Future Students FAQ

You have questions, we have answers! 

What is Materials Science and Engineering? 

  • Materials Science and Engineering is not a discipline most people hear about prior to entering the college of engineering. So what is it that we do? Materials engineers ask questions such as:
    • What is this thing made up of? Why is this thing made up of this? What does this mean about the properties? Can we change them? What’s the best way to make this thing? What’s the best material to use in this project?
  • We answer these questions by looking at the characteristics of a material. By identifying the material’s characteristics, we can look at composition, microstructure, how it is made, and how it performs. 

How does MSE at NC State compare to other departments?

  • The mission of the NC State Department of Materials Science and Engineering is to provide students with a sound materials science and engineering education, advance the understanding and application of scientific principles, enhance economic development, and improve the quality of life of our citizens through teaching, research, and outreach programs.
  • Materials Science and Engineering at NC State is a small and friendly department, and we are consistently ranked in the top 20 nationally by US News and World Report. Students, professors and professional staff all get to know each other. There is plenty of opportunity for personal attention, for learning, for professional growth and for social gathering.

What is the difference between Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering?

  • While both require a strong foundation in chemistry, chemical engineers focus on things like chemical process design and thermodynamics, and drug delivery while materials scientists take a more micro-scale approach focusing on characterization, composition, and function of a material. 

How do I visit the NC State MSE Department?

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How do I apply for an MSE degree? 

  • Application for admission to NC State is handled at the university level.  Once admitted and enrolled, students apply to join the MSE department by meeting the College of Engineering’s Change of Degree Application (CODA) requirements.
  • All entering engineering freshmen are classified as “Engineering First-Year” (EFY) students with no direct acceptance into degree-granting programs. However, students can list their intended engineering degree and will be assigned an advisor in the intended program. 

I am already at NC State. How do I apply to join MSE? 

  • Students begin the Change of Degree Application (CODA) process after they have successfully completed the CODA Success courses with a grade of C or better and have maintained a GPA greater than or equal to 2.0. 
  • The CODA Success courses are: 
    • MA 141 – Calculus I
    • MA 241 – Calculus II
    • PY 205 – Physics for Engineers and Scientists I
    • PY 206 – Physics for Engineers and Scientists I Laboratory
    • CH 101 – Chemistry – A Molecular Science
    • CH 102 – General Chemistry Laboratory
  • In addition to the Success courses listed above, students will be required to complete the following courses, with a C minus or better.
    • ENG 101 – Academic Writing and Research
    • E 101 – Introduction to Engineering and Problem Solving
      1. Note: Students who did not start as freshmen in the College of Engineering are not required nor permitted to enroll in E 101.
    • E 115 – Introduction to Computing Environments
  • Learn more about CODA at NC State. 

Can I start my MSE degree in the spring?

  • There are three CODA cycles per year. MSE admits students during all three cycles. 
  • Learn more about CODA at NC State. 

Are there any concentration options?

  • In addition to the general MSE B.S. degree, MSE offers two concentration options: 
    • Nanomaterials: provides a background in materials science and engineering and emphasizes understanding materials at-length scaled sizes of individual atoms and molecules of a material in ultra-thin films, nanowires, and nanoparticles. Properties from materials at these scales can differ from those observed in bulk specimens, while material structure engineering at the nanoscale can influence bulk structural and functional properties. 
    • Biomaterials: provides a background in materials science and engineering and introduces elements of biology to illustrate how materials interact with the body and how they can enhance quality of life. 

What courses will an MSE student take?

  • Materials engineers at NC State are trained to understand the wide range of phenomena that occur in all classes of materials; metals, polymers, composites, ceramics and electronic materials. Often, classes are based in chemistry, math, and physics. 
  • Two laboratory courses introduce students to analytical methods used to characterize the structure of materials at all length scales and to measure properties of all classes of materials.  
  • Cutting-edge concepts like nanotechnology, biomaterials, computer modeling, and forensics (materials degradation and failure analysis) are dispersed throughout junior and senior-level courses.
  • Five engineering and technical electives give students flexibility to customize their education with regard to interests and career goals.
  • The two-semester senior design sequence provides a bridge between learning and practical application as teams of students work on real-world materials problems submitted by local industry partners. 
  • View the curriculum for each of our three degree options below: 

Is it possible to do a minor with a B.S. in MSE degree? What minors go well with the MSE degree?

  • Yes, with careful planning it is possible to add a minor onto your B.S. in MSE degree. 
  • The most popular minors for MSE students include mathematics and physics because some required courses can double count as MSE technical electives.
  • Minors outside of STEM may require additional time to complete since there is not an overlap in course requirements. For example, a minor in business administration is helpful for students who plan to get an MBA.
  • For more information visit the NC State Minors website.

Does MSE have an Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s program? 

  • Yes. The Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) program gives NC State’s top-performing undergraduate Materials Science and Engineering students the opportunity to earn an additional master’s degree in one year. The major benefit is that up to four graduate courses (12 credit hours) taken while the student is still an undergraduate may be counted towards both their bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.
  • Students are eligible to apply after completing 75 hours (recommended fall of junior year).
  • Learn More.

