Graduate Program


KUAE offers four graduate degree options at both the Master and Doctor levels, with additional thesis or non-thesis degree track options in the MS degree.

NOTICE:  The GRE requirement is optional for all applicants applying to Aerospace Engineering graduate programs for Spring 2021, Summer 2021, and Fall 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. GRE scores are not required for admission, but are still encouraged for financial award.

students at work on a project

KU Aerospace Engineering (KUAE) is a world-class community of choice for outstanding students, educators, and researchers shaping the next generation of aerospace systems, Join us to gain foundational knowledge in and experience with aerospace engineering disciplines and interdisciplinary systems integration, while advancing the state-of-the-art.  Areas of Study in Aerospace Engineering include Aerodynamics and Propulsion; Guidance, Navigation and Control; Structures and Materials; Astronautics; System Engineering and Design; and Unmanned Aerial Systems, particularly as they relate to environmental remote sensing. More details on these areas of research and our faculty may be found at Research Areas.

Graduate Admissions requirements and deadlines may be found at: Graduate Admissions.

Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering

The Master of Science (M.S.) program in Aerospace Engineering (AE) has 2 options.

  • The Thesis Option requires a minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate work.  The course work includes 3 hours of math and 6 hours earned in the satisfactory completion of a thesis.
  • The Project Option requires a minimum of 30 hours of graduate work.  The course work includes 3 hours of math, 24 hours of other courses, and at least 3 hours in the satisfactory completion of a project (AE 895, M.S. Thesis or Project).

Graduate mathematics courses are considered those taken at the 600 level and higher. Master’s students may choose any 1 mathematics course (up to 3 hours) at level 500 and higher. AE 712, Techniques of Engineering Evaluation, is the only mathematics-intensive engineering course that will help fulfill the graduate mathematics requirement.

Students must take at least one semester of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.

No more than two courses below the 700 level may be used to satisfy degree requirements, in addition to the required AE690 course. All AE courses other than AE690 must be 700 level and above.

The candidate must pass a final oral examination in which the thesis or research project (results of the independent investigation) is defended and the candidate demonstrates a working knowledge in aerospace engineering.

Thesis or Project Committee

As part of the Plan of Study a student is required to form a thesis or project committee with a minimum of three Graduate Faculty, a minimum of two must be AE faculty members. Additional committee members may be selected by the student from either AE or other School of Engineering faculty members. The chairman of the committee must be an AE faculty member.

Plan of Study

Before the end of the first semester of graduate study the student must complete an online Plan of Study which includes the following information:

1. Three committee members.  As a general rule, these committee members will be drawn from the AE faculty but exceptions may be approved.

2. Proposed area of research

3. Proposed sequence of courses through the semester of graduation.

4. Proposed semester of graduation.

The Plan of Study shall indicate for each course which requirement is being satisfied. Unique situations can be accommodated with the combined approval of the AE department graduate advisor and the student's major advisor.

The Master of Engineering (ME) program in Aerospace Engineering (MEAE) is a program which emphasizes systems design and management skills and procedures. The MEAE program requires a total of 30 credi hours of graduate course work.

MEAE General Description

The minimum course requirements for the ME degree are:

  • At least 30 credit hours of graduate-level technical electives; which shall include either 3 or more credit hours in aerospace design or at least 3 and up to 6 semester hours of approved management courses.
  • Students must take at least one semester of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.
  • No more than two courses below the 700 level may be used to satisfy degree requirements, in addition to the required AE690 course. All AE courses other than AE690 must be 700 level and above.

Completion of MEAE

The MEAE degree does not require a full committee, only a graduate advisor. All plan of study changes are approved by the student’s graduate advisor and the department graduate advisor.

Upon completion of all coursework, the student’s plan of study must meet final approval and the student must complete the ME Completion Form and submit it to the AE graduate program manager.

Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering

The Doctor of Philosophy program in Aerospace Engineering (PhDAE) is a traditional program that requires students to successfully demonstrate their abilities in a broad spectrum of aerospace technology, mathematics and original research. To earn the PhD degree students must:

  • Complete PhD course requirements in accordance with an approved plan of study
  • Pass the Doctoral Qualifying Exam (DQE)
  • Complete the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship (RS2) requirement
  • Satisfy the residency requirements
  • Pass a comprehensive oral examination
  • Prepare and defend a PhD dissertation which must contain an original contribution to the field by the candidate.

