All FAQs

Who can apply to and earn an Online Graduate Certificate from Penn Engineering Online?

Currently, only Penn Engineering Online degree program alumni are eligible to apply for the Online Graduate Certificates. 

What is the learning experience in degree programs?

The rigorous online courses at Penn Engineering Online offer the Ivy League quality of our in-person programs with the accessibility of learning from anywhere. You’ll join study groups, Slack channels, and online discussion forums that enrich your collaborative learning environment, an essential pillar of excellence in the online experience at Penn Engineering.

Will the MSE-DS Online program require me to travel to the United States at all?

No, the program is 100 percent online. That said, one of our optional Open Elective courses, DATO 5990 Practicum, includes a one-week on-campus intensive component.

Can I apply for the Dual Degree in the semester I am completing my sixth course requirement?

No, you must first complete six courses so that the GPA of those six courses can be calculated.

How do I know which courses to take if I am a dual-degree student?

Please reach out to the Student Affairs Team for advising assistance.

Can I use my military education benefits for MSE-DS Online?

Since MSE-DS Online is a new program, it has been submitted to the state agency for consideration and is pending approval.

Is the MSE-DS Online curriculum the same as the on-campus program?

MSE-DS Online is a degree centered on computer science. The curriculum is computationally focused and includes courses such as artificial intelligence, big data systems, data science for health, deep learning, natural language processing, internet and web systems, machine learning, etc. These courses will primarily correspond with two of the on-campus elective tracks: Data-centric programming and Data Analysis/Artificial Intelligence. For the courses that are offered, the content is the same between on-campus and online.

Which Penn Engineering Online degree is right for me?

If you don’t have a degree in computer science, or have minimal prior computer science training, consider our online Master of Computer and Information Technology (MCIT Online). If you have a computer science minor, an undergraduate degree in computer science or in a highly quantitative field (e.g., statistics, math, physics, etc.) with significant exposure to computer science, consider our online Master of Science in Engineering in Data Science.

What's the difference between Penn Engineering Online’s MSE-DS and MCIT degrees?

MCIT Online is for those who are trying to quickly pivot into the field of computer science, while MSE-DS Online helps those who already have a solid foundation in computer science to become data engineers.
See also: Which Penn Engineering Online degree is right for me?

Is full-time enrollment a requirement for the Dean's Master's Scholarship program?

Students awarded the Dean’s Master’s Scholarship for a Penn Engineering Online degree may elect to attend on a full or part-time basis.

Who should I contact if I have issues applying for the Dean’s Master’s Scholarship?

Please contact us via email at online-admissions@seas.upenn.edu or call us at (215) 573-0655.

When can I apply for the Dean’s Master’s Scholarship?

If you are applying for early admission, your scholarship application will need to be completed by the early admission deadline.  If you are applying for regular admission, your scholarship application will need to be completed by the regular admission deadline. Applications can only be submitted at the time of application to the program. 

How much financial support will scholarship recipients receive?

For privacy reasons, scholarship recipients and amounts awarded will be kept confidential.

Am I qualified for the MCIT Online program?

MCIT Online welcomes applicants from all backgrounds. Admittance to MCIT Online is competitive. However, no background in computer science is required, the only qualification to apply is a bachelor’s degree in any field. While cohort sizes are limited, if you have a strong interest in computing and have an aptitude for quantitative subjects (particularly in math!), then you are qualified to apply to MCIT Online!

What are the guidelines for letters of recommendation?

Format:

Letters of recommendation should be written according to the following guidelines:

  • must be written in English
  • on official letterhead of the writer’s organization or institution whenever possible
  • include the writer’s signature/name and organization
  • range from 500 to 1,500 words

Content:

Letters should reference the MCIT Online program and cannot be reused from a different program.

Letters should be written by individuals who have evaluated the applicant and can write objectively about their aptitudes and capabilities in an academic or work setting. Please note- recommenders should not be friends or family members.

The Questionnaire:

You can answer the questionnaire by interpreting the questions through an industry lens. For example, instead of “How many students do you supervise?”, you can answer as if the question was, “How many employees do you supervise?”, etc. You can also leave the questionnaire section blank.

