Degree Requirements

SENSING: John Kendall showcases his final project in EECS481, a game on the Microsoft Kinect platform
SENSING: John Kendall showcases his final project in EECS481, a game on the Microsoft Kinect platform
REASONING: Ed Olson’s Autonomous Robot Team, victors of the MAGIC 2010 Competition.
ACTING: MARLO, a bipedal robot developed by Professor Jessy W. Grizzle's research group
ACTING: MARLO, a bipedal robot developed by Professor Jessy W. Grizzle’s research group

Course Requirements (Masters and PhD)

The Robotics Masters (MS) degree program requires completion of 30 credits of letter-graded coursework including directed study for 3 to 6 credits.  PhD programs have very similar course requirements.  PhD students earn a Masters degree as part of their PhD program.  To complete the PhD, students will typically complete a minimum of 6 additional credits to satisfy specific course requirements.  The Rackham Residency requirement states that at least 18 of the 36 course credits required for a PhD be earned at the University of Michigan, for those entering with MS degrees from other institutions.

The robotics program classifies most of its courses as belonging to one of three core subdisciplines:

  • Sensing – Includes computer vision, mapping, signal processing (click here for a list of approved robot sensing courses)
  • Reasoning – Includes planning, multi-agent coordination, machine learning, artificial intelligence (click here for a list of approved robot reasoning courses)
  • Acting – Includes control, kinematics, dynamics, mechanical, bio-mechanical systems design, manipulation, real-time systems (click here for a list of approved robot acting courses)

The following table summarizes robotics program course requirements.   The “Other Electives” course set is quite general and should be discussed with a student’s advisor and documented on the student’s course plan.  Some suggested math and robotics courses hosted in traditional departments are listed here.

Course / Category Description Requirement
ROB 501 Math for Robotics 3 credits
ROB 550 Robotic Systems Laboratory 4 credits
Breadth One course from each core area:  sensing, reasoning, acting 3 courses (9+ credits)
Depth At least one additional course taken from at least one of the three core areas 3 credits


(for students admitted before Fall 2018)

One technical course from outside your Depth core area.  Note that the cognate CANNOT double-count for a Breadth course. 4 credits
Directed Study

Research supervised by a robotics faculty member.

**(If you are seeking ROB 590 credit for MDP approval is required from the grad committee– email

3 credits required **(can take up to 6 credits and count towards the degree)
Other Electives  400 level or higher (approved by a faculty advisor) 3+ credits

1st Year Students

All first-year MS and PhD robotics students are advised to take three courses in the first (fall) semester:  Math for Robotics (ROB 501), Robotic Systems Laboratory (ROB 550), plus a third course related to their primary area of interest.  In the second term, students are advised to take two courses, e.g., from other breadth areas, plus a directed study course. 

Each student is strongly encouraged to meet with his/her research advisor or the graduate chair soon after arrival on campus to discuss course options. The goal of this meeting is to develop a course plan that satisfies course requirements and student interests.  It is expected that each student will identify and meet with a (directed study) research advisor by the beginning of their second term.

Qualification Process (PhD)

A major milestone for PhD students is to pass the qualifying exams, which advances the student to PhD candidate status. The qualification process is comprised of a review of academic performance, technical qualifying exam, and a research preliminary exam.  A PhD student is considered to have adequate performance in coursework if his/her grade-point average is 3.5 or above.  Both components of the exam are typically completed after three semesters in the program.

Technical Qualifying Exam This is an oral exam in which the student is examined by two faculty members. The faculty will examine the student’s understanding of technical fundamentals gained from coursework.  Beginning in April 2017, the technical qualifying exam will focus on content of two required courses:  ROB 501 and ROB 550.

Research Preliminary Exam The student delivers an oral presentation describing a research problem. Following the presentation (which may focus, for example, on a literature review plus early original research), two faculty members will question the student on their understanding of their subject.

Thesis Proposal and Defense (PhD)

PhD students must propose, write, and defend a thesis on an original research topic. At least a year prior to the final thesis defense, the student must defend a proposal to the PhD committee.