Fast Track MSCE
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main benefits of the Fast Track program?
The most important benefit is that you can “double dip” your technical electives, allowing you to simultaneously fulfill your requirements for your undergraduate and graduate degrees. For example, Traffic Engineering might be offered as a stacked class, meaning it is open to both undergrads as a 400-level class and grads as a 600-level class. If you are enrolled in the Fast Track program and take Traffic Engineering at the 600-level, then it fulfills both your B.S. and M.S. requirements.
However, you must be enrolled in the Fast Track program. Additionally, if you take Traffic Engineering at the 400-level, then it will not count toward your M.S. requirements. This is why we recommend enrolling in the Fast Track program as early as possible.
How many credits can I double dip?
Six credits of your M.S. degree will count as your B.S. technical electives.
Can I double-dip the Math requirement as part of a Math Minor with my B.S.C.E.?
No. If you add an extra math class during your B.S. as part of a math minor, you will have to take another 400-level math class to fulfill the requirement of the M.S.
Do you have to go fast in the Fast Track program?
Contrary to the name, the time requirements do not differ from the standard M.S., which is normally limited to 7 years. We call it a Fast Track because starting graduate courses early and double-dipping has allowed some students to finish in one year beyond their B.S., but other students complete their B.S., begin working full-time, and treat the Fast Track M.S. as a normal part-time M.S. with just one or two courses per semester.
When can I apply for the Fast Track program?
You can apply once you have completed a minimum of 60% of your undergraduate requirements, which means most students are eligible by their junior year. However, you are welcome to apply at any point during your junior or senior years.That said, you must apply before you take your first BSCE technical elective. The deadlines to apply are the same as the regular MS. Typically this is July 15th for fall admissions. Dates can be found here.
The application asks for a Statement of Goals. What information should I include?
You should limit your Statement of Goals to one page. We use this information to pair you with the most appropriate faculty adviser based on the disciplines you’re interested in. We also want a sense of why you want a master’s degree—whether you’re trying to get a promotion at work, trying to get into a Ph.D. program, or simply trying to increase your knowledge. This information will affect how we advise you.
What is a Graduate Studies Plan?
A Graduate Studies Plan, or GSP, is a comprehensive plan of the classes you will take and when you will take them. You and your faculty adviser must agree on the details of your GSP, and then your graduate committee must approve it.
When is the Graduate Studies Plan completed?
A rough outline of the GSP should be completed upon acceptance into the MS program and pairing with an adviser. Because your interests and course offerings may change, it is generally updated periodically and not finalized until a semester or two before degree completion.
How many 400-level classes can I apply to my master’s degree?
There is not a definitive answer to this question. A committee of three faculty members, including your graduate adviser, must approve your Graduate Studies Plan. If the committee agrees that several 400-level classes are necessary for your area of focus, then it is possible to take more than one 400-level class. In general, you would take relevant 400-level classes that are not offered at the 600 level.
However, if a class is offered at the 600-level, then you must take it at the 600-level. A stacked course—or a class that is offered simultaneously at both the undergraduate and graduate levels—can be applied to both your B.S. and M.S. if you enrolled in the fast-track program, but only if you enroll in the class at the 600-level.
Which classes can count toward both my B.S. and M.S. degrees?
The only classes that you can “double dip” are graduate courses offered by the College of Engineering. Graduate courses offered by other departments will not count for both of your degrees. For a class to count for both, you must be enrolled in the Fast Track program and you must take the class at the 600-level.
What’s right for me—a thesis, design project, or comprehensive exam? And when do I
need to make that decision?
We recommend that you do a thesis if you aspire to attain a Ph.D.; if your discipline values research experience, such as Environmental Engineering (and sometimes Water Resources and Geotechnical Engineering); if you want a career that’s focused on research; or if you are hired as a research assistant. Most employers, especially in the disciplines of Structural and Transportation Engineering, will not expect you to have completed a thesis. However, any M.S. student can choose to do a thesis if they are interested in deeply exploring a specific topic.
If you do not do a thesis, then we recommend that you do a design project. Similar to a thesis, a design project will engage you in critical thinking and problem solving, plus it will demonstrate your ability to finish a complex task from beginning to end. It also teaches writing skills and content presentation that is absent from most graduate classes. These are qualities that all employers look for.
We recommend you take the comprehensive exam only if you already have a substantial amount of work experience as an engineer. Your future employers will want to see your ability to follow through on long term projects, and the comprehensive exam does not demonstrate that skill. However, the exam option allows you to take an extra class, which is helpful if you are primarily seeking professional knowledge.
If you choose to do a thesis, we encourage you to make that decision in your first or second semesters of grad school. The thesis is six credits, so it’s possible to complete it during your last two semesters. But a thesis is a lot of work and it requires a clear idea, so it’s better to start thinking about it ASAP. If you choose to do a design project or take the comprehensive exam, the decision timeline has more flexibility.
What’s the difference between an M.S. Project and the Senior Design Project (Capstone)?
The Capstone project is done with a group, it may or may not be in your chosen discipline, and you do not get to choose the project to which you are assigned. It also has a particular focus on the project process, as well as soft skills such as project management and presentation skills. The M.S. Project is much more technical. It is done individually, in your chosen area of interest, and often involves significant graduate-level design.
What’s the difference between a thesis and a design project?
A thesis is a highly focused and structured report that describes research you have conducted over the course of multiple semesters. A design project is less intensive, often requires only one semester, and you may not need to conduct research. Both the thesis and design project require approval by your faculty adviser and graduate committee.
How can I become a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant?
The only way we’ll know you’re interested in a TA or RA position is if you tell us. Talk to your faculty adviser. Talk to your other professors. Figure out who is working on research or teaching classes that interest you, and then tell those professors that you want a job. This doesn’t guarantee that we’ll have funding for a position, but it means we’ll be thinking about you when funding becomes available. In general, faculty choose TAs and RAs based on who they know is qualified and interested.
Can I work on a research project before I have graduate student status?
Yes. There are multiple options to hire a student depending on the grant regulations and budget available. Students can be hired as undergraduate research assistants at the rate of $10.50 per hour. In some cases, students can be hired as temporary employees and paid an hourly rate close to that of a Graduate RA before attaining Graduate status.
What are Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants paid?
Once you are classified as a graduate student, TAs and RAs are paid $17.54/hr. These positions also often include full or partial tuition and health insurance. You are considered a Fast Track M.S. student if you have a GSP on file and you’re enrolled in 9 credits of graduate courses.
My DegreeWorks for the B.S.C.E. says “You cannot double dip your technical electives”,
which seems contrary to the purpose of this program. Is this true?
It is true that if you take a technical elective at the 400-level, it cannot be counted for both degrees. It’s also true that if you take a technical elective at the 400-level for your B.S.C.E., you can’t take the same class again at the 600-level for your M.S. However, the Catalog trumps anything in DegreeWorks, so as stated above, if you are enrolled in the Fast Track M.S. program, and you take your technical electives at the 600-level, then they will count for both your B.S.C.E. and M.S.
Can the Fast-track MS be completed remotely?
In general, yes. Almost all the CE 600-level classes are offered remotely. Projects, exams, and theses have all been completed remotely. Conducting research remotely can be tricky, but it depends on the topic.
Can I take classes at UAF to fulfill the M.S. degree requirements?
Yes. UAF classes will transfer automatically.