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DEGREE Electrical and Computer Engineering, PhD

Doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering

As a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering, you can engage in creative approaches to solving problems through research in any of several cross-cutting areas of your choosing- among them, data science, healthcare, mobile computing, security and infrastructure resilience, sensors and sensing, and sustainability. Within those cross-cutting areas, you’ll be able to specialize in areas that include applied electromagnetics and acoustics; communications, networks, privacy and security; solid-state electronics and quantum technologies; machine learning, signal processing and information theory; computer systems and architecture; plasma science and fusion energy; energy systems; optics and photonics, and optimization and control.

At a glance

Electrical and computer engineering department

tenure-track faculty in our department who are women
graduate ranking among public universities ranking in computer engineering
graduate ranking among public universities ranking in electrical engineering

Learn more about what information you need to apply.

Fall Deadline December 15
Spring Deadline This program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline This program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.*
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

A submitted online application is required, consisting of:

  • Resume/CV;
  • Statement of purpose; see the suggested guidelines provided by the Graduate School:
  • Must complete the supplemental application section that identifies their research interest area
  • Most up to date unofficial transcript(s) from all previous higher education institutions, regardless of whether or not a degree was earned (official transcripts are requested of only recommended applicants); international academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation.
  • Payment of the one-time application fee of $75.00, plus the $6.00 international processing fee; this fee is non-refundable. It can be paid by credit card (MasterCard or Visa) or debit/ATM card.
  • Test scores and three letters of recommendation as detailed above.

Applications must be entirely complete by the deadline, including test scores and letters of recommendation. Please note that it is highly advised to take the GRE and TOEFL/IELTS tests well in advance of the application deadline in order to ensure time for receiving and processing of the scores. Please do not mail any paper copies of application materials, except IELTS scores. They will not be reviewed.

Information for international students, including proof of funding and visa information, can be found on the Graduate School’s website (

By Wisconsin state law, the application fee can only be waived or deferred under the conditions outlined by the Graduate School (

The department welcomes applications from scientific, engineering, and mathematical disciplines other than ECE. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree may apply directly to the Ph.D. program.


If you were previously enrolled as a graduate student at UW–Madison, but have had a break in enrollment for at least one fall or spring semester, you will need to apply to resume your studies.

For applicants previously enrolled in a graduate program other than ECE, you must complete a new online application, including all materials, for admission.

For applicants previously enrolled in ECE as a graduate student, you must complete a reentry application. Reentry applicants may apply for the fall term with a deadline of June 1.

In order to apply as a reentry applicant, you must:

  • complete the online application (, including the personal information section, program and term selection, and supplementary application;
  • upload a CV/resume in the application portal;
  • upload a statement of purpose in the application portal;
  • upload any new unofficial transcripts from previous higher education institutions, excluding UW-Madison; and
  • submit three letters of recommendation if the break in enrollment equals or is greater than four semesters (fall, spring).

If the reentry applicant is unable to upload any of the additional required materials, please email them to the ECE Graduate Admissions Team ( 


Students currently enrolled as a graduate student at UW-Madison, whether in or other than ECE, wishing to apply to this degree program should contact the ECE Graduate Admissions Team ( to inquire about the process and respective deadlines several months in advance of the anticipated enrollment term. Current students may apply to change or add programs for any term (fall, spring, or summer).


Please review the frequently asked questions answered by the Graduate School here

If you have any admissions questions, please do not hesitate to contact the ECE Graduate Admissions Team at


Tuition and segregated fee rates are always listed per semester (not for Fall and Spring combined).

View tuition rates

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Ph.D. students entering the program in Fall 2019 or later will receive a financial support package at the time of admission that may include some combination of research and teaching assistantships, internal and external fellowships, and/or other sources.

Research Assistantships (RA)

Students should contact professors in their area of interest. Professors decide whom they will appoint on their research grants.

Teaching Assistantships (TA) and Grader Positions

Current graduate students may apply for teaching assistantships or hourly grader positions via the ECE TA/Grader Portal. If you are interested in applying for TA or grader position in a department other than ECE, please contact the respective department to ask about their own application process. Students currently holding a research assistant or fellowship position that are interested in teaching assistant positions should discuss options with their research advisor(s) before applying.

International students who are non-native English speakers are required to pass the SPEAK Test through the English as a Second Language Program on campus. Students wishing to take the SPEAK Test should contact the ECE TA Coordinator via e-mail to register for the exam.

Project Assistantships (PA)

There are project assistant opportunities on campus for various purposes and departments and offices. Often announcements of openings are posted on TA/PA bulletin boards in Engineering Hall and on the UW Job Center webpage. You may also contact individual faculty members to inquire about possible opportunities.


