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Engineering  |  Master's Degree in Robotics and Autonomous Systems

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about the MS Degree Program in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS)

1. Who should apply to the MS in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS)?

The ASU Master’s program in Robotics and Autonomous Systems brings together students from various engineering backgrounds and allow them to take advantage of the broad variety of available courses and faculty on the topics of Robotics and Autonomous systems.

2. What are the differences between the RAS program and the traditional discipline-specific programs (e.g. MS in Mechanical Engineering, MS in Systems Engineering, MS in Electrical Engineering, MS in Computer Engineering, etc)?

Robotics and autonomous systems are interdisciplinary technologies that are poised to leave their mark on manufacturing, transportation, aerospace, defense, healthcare, and many other critical fields of application. In the face of the rising expenditures on robotics, there will be a continuing and increasing need for skilled interdisciplinary engineers to design, build, and program robots in the future. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts a compound annual growth rate of 17% to reach a global total market for robotics around $135 billion by 2019. This same IDC report cited above states that “by 2020, robotics growth will accelerate the talent race, leaving 35% of robotics related jobs vacant while the average salary increases by at least 60%.”

This field requires knowledge and training crossing the boundaries of traditional engineering disciplines. The MS Degree in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) provides a unique opportunity to students that want to take a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary background on robotics and autonomous systems. In contrast to discipline-specific programs, the RAS program is focusing on training the students on this cross-disciplinary field and gives the students a unique advantage to the market related to robotics and autonomous system, at both industrial and academic level.

3. Is there a minimum GPA required to be admitted to the RAS program?

An applicant must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) or master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university in a related field such as engineering, physics, or mathematics. A minimum of a 3.0 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.0 = “A”) in the last 60 hours of a student’s first bachelor’s degree program is required.

4. What is the deadline for applying to the RAS program?

Students can apply for and be admitted in either the spring or fall semesters. The priority deadline for fall semester admission is December 31, and the priority deadline for spring semester admission is August 15. To receive full consideration, submit all required documents by the deadline. International students must apply by April 15 for the fall semester and October 1 for the spring semester to ensure visa documents may be processed on-time.

5. Can I apply after the deadline date?

Students who meet the specified deadline date will be given top priority in our highly competitive programs. Students who submit applications and required materials after the deadline date take the chance on their applications not being reviewed or the application may be deferred to the next semester.  The RAS program does not accept applications for the summer term.

6. What are the requirements to be admitted to the RAS program?

Applicants are required to submit:

  • Graduate admission application at https://webapp4.asu.edu/dgsadmissions/Index.jsp and pay the application fee
  • Official transcripts
  • Letter of intent/written statement
  • Professional resumé or curriculum vitae
  • GRE scores
  • The program does not require specific subject GRE scores. The ASU institution code is 4007, and there is no department code (use 0000 if required).
  • Proof of English proficiency
    • The University requires all international applicants from a country whose native language is not English to provide the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IETLS), or the Pearson scores.
    • This program requires a minimum score of 575 (paper-based) or 90 (internet-based) TOEFL, 7 IETLS, or 65 Pearson as expectations for admission.
    • Applications are not processed until the university receives official scores, which are valid two years from the start date of the degree program.
    • Please address all TOEFL questions to Graduate Admissions. The ASU institution code is 4007. If department code is required use 0000.
    • If a student has completed coursework in the US, they can contact Graduate Admission to see if they qualify for a waiver.
7. Is there a required background for applying to the RAS program?

Robotics and Autonomous Systems graduate students should have knowledge in the following topics prior to applying for the program at Arizona State University: Calculus, elementary linear algebra, mechanics, control systems. Indicative ASU classes include:

  • MAT 267: Calculus for Engineers III
  • MAT 242: Elementary Linear Algebra
  • PHY 121: University Physics I: Mechanics
  • MAE 318 System Dynamics and Control I
  • MAE 417 System Dynamics and Control II

Please note that the applicant will need to indicate classes already taken in previous years and cover topics related to the above ASU classes. For information on all ASU classes visit the course catalog

8. What are the program concentrations?

The RAS program has four concentrations:

  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Systems Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
9. When should I choose concentration?

Students must select one of the four concentrations at the time of application. Each concentration is shown as a different program at the application page.