Due Date:

All letters of recommendation are due by the application deadline. Late letters of recommendation will not be considered and may disqualify the applicant from the admissions process. Please be mindful of the application deadlines!

Will there be a graduation ceremony?

Yes, Penn Engineering Online degree students will be invited to campus to participate in Penn’s Commencement ceremonies in May. Attendance is optional.

What will the proctored exams look like?

Our exams will be online and proctored through a service called Honorlock. Students will be monitored via webcam.

What is the definition of part-time vs full-time?

Part-time status for Penn Engineering Online degree students is defined as taking 1-2 courses in a semester. Full-time status is defined as taking 3-4 courses per semester. It is easy to switch back and forth between part-time and full-time status.

Can MCIT Online students continue through the CIS/MSE dual degree?

Currently this is not an option for MCIT Online students.

Are Penn Engineering Online degree programs eligible for Penn employee tuition remission benefits?

Yes! Penn Engineering Online degree programs are tuition remission eligible for Penn employees. You can learn more at the Penn Benefits website.

Advice regarding quantitative ability

MCIT Online is designed for people without a background in computer science. That being said, we need to see evidence of your quantitative abilities in your application. For example, we will take note of grades that you received in math, science, and engineering courses. If you have not taken courses in these areas, or if you received low grades in the past, there are other ways that you can demonstrate your quantitative abilities. The GRE or GMAT is one option, or you can earn online certificates in STEM, Computing, Data Science, or Math courses, as well as taking additional college level math courses to show your quantitative ability.

Do you offer any scholarships?

Penn Engineering offers the Dean’s Master’s Scholarship for Online students which provides financial support to online Master’s students in order to further the University’s interest in attracting an academically talented and diverse student body.  Visit here to learn more.

In addition, we encourage you to explore external scholarships/fellowships.

What is the cost of a Penn Engineering Online degree program?

Tuition and fees are based on the number of courses you are taking per semester. For details about costs, see our Tuition & Financing page.

Can I do an internship as an online degree student?

Internships are not a part of our online degree curricula, but our career services team can help prepare you for a successful internship search.

As an online student, can I work as a TA or a research assistant?

Yes! To apply for a teaching assistantship review current openings

If you’re interested in being a research assistant, we encourage you to reach out to a faculty member who’s working in a field of interest. These positions are typically not posted publicly.

How much time will I need to spend on the program each week?

It depends on the course topic, your background, your learning style, and the particular assignments in a given week. In general, you can expect each course to require 15-18 hours per week. Some courses will take less time, while for others you might need to spend 25 hours on a particularly challenging programming assignment. 

Please note that 15 hours per week per course is only an estimated average. In reality, these courses could take a little less or a lot more time than estimated based on your prior education or work experience. Not only that, one course can vary week to week: one course could take 10 hours one week and way more in the next!

A good thought exercise before the semester starts is to map out the extra time you typically have in your week and whether you can dedicate 15 hours of that time to your class. What if it was more than 15? Think critically about what would happen if you have a challenging assignment that took you 20-25 hours to complete. Be aware that some of our students spend this much time every week for one course.


Can I transfer between a Penn Engineering Online degree program and an on-campus degree program?

No, students are not allowed to transfer between Penn Engineering Online and an on-campus degree program.

What services are available to online students?

As a Penn Engineering Online degree student, you’re a full member of the Penn community with broad access to everything from virtual career advising to online libraries and learning resources. For details, see our Student Services page.

Does MCIT Online require a thesis?

No, MCIT Online students are not required to write a thesis.

Does the MCIT Online degree qualify me for a PhD?

It’s possible to go on to a PhD program, but you would likely need to supplement your studies with research to be prepared for a PhD program.

What programming languages will I learn in the MCIT Online program?

The MCIT Online curriculum includes Python, Java (including data structures), C and C++.

You will also learn fundamental concepts that allow you to quickly learn many other languages – including Rust, Go, JavaScript, etc. – even though they are not explicitly taught in our curriculum.