Minimum Course Requirements

The PhDAE degree typically requires a minimum of 60 credit hours beyond the BSAE degree (or equivalent). These 60 hours must be distributed as follows:

  • Core courses of at least 9 credit hours of graduate mathematics beyond the BSAE degree. The 9 hours must include a minimum of 6 hours of graduate-level mathematics courses.
    • Graduate mathematics courses are those taken that are at the 600 level and higher, plus MATH 590, Linear Algebra
    • AE 712, Techniques of Engineering Evaluation, is a mathematics-intensive engineering course that meets the Core requirement
  • Breadth courses of at least 12 credit hours of technical courses (above 600 level) must be distributed outside the area of specialization in the areas of:
    • structures and materials
    • aerodynamics
    • design
    • dynamics and controls
    • propulsion
    • astronautics
  • Depth courses of at least 15 credit hours of technical courses (above 600 level) in the area of specialization
  • At least 24 credit hours of doctoral dissertation

Students must also take at least .5 hours of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.

Doctor of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering

The Doctor of Engineering emphasizes systems design and management skills, often in applied rather than theoretical research and requires 66 credit hours beyond the B.S degree. These 66 hours must be distributed as follows:

  • Core courses of at least 9 credit hours of graduate mathematics beyond the B.S. are required. The 9 credit hours must include a minimum of 6 credit hours of graduate-level courses from the Mathematics Department.
    • Graduate mathematics courses are those taken that are 600 level and higher, plus MATH 590, Linear Algebra.
    • Only AE 712, Techniques of Engineering Evaluation, is a mathematics-intensive engineering course and the only non-MATH course that meets the Core requirement.
  • Depth and breadth technical courses comprising at least 21 credit hours of technical courses (beyond 600 level) which must be distributed in the areas of:
    • structures and materials
    • aerodynamics
    • design
    • dynamics and controls
    • propulsion
    • astronautics
  • Depth management courses of at least 12 credit hours (beyond 600 level) must be taken in Engineering Management courses
  • At least 24 credit hours of DE Project

Students must also take at least .5 hours of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.

No more than two courses below the 700 level may be used to satisfy degree requirements, in addition to the required AE 690 course.  All AE courses other than AE 690 must be 700 level and above.

Credit hours earned by completing a master’s degree can satisfy a portion of these requirements when appropriate. Unique situations can be accommodated with the approval of the graduate advisor and the major professor.

It is required that the doctoral qualifying exam (DQE) be taken within the first year for students with a master's degree, and within the second year for students without a master's degree.  In order to be eligible for the DQE, students must have a minimum KU cumulative GPA of 3.5.  If the student fails to meet the 3.5 GPA requirement, they will work with their major advisor to develop an alternate plan of study. 

The DQE tests the breadth of knowledge and determines the student’s ability to formulate mathematical representations of real physical situations. The examination covers mathematics and 2 of these 5 areas:

  • Aerodynamics
  • Astronautics
  • Dynamics and controls
  • Propulsion
  • Structures and materials

A student is allowed only 2 attempts to pass this examination.  If a student has completed AE 712 with a grade of B or higher, the mathematics section of the qualifying exam is waived.

The aspirant forms a project committee and completes a Plan of Study after the first semester and before the end of the second semester. The project committee must have at least 5 members, including 3 tenured or tenure-track faculty from aerospace engineering and at least 1 member from engineering management. The committee approves the aspirant’s program and administers the comprehensive examination and the formal oral defense and project.

When the aspirant has completed most of the course work and satisfied the research skills, responsible scholarship, and residency requirements, they must take the comprehensive examination.  The comprehensive exam cannot be taken until research skills, responsible scholarship, and residency requirements have been met.

  • The research skill requirement provides the aspirant with a research skill distinct from, but strongly supportive of, the dissertation research. One research skill is required. Possible research skills include computer science, mathematics, statistics, specific laboratory skills, and specific skills in the physical or biological sciences. The selected research skill must be listed on the Plan of Study.
  • The responsible scholarship requirement serves to ensure that students are trained in responsible research practices. Aspirants can satisfy the responsible scholarship requirement by enrolling in 2 semesters of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students. This course covers ethical behavior for graduate students, intellectual property, and technical writing.
  • The residency requirement is met by completing 2 semesters, which may include 1 summer session, in resident study, and enrollment in 6 credit hours or more. During the period of residence, the student must be involved in full time academic pursuits, which may include up to half-time teaching or research.

The comprehensive exam is made up of two parts. The first part must consist of a written project proposal outlining in some detail the work to be done for the project. The second part is an oral examination in which they must defend the project plans and demonstrate competence in their particular and related areas. Upon passing the comprehensive examination, the aspirant becomes a candidate for the D.E. The project committee directs the preparation of the approved project topic. A formal oral and public defense of the project is required before the committee, any other interested members of the graduate faculty, and the general public. Candidates for the D.E. must satisfy the university’s general requirements for the degree.

