What are Master’s in Robotics Degrees?
Master’s in Robotics degrees are interdisciplinary programs that intersect computer science, mathematics, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. People with a Master’s in Robotics work for a range of companies that automate machines, such as self-driving vehicles, manufacturing, and medical devices.
Master’s in Robotics are often provided by various engineering colleges. For example, the Robotics Track program at the University of Utah is offered in three different departments:
- School of Computing
- Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
- Department of Mechanical Engineering
Most universities, like University of Texas, require core coursework to be taken in multiple departments to ensure a broad, interdisciplinary program. The Texas program is a certification added to a more general Master’s degree. In addition to robotics courses, most programs require programming courses such as Advanced Topics in Computer Vision, advanced mathematics courses similar to Geometry of Mechanisms and Robots, and mechanical engineering courses like Dynamics of Mechanical Systems.
Types of Robotics Graduate Programs
Many universities with strong engineering departments offer a Master’s of Robotics. This is most often its own degree, although sometimes it is a specialization for another master’s program, such as Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or Computer Science. The degrees signify an advanced knowledge in robotics.
Some Master’s in Robotics degrees are Master’s of Engineering instead of Master’s of Science. For example, Washington University in St. Louis offers a Master of Engineering in Robotics. Usually, recipients of Master’s of Engineering degrees do not continue on to a Ph.D. or other degree. Master’s of Science degrees provide requisite experiences and courses to continue on to a Ph.D. program. Both degrees are respected in the industry and qualify recipients as advanced in robotics.
The title of the degree depends on the specialization of the university. For example, Ohio State specializes in automotive systems, so the degree is called MS in Mechanical Engineering – Automotive Systems and Mobility. Other universities call the degree Master of Science in Robotics, Master’s in Mechanical Engineering – Robotics, Systems Modeling, Dynamics, And Control, or M.S. in Computer Science – Robotics, but most identify the focus in robotics in the titles. This is helpful when applying for jobs that require robotics expertise.
Even Master’s in Robotics programs have specializations since Robotics is such a dense field. For example, UC-Riverside allows for focus in artificial intelligence and perception, control and navigation, embedded platforms and system design, and mechanical design and fabrication.
How Do Robotics Graduate Programs Work?
Most Master’s in Robotics programs require two years of courses, although some are more flexible and allow for shorter longer time frames. For example, Northwestern’s program may be completed in 1 year. The maximum amount of time allowed to complete a master’s program is usually six years. Some of the programs expect a traditional student approach, with on-campus classes and research for six consecutive semesters. Other programs allow for a hybrid approach with some classes online or alternatively taken on a fully online approach.
The cost of a Master’s in Robotics often exceeds $30,000 and some even cost over $60,000. For some programs, the on-campus cost is less than online tuition. For example, UW-Seattle charges $25,000 for on-campus whereas online costs over $46,000.
Students in Master’s of Robotics programs must have strong programming and analytical skills. Some universities require fundamental programming courses, such as Wayne State University, which requires a fundamentals of Python course. The courses also involve a range of engineering skills.
For example, the courses often cover the design of robots, which requires mathematical skills, mechanical and electrical engineering skills, and a firm grasp of computer algorithms. The most common programming languages used in robotics are C, C++, Python, and Java.
Master’s in Robotics programs rely on hands-on learning experiences. The theory is reinforced with projects and research. Many programs provide experience in everything from design to implementation of robotics.
Curriculum and Coursework
Most programs require ten courses in robotics, computer science, and machine learning or artificial intelligence. UPenn ensures a diverse curriculum by requiring courses in artificial intelligence, robot design and analysis, control, and perception. Skills in each of these areas are required for master’s level knowledge in robotics.
More specifically, most Master’s in Robotics programs require a core set of specialized courses to provide a valuable, high-quality program. For example, Tufts requires:
- Introduction to Human-robot Interaction
- Robot design and control
- Robot programming
- Modeling for engineering systems
The core classes teach essential expertise robotics to enable graduates to build a career or research in robotics. Typically, three to five courses are required. The other five to seven courses are electives that allow for focus on an individual’s specialty.
The majority of Master’s in Robotics curriculums allow for either a thesis track or a project track. A thesis involves research, writing, and sometimes an oral presentation of robotics theory. Projects involve design and development involving robotics.
