2013-2014 Undergraduate Handbook

9. Graduate School

  1. 5th Year Masters
  2. The UCB Masters of Engineering (M.Eng) Program
  3. The Master's of Advanced Study in Integrated Circuits Program (MAS-IC)
  4. Why Go to Graduate School?
  5. Where to Apply
  6. Academic Preparation
  7. The Graduate Record Exam
  8. Letters of Recommendation
  9. Statement of Purpose
  10. Funding for Graduate School

  1. 5th Year Masters

    The Five Year Bachelor/Master's Program, called the 5th Year M.S. Program for short, offers qualified EECS and L&S CS undergraduate students a unique opportunity to begin graduate study during their undergraduate years, thereby accelerating the Master's degree by requiring only one additional year beyond the Bachelor's degree. This is not a concurrent degree program. Students earn their Bachelor degree first and then the Masters. However, careful planning during the undergraduate program allows motivated students to begin a research project and complete some Master's course requirements while still in undergraduate standing. Depending on how quickly a student progresses through the undergraduate program, the additional graduate year may come sooner than the 5th year at Berkeley. The Five Year Program is not intended for those who wish to pursue a Ph.D.

    Applications to the EECS 5th Year M.S. Program are only accepted once a year, in the Fall semester, on approximately October 15th. Optimal timing of the application for most students will be in the first semester of their Senior year. Students admitted as Freshmen in a Spring semester should apply in the Fall semester of their Junior year.

    NOTE: Students in their final undergraduate semester are NOT eligible to apply.

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  2. The UCB Masters of Engineering (M.Eng) Program

    Increasingly a Master's degree is considered an essential beginning for a long-term career in Electrical Engineer and in Computer Science. At minimum, a Master's allows a deeper technical specialization, giving you both a head start in your chosen career as well as a long-term advantage as you find it easier to track new developments and change direction in your career as opportunities arise. You will find many universities, including some very fine ones, who offer a purely technical Master's degree option. None of them, however, is comparable to Berkeley's Master of Engineering, which goes beyond the technical specialization and offers you courses in engineering leadership and a team-oriented capstone project experience that allows you to practice, under careful mentorship and guidance, the technical and non-technical skills that you learn in the classroom.

    Our Masters of Engineering gives you the opportunity to take our world-class graduate courses on scientific and technical topics, organized by technical concentrations that match your interest. However, the reality is that success in an engineering career requires skills that transcend the scientific and technical. In a modern engineering development organization, you almost always have to accomplish goals through teamwork, and you have to be able to communicate your ideas and influence people (colleagues, investors, customers) through effective oral and written communication. Even as you tackle difficult technical challenges, you have to consider the match between your ideas and the needs of eventual users, how your choices give your organization competitive advantage, and how to protect your investments with intellectual property. Increasingly you have to develop an idea in a multi-disciplinary environment, consider complex systems issues as well as detailed technical issues, and position yourself in an ecosystem of suppliers, outsourcing resources, and complementary products and strategic relationships. Our Masters of Engineering curriculum has anticipated all this, and prepares you in advance for these real-world challenges that you will encounter, including both classroom study and project experience in the practice of these skills.

    Our Masters of Engineering degree is full-time, and takes one academic year (Fall and Spring, but not Summer) to complete. You join a cross-disciplinary cohort including students from four Departments in the College of Engineering. Classes are kept small to encourage interaction with your student cohort, your professors and your industry collaborators. These networks are reinforced through career advising and placement, access to alumni and industry connections and other services. All classes are taught on the Berkeley campus by top Berkeley Engineering faculty. Upon completion, you earn the Master of Engineering degree in EECS, reflecting an integrated understanding of technology, practice, and leadership.

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  3. The Master's of Advanced Study in Integrated Circuits Program (MAS-IC)

    The Master of Advanced Study in Integrated Circuits (MAS-IC) is an online part-time degree program focused on developing an in-depth and advanced knowledge in the field of Integrated Circuits, including but not restricted to the digital, mixed-signal and radio-frequency domains. The program is targeted to working professionals who are seeking to advance their careers by getting in-depth state-of-the-art knowledge and becoming a true expert in the field of Integrated Circuits, which has revolutionized society over the past five decades and will continue to do so even more in the decades to come.