To be awarded the D.E. degree in Aerospace Engineering all the following requirements must be satisfied:

1. Complete all D.E. course requirements in accordance with an approved plan of study
2. Pass the Doctoral Qualifying Examination (DQE)
3. Complete the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement
4. Satisfy the residency requirements
5. Pass a comprehensive oral exam
6. Prepare and defend an approved D.E. dissertation which must contain an original contribution to the field by the candidate.

Maximum Tenure

The dissertation must be completed within eight years after being admitted to the D.E. program in AE. In cases that require more than eight years, the dissertation committee may grant an appeal for an extension of this period.

Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering

The Master of Science (M.S.) program in Aerospace Engineering (AE) has 2 options.

  • The Thesis Option requires a minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate work.  The course work includes 3 hours of math and 6 hours earned in the satisfactory completion of a thesis.
  • The Project Option requires a minimum of 30 hours of graduate work.  The course work includes 3 hours of math, 24 hours of other courses, and at least 3 hours in the satisfactory completion of a project (AE 895, M.S. Thesis or Project).

Graduate mathematics courses are considered those taken at the 600 level and higher. Master’s students may choose any 1 mathematics course (up to 3 hours) at level 500 and higher. AE 712, Techniques of Engineering Evaluation, is the only mathematics-intensive engineering course that will help fulfill the graduate mathematics requirement.

Students must take at least one semester of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.

No more than two courses below the 700 level may be used to satisfy degree requirements, in addition to the required AE690 course. All AE courses other than AE690 must be 700 level and above.

The candidate must pass a final oral examination in which the thesis or research project (results of the independent investigation) is defended and the candidate demonstrates a working knowledge in aerospace engineering.

Thesis or Project Committee

As part of the Plan of Study a student is required to form a thesis or project committee with a minimum of three Graduate Faculty, a minimum of two must be AE faculty members. Additional committee members may be selected by the student from either AE or other School of Engineering faculty members. The chairman of the committee must be an AE faculty member.

Plan of Study

Before the end of the first semester of graduate study the student must complete an online Plan of Study which includes the following information:

1. Three committee members.  As a general rule, these committee members will be drawn from the AE faculty but exceptions may be approved.

2. Proposed area of research

3. Proposed sequence of courses through the semester of graduation.

4. Proposed semester of graduation.

The Plan of Study shall indicate for each course which requirement is being satisfied. Unique situations can be accommodated with the combined approval of the AE department graduate advisor and the student's major advisor.

The Master of Engineering (ME) program in Aerospace Engineering (MEAE) is a program which emphasizes systems design and management skills and procedures. The MEAE program requires a total of 30 credi hours of graduate course work.

MEAE General Description

The minimum course requirements for the ME degree are:

  • At least 30 credit hours of graduate-level technical electives; which shall include either 3 or more credit hours in aerospace design or at least 3 and up to 6 semester hours of approved management courses.
  • Students must take at least one semester of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.
  • No more than two courses below the 700 level may be used to satisfy degree requirements, in addition to the required AE690 course. All AE courses other than AE690 must be 700 level and above.

Completion of MEAE

The MEAE degree does not require a full committee, only a graduate advisor. All plan of study changes are approved by the student’s graduate advisor and the department graduate advisor.

Upon completion of all coursework, the student’s plan of study must meet final approval and the student must complete the ME Completion Form and submit it to the AE graduate program manager.

Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering

The Doctor of Philosophy program in Aerospace Engineering (PhDAE) is a traditional program that requires students to successfully demonstrate their abilities in a broad spectrum of aerospace technology, mathematics and original research. To earn the PhD degree students must:

  • Complete PhD course requirements in accordance with an approved plan of study
  • Pass the Doctoral Qualifying Exam (DQE)
  • Complete the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship (RS2) requirement
  • Satisfy the residency requirements
  • Pass a comprehensive oral examination
  • Prepare and defend a PhD dissertation which must contain an original contribution to the field by the candidate.

Minimum Course Requirements

The PhDAE degree typically requires a minimum of 60 credit hours beyond the BSAE degree (or equivalent). These 60 hours must be distributed as follows:

  • Core courses of at least 9 credit hours of graduate mathematics beyond the BSAE degree. The 9 hours must include a minimum of 6 hours of graduate-level mathematics courses.
    • Graduate mathematics courses are those taken that are at the 600 level and higher, plus MATH 590, Linear Algebra
    • AE 712, Techniques of Engineering Evaluation, is a mathematics-intensive engineering course that meets the Core requirement
  • Breadth courses of at least 12 credit hours of technical courses (above 600 level) must be distributed outside the area of specialization in the areas of:
    • structures and materials
    • aerodynamics
    • design
    • dynamics and controls
    • propulsion
    • astronautics
  • Depth courses of at least 15 credit hours of technical courses (above 600 level) in the area of specialization
  • At least 24 credit hours of doctoral dissertation

Students must also take at least .5 hours of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.