Information concerning fellowships is sent to graduate students via email from the department, faculty, and/or the Graduate School.

Ranked 6th in the national research category for public universities by the National Science Foundation, UW-Madison continues to be a leader of exploration and discovery. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is a proud part of that reputation of research excellence, boasting award-winning faculty, advanced facilities and laboratories, and a culture of creativity, innovation and diligence.

View our research

Minimum graduate school requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university’s Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements 1. A grade of B or better in any graduate course is acceptable. A grade of S in E C E 790 Master’s Research or Thesis, E C E 890 Pre-Dissertator’s Research and E C E 990 Research or Thesis is acceptable.
2. A grade of BC in an E C E course is acceptable, provided the total cumulative GPA for graduate E C E courses is greater than or equal to 3.00.
3. A grade of C or lower in an E C E course is not acceptable.
4. A grade of BC or lower in an independent study course (E C E 699 Advanced Independent Study or E C E 999 Advanced Independent Study) or a grade of U in Research or Thesis (E C E 790, E C E 890 or E C E 990) is not acceptable.
5. A grade of BC or C in a non-E C E course is acceptable only if approved by the Graduate Committee.
6. If students are unable to complete coursework by the end of the term, an instructor may enter a temporary grade of I for incomplete. If students have not resolved all Incompletes by the end of the next fall or spring term in which they are enrolled, they are considered in bad standing by the Graduate School; however, the instructor may impose an earlier deadline. If not resolved within this time period, the grade is considered unsatisfactory and will remain an "I" unless changed to a final grade by the instructor. An unresolved I grade lapses to a grade of PI after five years. Students may be placed on probation or suspended from the Graduate School for failing to complete the work and receive a final grade in a timely fashion. Outstanding Incompletes must be resolved before a degree is granted.
Assessments and Examinations As soon as a student has passed all the requirements for the Ph.D. degree (except completion of the dissertation), the student is classified as a Dissertator. Specifically, the student must:

1. Pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination;
2. Receive Advanced Graduate Standing;
3. Complete at least 32 graduate credits at UW-Madison;
4. Satisfy the Primary Area Course Requirement;
5. Satisfy the Minor Requirement;
6. Satisfy the English Competency Requirement;
7. Satisfy the E C E Seminar Requirements;
8. Pass the Preliminary Examination.
Language Requirements Non-native speakers of English who enroll in the Ph.D. program must take the ESLAT test on arrival at the university and then take any recommended courses based on the exam results. In addition, if a student’s advisor believes that his or her technical writing ability needs improvement, the student may be required to undertake remedial work.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete coursework in a primary area and one or more minor areas. Students are expected to consult with their advisors concerning minor/breadth requirements.

Students choose from one of eight graduate research areas for their Primary Area:

Automatic Control Systems1

E C E 717 Linear Systems3
E C E 730 Probability and Random Processes3
E C E 817 Nonlinear Systems3
E C E 821 Optimal Control and Variational Methods3
Select at least 6 credits from the following:6
Optimal Systems
Advanced Robotics
Nonlinear Dynamics, Bifurcations and Chaos
Special Topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Analysis I

Biomedical Engineering1

At least 12 credits of E C E courses 2
At least 3 credits of coursework in the biological sciences at 300-level or higher 3
Examples of suitable biological sciences courses
Introduction to Tissue Engineering
Stem Cell Bioengineering
Cell Biology
Introduction to Biochemistry
The specific course plan must be approved by a committee of three E C E faculty from Biomedical Engineering area, which may include the advisor.

Communications, Machine Learning, and Signal Processing1

MATH 521 Analysis I3
Select at least 9 credits from the following:
Information Theory
Probability and Random Processes
VLSI Array Structures for Digital Signal Processing
Signal Synthesis and Recovery Techniques
Wireless Communications
Advanced Digital Image Processing
Mathematical Foundations of Machine Learning
Theoretical Foundations of Large-scale Machine Learning
Estimation and Decision Theory
Theoretical Foundations of Machine Learning
Topics in Mathematical Data Science
Credits from E C E 901 Special Topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering can be applied toward the 9-credit requirement with advisor approval.