Are online electives different from on-campus options?

Specific course options may vary, but MCIT Online electives are comparable to the on-campus version. Course topics reflect the most popular areas of interest. 

I'm not yet interested in a full degree. Can I take a few courses?

Yes! We’ve partnered with Coursera to offer a wide range of affordable online open courses, from Aerial Robotics to Computational Thinking for Problem Solving. We also offer open course series that lead to credentials in programming, software development, and robotics.

How long does it take to complete a Penn Engineering Online degree program?

A Penn Engineering Online degree program requires the successful completion of ten courses. Students have access to a Student Success Advising Team that can help them plan their course schedule and overall degree plan. Students can easily switch between part-time and full-time registration each semester based on how many courses they take. Enrollment in the summer semester is optional. We encourage all students to meet with a member of our Student Success Advising Team to discuss the course load and route to degree completion that best fits their needs. Depending on how many classes you take each semester, you can complete the program in 16 to 40 months.

Can I keep working while earning the degree?

Yes! Penn Engineering Online degrees are flexible enough to accommodate the needs of working professionals, and you can choose to take 1-3 courses at a time. There are no required synchronous (real-time) sessions, but students should dedicate time each week to watch lectures, complete assignments and participate in office hours or group sessions with professors, TAs, and fellow students.

Where is a Penn Engineering Online degree recognized?

Penn Engineering Online degree programs are offered by the University of Pennsylvania, which is authorized to confer degrees and certificates conferring academic credit under applicable laws of the United States. If you live in another country, we encourage you to investigate your jurisdiction’s treatment of foreign online programs to ensure that the program will meet your objectives.

Is a Penn Engineering Online degree program accredited?

Yes, the University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Is the MCIT degree the same as a Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science degree?

No, they are different credentials but graduates have very similar outcomes.

The Master of Information and Computer Technology (MCIT) curriculum begins with a strong CS foundation and goes on to graduate-level electives that are exactly the same as those taken by students in a traditional MS in CS degree program.

MCIT graduates’ career outcomes are extremely comparable to those of Penn’s MS in CS degree in terms of the type of companies, starting salary, and other compensation. See Penn’s most recent Career Services reports for details.

Does a Penn Engineering online degree program carry the same weight as an on-campus degree?

Yes! You’ll enjoy the high-quality instructors that Penn Engineering’s on-campus program is known for, and you’ll graduate with the same degree and same diploma.

What career options will I have with the MCIT Online degree?

Graduates of MCIT go on to rewarding careers in aerospace, consulting, education, finance, healthcare, and technology, to name a few. For details, see Alumni Outcomes Report.

Do I need to be proficient in a particular programming language for MCIT Online?

No, the program is specifically designed for students with minimal or no prior computer science experience.

I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Is MCIT Online right for me?

MCIT Online is intended for students with little or no recent CS experience. If you would be able to test out of more than two of our core courses, you are probably overqualified. In this case, we recommend exploring our online Master of Science in Engineering in Data Science degree program which requires a bachelor’s in computer science as a prerequisite.

How will my tuition be billed to the VA?

We bill the VA each semester based on the number of credits you’re registered for. We cannot bill the VA for the entire program all at once.

Can I use my military education benefits for MCIT Online?

Yes. MCIT Online students are eligible for VA education benefits.

Are online students required to have health insurance?

Online students are strongly encouraged but not required to have health insurance. Online students are not eligible for Penn’s student health insurance plan(s).

What requirements do international students need to meet?

In addition to the standard requirements for admission, you’ll need to provide English-language transcripts from every institution where you’ve earned course credit. If English is not your native language, you’ll also need to submit official TOEFL scores. See the MCIT Admissions page for details.

Can I get a student visa through a Penn Engineering Online degree program or certificate course?

No, we cannot sponsor visas for students because these programs and courses are based entirely online.

If I am not accepted, may I reapply?

Yes, but you’ll have to wait for the next admissions cycle. To reapply, you’ll need to submit the standard application materials along with answering an additional essay question. 

