PhD Degree Resources

PhD Milestones, Procedures, and FAQs


Communications, Control, and Signal Processing (CCSP) or Electronics and Photonics (EP): there are no coursework requirements per se for those who enter the ECE PhD program with an MS degree already. However, to establish a GPA, a student must take at least a course for a letter grade. Faculty advisors may require a student to take more courses for breadth and depth. Additionally, it might be helpful to take more courses in preparation for the PhD Screening Exam.

Computer Engineering: All students with MS degrees entering the ECE PhD program during Fall 2010 or later, 24-units of graduate engineering or science courses taken at UCSB are required as part of the 72-unit PhD graduation requirement for a PhD in Computer Engineering. To count towards the requirement, a grade of B or better must be attained.

Screening Exam

The purpose of the PhD Screening Examination is to screen candidates for continuation in the doctoral program. This exam is not required for admission to the PhD program; however, to remain in the PhD program, all students are required to pass the exam, which is normally given twice a year at the beginning of Fall and Spring quarters.

Screening Exam FAQs

When am I required to take it?

Rules for taking the exam are as follows.

For students:

  1. who entered the PhD program, as a holder of an MS degree in Electrical and/or Computer Engineering must pass the exam no later than the second time it is offered following matriculation at UCSB.
  2. who entered the PhD program without an MS degree in Electrical and/or Computer Engineering must pass the exam no later than the first time it is offered after the first occurrence of any of the following conditions: i. completion of all MS requirements other than the Comprehensive Examination; ii. completion of 42 units of course work in the MS program; or iii. the elapse of two years from date of matriculation in the MS program.
  3. must have a minimum Grade Point Average of 3.30 to qualify to take the Exam. Students having a GPA. of less than 3.30 at the time that they are required to take the exam shall be considered to have failed the exam. This failure will be counted as one of their allowed attempts at the exam.

How many chances do I get to take the Screening Exam? If I fail the first time, when do I retake it?

If a student fails the first attempt at the examination, s/he must repeat the examination the next time that it is offered. A student is allowed a maximum of two attempts at the PhD Screening Examination.

If I am in the MS/PhD program and I have taken and passed the PhD Screening Exam, do I still have to take the MS comprehensive exam?

No, students can use the screening exam in lieu of the MS comprehensive exam.

Dates / To-Dos / Forms & Guides

Dates to Remember

  • Fall Exam: 1st Friday of the first full week of instruction
  • Spring Exam: 1st Friday of the first full week of instruction

To Do

  • Apply for the exam: Applications due around a month or so before the exam date

Forms and Guides

Qualifying Exam & Advancing to Candidacy

The Exam is oral with the focus on the dissertation problem and is administered by the student's Doctoral Committee. It will include considerable depth in the student's area of specialization, as required for a successful completion of the dissertation. The student confers with committee members to set up the date/time of the exam. The necessary forms are available in the ECE Graduate Student Office and should be completed prior to the exam.

It is understood that upon passing the Qualifying Examination, the student has presented an approved dissertation research proposal and has demonstrated substantial readiness to undertake the research.

Once advanced to PhD candidacy, the nonresident tuition is reduced by 100% for the next nine quarters effective to the quarter after an international student has advanced to candidacy.

Qualifying Exam & Advancing to Candidacy FAQs

Who can be on my committee?

A PhD committee shall consist of no fewer than four members, which should be faculty in the same or different departments at UCSB or at another university. In rare cases, a highly qualified individual from industry can be a committee member; but in such cases a detailed technical biography or CV of the outside member must be submitted for review by the ECE Department Chair and Vice Chair. However, no fewer than three committee members shall be ECE ladder faculty with part- or full-time or affiliated appointments in ECE. The Chair and at least one other member of the ECE faculty shall be from the student's area of research as defined by the Screening Exam: CE, CCSP, or EP; whereas at least one committee member may be from outside this area. For example, if a student does his or her major and minor exams during the Screening Exam all in CE, then all his committee members could be CE faculty. If a student does his major in Controls and then does his minor in Signal Processing, then the committee should have Controls faculty and Signal Processing faculty.