Can I choose between the thesis and non-thesis master’s programs?

When should I apply? When is it “too late” for me to apply?

  • You must have completed 75 credit hours in order to apply. It is recommended you apply during the fall semester of your junior year. The latest you can apply is during January of the spring semester of your junior year.

Can I count a 400-level course if it is also offered at the 500-level (example: MSE 440/540)?

  • No, you must take 500-level (or 700-level) courses for them to count towards the ABM program.

Can I take graduate courses outside of MSE?

  • A minimum of 18 credit hours must be from MSE 500-level and 700-level courses. The remaining hours may come from graduate-level courses in other technical disciplines.

Do the regular graduate school application deadlines apply to the ABM program? 

  • You can apply anytime but applications will only be considered around the deadline dates (March 1 for Summer/Fall and October 1 for Spring).

How many graduate courses should I take each semester during my undergraduate studies?

  • The standard advice given is that the ABM applicant should not underestimate the difficulty of graduate coursework. It is common to expect a standard graduate course to take 50% more time (or even greater) than a standard undergraduate course. The following combination of undergraduate/graduate courses may be regarded as a full-time load for an undergraduate student:
    • One graduate course and three undergraduate courses
    • Two graduate courses and two undergraduate courses
    • Two graduate courses and the senior design course

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I would like to minor in Materials Science and Engineering. What do I need to do?

  • The minimum admission requirements for the MSE minor are: 
    • Cumulative GPA greater or equal to 2.0
    • C- or better in MSE 200 or MSE 201
  • The minor declaration process is now a part of the CODA application process in MyPack Portal. Instructions can be found on the NC State Student Services website

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Does MSE have scholarships available? 

  • Students should complete the online scholarship eligibility form every year to apply for all College of Engineering (COE) and MSE scholarships.
  • MSE and COE scholarships are awarded only to students who have formally joined the MSE program through the CODA process.
  • About 15% of MSE students received some type of COE or MSE scholarship.
  • Odds of receiving a scholarship vary by year. GPA (cumulative and major), financial need, personal statement, and classification are strongly weighted in the awarding process.
  • Availability of funds determines the number and amount of new scholarships awarded each year.

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What NC State resources are available for funding? 

What internship and research opportunities are there for MSE students?

  • NC State MSE prides itself on providing high-impact opportunities for our undergraduate students. About 70% of our students participate in an internship opportunity at companies such as ATI, BASF, Cree, Exxon, Intel, and Nav-air.
  • Over 65% of students participate in undergraduate research with a professor in the fields of energy materials, computational materials science, materials characterization, soft materials and biomaterials, electronic optical and magnetic materials, and structural materials. 

What other ways can I get involved with MSE?

  • The student club Material Advantage creates connections with materials professional societies and introduces students to the world of materials science after graduation. 
  • Materials Ambassadors are in charge of creating community-building events for students and sometimes staff to engage with each other out of a classroom setting. 

Can I study abroad? 

  • Yes! However, you must start planning early. There are short-term (summer) and semester program options available. Learn more about study abroad at NC State and discuss your options with your academic advisor.

What is a co-op?

  • A co-op is a structured, university-approved work program designed to allow students to alternate semesters of school and paid work in their field of study. 
  • Co-ops are preferably a minimum of 3 alternating semesters of work.
  • During semesters of work, students enroll in a zero-credit co-op class (COP ***) that allows them to maintain continuous enrollment. 
  • Co-op generally requires one extra year in school to complete the program, and the time spent working can be applied toward a professional engineering license. 
  • Students should apply for the co-op program after they have applied for CODA and officially joined the MSE program.
  • For more information about co-op and to register for an information session, visit the co-op website

What else adds value to our degrees?


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Do most MSE students go to graduate school or get a job right after graduation?

  • It is more common for students to go directly to graduate school after graduation than getting a job before going back to school.
  • More than 25% of all MSE B. S. degree recipients are enrolled in a graduate degree program at places such as MIT, UC Berkeley, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Purdue, and NC State. 

What types of jobs do Materials Scientists have?

  • An MSE degree is interdisciplinary and, upon graduation, will qualify you for a variety of jobs with an average starting salary of $60-70k per year.
  • Example Job Titles: 
    • Product Engineer, Metallurgist Engineer, Quality Control Engineer, Failure Analysis Engineer, Renewable Energy Materials Engineer, Biomaterial Engineer, Polymer Materials Engineer, and Project Manager
  • Example Job Description:
    • Identify and produce a diverse range of materials for applications of interest 
    • Develop and improve methods for the analysis of complex materials
    • Assist in the selection of materials for product application, the calculation of design parameters, the performance of material properties testing
    • Apply scientific methods to resolve technical challenges related to materials and their use in products & processes
  • What can I do with a Nanomaterials Concentration?
    • Graduates of the Nanomaterials Concentration will be well prepared for a career working with materials that support nanotechnology industries including electronics, structural materials, and pharmaceuticals. 
  • What can I do with a Biomaterials Concentration
    • Graduates of the Biomaterials Concentration will be well suited for a career in medical device and medical technology industries that require an understanding of materials selection, processing, and characterization. 
Still have questions? Ask MSE