How do I check the status of my MCIT Online application?

Review the application checklist. If your application status is “Ready for Review,” that means your application materials have been received and we are evaluating them. “Materials Needed” indicates that your file is missing one or more of the required materials such as an official TOEFL score or a letter of recommendation. In order for your application to be fully evaluated, all required materials must be submitted prior to the application deadline. Incomplete applications will not be considered during the evaluation process.

I am currently an undergrad/master’s/PhD student at Penn. Can I take a Penn Engineering Online course?

Yes, Penn Engineering Online offers a variety of open non-credit courses that are available to all learners! Only students admitted to Penn Engineering Online degree programs can enroll in or audit the courses in those programs.

Can I reuse letters of recommendation from previous applications?

Your letters should focus specifically on your qualifications for MCIT Online or MSE-DS Online, so we encourage you not to reuse letters from a different program.  If you’re reapplying, your recommenders may resubmit the previously written letters with your new application.

 

Can I send my recommendation letters via email or mail?

No, letters of recommendation must be submitted online through the application portal.

The questions on the questionnaire do not apply to my recommenders. What should they do?

Your references can leave a section blank or approach the questions through a broad lens. For example, your recommender can respond to “How many students do you supervise?” by writing about your role in supervising employees.

I’ve submitted the application for MCIT Online. Can I make changes to my list of recommenders?

Once you’ve submitted your application, you can not add recommenders. But so long as the recommender has not started to fill out the form, you can make changes – for example, adding a new email address or replacing one recommender with another. To make changes, go to the application portal, click the Action button, and choose “Edit/change this recommender.” This action cancels the existing request and issues a new one. 

How can I check on the status of my letters of recommendation for MCIT Online?

You can see the status of your letters of recommendation by looking at your application checklist. You can even send your recommender a reminder by clicking the Action button next to the status.

Do letters of recommendation need to be submitted by the application deadline?

Yes. All required documents, including a minimum of two letters of recommendation, must be submitted by the application deadline.

Would it be helpful to have more than two letters?

Yes, while we only require two letters, we recommend asking three people to write such letters in case one of the letters does not arrive before the deadline. The more evidence you can provide that you will succeed, the better.

Do I have to submit official transcripts?

No, you do not need to submit official transcripts in order to apply; unofficial transcripts are acceptable. Note that all transcripts must be translated to English.

Every for-credit course that you have taken needs to be represented on a transcript that includes all of the following: course name, credits received, and grade. If you submit a transcript that includes transfer credits without the listed grades earned, such as T for Transfer, you will also need to submit the transcript from the original institution that contains the actual grades received.

If you have an international transcript, we strongly recommend using a NACES service (e.g., Certifile, WES) to submit your transcripts as this will greatly assist the admissions team with the evaluation of your documents.

If admitted, you will be required to provide official transcripts of all previous academic work to verify the information provided in your uploaded application documents. Official documents must be translated to English, if applicable. Offers of admission and matriculation into the program are not binding until academic records are verified. If there are discrepancies between the self-reported academic work and official records, your offer of admission may be withdrawn or you may be removed from the program. Details regarding the process for submitting official transcripts will be sent to admitted students.

How should my references format my letters of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation should be written according to the following guidelines:

  • written in English
  • include the writer’s name, organization and signature
  • range anywhere from 500 to 1,500 words

What is the process for getting letters of recommendation?

As part of the online application, you’ll provide contact information for your references. The system will then send each reference a unique link to the application portal, where they will upload their letter. Letters submitted by your recommenders will be automatically attached to your application even after you have submitted it. Please note that at least two recommendations must be received by the deadline in order for your application to be considered.

Who should I ask to write letters of recommendation for me?

Your letters of recommendation should be written by people who have evaluated you and can write objectively about your aptitudes and capabilities in an academic or work setting – for example, current or former advisors, instructors or supervisors. 

The title or position of the recommender is not as important as his/her ability to comment knowledgeably and specifically about you. If you do not have an academic reference or direct supervisor, consider clients (if you own a business), military personnel or community leaders.