10. What are the main differences across concentrations?

Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringIt is appropriate for students who wish to emphasize applications in mechanical or aerospace engineering and provides students with the necessary background and skills for a broad range of applications of robotics and autonomous systems. Students will get a solid theoretical and practical background in a variety of topics that include theory, design and implementation of control systems, kinematics and dynamics of rigid and non-rigid (flexible, soft) robotic systems, design and bio-inspiration in controller design and hardware, swarm robotics, as well as embedded systems programming.

Systems EngineeringIt is appropriate for students who wish to emphasize applications in systems engineering. The systems concentration will prepare students to identify, model, analyze, interpret, optimize and manage the multidimensional interactions of the ever-increasing complexity of modern mechatronic and robotic problems.

Electrical EngineeringIt is appropriate for students who wish to emphasize applications in electrical engineering. Students will get a solid theoretical and practical background in a variety of topics that include theory, design and implementation of control systems, signal processing, real-time and embedded systems, computer vision, and machine learning.

Artificial IntelligenceIt is appropriate for students who wish to emphasize applications in artificial intelligence/computer science. Students will get a solid theoretical and practical background in a variety of topics that facilitate the study of “intelligent agents”, that is any robotic system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals.

For more information on the four concentrations visit https://ras.engineering.asu.edu/masters-degree/

11. Is there a required background for each concentration?

Although any engineering student can apply to all concentrations, there are some suggestions for previous background for each concentration:

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: Students applying to the Mechanical and Aerospace concentration are expected to possess basic knowledge in key relevant areas, e.g. Kinematics; Dynamics; Programming in MATLAB; System Dynamics and Control; or similar topics. Indicative ASU courses include: MAE201, MAE202, MAE215, MAE318, MAE417.

Systems Engineering: Students applying to the Systems Engineering concentration are expected to possess basic knowledge in key relevant areas, e.g. Feedback and Controls; Embedded Systems; Programming (preferably C or similar language, MATLAB-Simulink-toolboxes). Dynamics; or similar topics. Indicative ASU courses include: EGR 219, EGR 455, EGR 456, EGR 433, PHY 321.

Electrical Engineering: Students applying to the Electrical Engineering concentration are expected to possess basic knowledge in key relevant areas, e.g. Signals and Systems; Feedback and Controls; Computer Architecture & Organization; Embedded Systems; Random Signal Analysis; Programming (preferably C or similar language, MATLAB-Simulink-toolboxes); or similar topics. Indicative ASU courses include: EEE 203, EEE 230, EEE 350, CSE 220, EEE480, EEE481.

Artificial Intelligence: Students applying to the Artificial Intelligence concentration are expected to possess basic knowledge in key relevant areas, e.g. Programming Languages; Discrete Mathematics; Data Structures and Algorithms; or similar topics. Indicative ASU courses include: CSE 220 or 240; MAT 243 or 300; CSE 310.

For information on all ASU classes visit the course catalog

12. Can I switch to a different concentration after starting the program?

Yes. Students who want to change between concentrations or change to another degree program must submit a new application with Graduate Admission. If admitted, the Graduate College’s pre-admission policy states that a student is allowed to use only twelve (12) credits with grades of “B” or better from the original program to the new program. However, petitions to the pre-admission policy will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

13. Can I switch to RAS from a different degree program in ASU?

Yes. Students who want to transfer to RAS from another degree program in ASU must submit a new application with Graduate Admission. If admitted, the Graduate College’s pre-admission policy states that a student is allowed to use only twelve (12) credits with grades of “B” or better from the original program to the new program. However, petitions to the pre-admission policy will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

14 .Can I pursue two (or more) concurrent degrees?

Yes. A student may pursue concurrent master’s degrees with prior written approval from the head of the academic unit for each degree program and the Graduate College office. A separate online application is required for each degree program. A maximum of 20 percent (20%) of the minimum total semester hours for the completion of both degrees may be common hours shared between the Plans of Study. The total number of hours common to both degree programs may vary from this maximum value only when the Graduate College has formally approved coordinated degree programs.

15. Can I pursue two concurrent RAS degrees at two different concentrations?

No. Pursuing two concurrent RAS degrees is not allowed in any of the concentrations.

16. What is the minimum credit hours required for the RAS program?

A minimum of 30 credit hours of coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree and deficiency courses are required to complete the MS degree. All master’s students are required to develop and submit an Interactive Plan of Study (iPOS) through your MyASU page during the first semester at ASU. The iPOS should be developed with the aid of the student’s faculty advisor. The graduate academic advisor, acting on behalf of the graduate program chair, will initially advise the student. Students pursuing the non-thesis option will list the program chair as their faculty advisor. Students pursuing the thesis option should seek out a faculty member in his or her area of study to serve as advisor and committee chair.

