MRSD Program - Frequently Asked Questions
- 1. How is the MRSD program different from other Master's programs offered?
- The MRSD program distinguishes itself by not only offering a quality
education in the sciences and technologies of robotics within The Robotics
Institute at CMU's School of Computer Science, but also by providing students
with extensive hands-on laboratory / project work coupled with invaluable
experience in project and business management. Students in this program will
get an experience unique to any other by being provided an opportunity to learn
the full spectrum of knowledge needed to succeed in today's extremely
competitive high-technology industry. Through a combination of three (3) semesters
of classroom learning, hands-on laboratory work, and an optional 3-month
summer internship, students will graduate and enter the working world operating at a higher technical / managerial level within a company armed with a well-rounded
education and background.
- As an example, the CMU Academic Master’s program is now slated to be a full 2-year (4 semesters) program, compared to the MRSD program, which is only 3 semesters (1.5 yrs.) in duration. The Academic Master’s program consists exclusively of in-class course-requirements, as well as the writing of a ‘thesis’ based on an advisor-provided topic/area. The MRSD program allows the students to practice their 1st-years classroom and hands-on learning during the optional summer internship, before returning to take a final semester of technical and business electives, shaped by the experience of on-the-job exposure. Inherent in this program-comparison is the difference in program-duration (4 semesters vs. 3 semesters), and thus the cost for each of the programs as well; see the following links for respective cost-comparison:
- M.Sc. (Academic Master’s) – Graduate SCS Rates: you have to multiply the academic-year costs by 2x for a 2-year Program).
- 2. Can foreign students (non-US
citizens) from outside the US apply to this program?
- Yes, we will be accepting applications and students from all foreign
countries. Students will be responsible for applying and receiving
visas in a timely manner to participate in the program. Please refer to
for more information.
- 3. Are there any minimum requirements
for the GRE and TOEFL (IBT or PBT)?
- The MRSD program acceptance weighs all elements of the application material. While we do not require a certain GRE score-level, their values are used in conjunction with (in no particular order) the statement of purpose, university transcripts, letters of reference and prior work experience (if applicable). Foreign students are required to achieve a minimum proficiency level in English, as measured by the TOEFL (IBT or PBT). We also accept IELTS scores in place of the TOEFL scores.
- 4. How long does it take to complete the program?
- The program consists of 3 semesters of study (~13 months) and a 3-month optional summer internship totaling 16 months.
- 5. How many credits does it take to
complete the MRSD degree?
- Carnegie Mellon uses units; one unit representing one hour of work per week
for the duration of the course. The MRSD program requires a total of 162 units
for degree completion.
- 6. Can the MRSD degree be completed with
- The MRSD program offers part-time status in this program, subject to
certain requirements. The part-time candidate has to apply and be
accepted into the MRSD program, and commit to completing the entire
coursework (incl. the internship) in no more than 36 months (3 calendar
years). At the discretion of the MRSD program office, internship credit
may be given for industrial-setting work-scope carried out in parallel
with part-time coursework, subject to industrial-partner and workscope
acceptance by the MRSD Program Director. No distance-learning option is
currently being offered, thereby requiring the student(s) to be present
on campus to complete their core / elective / laboratory and
business / management courses; the internship will need to be carried out
at an off-site location with an approved industrial partner. Part-time
students are expected to include local robotics / automation / industrial
company employees, CMU and other local-university employees, etc. The
MRSD program will not accept the enrollment of non-MRSD (accepted)
students in any of its offered courses (excl. electives).
- 7. How do students choose the company
for their optional summer internship?
- Participating companies/laboratories will provide brief overviews of their companies and products activities, to all students allowing them to form an impression of their choice internship companies. The MRSD will match students to companies using a simple "pairing" process. The MRSD Program Director, jointly with the various companies, shapes a suitable practicum scope for each student in the program choosing to do a summer internship. Students can also choose an automation / robotics company that they would like to do their internship with, including ones abroad. However, all internships must be approved by the MRSD Program Director based on an acceptable practicum effort agreed to between the MRSD Program Director and the respective companies, regardless of whether the internship is with a
company in the US or abroad.
- 8. Does CMU or the MRSD program offer
any financial aid for accepted students?