Doctor of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering

The Doctor of Engineering emphasizes systems design and management skills, often in applied rather than theoretical research and requires 66 credit hours beyond the B.S degree. These 66 hours must be distributed as follows:

  • Core courses of at least 9 credit hours of graduate mathematics beyond the B.S. are required. The 9 credit hours must include a minimum of 6 credit hours of graduate-level courses from the Mathematics Department.
    • Graduate mathematics courses are those taken that are 600 level and higher, plus MATH 590, Linear Algebra.
    • Only AE 712, Techniques of Engineering Evaluation, is a mathematics-intensive engineering course and the only non-MATH course that meets the Core requirement.
  • Depth and breadth technical courses comprising at least 21 credit hours of technical courses (beyond 600 level) which must be distributed in the areas of:
    • structures and materials
    • aerodynamics
    • design
    • dynamics and controls
    • propulsion
    • astronautics
  • Depth management courses of at least 12 credit hours (beyond 600 level) must be taken in Engineering Management courses
  • At least 24 credit hours of DE Project

Students must also take at least .5 hours of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students.

No more than two courses below the 700 level may be used to satisfy degree requirements, in addition to the required AE 690 course.  All AE courses other than AE 690 must be 700 level and above.

Credit hours earned by completing a master’s degree can satisfy a portion of these requirements when appropriate. Unique situations can be accommodated with the approval of the graduate advisor and the major professor.

It is required that the doctoral qualifying exam (DQE) be taken within the first year for students with a master's degree, and within the second year for students without a master's degree.  In order to be eligible for the DQE, students must have a minimum KU cumulative GPA of 3.5.  If the student fails to meet the 3.5 GPA requirement, they will work with their major advisor to develop an alternate plan of study. 

The DQE tests the breadth of knowledge and determines the student’s ability to formulate mathematical representations of real physical situations. The examination covers mathematics and 2 of these 5 areas:

  • Aerodynamics
  • Astronautics
  • Dynamics and controls
  • Propulsion
  • Structures and materials

A student is allowed only 2 attempts to pass this examination.  If a student has completed AE 712 with a grade of B or higher, the mathematics section of the qualifying exam is waived.

The aspirant forms a project committee and completes a Plan of Study after the first semester and before the end of the second semester. The project committee must have at least 5 members, including 3 tenured or tenure-track faculty from aerospace engineering and at least 1 member from engineering management. The committee approves the aspirant’s program and administers the comprehensive examination and the formal oral defense and project.

When the aspirant has completed most of the course work and satisfied the research skills, responsible scholarship, and residency requirements, they must take the comprehensive examination.  The comprehensive exam cannot be taken until research skills, responsible scholarship, and residency requirements have been met.

  • The research skill requirement provides the aspirant with a research skill distinct from, but strongly supportive of, the dissertation research. One research skill is required. Possible research skills include computer science, mathematics, statistics, specific laboratory skills, and specific skills in the physical or biological sciences. The selected research skill must be listed on the Plan of Study.
  • The responsible scholarship requirement serves to ensure that students are trained in responsible research practices. Aspirants can satisfy the responsible scholarship requirement by enrolling in 2 semesters of AE 690, Professional Development for Graduate Students. This course covers ethical behavior for graduate students, intellectual property, and technical writing.
  • The residency requirement is met by completing 2 semesters, which may include 1 summer session, in resident study, and enrollment in 6 credit hours or more. During the period of residence, the student must be involved in full time academic pursuits, which may include up to half-time teaching or research.

The comprehensive exam is made up of two parts. The first part must consist of a written project proposal outlining in some detail the work to be done for the project. The second part is an oral examination in which they must defend the project plans and demonstrate competence in their particular and related areas. Upon passing the comprehensive examination, the aspirant becomes a candidate for the D.E. The project committee directs the preparation of the approved project topic. A formal oral and public defense of the project is required before the committee, any other interested members of the graduate faculty, and the general public. Candidates for the D.E. must satisfy the university’s general requirements for the degree.

To be awarded the D.E. degree in Aerospace Engineering all the following requirements must be satisfied:

1. Complete all D.E. course requirements in accordance with an approved plan of study
2. Pass the Doctoral Qualifying Examination (DQE)
3. Complete the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement
4. Satisfy the residency requirements
5. Pass a comprehensive oral exam
6. Prepare and defend an approved D.E. dissertation which must contain an original contribution to the field by the candidate.

Maximum Tenure

The dissertation must be completed within eight years after being admitted to the D.E. program in AE. In cases that require more than eight years, the dissertation committee may grant an appeal for an extension of this period.