A qualified individual from outside UCSB will always count as outside the major area. Exceptions to these rules regarding committee composition require the approval of the ECE Graduate Advisor.

Emeriti (retired) faculty may serve as members of PhD committees but will not serve as chairs of PhD committees except under particularly compelling circumstances. The appointment of an emeritus faculty member as chair requires not only departmental approval but also approval by the Graduate Council. Emeriti faculty will be counted the same as they were counted before becoming emeriti.

Lecturer with Potential Security of Employment (PSOE), Lecturer with Security of Employment (SOE) or Senior Lecturer (SOE) are allowed to serve as co-chairs or member of a doctoral committee without Graduate Council exception. They are not allowed to be sole committee chair.

When am I required to take the qualifying exam?

Students are required to have taken the qualifying exam no later than the end of the fourth year of enrollment as a graduate student in ECE. If a student does not pass the qualifying exam by the end of their fourth year in the program, s/he may be placed under academic probation.

How do I book a room for the exam?

Reserve a room as soon as possible can but no later than two weeks before the exam. Refer to the Room Reservation box on the right side of this page.

Do I get a raise as a GSR after I pass the qualifying exam?

Yes, the raise is effective the month following the date of the qualifying exam. Notify your PI (the faculty member who pays you) and also the appropriate personnel staff member who can then verify the exam date with the ECE Graduate Student Office.

I understand that after the qualifying exam, I can also get faculty privileges at the Library. What do I need to do?

Students who have passed the Qualifying Examination are eligible for faculty privileges in the Library. A faculty card is issued once the student takes the Graduate Division's $50 advancement-to-candidacy cash register receipt to the Library. Should the receipt be lost, a copy of it may be obtained from the Graduate Division.

What do I have to do to advance into PhD candidacy?

  1. Pass the Qualifying Exam
  2. Pass all requirements (residency plus all degree milestones including finishing all MS degree requirements for those in the MS/PhD program)
  3. Pay the $50.00 advancement-to-candidacy fee
Dates / To-Dos / Forms & Guides

Dates to Remember

Notify the ECE Student Office two weeks prior to exam date


Form the doctoral dissertation committee by consulting with one's faculty advisor If the committee has a fourth or fifth member from industry, submit that person's curriculum vitae (CV) to the ECE Student Office to accompany paperwork

Forms (only available in the ECE Graduate Office)

PhD Form I (Nomination of Dissertation Committee) Conflict of Interest Form (CoI) PhD Form II (Actual Qualifying Exam Form)

  • Complete the Conflict of Interest form, sign it and have the dissertation committee chair sign it
  • Book a room for the exam as early as possible (refer to the Room Reservation box on the right side of this page)
  • Stop by the ECE Student Office with the PhD Form II signed by all committee members so that a copy of the signed form is made and filed in the student's file
  • Must have completed all course requirements (including those for the MS degree - if applicable) and degree milestones before one can pay the advancement to candidacy fee)
  • Pay the Advancement to Candidacy (currently $50.00 at the Cashier's Office at 1212 SAASB) before submitting to the Form II to Graduate Division

Defense Exam & Dissertation

For the Defense of Dissertation, the candidate must defend the dissertation before the Doctoral Committee and give a public seminar presentation. Ordinarily, the public presentation is considered part of the Examination. The Committee will meet with the student after the Examination to discuss any areas that need revision or additional work.

Defense Exam & Dissertation FAQs

What needs to be done for the defense paperwork?

Inform the ECE Graduate Student Office via e-mail of the date, the time, and the place of your exam. Also, provide all the names of the committee members with the chair identified. The defense exam form (PhD Form III) will be given to your committee chair.

What do I do if I have to do if I have a change in my committee?

Inform the ECE Graduate Student Office via e-mail as soon as you have the information. Separate paperwork has to be submitted to the Graduate Division. The ECE Graduate Student Office will process paperwork.

What do I need to do to prepare for the defense exam event?

