Faculty of Engineering minimum requirements

The following sections describe minimum requirements for graduate programs in the Faculty of Engineering. Departments may have additional requirements and/or higher standards.

Admission requirements

For Master’s and Diploma program applicants who completed their previous relevant degree at a Canadian institution, the Faculty of Engineering requires a minimum overall average of 75% either over 4 years or a minimum overall average of 75% over the last 2 years for admission. For all other applicants, the Faculty of Engineering requires a minimum overall average of 75% over 4 years in the applicant’s previous relevant program for admission.

For PhD and Non-degree program applicants the Faculty of Engineering requires the University standard of a minimum overall average of 75% in the applicant’s previous relevant program for admission. Some departments and programs have additional requirements and/or require a higher admission average.

Applicants to Master’s or Diploma programs who do not meet the required minimum overall average may be considered for probationary admission if they meet at least one of the following conditions:

  1. A minimum of 78% average in the last year of their bachelor’s program (including all credit courses);
  2. At least three years of relevant industrial or professional experience following the completion of a bachelor’s degree.

The minimum overall degree requirements for probationary students are identical to those of regular students. However, probationary students may be required to complete undergraduate or graduate courses additional to those required of regular Master's students. In addition, at least the first two courses of a probationary student's program should be specified in writing at the time of departmental recommendation for admission. These courses should not be taught by the student’s supervisor and the student will need to achieve a minimum grade of 75% (Departments may specify a higher minimum grade in the offer letter) in each course in order to continue in the Master's program as regular students. If the student fails to achieve the required grades their status must be reviewed by the Department Graduate Studies Committee. Normally a student will not continue on probationary status for more than two terms. A student cannot go inactive until their probationary requirements have been cleared.

Probationary admission is not permitted for Doctoral programs.

Course requirements

At least half of the courses for the minimum degree requirements must normally be Faculty of Engineering Graduate Courses.

Course grades

A grade of less than 65% in any graduate course offered within the Faculty of Engineering is considered a failed course. Students in the Faculty of Engineering are required to maintain a cumulative program average of at least 70% to remain in their program. Some programs may have higher required grades and cumulative averages.

If a student fails a course, or their average falls below their program's required minimum, they will automatically undergo a formal academic review by the Graduate Studies Committee within their Department. The outcome of this review will either be (i) a decision to permit the student to remain in the program which will normally also include placing the student on Academic Probation and declaring how and when the student must clear the probationary conditions; or (ii) recommending to the Associate Dean that the student be required to withdraw from the program.

Maximum number of courses taken per term

There is a maximum number of courses in which students registered in the Faculty of Engineering may enroll each term. This maximum applies to both course- and thesis-based students, in both the Master's and PhD programs.

Full-time students may enroll in a maximum of 1.75 credits of courses (typical full term graduate courses have 0.5 credits, implying a maximum of three 0.5 weight courses) per term, except students in the MArch program within the School of Architecture who (due to differences in course weights), may enroll in maximum of 3.0 credits of courses per term. Additionally, students enrolled in the MBET program within the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business will be exempt from the Faculty maximums due to differences in program structure and may only enroll in prescribed courses as per departmental procedure.

Part-time students may enroll in a maximum of 0.75 credits (e.g. one 0.5 weight course) per term. Similarly to full-time students, MArch and MBET students have alternative part-time maximums due to differences in program structure.

Departments may impose lower maximum values for specific programs. Program specific requirements can be found in the relevant sections of this calendar. It is the student's responsibility to become aware of requirements associated with their specific program.

In exceptional circumstance, full-time students may request to register in an additional course, but this must be approved by the course instructor, the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies using the Graduate studies course drop/add form.

Program-specific course requirements

For all thesis-based programs, the course plan is established by the student, their supervisor, and if deemed necessary, with the departmental Associate Chair, Graduate Studies.

Master’s Programs (including MASc, MEng, MMSc, and MArch)

A minimum of two-thirds of the courses used for credit towards a Master’s degree must be taken from 600 and 700 series graduate courses.

Master’s students may be permitted to take a limited number of 500 series courses (400 series in Electrical and Computer Engineering), where 500 series courses are senior undergraduate courses.

Doctoral Programs

PhD candidates possessing a Master’s degree in an appropriate discipline are required to take a minimum of three courses at the 600 or 700 level. Departments may require students to take more than three courses.

Generally, candidates with a Master’s degree cannot complete a 500-level course towards their PhD degree requirements. The inclusion of a 500 level course for credit must be recommended by the candidate’s supervisor and the home department’s Associate Chair, Graduate Studies prior to enrolling in the course, and it must be approved by the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies.

PhD candidates without a completed Master’s degree in an appropriate discipline are required to complete at least seven courses, of which a minimum of five must be at the 600 or 700 level. Up to two 500-level courses can be completed towards the candidate’s program requirements. The inclusion of additional 500 level courses for credit must be recommended by the candidate’s supervisor and the home department’s Associate Chair, Graduate Studies prior to enrolling in the course, and it must be approved by the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies.

In all cases, departments may have more restrictive policies on the types of courses that may be used for  credit towards a degree.

Courses taught by supervisor or co-supervisor

To ensure students receive a diversity of experience in teaching methods, academic feedback, and evaluations, the Faculty of Engineering requires that at least one half of the course credits required as part of the student’s program be taught by instructors other than the student’s supervisor or co-supervisor(s). In the case where a student has two or more co-supervisors and there is compelling academic justification, a student can petition their Department and the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies to reduce this requirement and thereby receive credit for additional courses taught by the student’s supervisors. This petition should be submitted prior to enrolling in a course for which credit is desired.

