Master’s in Network Engineering Requirements: Timeline & Checklist

October 4, 2021

The ROI of a Master of Science in Network Engineering, or MSNE, is undeniable. An MSNE will help you stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace and advance more quickly. You can earn significantly more as a network engineer, network architect or networking consultant with this degree. In an adaptive and future-focused MSNE program like the one offered online by Southern Methodist University’s Lyle School of Engineering, you’ll hone the network engineering skills necessary to tackle the networking challenges of today and adapt to the changes already driving the future of the field.

Just because a network engineering master’s is a smart investment doesn’t make it easy to get one, however. Simply applying for acceptance into an MSNE program can feel like a monumental task because the master’s in network engineering requirements related to admission and enrollment aren’t always clear. SMU Lyle’s 30-credit, part-time online MSNE application requirements are relatively straightforward, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the prerequisite and admission requirements, materials requirements and deadlines before applying. More importantly, you need to understand what the admissions committee looks for in network engineering master’s applications before you begin.

Below, you’ll find almost everything you need to know about the requirements and deadlines for SMU Lyle’s online master’s in network engineering—along with concrete tips you can use to make your SMU application as strong as possible.

SMU’s MSNE Application Requirements

SMU Lyle’s application requirements are relatively simple. Applicants fill out the online application, pay a $75 application fee and submit three additional items: unofficial transcripts, a resume or CV and a personal statement. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to gather and compose each.


The ideal MSNE program applicant has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, electrical, electronics, or computer engineering, mathematics, one of the sciences or an engineering discipline, plus some computer programming, information technologyinformation systems or software engineering experience. However, you can apply with a bachelor’s in liberal arts or business if you have taken and passed differential and integral calculus and physics. You’ll submit unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended in the Academic History quadrant of the online application—whether or not you earned a degree. Your transcripts should show a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for all previous undergraduate and graduate studies.

If you don’t meet some of these requirements or have limited experience working with computer networks, you may be conditionally admitted to the program on the understanding that you will complete specific network engineering coursework before the first semester begins. You may also need to satisfy a competency requirement by taking a departmental exam before you can officially enroll in the Online MSNE program. SMU Lyle makes decisions regarding articulation coursework and exams on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions about whether your academic background satisfies the master’s in network engineering requirements, an enrollment advisor can help.

Professional Resume/CV

Don’t worry if your resume doesn’t show much networking experience or you’ve never held a network engineer job. Some MSNE candidates are already network administrators, network engineers or network design specialists with professional experience and industry credentials—but others are relatively new to networking, because SMU Lyle’s program meets students where they are in their careers. Just be sure your resume highlights any related computer science, computer engineering, cybersecurity or tech industry experience that showcases why you’re a good fit. You can include internships, research participation and other non-professional experiences in networking or related fields that paint a more complete picture of your background, aptitudes and interests.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement should be a short essay—about 500 words and no longer than one page—explaining what attracted you to SMU Lyle’s Online M.S. in Network Engineering program and how a master’s degree will support your career ambitions. This isn’t the time to rehash your work history. Your goal isn’t to convince the admissions committee that you can become a talented network engineer. You need to show them how the MSNE curriculum‘s focus on cross-functional skills that align with evolving industry needs will help you achieve your goals. You can also share any pertinent information not found elsewhere in the application, but stay focused on why this is the right program for you.

International applicants with F-1 or J-1 student visas have to meet the same application deadlines as domestic applicants even though they apply using the international student application. If your first language isn’t English, you must satisfy an English Proficiency requirement by taking the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo proficiency exams or show proof of two years or four consecutive semesters of study at an institution in the US, Australia, New Zealand or the UK.

Lyle Online’s Network Engineering Master’s Application Deadlines

SMU Lyle Online has four app-submit deadlines—Early Review, Priority Submit 1, Priority Submit 2 and Final Submit. There’s about one month between the first three deadline rounds and slightly less between the two final application rounds. The admissions committee generally reviews applications for the fall semester near the end of April, May, and June, and then once more in mid-July—though deadlines can change from year to year. Understanding the differences between MSNE application submission deadlines is the key to choosing the right one for you.

Common wisdom holds that it’s always better to apply as soon as possible, but it’s simply not true. There are certainly advantages to applying early. Getting your application materials in by the Early Review deadline may mean there are more spots available in the online network engineering master’s program and there is more departmental funding available. However, if you’ll need to rush to submit your materials in the first or second application rounds, it’s probably better to wait. There may be fewer open spots in the program, but you’ll be a stronger applicant because you took the time you needed to prepare your application materials with care.

A Sample Application Timeline and Checklist

As early as possible…

  • Research financial aid options. SMU Lyle’s Online MSNE costs $43,500 in tuition and fees, but few students pay the full sticker price of this degree out of pocket. For more information about financial aid, email or call (469) 613-0778.
  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and be sure to include SMU’s code: 003613. The university will receive your Student Aid Report three to five days after you apply.
  • Read everything you can about Lyle School of Engineering’s mission and the network engineering master’s program. You should be familiar with the program’s focus and content before beginning your personal statement.

A few months before deadline…

  • Connect with an enrollment advisor to go over how your academic and professional credentials stack up against the master’s in network engineering requirements for admission.
  • Research private scholarships if you plan to take advantage of that funding option and begin putting together applications.
  • Begin brainstorming ideas for your personal statement. Give yourself a few weeks to jot down notes about why you’re interested in network engineering, what inspired you to commit to going to graduate school, and how you’ll benefit from a master’s degree from SMU.
  • Reach out to colleagues, mentors, and other people you trust to ask if they’re willing to review and critique your personal statement and resume.
  • Review the most current version of your resume. Does it accurately reflect your achievements and your intended career trajectory? Consider what you can add to demonstrate aptitudes related to networking, computer science, or technology.