- This program does not currently offer any financial aid for its accepted
applicants. All accepted students are expected to be fully
self-supported, including tuition, fees and any additional costs for
room and board.
- 9. What is the program cost and how / when is it paid?
- Please refer to the tuition link on the main MRSD website within CMU for the current tuition and fee structure. Each semester's tuition is typically due to be paid in full at the beginning of each semester. For the MRSD program, the total cost will be payable in three installments, each at the beginning of each of the three (Fall / Spring / Fall) on-campus semesters.
- 10. Is the optional summer internship a paid-for
- The internship is (typically, but not necessarily) expected to be a paid-for arrangement, seeing as per IRS rules, the student is providing a service-of-value to the respective company, thus requiring consideration of compensation. The student and the respective company to be offering the internship are expected to
enter into a separate and stand-alone contractual employment / internship
arrangement spelling out the relevant employment conditions. The financial (or other) compensation arrangement is thus left to be negotiated between the student and the company itself.
- 11. Do you accept transfer credits
from other universities for courses previously taken?
- Due to the variety of course-content, university teaching levels and
foreign/national standard differences, the MRSD program will not
accept any transfer credits. The MRSD courses are tailored to a specific
content not typically available in other programs resulting in an
unlikely acceptance of transfer credits. However, the MRSD Program
Director, may at his / her own discretion, suggest a potential student be
given potential credit, assuming (1) the student provides
sufficiently-detailed descriptions of the previously taken course
(syllabus, etc.), (2) said student be willing to take and successfully
pass a commensurate final exam in the offered MRSD course, as given by
the course instructor, and / or (3) successfully pass a verbal and
interactive discussion/review/test on the various subjects taught in a
particular course, as administered by the respective faculty member
teaching said course. Students should assume that these waivers or
transfer-credits will not be given, and that such consideration will
only be given at the sole discretion of the MRSD Program Director.
- 12. What is the Technology
Development Plan (TDP) all about?
- A TDP is not to be confused with a Business Plan as typically defined
within an MBA setting. The TDP is a written document that fully details
the what / how / when to take a new / modified product idea from concept
through to production and sales. It will offer a technical system
solution based on market needs, customer requirements, competition,
development resources (people, and costs), development timelines and
associated production, pricing and sales needs. Students will form teams
to work on a specific project defined by the responsible faculty member
and/or through suggestions from MRSD-affiliated companies. The project
may involve the development or improvement of a new product or feature
to an existing product. Teams will be required to develop a feasible
solution based on an analysis of alternatives, consider market needs,
customer requirements, market competition, production constraints, cost
and pricing drivers, as well as marketing and sales / support
strategies. In addition, a complete and reasonable technology
development / product realization timeline (tasks, resources,
milestones, etc.) and task structure has to be developed and associated
costs-to-market estimates developed. All this information has to be
structured in a TDP, which will not only be submitted in written form,
but will also be presented by the team orally in an all-hands meeting
attended by all students, faculty and MRSD Program Staff. The entire
team will receive one grade from the instructing faculty member which
will represent their grade for the two-semester Mini-Course (Mini-1 and
- 13. What does it take to graduate?
- A successful candidate will need to have completed all courses, including the core and electives as well as the lab/project course, with a passing grade. Furthermore, the TDP will have to have been submitted (written and oral presentation) and graded with a passing grade. Effective Fall 2014, all core courses (incl. the project and business-seminar courses) must be completed with at least a "B-" (individual grade – not cumulative) to be considered as a passing grade, allowing the course to be counted towards the MRSD course requirement. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Failure to complete any one of these will not allow the candidate to receive their MRSD degree nor diploma from CMU.
- 14. Does the MRSD Program Office
offer any job placement support?
- No. However, CMU has several annual job fairs and job-placement
for CMU students. Note further that one of the main benefits of the MRSD-optional internship, is that the student is offered an invaluable chance to work for a company in their field of interest under company-favorable conditions, offering in essence a tremendous opportunity to the candidate to showcase his / her capabilities, subject matter mastery and learned business / management skills, thereby dramatically improving their potential of being considered for a
potential job opening at their respective company upon graduation.
- 15. How will the MRSD better position me for the future?