MASc thesis acceptance and examination

Master's degree with thesis

In the Faculty of Engineering, the required display period for the MASc thesis is fifteen business days.

MASc Thesis Committee  

The purpose of the Thesis Committee is to evaluate the student’s scholarly work which is the culmination of the research. In the Faculty of Engineering, the Thesis Committee (in some departments called the Reading Committee and in others the Examining Committee) will consist of a minimum of two examiners who are not the student’s supervisor(s). The Faculty of Engineering has adopted the University regulations regarding committee composition.

It is the responsibility of the student’s supervisor or the Departmental Graduate Officer to identify appropriate members for the Thesis Committee.

Departments may set additional requirements. Please check the relevant sections of this calendar for further information, or with the appropriate department authority. It is the student's responsibility to become aware of requirements which are in addition to the stated minima.

PhD Comprehensive Examination milestone

PhD students in the Faculty of Engineering are required to successfully complete the PhD Comprehensive Examination milestone.

The PhD Comprehensive Examination consists of an oral examination conducted at the University of Waterloo with the candidate and members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee present. In the Faculty of Engineering, the examination serves to determine that PhD students have:

  1. The capacity to communicate clearly in both oral and written form;
  2. The appropriate breadth and depth of knowledge of the field of study and the background necessary to be successful in their PhD program; and
  3. Developed a research proposal that is novel, is of the appropriate scope for a PhD, and is likely to be feasible (e.g. required resources are available; candidate has appropriate knowledge/skill, etc.).

The format of the comprehensive examination may vary by department. In some departments, there is a single examination which addresses all three of the purposes listed above. In other departments, the PhD Comprehensive Examination is divided into two separate milestones, with the first focusing on the background preparation of the student (items 1 and 2 from the list above) and the second focusing on the research proposal (items 1 and 3 from the list above). The Comprehensive Examining Committee requirements described below do not apply to the committee for the Background Exam for Departments which have two separate milestones.

Comprehensive Examining Committee  

In Engineering, the Comprehensive Examining Committee will consist of a minimum of three examiners (one more than the University minimum requirements) in addition to the student’s supervisor(s). These examiners must satisfy the following conditions:

  • must hold a PhD or equivalent degree;
  • at most one can hold an adjunct appointment or emeritus status;
  • at least one, in addition to the supervisor, must be from the student’s home department and hold a tenure or tenure track position;  
  • at least one must be from outside the student’s home department.

It is the responsibility of the student’s supervisor to recommend appropriate members for the Examining Committee. The composition of the comprehensive examining committee will be approved by the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies for the student’s Faculty, or delegate.

The comprehensive exam shall be chaired by a tenured or tenure-track faculty member at the University of Waterloo with Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervision (ADDS) status, normally external to the student’s home Department/School. The Chair is a non-voting member of the comprehensive examining committee.

Research Proposal requirements

The research proposal will consist of a double spaced report of no more than 50 pages including tables, diagrams, and references.

The proposal should:

  1. identify the research problem,
  2. review the relevant literature,
  3. describe the approach that is proposed to solve the problem and how this approach and/or the expected outcomes are novel,
  4. identify resources (e.g. data, equipment, space, etc.) that will be needed to carry out the research and how these resources have been or will be acquired, and
  5. propose a timetable for the completion of the project, including the defense of the PhD thesis. With approval from their supervisor, a student may wish to distribute background working papers to members of the Committee to provide further evidence of background preparation.

As per University regulations, students are required to ensure that the research proposal does not violate academic integrity, including plagiarism.

Distributing the proposal

Students must submit a copy of their proposal to each member of their committee at least two weeks before the date of the comprehensive examination.

Departments may set additional requirements. Please check the relevant sections of this calendar for further information, or with the appropriate department authority. It is the student's responsibility to become aware of any department requirements which are in addition to the stated Faculty of Engineering minima.

Comprehensive Examination timeline

Students enrolled in a PhD program in the Faculty of Engineering must complete their Comprehensive Examination by the end of the term specified below. Note that all students, regardless of PhD program, must have their Comprehensive Examination complete before the end of their 7th term of enrolment otherwise they will be required to withdraw from their program.

Table of Comprehensive Examination timelines
Program Comprehensive Examination must be completed before the end of
Students with a Master's degree (PhD2) 4th term
Students admitted directly to PhD from the Bachelor's degree (PhD3) 6th term
Students who transfer to PhD without completing Master’s degree and who do not hold a Master’s degree (PhD3 transfer) the earlier of either:
  • four terms from the first term the student was registered in the PhD program, or
  • six terms from the beginning of the student’s Master’s program

Note: in establishing the above timelines, each term of full-time enrollment counts as one term and each term of part-time enrollment counts as 0.5 terms.

Comprehensive Examination extension requests

The Faculty of Engineering adheres to the University’s regulations with respect to petitions for extensions to the above stated examination deadlines.

PhD thesis acceptance and examination

PhD minimum requirements

In the Faculty of Engineering, the required display period for the Doctoral thesis is twenty-five business days. External Examiners must be approved by the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies prior to the thesis being accepted for display by the Engineering Graduate Studies Office.

Departments may set additional requirements. Please check the relevant sections of this calendar for further information, or with the appropriate department authority. It is the student's responsibility to become aware of requirements which are in addition to the stated minima.