Robotics Certificate Frequently Asked Questions

Robotics Certificate: Frequently Asked Questions for DL Students


Point of Contact

The best method of communication is to send an email to For the official NPS Catalog description of the distance learning and resident programs, see the Online Catalog Curriculum 223 (DL).

Key Dates

Certificate Start Dates:  Given current demand, we plan to have entry points for the certificate twice a year: in January (Winter quarter) and July (Summer quarter).  Exact dates are on the NPS Academic Calendar.

Application Deadlines: Applications must be submitted one quarter before the desired start date, e.g., to start the program in January (Winter quarter), students must apply before the last day of the Summer quarter (late-September).  See information on the Office Of Admissions Apply Page.

Program Cost

Tuition for each course is currently $3,500 (as of Oct., 2021). 

Sponsors wishing to fund an entire cohort (a group of 10 or more students from a single command) should inquire about cost savings for that model.  This support model allows us to customize the instruction for a particular sponsor and potentially provide limited on-location instruction.

How to Apply

     1.  Apply a minimum of three weeks in advance via the NPS Office of Admissions Online Application

     2.  Be sure to submit all transcripts via email to:

     3.  Submit the signed participation agreement (here) to

The GRE is not required for admissions.

Transcripts may be submitted after the application deadline.

Book Cost

For budgeting purposes it is advised to plan for a small textbook cost, e.g., $200.  The current default classes for the certificate program do not involve required textbooks.  However, students may wish to take alternate electives or class requirements may change, so we advise a small budget for required books.

Many courses also have recommended references, so students should plan to acquire a small number of reference materials during the program.

Time Commitment

The four course graduate certificate consists of technically challenging, hands-on courses.  The typical class is 3 hours per week of “contact time” in terms of guided content (VTC lectures, videos, etc.) with an estimated 6 hours of work per week outside of class (reading, assignments, labs, etc.)  This estimate is the average (week-by-week commitment will vary) for a well prepared student.

Class time is organized to be asynchronous, meaning that students will not be required to attend specific classes at specific times.  Instead, a combination of pre-recorded material and recorded sessions will be used to maximize flexibility while maintaining the option for students to interact with instructors in real-time, as schedules allow.  Students will not be required to attend real-time, synchronous classes during duty hours, but students may have the option to attend classes in real-time if their schedules allow.  We recommend taking advantage of interactive real-time opportunities (classes, office-hours, etc.), but they are not required.

Class Scheduling

Classes are schedule to the start of each quarter.  With distance-learning classes we try to schedule them to work for the most number of students.  All VTC sessions will be recorded and available to students – there is no requirement for students to attend the VTC sessions during the schedule hours.

Class Size

In order to be financially viable, at the entry to each certificate sequence there must be 10 students enrolled in the program.  Because of the hands-on nature of the courses, we are limiting enrollment to 30 students.  If demand exceeds that limit, we can consider adding additional sections to the required courses.

Expected Background and Self-Study Recommendations:
Computation, Mathematics and Engineering

The Robotics Engineering certificate program consists of four graduate-level technical courses.  With only special exceptions, the program is limited to students with a STEM undergraduate degrees.  Success in the courses requires experience with programming, mathematical and engineering theory and practice.  The details of the expected background knowledge, along with suggested materials students to independently refresh their background, are on the Expected Background and Self-Study Recommendations Wiki.

Programming Language

Currently the core programming language used in the certificate courses is MATLAB.  The first course in the certificate program is ME3420, Computational Foundations for Robotics. This course will cover the programming topics needed in follow-on certificate courses, including how to interface MATLAB with other software components such as the Robotics Operating System.  Students will make use of a variety of software tools, but the majority of the actual programming will be done in MATLAB.  

Students will have access to a student license of MATLAB.

While the certificate is taught using MATLAB, the emphasis is on strong computational skills that transcend the particular language used, so the knowledge and skills required will transfer seamlessly to implementations in other languages and frameworks.

Technology Requirements

Students are responsible for acquiring and maintaining the necessary technology resources while enrolled in the certificate program.  This includes a computer with administrator privileges, on which students have the ability to install software, and reliable internet access to attend synchronous sessions, watch class videos, download course materials, and submit assignments.

Recommended computer specifications:

  • Minimum hardware requirements to run a recent version of MATLAB.
  • Windows 10 is the officially supported configuration for the class. 

  • We have had students successfully complete the course using Ubuntu (18.04 and 20.04 tested) and can provide limited assistance in setting up the simulation environment on Linux systems. 

  • MacOS is not supported due to incompatibility with the course simulation software.  

Note: Students have had trouble installing some of the required software packages on the Microsoft Surface Pro in the past; the Microsoft Surface laptop works fine.

Certificate as Part of Graduate Degree and Stacking Certificates.

The four classes of the certificate can be used to satisfy a portion of the class requirements for a graduate degree.  For example, students could complete the Robotics Certificate along with other appropriate engineering courses and a research thesis to satisfy the requirements of Master of Science in Engineering Science Aerospace Engineering Distance Learning Master’s Program.

If you are interested in using the certificate program as part of a Master's program plan of study, it is strongly encouraged that you work with the Program Officer and Academic Associate of that program before taking any courses.  Each distance learning program has distinct requirements and the plan must be coherent.  Currently offered NPS distance learning (DL) programs are listed and searchable at the NPS DL website.

For more information please see our separate page on Stacking Certificates.