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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

US Dollars19MMillion
annual department research expenditures
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.


Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

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) Not required but may be considered if available.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy:
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Admissions Process

A submitted online application is required, consisting of:

  • Resume/CV;
  • Statement of purpose; see the suggested guidelines provided by the Graduate School
  • 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 if applicable; this fee is non-refundable. It can be paid by credit card (MasterCard or Visa).
  • 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. Note that it is highly advised to take the GRE and English proficiency tests well in advance of the application deadline in order to ensure time for receiving and processing of the scores. 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 International Student Services 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 Electrical and Computer Engineering. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree may apply directly to the PhD program.

English Competency for Non-Native English Speakers

Effective written and oral communication is vital for a successful academic career. International students whose native language is not English will be required to take the English as a Second Language Assessment Test (ESLAT), offered by the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program.

The ESLAT must be taken as soon as the student arrives at the university. The test is offered in the Fall and Spring during the week before the beginning of instruction. The ESL home page has more information.

Based on ESLAT performance, specific ESL courses may be recommended. These courses must be taken and passed within 12 months of the ESLAT. Otherwise, the student will not be permitted to register during the third semester after entering the graduate program. Any ESL courses numbered 300 or above can be counted towards graduate degree requirements but not toward E C E course requirements. Completion of ESLAT and recommended courses is also a requirement for graduation of an international student whose native language is not English.

Students are exempt from taking the ESLAT if:

  • English is the exclusive language of instruction at the undergraduate institution; or
  • they have earned a degree from a regionally accredited US college or university not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment; or
  • they have completed at least two full-time semesters of graded course work, exclusive of ESL courses, in a US college or university, or at an institution outside the US where English is the exclusive language of instruction, not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment.

Reentry Admissions

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 Electrical and Computer Engineering, you must complete a new online application, including all materials, for admission.

For applicants previously enrolled in Electrical and Computer Engineering 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;
  • Provide the following documents to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Admissions Team (
    • CV/Resume
    • Statement of Purpose
    • Any new unofficial transcripts from previous higher education institutions
    • Three letters of recommendation if the break in enrollment equals or is greater than four semesters (fall, spring). Letters of recommendation should be emailed directly from the recommender.

Current Graduate Student Admissions

Students currently enrolled as a graduate student at UW-Madison, whether in or other than Electrical and Computer Engineering, wishing to apply to this degree program should contact the Electrical and Computer Engineering 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).


Review the frequently asked questions answered by the Graduate School here

If you have any admissions questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Electrical and Computer Engineering 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

PhD 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 (must have a NetID to access). 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.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 26 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy:
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required. Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement policy:
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.

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 PhD degree (except completion of the dissertation), the student is classified as a Dissertator. Specifically, the student must:

1. Pass the Research Readiness Assessment;
2. Receive Advanced Graduate Standing;
3. Complete at least 32 graduate credits at UW-Madison;
4. Satisfy the ECE Course Requirements;
5. Satisfy the Breadth 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 PhD 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.
Graduate School Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate. Refer to the Graduate School: Breadth Requirement in Doctoral Training policy: Students are expected to consult with their advisors concerning appropriate breadth requirements.

Required Courses

E C E 610 Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering1
E C E 611 Introduction to Doctoral Research in Electrical & Computer Engineering2
E C E Coursework with the “Grad 50%”attribute 112
including at least 9 credits of E C E courses numbered 700 or above
Additional coursework with advisor approval36
Electrical and Computer Engineering (E C E) courses must be numbered 400 or above. Non-Electrical and Computer Engineering (E C E) courses must be numbered 300 or above.
Total Credits51

Research, independent study, coop, or seminar credits (e.g., E C E 610, E C E 611, E C E 699, E C E 702, E C E 790, E C E 890, E C E 990, E C E 999, E C E/​N E/​PHYSICS  922) may not be used to satisfy this requirement.

Electrical and Computer Engineering courses used to satisfy minor requirements may not be used to satisfy this requirement.

Seminar Requirement

All on-campus Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate students must register for E C E 610 Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering during their first semester of graduate studies.  PhD 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 Introduction to Doctoral Research in Electrical & Computer Engineering in the following spring semester. This requirement must be done in the PhD student’s first year.

The purpose of E C E 610 is to prepare students for success in graduate school and expose them to areas within Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as related fields outside of Electrical and Computer Engineering, 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 PhD research work.

ECE Graduate Admissions
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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.

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