Graduate Degrees in H&H at UW, Frequently Asked Questions


  • I would like to do a research master’s degree. Is your program for me?

    We recommend that students interested in research select the PhD program, with the reason being that the most exciting research takes over a year to learn and become proficient enough to do independent research. We have a non-thesis 1-year masters track for people who are interested in getting an M.S. and getting a government, county, or industry job, as this gets students into a well-paying job quickly, which pays off in the long term.

  • What if I’m not sure whether I want a PhD?

    If you know you like research but are on the fence between a PhD and an M.S., we ask that you indicate the PhD program on your application, and then, if you decide part way through that you don't want a research career, you can exit with a research M.S.. Of course, if you are certain you want an M.S., we request that you don’t deliberately plan to go this route.

  • How do I know if the department/advisor/research is a good fit for me?

    We typically invite our top-ranked applicants to visit the department in early February. If you are being considered for admission, you will have time to meet with everyone and make sure that the fit and the project are a good match for you. For international students and those who are not able to visit, we will arrange for video-conversations to get all of your questions answered before you decide whether or not to accept an admission offer.

  • I would like to call or zoom before I apply to the program.

    In a spirit of fairness to all applicants, we generally do not arrange for phone or extensive electronic communications prior to reviewing applications. We encourage students to contact professors of interest to see if they are looking for new students in this cycle and if they think that a student’s specific background would be a good fit. However, please be aware that most extended conversations will take place after all applications are reviewed.

  • My undergraduate degree is from a department other than Civil Engineering. Should I apply to your program?

    We accept students from a wide range of backgrounds. However, you should check whether you have the prerequisites for our program. Many students complete their math through differential equations and calculus-based physics classes in community college during the same year they apply. If this is your plan, please specify it in the essay in your application. In special circumstances (where a student cannot enroll in fluid mechanics outside of our program), we may allow students to complete fluid mechanics during their first quarter in residence at UW.

  • I was offered admission to the coursework track masters program, but I really want to do research and get a Ph.D. Should I enroll in the nonthesis masters program?

    Research opportunities arise throughout the year and not always in concert with the admission cycle. Therefore, on average, we will move one nonthesis student into the thesis-based program each year. If you are interested in this, please let your professors know and demonstrate your skills by doing very well in your classes. Because often more than one student per year is interested in such a transfer, we also recommend that you apply to other PhD programs. Demonstrated success in our masters level classes can make you a more competitive applicant in PhD programs across the country.

  • I know I want a masters thesis (not a Ph.D.), but I also want some research experience. What research opportunities are there for nonthesis masters students?

    We incorporate project-based research in most of the required classes in the program. Most of these take the form of original data analysis, computer programming, term papers and/or oral presentations. Past students in the program have highlighted these projects on resumes and in portfolios as a way to demonstrate skills to employers. In addition to this, many students attend research group meetings and work hourly on research projects. If you are eligible for work study financial aid, this is an excellent way to get an hourly position in research.

  • I’m getting my B.S. from UW CEE and am trying to decide where to apply for my M.S. – what are the pros and cons of staying here for the M.S.?

    Pros for staying at UW: If you have enough units already for your B.S., you may be able to take some graduate level classes during your senior year and apply those towards your M.S. degree. If you want to get a job in the Seattle area, our program directly feeds into local jobs. If you never want to leave Seattle, you can stay. Reasons not to stay at UW: You likely know the professors here. Going to another university for your MS can expose you to a wider range of expertise and opinions and broaden your knowledge. Spending time in another region is also very educational (both personally and professionally), as problems and opinions vary widely, and can broaden your network and opportunities for jobs.