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  4. Why Go to Graduate School?

    Perhaps the best reason to go to graduate school is a passion for EE or CS and the desire to conduct research. Working with a faculty member in a research lab as an undergraduate is not only a good way to get involved in cutting-edge research, but is a great way to get a feel for graduate life - which can help you to determine whether or not graduate school is for you. Possessing undergraduate research experience can be a great asset to your resume and graduate school application, and can help you to develop a stronger relationship with your sponsoring professor, which will come in handy when you begin to collect letters of recommendation. The best preparation for graduate school is to engage in research as an undergraduate. Research experience is now virtually a requirement for graduate admission to many EECS Ph.D. programs. If you are interested in graduate school, but have not yet been involved in undergraduate research, it would be in your best interest to search out research opportunities. Be willing to volunteer on a research project that interests you.

    In many EECS fields, an M.S. degree is effectively the entry-level requirement, simply because these areas are too complex to master in two years of upper-division course work. In general, people with master's degrees and doctorates are given more freedom, more responsibility, and more interesting work to do. A Ph.D. is a requirement for university teaching and is nearly a requirement for work in industrial research labs.

    An advanced degree can make a difference in your starting salary. In 2011, Berkeley EECS graduates were offered median starting salaries of $62,000 at the B.S. level, $80,774 at the M.S. level, and $105,000 at the Ph.D. level. While at first glance it may seem more financially rewarding to pursue a graduate degree, you will also want to factor in the costs associated with attending a graduate school, and the number of years you will spend in graduate school (one to three years for a Master's degree, and at least five years for a Ph.D.) during which you will not be earning a significant salary or building industry experience. Typically, if your primary goal is to maximize your life-long financial compensation, a Ph.D. degree is unlikely to be the best way to attain that goal, due to the lost earnings potential and experience that cannot be accrued as you study for your Ph.D.

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  5. Where to Apply

    Before you prepare your applications you should first research which schools to apply to. Remember that you are choosing a department, not a university. Some highly ranked universities have weak EE or CS departments, or may be weak in the specific area in which you would like to specialize. Ask around, visit departmental websites, read university catalogs, or if possible, the schools which you are interested in, and talk to your Faculty Adviser for advice! The Peterson's Guides are a good source of rankings.

    Several rankings of EE and CS programs have been published over the past several years. These are useful in giving an overall picture of the top 15-20 schools, although other factors should be weighed in making your decision. For example, several of the premier schools (Berkeley, Stanford, USC, UCLA, UC San Diego, Cal Tech, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara - all of which have strong programs) are all located in California. For 2008, US News & World Reports ranked our engineering program third nationally. However, you should also consider programs at other schools in the nation. As you might expect, the prestige of your Berkeley undergraduate degree increases with distance from the Campanile. Many schools in the rest of the country would be very happy to have more Berkeley EECS students in their graduate EE or CS programs, which may give you an edge over "local" students for fellowships or research assistantships.

    You should apply to more schools than you think you need to, and not just the top-ranked schools. Admission is very competitive and you should include "safe" schools on your list. As a final word of advice, you should start early and plan carefully to ensure that you have the best chance of furthering your technical knowledge in an EE or CS graduate program.

    To apply to the Graduate Program in EECS at UC Berkeley you should contact the EECS Student Affairs Office, 205 Cory Hall, gradadm@eecs.berkeley.edu and refer to our website. Applications are generally available in early September. We recommend that you begin the application process at the beginning of your senior year, so that you have time to obtain faculty recommendations, schedule your Graduate Record Examination, and obtain transcripts. The deadline for receipt of completed applications, test scores, recommendations, etc., is stated in the application. New graduate students are admitted for the Fall semester only, but deferrals can be requested for the Spring semester if you are admitted for Fall.