- The MRSD degree offers substantial value to all graduates. In less than 16 months the knowledge you gain will set you apart from the competition. Your technical knowledge will apply to most high-technology industries. Learning business principles and critical thinking will allow you to manage a complete concept-to-project plan. The hands-on development techniques you've learned will enable you to move projects from theory to reality and your team management skills will ease the transition from prototype to commercialization. Everything you've
learned can be immediately applied in a practicum with an industry-leading company providing validation, exposure, and immediate financial return on your investment in the MRSD degree program.
- 16. Would it be recommended to secure a summer internship position?
- While the MRSD curriculum does not require students secure an internship in the summer between their 2nd and 3rd semesters, it is highly recommended that students obtain some form of practical real-world experience as soon as possible. The MRSD Program Office and its Director will actively support students in identifying and securing an internship with the companies listed as internship partners on the MRSD website (http://www.ri.cmu.edu/ri_static_content.html?menu_id=444) . Students can thus gain insight into a company, technical area or business segment, which will help them further guide their future career focus and choices, as well as allow them to judiciously target (in terms of focus, breadth and depth) their technical elective choices in the 3rd and final semester.
- 17. How many courses can/should I take within/outside of the MRSD curriculum? Any suggestions and ramifications?
- The MRSD curriculum,as spelled out on the MRSD website, has both core- and elective courses. The course load is extremely high and considered more demanding time-wise than the other academic graduate degrees in RI. The MRSD Program Office thus discourages students from signing up for additional courses outside of those required for the MRSD degree (both core and elective), as a student’s main objective should be to complete all required / elective courses with passing grades while maximizing their learning experience within each of these courses. Students may however still decide to sign up for an additional course (whether audited or for credit) during their tenure at CMU (both Fall, Spring and Summer).
NOTE: Any additional course taken outside of the core MRSD-curriculum and its required technical and business (12-unit) electives, will not be covered by the tuition paid for the MRSD degree, and thus will incur an additional per-unit cost the student will be required to pay at the beginning of the term in which said additional course is taken. The additional per-unit tuition cost for courses outside of the required MRSD curriculum, is detailed in the tuition-section of the program website.
- 18. Can/should I apply for a Ph.D. program after the MRSD degree? Do any courses form the MRSD count towards the RI Ph.D.?
- Anyone is perfectly free to apply for the RI Ph.D. degree program at any point in their career. Note that the MRSD program is primarily slated as a professional master’s degree, intended to provide a mix of technical and business training to first-/early-entry career professionals to better prepare them for the business- or start-up environment. The MRSD program should not be viewed as a preparatory or stepping-stone degree program for the RI Ph.D. program, but rather as a stand-alone degree program for those primarily interested in a professional career-track (in an existing technology-centric company or start-up; not necessarily even in robotics!).
Admission to the MRSD program does not in any way signify admission to the M.Sc. nor the Ph.D. program. Admission to those programs is distinct and separate, and before being considered a Ph.D. degree candidate, a student would have to distinctly apply, and be admitted into the RI Ph.D. program. Each of RI’s graduate programs (M.Sc., MRSD, MS-RT, Ph.D.) are distinct, separate and have their own application-steps, admission criteria, selection-processes and admission decisions.
Whether any course from the MRSD applies to the RI Ph.D. program depends on what courses are listed in the RI Ph.D. program course requirements and are further subject to the approval of the Ph.D. Program Committee.
- 19. Why do you offer a business-course choice in the 3rd (Fall) semester?
- First of all we want to retain the techno-business blend of the program and thus require students to take at least one business-focused course per term they are resident and on campus.
Presuming the student has taken advantage of the optional summer internship, it is expected that he/she will have gained valuable insight in how business-decisions drive technical development agendas. At such a point, it is valuable to the student to potentially deepen their expertise in a particular business-area they realize will be of significance in their future career – hence the option to choose a particular business-focus course (elective).
However, many students would also take tremendous benefit from a course focused on the team-based teaching approach of a case-study development process. The notion is to develop a complete case with options and decision-paths, for an interested industry partner. Unlike typical case-studies where students are always presented with case-data and are simply asked to analyze and propose/decide on viable paths, this course is intended to teach and guide students in actually developing the necessary data to allow them to develop potential solutions and decision-paths. It is hence more than just an analytical team-based exercise – it represents a real-world process all of them will face in their careers multiple times.