These options usually count for one to six of the thirty required credit hours, although some universities, like Georgia Tech, require the capstone project to count as an additional six credit hours. A thesis track is better for someone planning to go into research or a Ph.D. program. The project-based track is best for master’s students who plan to pursue a career in the robotics industry after the program.
What Do You Need for a Master’s in Robotics?
Background, Skills, and Prerequisites
Many Master’s in Robotics students have a strong interest in science, engineering, and mathematics, including a bachelor’s degree in one or more of these subjects. They may have even worked in the industry already.
Most programs do not require specific courses before enrolling. Some may require remedial courses in mathematics, signals and systems, or computer science if a student lacks skills or knowledge in these subjects. To succeed in a Master’s in Robotics program, students must have mastered this subject matter.
General Admissions Requirements
Many Master’s in Robotics programs require a science, engineering, or mathematics degree for admission. Most require a 3.0 G.P.A., although at least one program, UW-Seattle, requires a 3.5. Some students are required to submit foreign language test scores, but very few programs require the G.R.E. In some cases, universities like Kennesaw State allow for waiver of the G.R.E. given relevant work experience and a high undergraduate G.P.A.
More specialized master’s programs require specific degrees. For example, UNR has a Master’s in Mining with a focus in Intelligent Mining Systems. The degree requires either a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering or sufficient coursework combined with a degree in engineering. Students with an undergraduate degree in physical sciences may apply if they have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering professional exam.
Online Master’s in Robotics Programs
Several universities offer online programs for a Master’s in Robotics. The programs are generally the same as on-campus programs, but they may offer fewer electives to choose from. For example, Rice only offers 10 classes online, all of which are required. However, most of the programs advertise that the online degree is equivalent to on-campus degrees. Some online programs cost more than in-person programs, but others, like Embry-Riddle, cost roughly the same.
Many of the online Master’s in Robotics programs offer significant flexibility. For example, WPI offers classes live and self-paced. Brandeis allows students to complete the degree on a part-time basis. This advantage makes it more possible to earn a Master’s in Robotics while working or otherwise occupied.
What’s the Relationship Between Robotics and Artificial Intelligence?
An autonomous system is a device or application that replicates human behavior without a human’s control over the system. For example, a self-driving car is an autonomous system because it operates autonomously from a human driver.
Robotics is the design and development of autonomous systems. It requires mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, complex mathematical calculations, and software engineering.
Artificial intelligence is the theory that controls autonomous systems. Common forms of artificial intelligence used in robotics are computer vision control, machine learning, and cognitive systems.
Robotics involves the physical components of an autonomous system in addition to the artificial intelligence-driven software that controls the behavior. The autonomous systems may be virtual or physical. Many autonomous systems involve interactions with humans. For example, medical devices used in surgeries usually have a surgeon interacting with them.
What Jobs Can You Get With a Master’s in Robotics?
A Master’s in Robotics qualifies you for jobs in a wide range of industries. Some of the industries are manufacturing, transportation, aerospace, defense, healthcare. The job title for someone with a Master’s in Robotics may be Robotics Engineer, Software Engineer, Mechatronics Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Robotics Systems Integration Engineer, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Engineer, or Quality Control Engineer.
Each of these jobs specializes in a different point of the design and production of autonomous systems. For example, Quality Control Engineers may be primarily involved with the testing or production of autonomous systems.
A Master’s in Robotics also enables you to conduct research. For example, researchers at Colorado conduct research for the Army’s Micro Autonomous Science and Technology (MAST) CTA, and the AFOSR Center of Excellence on Nature-Inspired Flight Technologies and Ideas (NIFTI). Tufts researchers focus more on human-robot interactions.
Salary for Master’s in Robotics Graduates
Salaries for robotics engineers range from $70,000 per year to over $200,000 per year, depending on the industry. A more typical salary is in the range of $80,000 to $100,000. For example, Stevens University says its graduates earn about $95,000 per year, and 95% are employed within three months. Worcester Polytechnic Institute reports starting salaries around $81,000 per year. Total compensation is likely higher. Total compensation would also include signing bonuses, performance bonuses, and stock options.