17. Are there different classes requirements for each concentration?

Students in all concentrations are required to take the two RAS core courses:

  • MAE 501 Linear Algebra in Engineering (3)
  • MAE 547 Modeling and Control of Robots (3)

The requirements for the remaining credits vary among concentration. The requirements for each concentration can be found at https://ras.engineering.asu.edu/courses/Note that all concentrations require the student to take at least two technical electives outside their concentration.

18. What are the classes I can take as technical electives?

The technical electives for the RAS program are all classes listed at https://ras.engineering.asu.edu/courses/, irrespective of concentration. Additional technical electives outside the aforementioned list can be taken. However, those electives must be graduate courses in science, engineering, mathematics, or others approved by the Graduate Program Committee. Check with your academic advisor if a desired technical elective is approved by the RAS program.

19. Can I do a Master Thesis as the culminating event?

Yes, all concentrations allow a student to do a Thesis (6 credits) as the culminating event. The thesis option is the research master’s degree. A member of the corresponding Graduate Faculty (with co-chair or chair status as specified on the web site) must agree to serve as the program committee chair (faculty advisor) for a student to be transferred to the MS—thesis degree program. The Graduate Academic Advising Office will need to have confirmation in writing (email is acceptable) from the faculty member agreeing to serve as the thesis chair prior to a plan change being made to move to the MS—thesis degree. The program committee chair, in consultation with the student, will establish a Program Committee. It shall be composed of a minimum of three members from the ASU faculty with at least two being from the RAS Faculty. If the committee chair has co-chair status on the graduate faculty, the program committee must include a RAS faculty member with chair or co-chair status serving as second co-chair. Participation of individuals from institutions external to ASU is encouraged but must be approved by the Graduate Program Chair and the Graduate College.

20. How can I find a faculty advisor for my Thesis?

The list of graduate faculty in the RAS program can be found here: https://ras.engineering.asu.edu/faculty/

If you want to work with a faculty not currently listed, please have the faculty member submit an application to join the RAS graduate faculty at https://ras.engineering.asu.edu/join/

21. Can I do an Applied/Supervised Project as the culminating event?

Yes, however only the following concentrations offer the Applied/Supervised Project option:

  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Systems Engineering
22. Can I do Portfolio (non-thesis) as the culminating event?

Yes, however only the following concentrations offer the Portfolio option:

  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Systems Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
23. Can I get an assistantship?

The RAS program and the participating schools evaluate each applicant and determine the awards for teaching assistantships (TA). TA positions are awarded primarily to Ph.D. students and therefore a very limited number of TA positions might be available to the students in the RAS program. RA positions are offered to the highest caliber of students. RA offers are made to admitted students by an interested faculty member. Some faculty members do not offer RA positions to newly admitted students.  Students can contact a specific faculty member or members in their research area of interest regarding open positions. Students will be contacted by the faculty member if they are interested in hiring the student as an RA, as there is no formal application for an RA position. Students are encouraged to submit a CV or resume with their application for review by the faculty in the student’s research area of interest.

24. How long will it take me to graduate?

The master’s degree programs typically take two years to complete.

25. Can I be accepted into the RAS program if I don’t have an engineering background?

The RAS program admits students from a variety of backgrounds including Statistics, Mathematics, and Physics. Students may gain admissions with undergraduate deficiencies, but are also encouraged to apply as a non-degree seeking graduate student to complete any needed deficiencies before applying to the degree program. Students are required to complete deficiency courses by the end of their first year in the program.

26. Is there a Ph.D. program in Robotics and Autonomous Systems?

No. A Ph.D. program in Robotics and Autonomous Systems is among the future goals of the Robotics faculty in ASU.

27. Is there a "4+1" option to the RAS program?

Not yet. A “4+1” option will be available in the near future.

28. Where can I learn about research opportunities and labs in Robotics and Autonomous Systems in ASU?

With over 25 state-of-the-art research labs on robotics and autonomous systems, ASU drives positive change in society by collaboratively pursuing advancements in robotics technologies, systems and education. Learn more about robotics faculty and research at http://robotics.asu.edu/

29. Where can I find more information about the RAS program?

For additional information please see the Graduate Program Handbook: RAS Graduate Program Handbook