photo of students with their advisor

MS Degree

The MS degree program provides a wide variety of research and course opportunities from control theory to nanofabrications; device fabrication to image processing; communications to quantum mechanics; and optics to VLSI design. Collaboration is possible between departments and research centers within and outside of the College of Engineering.

Below is a basic overview of the MS requirements that graduate students must follow to receive their MS degree. For more specific guidelines, it is the student's responsibility to consult the year of entrance ECE Graduate Student Survival Manual.

Thesis (Plan I) OR Comprehensive Exam (Plan II)

Students must select a plan of study

Thesis (Plan I)


A master's thesis is patterned after a Ph.D. dissertation but on a scaled-down level of originality and length. A public seminar presentation is not required for thesis defense.

Examples of projects suitable for MS thesis:

  • advanced design project, either analytical or experimental
  • an experimental or theoretical contribution to a research problem currently investigated within the department
  • critical evaluation of the state-of-the-art of a current research area, going beyond mere literature compilation
  • critical theoretical analysis or a preliminary experimental study intended as a feasibility study or
    precursor laying the groundwork for more advanced PhD-level research

Thesis Advisor / Thesis Committee:

The thesis advisor supervises the thesis and the thesis committee approves it. The student selects a committee that consists of three ladder faculty of which two must be from the ECE Department and one of the committee members will serve as the thesis advisor (committee chair). At the department's discretion, a non-ladder faculty member may serve as a fourth committee member. The committee is then approved by the thesis advisor, departmental graduate advisor, and graduate dean.

The thesis is typed in draft form for the committee and after the committee's approval, it is written in the Graduate Division's required dissertation format.

Comprehensive Exam (Plan II)

Comprehensive Exam

The exam is administered by a committee of three ladder faculty members selected by the student called the Examination Committee for the Degree of Master of Science. The formation of the MS Comprehensive Exam Committee follows the same procedure as the formation of the MS Thesis Committee (see above).

The student must pass the exam before the end of the quarter in which they plan to officially graduate. If a student fails the comprehensive examination on the first try, the decision to allow a second try is at the discretion of the Examination Committee.

The different Program Areas (CE, CCSP, and EP) have slightly different formats for the exam.

MS Course Requirements

Each of the three program areas have specific course requirements for the MS degree. For detailed course listings refer to the year of entrance Graduate Student Survival Manual.



Communications, Control & Signal Processing (CCSP)

CCSP Requirements

Communications & Signal Processing

  • ECE 235 is required for those doing the major in Communications or Signal Processing
  • Plus four courses from the list of classes within each area
  • If minoring in either area, must take three courses from the list of classes
  • If minoring in an area outside of Communications and Signal Processing, only two courses are required for the minor


  • ECE 230A is required for those doing the major in Controls
  • Plus three courses from the list of classes within the Controls area

Computer Engineering

CE Requirements

Computer Engineering

  • Major must be taken in one of these three areas: Very Large Scale Integration and Computer Aided Design; Computer Networks and Distributed Systems; or Computer Architecture
  • Four graduate (200) level courses in one of three major areas
  • Two graduate (200) level courses in one of the remaining seven areas as minor, i.e. other than the chosen major area

Electronics & Photonics

E&P Requirements

Electronics & Photonics

  • Graduate degree courses can be grouped into sequences such as Technology, Electromagnetics, Device Physics & Quantum Mechanics, Electronic Materials, Electronics, Optics & Optoelectronics
  • Graduate students are encouraged to participate in directed research (ECE 596) projects
  • Must take a minimum of six graduate courses in Electronics & Photonics (not including ECE 596)

Graduate Student Resources

Learn more about the MS program on the ECE Current Students page

  • Requirements and Study Plans
  • Milestones: progress from entry to graduation
  • Procedures: processes that an MS student goes through
  • FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

Timeline (typical)

The ECE Department expects MS students to attain the degree in six quarters or less. However, MS students have up to four years to actually finish the degree. Students who are unable to complete the MS in four years must petition the Graduate Council for an extension of the degree deadline.

  • Thesis: take eight courses minimum over five quarters and then file the thesis
  • Comprehensive Exam: take 10 courses minimum over three to five quarters and then pass the comprehensive exam