Computer Engineering1

Select at least 12 credits from the following: 2
Communication Networks
Digital System Design and Synthesis
Introduction to Computer Architecture
Testing and Testable Design of Digital Systems
Digital Circuits and Components
Design Automation of Digital Systems
Mobile and Wireless Networking
Real-time Computing Systems
Embedded Computing Systems
Advanced Computer Architecture I
Fault-Tolerant Computing
VLSI Systems Design
Computer-Aided Design for VLSI
Advanced Computer Architecture II
Advanced Computer Security and Privacy
Special Topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering

A student may be exempted from up to six credits of this requirement by use of 1) equivalent courses taken as an undergraduate student; 2) equivalent courses taken as a graduate student elsewhere, or 3) other relevant courses not listed.  Exemptions must be approved by the student’s advisor.  Courses used for exemption may not be used to satisfy other Ph.D. degree requirements such as the Minor Requirement.  An exemption may not be used to satisfy the requirement for six credits at the 700-level or above.

Applied Electromagnetics and Acoustics1

Choose at least 12 credits from the following:
Advanced Microwave Measurements for Communications
Advanced Communications Circuit Design
Electromagnetic Theory (Strongly recommended)
Computational Methods in Electromagnetics
Theory of Microwave Circuits and Devices
Linear Waves
Coherent Generation and Particle Beams
Nonlinear Waves
Special Topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering (no more than 2 semesters can be used to fulfill this requirement.)

Energy and Power Systems1

E C E 411 Introduction to Electric Drive Systems3
E C E 412 Power Electronic Circuits3
E C E 427 Electric Power Systems3
Select at least 12 credits from the following:
Electric Machine & Drive System Laboratory
Theory and Control of Synchronous Machines
Power Electronics Laboratory
Dynamics and Control of AC Drives
Solid State Power Conversion
Electromagnetic Design of AC Machines
Utility Application of Power Electronics
On-Line Control of Power Systems
Advanced Power System Analysis
At least nine of these credits must be 700-level or above

Students with strong interdisciplinary interests (e.g.,: control, reliability, materials, optimization techniques, numerical methods, electro-magnetics, energy policy, thermal issues, electric transportation, wind energy) may take up to a maximum of 6 credits in a related area upon approval by their academic adviser. Note: E C E 512 is not regularly scheduled.

Plasmas and Controlled Fusion1

E C E/​N E/​PHYSICS  525 Introduction to Plasmas3
Select 3 credits from the following:
Laboratory Course in Plasmas
Plasma Confinement and Heating
Plasma Processing and Technology
Select 3 credits from the following:
Waves and Instabilities in Plasmas
Plasma Kinetic Theory and Radiation Processes
Plasma Magnetohydrodynamics
Linear Waves
Nonlinear Waves

Solid State Electronics and Photonics1

Select at least 12 credits from the following:
Semiconductor Physics and Devices
Electronics of Solids
Integrated Optics and Optoelectronics
Analog MOS Integrated Circuit Design
Introduction to Microelectromechanical Systems
Integrated Circuit Design
Integrated Circuit Fabrication Laboratory
Special Topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Semiconductor Diode Lasers and other Optoelectronic Devices
High-Power Diode Lasers and Amplifiers
Solid State Electronics
Quantum Electronics
Transport in Semiconductor Devices
Special Topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Of these, at least 3 credits must be earned in courses level 400-601 and at least 6 credits must be earned in courses level 700-901

E C E 610 Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering and E C E 611 Introduction to Doctoral Research in Electrical & Computer EngineeringRequirement

All on-campus E C E  graduate students must register for E C E 610 during their first semester of graduate studies.  Ph.D. degree seeking students must take 1 credit of E C E 610 in the Fall semester of which they are entering the program and 2 credits of E C E 611 in the following Spring semester.  This requirement must be done in the Ph.D student’s first year. Due to the additional credits, these seminar credits will count toward the 51 credits required by the Ph.D. degree.

The purpose of E C E 610 is to prepare students for success in graduate school and expose them to areas within ECE as well as related fields outside of ECE, such as biotechnology, physics, computer science, mathematics, or business. Electrical and Computer Engineering is very interdisciplinary in nature, and so it is important for students to be aware of advanced research and development in areas other than their own.

The purpose of E C E 611 is to emphasize research experiences and methodologies to prepare students to pursue Ph.D. research work.

ECE Graduate Admissions
3182 Mechanical Engineering
1513 University Ave, Madison, WI 53706

ECE Graduate Student Services
3182 Mechanical Engineering
1513 University Ave, Madison, WI 53706

View the Graduate Guide for program-specific information on admission, coursework, policies, rules and regulations.
Aerial photo of campus buildings along lake

ECE Announces Degree Name Changes

Thanks to a recommendation from our Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering External Advisory Board, leadership pursued a name change for our graduate level degrees.  Currently, the department offers MS degrees in Electrical Engineering and a PhD degree in Electrical Engineering.  Effective Fall 2022, those degrees will be known as MS and PhD degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering to better reflect the breadth of content for these degree programs. 

Read the Article

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