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  6. Academic Preparation

    When applying to Ph.D. programs, the most important factor tends to be evidence of research ability, either through successful research experiences or in other ways. When applying to M.S. programs, research experience is less important. Either way, your academic preparation and performance in undergraduate courses is also an factor in admissions to graduate programs. Most admissions committees are primarily interested in your technical courses and your technical GPA. Most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7 or higher, though some are admitted with a lower GPA usually based on specific talents and research experience. Having done well in EECS classes will improve your chances for admission. Recommendation letters from EECS faculty have high credibility with their colleagues who serve on the admissions committee. Most admissions committees care that you have a core background that supports your plans in graduate school. While most successful applicants have an EE or CS degree we also admit applicants from other science and engineering disciplines. However, essentially all admits have strong technical backgrounds.

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  7. The Graduate Record Exam

    The GRE is a more advanced version of the SAT. If you are a good student, and if you did well on the SAT, the GRE shouldn't worry you. This means that it is worthwhile to review the format of the test and take some practice exams. Most admissions committees will be primarily interested in your quantitative score, but your verbal score is also important. (For Berkeley, your quantitative percentile should be in the 90's.) If you elect to take any of the GRE Subject Tests, high scores on these can also help your application in some cases.

    You may take the exams several times, but ETS reports all scores to the universities you list. It is a good idea to prepare well in advance of the GRE by taking a GRE prep course or reading preparation books. Taking practice tests will improve your score. The goal should be a good score on your first real exam. Be sure to take the exam early. If you wait until November or December of your senior year to take the GRE, your scores may not be reported to admissions committees in time for the January-February admission decision deadlines.

    For information about registration or for sample questions, visit the GRE website or call (800) 473-2255. A number of preparation books for the general exam are also available from commercial publishers; check at any college textbook store. In addition, HKN provides review sessions for the CS Subject Test .

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  8. Letters of Recommendation

    Most graduate departments ask for three letters of recommendation. Ideally, at least one of these letters is from a faculty member with whom you have done research. Most undergraduate research projects are supervised by graduate students, and typically these graduate student 'mentors' work closely with the faculty research sponsor in drafting letters of recommendation. The faculty Adviser, not the graduate student, should sign these letters. One strong letter of support by a respected member of the Berkeley faculty can do you a tremendous amount of good, possibly helping you to gain a fellowship at a premier department. With such a letter, you increase your chances of getting into a good graduate program, even if you do not have a perfect GPA.

    Letters of recommendation may also be from professors who have had you in class, for whom you have done project work, or from your Faculty Adviser. The best letters are from professors who know you personally and can speak about you as an individual. University professors travel a lot and are tied into an international network of experts in their field. They know many of the faculty at other institutions, at least by reputation.

    If you have participated in an internship or co-op with an industrial research lab, a letter from your supervisor or mentor can also be worthwhile. In this case, it would be helpful if your supervisor could describe his/her academic background in the letter. Admissions committees want to hear from people who have known you in an academic setting, or whose academic standards are well calibrated. Letters from other internships or employers are generally less prestigious.

    Unfortunately, undergraduate classes at Berkeley tend to be large, and professors may not get to know all of their students. So what should you do? First of all, plan ahead. Start thinking about getting letters as soon as you begin taking upper-division courses. If you know you are doing particularly well in a course, be sure the professor knows you. Go to his/her office hours, even if you do not need help. You can tell the professor that you are considering graduate school and ask them if they would be willing to write you a letter in the future. That way, if for some reason they are not able to write a good letter for you, at least you have given them an "out" and you will still have plenty of time to seek another recommendation. Most faculty will be willing to write a letter for you as along as you give them ample time to prepare.

    Once you have identified your recommenders, be sure to let them know several months ahead of time that you will be needing a letter, so they won't be surprised when you show up at their door with a recommendation form. Start preparing a packet of information about yourself for each of your recommenders. This packet should contain: a rough draft of your statement of purpose, a list of the courses you took with that professor, the grades you received in their class, and your academic resume. Your resume should list the schools you have attended, courses you have taken, any research work or related employment you have held, a list of honors you have received, plus anything else that can help the professor to get to know you as a person. A rough draft of your statement of purpose is especially helpful to your recommender. Providing this serves a two-fold purpose: in addition to serving as another reviewer for your essay, after reading it your recommender will be more familiar with your particular interests, which will be helpful to them in writing you a more specific and stronger letter of recommendation. You should also feel free to inform your recommender about any achievements or accomplishments of yours that you are particular proud of. This is not the time to be modest and self-effacing.