  1. Room reservation: reserve a room as soon as possible can but no later than two weeks before the exam. Refer to the Room Reservation box on the right side of this page.
  2. Defense announcement: fill out the form on the ECE Event Submission page one week prior to the exam date, a) the webmaster will post the defense talk to the ECE Events page, b) the ECE Central Administrative Office (CAO) will post flyers, and c) the CAO will email the defense announcement to all ECE faculty and graduate students.
  3. Refreshments: you may be reimbursed for refreshments up to $30 (excludes alcohol). Bring your receipts and fill out the reimbursement paperwork in the ECE Central Administrative Office (CAO) in Harold Frank Hall (HFH), Room 4155.
Dates / To-Dos / Forms & Guides

Dates to Remember

Notify the ECE Graduate Student Office one week prior to exam date so paperwork can be processed


If there are any changes to the composition of the dissertation committee since the qualifying exam, notify the ECE Student Office at least two weeks before the exam date Provide the ECE Student Office with the dissertation title which needs to be included in the defense paperwork

Forms (only available in the ECE Graduate Office)

Form III Form I-A for any changes to the committee since the Qualifying Exam

  • One month or as soon as the exam date has been determined, book a room for the exam (refer to the Room Reservation box on the right side of this page)
  • One week prior to the exam date, submit the defense abstract/bio on the ECE Event Submission page to have it appear on the ECE Events page and to send out an ECE email announcement
  • Bring signature pages on the special paper required by Graduate Division and a black or blue pen in case the committee is willing to sign those after the defense

Graduation & Commencement


Graduation is different from the commencement ceremony. When a student graduates, they finish all degree requirements.


Commencement ceremonies occur once a year after the last day of the Spring quarter. The Graduate Student ceremony has always been at 4 p.m. on the Sunday after the last day of spring quarter. To attend the ceremony, sign up on the Graduate Division website. Information about commencement is usually available early in the Spring quarter.

Dates / To-Dos / Before Leaving

Dates to Remember

Friday of finals week and last Friday of Summer Sessions is the deadline to complete all degree requirements for that term

Before Leaving UCSB

Complete the department exit survey Turn in all department issued keys to the ECE Electronic Shop (HFH 1160) Forward mail and close mailbox in the ECE Central Administrative Office (HFH 4155)

  • Check with the Graduate Division for their procedures
  • It is only the Graduate Division who can provide a letter of degree verification since one's transcripts will not be ready for a while with the degree posted on it. The diploma takes even longer.


File the dissertation Pay filing fee if one is on a filing fee leave. Filing fee must be paid only after all requirements are successfully done. DO NOT PREPAY FILING FEE, AS IT IS NON-REFUNDABLE.


Student Affairs Manager – Val de Veyra
ECE Graduate Student Affairs Office
office: Trailer 697, Rm 101
hours: 9a-12p & 1-4p

Requirements and Study Plans

  • 6 quarters of residency (not including Summer)
  • 3.0 overall GPA
  • Student must be registered during the quarter in which the degree is awarded or file a filing fee leave of absence petition and pay a filing fee
  • No incomplete grades
  • PhD Study Plan submitted for graduation (for CE only)
  • If registered for the last quarter in which one is filing for the PhD degree, all grades must be submitted for the quarter by instructors before the degree can be finalized
  • Passed the PhD Screening Exam, PhD Qualifying Exam and the PhD Dissertation Defense
  • File dissertation

For specific guidelines, it is the student's responsibility to consult the year of entrance ECE Graduate Student Survival Manual

PhD Required Forms

PhD Required Forms

Available in the ECE Graduate Student Office

  • Form I: Committee Nomination and Conflict of Interest (CoI)
  • Form II: Qualifying Exam
  • Form III: Defense Exam
Room Reservations

Room Reservations

For exams and presentations

  • Reserve room at least 2 weeks prior
  • Check online reservation systems for open dates
  • Email ECE Student Affairs Manager -
    • Time, date and cell phone #
    • Indicate qualifying or defense exam
    • List committee chair and members

Room Reservation Systems