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FAQs

Below are answers to frequently asked questions related to the Master of Science in Energy and Sustainability (MSES) offered by Northwestern University. Want to learn more? We invite you to attend one of our many information sessions scheduled throughout the year or contact us at mses@northwestern.edu with additional questions.

General

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Why Northwestern?

Northwestern University is one of only four US universities that ranks in the top twenty across all categories of graduate education and the top 10 overall. The MSES program is interdisciplinary, drawing on strengths from multiple schools. In addition, the university is located in the Chicago area with close programmatic and physical connections to industry.

What makes this program unique?

  1. Fast & Focused - The program is unique with its one-year timing. This provides strong professional training to deliver energy & sustainability solutions but limits time out of the workforce.
  2. Important & Interdisciplinary - MSES will give students the opportunity to be leaders in the most important and exciting areas of our time: Energy & Sustainability. Organizations are hungry for professionals who can bring skills across competency areas. MSES takes the best of Northwestern and involves collaboration with all schools: Engineering, Business, Arts & Sciences, etc.
  3. Professional - Teaching is done on a team basis, pairing NU faculty with working professionals. The program is uniquely tied to the activity of corporate and non-profit partners. The program is hands-on – including consulting projects and field visits to energy & sustainability sites.

What does the cohort population look like?

Please refer to the Cohort Profile page to learn about the current cohort.

What school/department administers this degree program at Northwestern?

The MSES program is administered by the university-wide Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), and the degree is conferred by Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. MSES curriculum offerings span a range of disciplines and are taught by expert instructors from fields including business, public policy, technology, science, and economics.

Are MSES students part of The Graduate School?

No. MSES students are McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science students.

Where can I find information about graduate school (on-campus) housing at Northwestern?

MSES Students may choose to live on-campus or off-campus. Classes will take place on the Evanston campus so many students may choose to live in Evanston. However, it is completely feasible to live in Chicago or another suburb and commute to campus via car or public transit. 

Residential Services offers two residence halls for graduate students not in the Kellogg School of Management: Engelhart Hall and Garrett Place Apartments. Information about these options is available on their website

Another option is GREEN House, a special interest residential community located in the North Campus fraternity quad. There are about 40 residents in the residential community who take interest in promoting environmental sustainability and awareness. Residents from a variety of majors and interests find their niche in GREEN House because all are welcome to join (including grad students)! Learn more here. Students can apply to live in GREEN House through the on-campus housing portal

Where can I find information about living off-campus?

MSES Students may choose to live on-campus or off-campus. Classes will take place on the Evanston campus so many students may choose to live in Evanston. However, it is completely feasible to live in Chicago or another suburb and commute to campus via car or public transit. 

The Off-Campus Life website contains information and resources available to students living off-campus—from apartment hunting to being a good neighbor within the Chicago/Evanston and Northwestern communities.

Some students rent apartments in Chicago and the neighboring suburbs. Since the campus is centrally located, public transportation is excellent and easily accessible. It is highly advised that students who wish to rent apartments visit the area and make living arrangements before beginning their program.

Does Northwestern offer virtual campus tours?

Yes. We offer students the ability to take an interactive, 360-degree view of the Northwestern campus at your convenience. In addition to academic buildings, you can see residential buildings, dining halls, athletic facilities, and more. Northwestern students will give you a personal perspective on residential life and academics, including research opportunities, innovation, design and the arts. The virtual tour is available here.

Does Northwestern offer campus tours?

Yes, prospective students are welcome to register to attend a campus tour offered through the Segal Visitors Center. These tours are typically geared towards prospective undergraduate students, but tour guides can incorporate information for graduate students. You may also choose to participate in a self-guided tour. Information about both tour options is available here.

Career Outcomes/Industry

Will there be a clear career path for me after I receive this degree?

The MSES exposes students to industry and practitioners, yielding diverse skills across competency areas. Access to MSES faculty, field visits, and a capstone consulting project create a powerful professional network for graduates. Each specialization provides a deeper dive into the associated topics, providing specific knowledge and skillsets that will complement a student’s chosen professional direction upon graduation.

What are your career placement rates?

The first MSES cohort graduated in June 2021 and all graduates looking for full-time work were placed into desirable jobs within 4 months of graduation; the second MSES cohort was approximately 90% placed in the same timeframe.  This included roles in renewable project development, energy and sustainability consulting, various in-house sustainability roles (supply chain, operations, strategy, food, built environment, etc), engineering, and more.  To learn about MSES career programming visit the Careers section of our website. 

What types of jobs do MSES graduates take after the program?

The first MSES cohort graduated in June 2021 and all graduates looking for full-time work were placed into desirable jobs within 4 months of graduation. This included roles in renewable project development, energy and sustainability consulting, sustainable food, built environment, and more. To learn about MSES career programming visit the Careers section of our website. 

Application/Candidacy

How do I apply for the MSES program?

Please visit the Deadlines & How to Apply page.  Prospective students can save their application progress and return to it at any point in the process. 

Who should apply? Who is the ideal program applicant?

MSES is designed for students seeking a career as a leader or a manager in an organization (civic, nonprofit, not-for-profit, regulatory ) within the energy and/or sustainability fields. Applicants should have (at least) a bachelor’s degree with demonstrated competence in quantitative and/or analytical expertise. Ideal applicants will be early/mid-career or have graduated with distinction in their field of study and have a demonstrable commitment to energy and sustainability through academic achievements, volunteer or summer work experience, student research and leadership activities, or other comparable experiences. More information about who should apply is available here.

When will I receive an admission decision?