    Letters of recommendation are now submitted online at UC Berkeley and many other campuses. This means that submitting your online application earlier than the deadline gives your recommenders more time to write your letter. Otherwise, as soon as you receive your recommendation form, you should hand-deliver it to each recommender along with the packet you have compiled. Make sure you have clearly communicated to your recommender the deadline for the submission of your letter. In order to ensure that your letter arrives on time, you may want to arrange to pick up your letters directly from your recommenders. Most schools will accept a letter of recommendation from you as long as the letter is placed in a sealed envelope that is signed by the recommender across the seal. You can then mail the letters along with your other application materials. Some students choose to keep their letters of recommendation on file with the Berkeley Career Center's Letter Service (2111 Bancroft Way, Room 249, (510) 642-1716). The Letter Service will keep your letters of recommendation on file and will mail copies of these letters to each school you specify or submit them online, as requested. The Letter Service charges a fee for maintaining your files and for mailing each letter.

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  9. Statement of Purpose

    The Statement of Purpose is your opportunity to explain who you are and what your career goals are. If you already know the area you wish to specialize in (e.g., wireless communication, theory, graphics, MEMS, databases), indicate that in your statement. Most admitted applicants have focused Statement of Purpose essays and clear research goals. Many even mention in the application the faculty they want to work with if they are admitted.

    If there is a reasonable chance that you may wish to pursue the Ph.D., you should state that as your ultimate goal. The Ph.D. is more prestigious, and faculty are generally more interested in selecting students who make a commitment to a Ph.D. than to students who will leave after two years with a Master's, unless they are explicitly applying for the M.Eng or the Five Year Bachelor/Master's program.

    If you worked on a research project or entered a competition, describe this. If you have co-op or industrial experience, explain your role and the knowledge that you gained from the experience. If you believe your grades don't reflect your true ability, you may discuss this in your statement, using your best judgment.

    Your statement should give the impression that you are mature and highly motivated, and that your academic goals are reasonable. Your statement does not have to be a literary masterpiece: a simple, unpretentious expository style is best. It should go without saying that your statement should be neat, grammatical, and concise, without misspellings. The statement should be approximately one page single-spaced. Remember that the admissions committee members are reading many applications: an excessively long statement may work against you. Be concise and to the point. Avoid frivolity, boasting and self-deprecation. Finally, have at least one peer proof your statement. The more people who review your essay and provide feedback, the more polished your application will be.

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index


  10. Funding for Graduate School

    Most Berkeley undergraduates (or their families) pay the university a substantial sum of money for the privilege of attending college. By contrast, nearly all EECS graduate students are fully funded to go to school. Sources of support for graduate students include:

    • External fellowships, awarded to individual students by foundations or government agencies external to the university, e.g., the National Science Foundation, NDSEG, etc. These fellowships typically cover fees, tuition, and provide a living stipend. They may be good for multiple years and often may be used at any university you choose to attend. Some of these fellowship deadlines fall a month or two prior to the graduate admissions applications, so you will want to start preparing your application materials early. A good source for engineering fellowships is the EECS Graduate Fellowships website. University fellowships, funded by the university itself. Students are usually notified of these awards at the time of admission.
    • Departmental fellowships, funded by grants or donations made to the university, awarded by the department. Students are usually notified of these awards at the time of admission.
    • Research Assistantships (RAs), funded by research grants made to the university, usually by federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), or Department of Energy. Most of the time, RAs are hired by, and work for, an individual professor.
    • Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) positions, funded by the university. The department hires GSIs to lead discussion and laboratory sections.

    Not all graduate schools are able to support their students as well as Berkeley. Fellowships are usually awarded to only the top students. But the fact remains that there is more money available to support graduate students than undergraduates. Do not dismiss the possibility of going to graduate school solely for financial reasons, as your graduate school may be able to help you find the funding you need to attend graduate school. Other good sources to keep in mind are

    Section Index Ugrad Handbook Index