advance to candidacy until they have passed/completed the thirty-six (36) unit coursework and their Plan (Thesis or Comp Exam)

Thesis Plan I

The M.S. Thesis Plan is designed for those students with an interest in research and requires the student to be accepted by a CENG faculty member stating they will be the thesis research advisor. This plan involves course work leading to the completion and defense of a master’s thesis. The thesis defense is the final examination for students enrolled in the M.S. Thesis Plan and must be conducted after completion of all course work.

  1. Coursework is made up of the five (5) core courses (20 units) + twelve (12) units of CENG 299 (thesis research) + one additional elective course (4 units)
  2. The M.S. Thesis Committee must be constituted and approved by GEPA before a student can defend their thesis. The committee should have three (3) members: the thesis faculty advisor should be the committee chair, and 2 members must be from NANO/CENG department (committee chair and another member)
  3. Students must submit the M.S. Thesis Plan Form and notify Graduate Advising (, by the second week of the quarter if they plan to advance to M.S. candidacy. If a student has already advanced to M.S. candidacy and will be defending their M.S. Thesis, they must submit the M.S. Thesis Plan Form at least 4-5 weeks prior to the Thesis Exam date.
    1. This is to ensure all necessary arrangements can be made (review requirements, resolve any issues, submit the committee for constitution approval, submit forms for advancement to candidacy). Not notifying the department of your M.S. Thesis Exam or Advancement details in time may result in a delay of the exam.

Master’s thesis procedures can be found here. It is advised for Thesis students to plan ahead and make their preliminary and final review appointments with GEPA on the calendar as soon as they can for the quarter they want to graduate (these appointments are required by GEPA). Students do not have to wait until their paper is complete (at least 90%).

Thesis Defense Requirements

  1. Dissertation & Thesis Submission
  2. Master’s Thesis Plan
    1. The Thesis Defense must be held in person with the majority of the committee able to attend in person as well. If a member is unable to attend in-person, a request for exception and how/when that member will attend the defense, must be submitted to the Graduate Advisor for GAC approval.

Comprehensive Examination Plan II

This plan involves coursework only and culminates in a written comprehensive examination, offered only in the Spring, based on topics selected from the five (5) core courses

  1. Coursework is made up of the five (5) core courses (20 units) + four (4) elective courses (16 units)
    1. Restrictions are listed above in the Program and Course Requirements section
  2. Students are only allowed two (2) attempts to pass each course component. Failure to pass a course component after the second attempt may result in termination from the program.
    1. A passing score of at least 60%, in each component, is required for the M.S. degree program
    2. A passing score of at least 70%, in each component, is required to be eligible for the Ph.D. program
    3. If a student does not successfully pass the comprehensive exam, they are not allowed to switch to the M.S. Thesis Plan.

Students must submit the M.S. Comprehensive Exam Plan Form and notify Graduate Advising (, by the second week of the quarter if they plan to advance to M.S. candidacy.   If a student is requesting the M.S. degree, they must have already advanced to M.S. candidacy, and, must notify the Graduate Coordinator 4-5 weeks prior to the end of the completion quarter via the M.S. Comprehensive Exam Plan Form.

The CENG Comprehensive Exam will take place on Friday 4/19/2024.

Class schedule for the academic year is as follows:
(Subject to change, see Schedule of Classes for the most current course offerings.)

**CENG 205 is a non-degree fulfilling unit and required every quarter.

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Change of Degree

Upon completion of the M.S. degree requirements, students are not automatically eligible for admission to the Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Program. Students who wish to pursue a doctorate must find a faculty advisor who will serve as the student’s Ph.D. advisor and provide financial support, and notify the Graduate Coordinator. The Graduate Coordinator will verify the advisor’s role, financial support, and effective quarter and year of the degree aim change, and submit the request to the Graduate Affairs Committee for approval. Once approved, the Graduate Coordinator will submit a Degree Aim Change request for Department Approval. **Note: Students must pass the Comprehensive Exam with at least 70%, in each course component, to be eligible for the transition process.