One to two months before deadline…

  • Write the first draft of your personal statement. This allows ample time for your reviewers to read through your statement and offer up edits. It also ensures you don’t have to rush through revisions.
  • Request your unofficial transcripts. It can take two to three weeks for universities to send transcripts from the registrar’s office to the graduate admissions office. During peak application season, it may take even longer. If you still have college debt, schools may deny your initial transcript requests and you may need extra time to appeal.
  • Update your resume, and then ask your chosen reviewers for feedback on both presentation and content. Prompt them to consider whether there is any other experience they feel you can include to strengthen your application.

Right before deadline…

  • Write the final draft of your personal statement and give it one last read-through. If you’re concerned you might miss a typo, use a text-to-speech reader to listen to your statement while reading along.
  • Check over each section of the online application for errors and typos. Admissions committee members can overlook one mistake but are unlikely to overlook numerous mistakes in a single application.
  • Make copies of your responses in the online application and your materials for your records before submitting your application. That way if there are any technical issues, you’ll be able to resubmit everything quickly.

How to Make Your MSNE Application as Strong as Possible

  • Don’t wait to get started. While the master’s in network engineering requirements are straightforward, your application will be strongest if you give yourself sufficient time.
  • Submitting GRE scores can’t hurt. You should submit your scores if your GPA is on the lower end of the master’s in network engineering requirements or you don’t have much relevant professional experience.
  • Have one or more colleagues proofread and edit your resume at least once before submitting it. Twice is better. Give yourself a week or more between edit rounds to make updates.
  • Don’t rush your personal statement. Even if you’re convinced you know why SMU Lyle’s Online MSNE is the right program for you, take some time to brainstorm your reasons for applying and give yourself a lot of time for edits.
  • Revise your personal statement at least three times. It will evolve and gain cohesion with each round of edits, giving you a better understanding of why you want to become a network engineer.
  • Connect with current or former students of the program. Their insights into what they felt were the strongest elements of their applications can help you as you put together your materials.
  • Review your application holistically. You should acknowledge weaknesses when you’re able to do so in a way that highlights your strengths. Including up to three letters of references from people that have observed you in a professional setting can also be helpful.

What to Do If You’re Accepted

SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering typically processes MSNE applications within two to three weeks, though it may take longer to send out decisions at the peak of review season. You’ll receive an email when your application status changes, prompting you to check for updates in the online application portal. You may also receive a congratulatory email or call from your enrollment advisor.

There are two types of acceptance: regular and conditional:

  • Receiving an offer of regular admission means you met all the master’s in network engineering requirements and are a good fit for the program.
  • If you receive a conditional admit, you’ll need to take additional coursework to satisfy the MSNE graduation requirements.
  • In both cases, your offer letter will include information about financial aid.

Once you receive your offer letter, there’s no deadline to accept it, and you don’t need to put down an immediate deposit to secure your place in the program. When you do accept, however, you’ll have to choose whether you’ll start in fall or spring. It doesn’t matter when you applied; you can defer until the following term if you need more time to prepare for graduate school and choose your electives. Generally, all you need to get started in the Online M.S. in Network Engineering program is a laptop and a stable internet connection. You’ll download the software platforms you’ll need to do hands-on work in SMU Lyle’s network systems labs and courses that give students real-world network engineering experience.

Whether or not you tell your employer that you’ve been accepted into a part-time online network engineering master’s program is up to you. Letting your managers and HR know you’re enrolling in graduate school can make balancing work and school simpler and may even lead to advancement opportunities you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. But if you’re pursuing an MSNE online because you want to pivot away from your current industry, it may not make sense to share the good news.

What to Do If You’re Rejected

The first thing you should do if you don’t receive an acceptance letter is remind yourself that a rejection isn’t the end of the world. You should treat a formal rejection as a signal that you still have work to do on your application. Be proactive and reach out to the contact in your letter to find out why your application was denied and what you can do to make your application as strong as possible when you reapply. Perhaps you need to take an entry-level class or two on basic switching and routing, local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), firewalls and computer systems to boost your foundational knowledge so you can handle the network engineering master’s coursework. If you already meet the basic master’s in network engineering requirements for admission, however, chances are your application simply didn’t do enough to make you look like a great fit for the MSNE program.

You Have Questions. We Have Answers.

Putting together a compelling MSNE application is a matter of figuring out just how SMU Lyle’s online network engineering courses will benefit your career. If you’re relatively new to network engineering and network infrastructure, the online master’s in networking offered by Lyle School of Engineering will introduce you to the latest network hardware and industry best practices. If you’re a network administrator or engineer, the program will prepare you to respond to what’s coming next in the field and help you transition into specialty areas of the field like network security and cloud computing. Virtualization is a core focus of the curriculum, and the program faculty updates that curriculum regularly in response to industry trends and demands. Maybe you’re still unsure as to whether your experience, interests, and aspirations make you a good fit for the program.

Get your questions answered quickly by connecting with an enrollment advisor via phone or video conference. They can explain the program prerequisites in more detail, tell you more about the online learning experience, show you how a master’s degree will benefit your career and guide you through the application process. When you’re ready, you can start your MSNE application on SMU’s website.