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Master’s Program

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Our Master of Science program is based on the completion of lecture courses focused on a theme within the discipline of Aeronautics and Astronautics engineering. No thesis is required. No research is required.

The master’s degree program requires 45 quarter units of course work, which must be taken at Stanford. The course work is divided into four categories: basic courses, mathematics courses, technical electives and other electives.

Basic courses

MS candidates must select eight courses as follows:

Five courses in the basic areas of Aeronautics and Astronautics (one in each area)

  1. Fluids: 200 (Applied Aerodynamics), 210A (Fundamentals of Compressible Flow)
  2. Structures: 240 (Analysis of Structures)
  3. Guidance and Control: ENGR 105 (Feedback Control Design), ENGR 205 (Introduction to Control Design Techniques)
  4. Propulsion: 283 (Propulsion)
  5. Experimentation/Design Requirements (PDF)

A maximum of three independent study/research units (AA 290 or independent study in another department) may count toward your MS program. If you fulfill your Experimentation/Design requirement with a course other than AA290 (or equivalent from another department), it is possible to count AA 290 as a technical or free elective.

Three courses, one each from three of the four areas below

  1. Fluids: 200 (Applied Aerodynamics), 210A (Fundamentals of Compressible Flow), or 244A (Introduction to Plasma Physics and Engineering)
  2. Structures: 242B (Mechanical Vibrations), 256 (Mechanics of Composites), or 280 (Smart Structures)
  3. Guidance, Navigation, Dynamics, and Control: 242A (Classical Dynamics), 242B (Mechanical Vibrations), 251 (Introduction to the Space Environment), 271A (Dynamics and Control of Spacecraft and Aircraft), 272 (Global Positioning Systems), 274 (Principles of Robot Autonomy), 277 (Multi-robot Control, Communication, and Sensing), or 279A (Space Mechanics)
  4. One course selected from A/A courses numbered 200 and above, excluding seminars and independent research.

Students who believe they have satisfied Basic Course requirements previously may request a waiver of one or more courses. (See “Waivers and Transfer Credits” below.)

Mathematics courses

MS candidates are expected to exhibit competence in applied mathematics. Students meet this requirement by taking two courses — a minimum of six units — of either advanced mathematics offered by the Mathematics Department or technical electives that strongly emphasize methods of applied mathematics. Common choices include:

  • AA203 - Introduction to Optimal Control and Dynamic Optimization
  • AA212 - Analysis and Design of Multivariable Feedback Systems
  • AA214 - Numerical Methods for Compressible Flows
  • AA218 - Introduction to Symmetry Analysis
  • AA222 - Introduction to Multidisciplinary Design Optimization
  • AA228 - Decision Making under Uncertainty
  • AA229 - Advanced Topics in Sequential Decision Making
  • AA242B - Mechanical Vibrations

The list of mathematics courses in the department’s handbook (PDF) has additional suggestions, and includes all courses in mathematics numbered 200 or above. In order to use applied mathematics courses not on either list to fulfill this requirement, prior approval should be obtained from the student's advisor and the candidacy chair. (Note: Calculus, ordinary differential equations and vector analysis are fundamental math prerequisitesand will not satisfy the mathematics requirement. They may be counted only as a free elective.)

A maximum of three independent study/research units (AA 290 or independent study in another department) may count toward your MS program. If you fulfill your Experimentation/Design requirement with a course other than AA 290 (or equivalent from another department), it is possible to count AA 290 as a technical or free elective.

Technical electives

Students, in consultation with their advisor, will select at least four courses* from among the graduate-level courses, totaling at least 12 units, from departments in the School of Engineering and related science departments. Normally, one course (3 units) may be directed research. These courses should be taken for a grade (student should not elect the credit/no-credit option for any course except free elective).

*Up to three seminar units may count toward your MS program, and will be counted as one technical elective. At least three additional graduate courses offered in Engineering or related math/science departments should be taken to meet the technical elective section requirement.