We begin reviewing submitted applications once the deadline has passed. It generally takes the Admissions Committee about a month to review those applications and make decisions. Students who are accepted generally have one month to respond to our offer. However, this window gets shorter as we get into Spring/Summer. By the response deadline, the applicant must submit a $750 non-refundable tuition deposit. The application deadlines are available here.

Am I qualified / eligible to apply?

We welcome applications from a diverse array of students. Most of our students have undergraduate degrees in business / finance / economics, engineering, social sciences (ranging from environmental studies to history), and natural sciences. We do not have any formal requirements about undergraduate major, GPA, professional background, etc. Rather, we look at each applicant holistically, taking into account

  1. your passion for energy and sustainability;
  2. why you want this specific master’s program, how you think it will help you advance your career goals, and what you think you’ll bring to the program and the cohort;
  3. your ability to handle quantitative material, like working in excel.

What transcripts am I required to submit?

Please submit an electronic copy of transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended whether you have received a degree or not. This includes degrees currently in progress and study abroad credit. All pages of the transcript should be scanned and saved as a PDF file. Please ensure they are legible. If your transcripts are not in English, please send a copy in the original language and a certified translation. If admitted to the MSES program, official transcripts in sealed envelopes, or sent by secure electronic delivery direct from the institution, will be required before matriculation.

Does MSES offer deferment?

MSES does not offer formal deferment. Deferral may be granted on a case-by-case basis where there are extenuating circumstances such as a medical emergency. Students are welcome to reapply to the program for future years.

Do you offer admission in the Spring?

No. The MSES program is cohort-based, meaning students take all their core, required classes as one group. They also move through the curriculum together, starting in the Fall quarter, continuing through Winter quarter, and graduating at the end of Spring quarter. We have one cohort per year, which starts in the fall. Applications typically open a year prior to the program start (i.e., applications for the Class of 2024, with a Fall 2023 start date, will open September 2022). Please see the admissions page for more info on the application process.

International Students

Can international students apply to the program?

Yes, although international applicants have a special final deadline which is earlier than for domestic students. Check the admissions deadlines to learn when you must apply. This is to ensure sufficient time for visa processing should the applicant be admitted to the program.

Do I need to provide an English Proficiency report?

International applicants are required to provide a TOEFL or IELTS score report. Exceptions are made when the applicant has earned their bachelor’s degree from a university in the US, or where the language of instruction was English. International applicants are required to submit these scores from the past two years to demonstrate language proficiency. Applicants must score at least a 90 on the TOEFL (send to institutional code C527), or 7.0 on the IELTS (e-deliver score results to "Northwestern University - Master in Energy & Sustainability").

Do you accept Duolingo for English Proficiency?

At this time, MSES only accepts TOEFL and IELTS reports for English proficiency.

What TOEFL or IELTS score do I need to obtain to be eligible for the MSES Program?

To be eligible for admission, applicants must score at least a 90 on the TOEFL (send to institutional code C527), or 7.0 on the IELTS (e-deliver score results to "Northwestern University - Master in Energy & Sustainability").  Scores must be from the past two years to demonstrate language proficiency.

Is this a STEM-OTP certified program?

Yes, the MSES Program is STEM-OPT certified, granting international students a 2-year extension on their visa.

Cost/Financial Aid

How much does the program cost?

Please refer to the Tuition page for current cost information.

Are scholarships or financial aid available? What are the eligibility requirements (need-based vs. merit)?

Internal funding by the MSES Program consists of two small funding pots – the MSES Scholars Fund and the MSES International Scholars Fund. Please see the financial aid page for further information on these funds, as well as other funding sources.

Where can I learn more about financial aid?

Information related to University and external financial aid resources is available here. Included are opportunities for veterans as well as for historically underrepresented groups of students. The Evanston Office of Graduate Financial Aid assists current and incoming students with loan information only. You may contact the office by phone at 847–491–8950 or by e-mail at gradinaid@northwestern.edu.

Curriculum/Teaching Model

Are part-time/distance options available for instruction?

We do not currently offer part-time or formal distance learning options. Our program is designed to provide a concentrated learning experience that allows students to earn their degree in just 10 months and to return to the workforce with a strengthened network and competitive skills.

Is the program offered online, or in a hybrid model?

At this time the MSES Program is only offered as a full-time, on-campus study option. The program runs for three consecutive quarters, beginning in the Fall, continuing through Winter quarter, and graduating at the end of Spring quarter. Classes are held on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

How many courses is a full-time course load?

Students take four credits each quarter: three as part of a prescribed core curriculum, and the fourth for the elective specialization. Coursework culminates in the spring quarter with a consulting capstone project. Field visits to energy and sustainability facilities take place year-round. Additional details on MSES courses and the curriculum model are available here.

What is the teaching model? Will students get non-lecture, experiential education alongside classroom theory?

The rigorous, interdisciplinary core curriculum spans technology, finance, and public policy, combined with a student-selected specialization track. A cohort-based classroom experience is complemented by the practical application of MSES curriculum through field visits with industry and a capstone spring consulting project. World-class teaching teams comprise faculty and industry practitioners. Additional details on MSES courses and the curriculum model are available here.

Is a thesis or dissertation required? Are there research opportunities?

The MSES Program is a terminal master’s degree. So, there is no thesis or dissertation, and the program is not suitable for someone looking to continue on to a PhD/doctoral program. Rather than an individual research project, the MSES Program culminates in a capstone project, where teams of students complete a 10-week consulting project for a real client in an energy or sustainability organization. For more information about the capstone project, visit the Practicum page {link}.