What do you look for when evaluating applications for MCIT Online?

Admission to MCIT Online is very competitive. We look for applicants who are likely to succeed in, benefit from, and contribute to the program. For tips on how to strengthen your application, read “5 Tips to Strengthen Your MCIT Online Application from the Program Director.”

How do I apply to MCIT Online?

In addition to the online application, you’ll need to submit a personal statement, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a resume, along with TOEFL scores if you’re an international applicant or a non-U.S. citizen/permanent resident. For details, see the MCIT Online Admissions page

Is there an advantage to applying to the early deadline?

Yes, applicants who apply before the early deadline have a slight advantage in admissions. There is also the benefit of receiving a decision earlier. 

Can I transfer courses from another university?

After being accepted to the program you may transfer up to two courses, subject to faculty approval. Please see the Penn Engineering Online Student Handbook for further details.

Do I have to take the GRE?

No, the GRE is optional. But there are a few scenarios in which we strongly recommend taking the GRE:

  • You have not taken any quantitative courses (such as math or physics).
  • You feel the grades that you received in your bachelor’s program do not represent your current abilities and are lower than you would like them to be.
  • You received your undergraduate degree 15 or more years ago.

Do I need to meet any prerequisites for the MCIT Online program?

No, there are not any prerequisite courses. At a minimum, you need to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school or university. In addition, ideal candidates will have a strong mathematical or otherwise quantitative aptitude.

If your undergraduate degree is not in a quantitative subject, or if you did not take or do well in many quantitative courses, we recommend taking a for-credit math course (e.g., algebra or calculus) or the GRE. If you don’t have experience with online learning, we recommend taking one of our introductory CS courses, such as Computational Thinking for Problem Solving or Introduction to Python & Java.

Is financial aid available?

Online degree students who are enrolled at least half-time (at least two courses) will be eligible to apply for federal student loans. International students’ eligibility may vary depending upon their international status.

Two federal funding options specifically allocated for graduate students are the Federal Direct Unsubsidized loan and Grad PLUS loan.

Please be mindful of the FAFSA deadlines in relation to the application deadlines.

What are the requirements for English proficiency for MCIT Online?

All international applicants, non-US Citizens, and non-US Permanent Resident applicants for whom English is not the native language must submit official scores for the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A minimum score of 100 is required and scores are valid for two years. We must receive your official TOEFL score directly from ETS by the application deadline.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) will not be accepted in place of the TOEFL.

This requirement can be waived if the candidate has completed a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree where the medium of instruction at the institution is English. The degree must be completed before matriculation into the MCIT Online program. Applicants are required to submit documentation of the medium of instruction along with the waiver. Applicants will have the opportunity to apply for a waiver upon submission of their application.

Where and when should I send my official transcripts?

If you receive an offer of admission, you must submit your official transcripts before matriculation. We must receive an official, final transcript from each institution where you earned course credit. If your graduation date is not included on your transcript, you will also need to submit a graduation verification certificate. If you are admitted, we will contact you with instructions on how to submit your official transcripts.

Official documents must be translated to English, if applicable. Offers of admission and matriculation into the program are not binding until academic records are verified. If there are discrepancies between the self-reported academic work and official records, your offer of admission may be withdrawn or you may be removed from the program.

Do I need to wait until my letters of recommendation are in to submit my application?

No! We encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible. However, please note that an application is not considered complete and ready for review until at least two letters of recommendation have been submitted.

If accepted into the program, how much will the enrollment deposit cost?

Applicants who are admitted and decide to join a Penn Engineering Online degree program will need to submit a non-refundable $300 USD enrollment deposit, which will be applied towards tuition.

I have been admitted to MCIT Online but I would like to defer my admission. What should I do?

The first step is to accept our offer and pay the deposit. After enrollment, you will receive additional information about selecting your start term. You will be able to submit your specific reason for the deferral and the term that you are planning on attending.

The deadline to request a deferral is the last day before classes begin for your first graduate semester. If approved, you can defer for up to two semesters (one academic year) at a time, and for a total of four semesters (two academic years).