Other electives

It is recommended that all candidates enroll in a humanities or social sciences course to complete the 45-unit requirement. Practicing courses in, for example, art, music and physical education, do not qualify in this category. Language courses may qualify.

Waivers and transfers of credit

Waivers of the basic courses required in the MS program can be granted only by the instructor of that course. Students who believe that they have had a substantially equivalent course at another institution should consult with the course instructor to determine if they are eligible for a waiver, and with their advisor to judge the effect on their overall program plans. To request a waiver officially, students should fill out a petition for waiver form (reverse side of the department's program proposal) and have it approved by the instructor and their advisor. One additional technical elective must be added for each basic course that is waived.

ENGR105 will be waived if ENGR205 has been passed.

Stanford University does not allow transfer credit for master’s students.

Program proposal for master’s degree

Each master’s student must submit a master’s program proposal by the last day of classes in the first quarter of study. It must be signed by the advisor, then submitted to the Aero/Astro Student Services Office for the candidacy chair’s approval signature. This first submission is intended as a planning document to ensure that the student has identified at least one plan of study that meets all department and university requirements and that also fits the student's own abilities and interests. Recommended timing: the student should discuss several versions of this overall plan with the advisor when choosing classes for the first quarter; then schedule an appointment for just after midterms to work out a detailed course plan for future quarters and file an official program proposal for department review and approval.

Any changes to the program of study should be made in consultation with the advisor and the student services administrator. Such changes may be made more than once, but the final program proposal must be filed early in the quarter in which the degree is to be conferred. The changed program of study should be summarized on a program proposal marked “Revision,” signed by the advisor and submitted to the Aero/Astro Student Services Office for the candidacy chair’s approval signature. The MS degree cannot be conferred unless the student has successfully completed all courses on the most recent, fully approved program proposal.

Research opportunities

No thesis is required, but there is an opportunity for students to become involved in research projects during their master’s year(s). Students interested in this opportunity should make arrangements with a faculty member to supervise their research and enroll in AA290 to receive academic credit. Students can count up to 3 units of research towards their MS degree.

Part-time master’s degree program

Only applicants for the part-time master’s degree program for working professionals (HCP) are considered quarterly. Prospective HCP students follow the same admissions process and must meet the same admissions requirements as full-time graduate students.

Degree completion

A minimum letter grade average of 2.75 is required to fulfill the department’s master’s degree requirements. A 3.5 is the minimum required for eligibility to attempt the PhD qualifying examination. Students must also meet the university's quarterly academic requirements for graduate students, as described in the Bulletin and in the Satisfactory Progress section of the Guide to Graduate Studies in Aeronautics and Astronautics. All courses (excluding seminars) used to satisfy the requirements for basic courses, mathematics and technical electives must be taken for a letter grade.

For midyear degrees, the date of conferral is early the quarter after degree completion. Students who have no outstanding Stanford obligations (financial or academic) may obtain an official “certificate of completion” from the Graduate Degree Progress Office at any time after finishing. Diplomas are printed only once a year, for distribution at Commencement in June.

Once students have begun study for the master’s, they have three years to complete the degree (five years for Honors Cooperative students). This time is not extended by leaves of absence.

Study after the master’s degree

Students wishing to continue at Stanford after receiving the MS degree must be approved for further study during their final master's quarter. (This includes approval for the Engineer's degree or PhD in Aero/Astro, or for a degree in another department.) In order to stay here, a graduate program authorization form should be fully approved and filed at the Registrar’s Office before the MS is conferred.

Students who are not citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. will need to verify their funding for the new degree and update their visa documentation as part of the graduate program authorization procedure. Appropriate forms are available from the Bechtel International Center. Support from research assistantships can be verified by the professor providing support, and the Student Services Office can verify course assistantships. For personal funding or other support, inquire at the Bechtel International Center about the proper source for verification.