Master in Design Engineering at Harvard

The Master in Design Engineering (MDE) is a two-year program that was launched in the fall of 2016. This course was introduced by Harvard University to prepare the next generation of leaders, with the hope that they will devise transformative solutions capable of improving society. The fields of engineering and design have been integrated into this program to address the world’s biggest challenges.

Global warming, rapid industrialization, and depleting resources have become challenges for mankind. These issues can only be mitigated through deep understanding, which will allow the researchers to understand the underlying architecture of problems. 

This is where the Design Engineering at Harvard can make a difference. It will enable graduates belonging to diverse backgrounds to collaborate and use their creativity and analytical ability to arrive at strategically sound solutions.

Best of Two Worlds 

MDE is a collaborative degree offered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). 

The students will spend their first year at GSD and their second year at SEAS, thereby, learning from accomplished faculties in both institutions. This program is structured to encourage dialogue in order to find feasible solutions to complex problems that are social, natural, and informational in nature. 

Exploring Harvard

Students at Harvard are provided with several opportunities which extend beyond GSD and SEAS. Opportunities related to extracurricular activities and academic support are also provided to students at the nearly 400-year-old Harvard university. For example, the Harvard Office of Sustainability provides funding to the students for their summer projects.

The students who enroll in the MDE program get the opportunity to access resources at both GSD and SEAS. Some of the facilities include studio space, fabrication labs, and libraries. Beyond SEAS and the GSD, students have access to many resources within the Harvard community.

Course Objective

The objective of the MDE program is aimed at the transformation of students into multi-faceted leaders. This includes shaping them into critical thinkers, managers of complexity, and strategists capable of providing comprehensive assessments and solutions to interdisciplinary problems (that are socio-political, economic, ethical, and technical in nature). 

Also, the design engineering toolkit encompasses multi-layered analytical approaches, networked objects and environments, soft and hard infrastructures, and strategic plans. All of this can be leveraged to address massive challenges and mitigate threats to our built and natural environment.


Only those candidates who are ready to tackle complex real-world challenges are considered for admission. The requirements are as follows:  

1. At least two years of work experience in fields such as engineering, design, business, and government service, among others. 

2. A degree in design, engineering, sciences, social sciences, or a related field.

3. Must demonstrate technical literacy (see below*)and multidisciplinary design interests. Applicants must submit project descriptions. They must have diverse interests and be able to comprehend lessons in a fast-paced, interdisciplinary setting, which relies on collaborative efforts. Applicants will also be required to submit a brief essay. The text must address complex problems, the domain of interest, and the ways in which this degree can be utilized to achieve their goals.

[*Technical literacy includes mathematical skills in calculus, statistics, and experience in coding applications and advanced computer simulation tools. Students requiring experience can pursue online courses to enhance their technical knowledge. Skills and software central to the ‘Collaborative Design Engineering Studio’ will be taught in a preterm workshop.]

The faculty at GSD and SEAS form a joint committee to evaluate every application. Candidates suitable for the program will be selected on the basis of demonstrated qualities, statement of purpose, letter of recommendation, and the submitted portfolio. 

While the MDE is a collaborative degree program between the two institutions, the process of admission is overseen by GSD. 

Career Services

  • On-campus Employment

MDE students are eligible for several positions at the GSD, SEAS, and other Harvard schools. They are permitted to work part-time while being enrolled in the program. Some of these jobs include research assistantships with faculty, centers, and/or labs, teaching assistantships for GSD courses, and teaching fellowships for SEAS and FAS courses. While there are numerous opportunities, student skill sets and initiative are critical to securing them.

  • Summer Internships

Several students choose to pursue internships in the summer between academic years. The MDE program does not provide internship placement but does offer and facilitate various opportunities with the External Advisory Board. The program has also partnered with Amazon to offer up to four internships per summer, depending on the strength and competence of the applicants.

Students are also eligible for GSD programs such as Community Service Fellowships (CSFP), a program through which students apply for summer employment fellowships in agencies/organizations that address issues serving the public interests of communities.

  • Post-graduation Employment

MDE graduates head in directions as diverse as their backgrounds and projects. To learn more about the accomplishments of graduates in the program, and where they are placed, visit the alumni page.

Beyond Harvard 

Harvard is located in Boston, which provides a wealth of opportunities to students. There are many wonderful venues in Boston that have something to offer to everyone. The richness of intellectual life outside Harvard further ensures ample scope for research and academic collaboration, including MIT, where MDE students can choose a limited number of electives.

We hope this article on Design Engineering at Harvard helps. If you are planning to apply for this program, make sure you go through all the information related to the course before making a decision.

Good Luck!

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