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Degree Electrical and Computer Engineering: Research, MS

Master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering

As an electrical and computer engineering master’s student, you can work with our outstanding faculty members on research in areas of applied electromagnetics and acoustics; communications, networks, privacy and security; energy systems; computer systems and architecture; optics and photonics; optimization and control; plasma science and fusion energy; solid state and quantum technologies; and machine learning, signal processing and information theory, with applications to data science, healthcare, mobile computing, security and infrastructure resilience, sensors and sensing, and energy and sustainability.

At a glance

Electrical and computer engineering department

US Dollars17.5MMillion
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 The 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 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 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.

When an applicant submits an application, they are automatically also put in the pool to be considered for funding from the department. Funding decisions come directly from faculty members. However, funding is limited and never guaranteed. All admitted, incoming students should anticipate to fund themselves. Those selected for funding will be contacted separately and directly by E C E faculty.

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 E C E. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree may apply directly to the Ph.D. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. college or university, or at an institution outside the U.S. 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 E C E, you must complete a new online application, including all materials, for admission.

For applicants previously enrolled in E C E 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 E C E Graduate Admissions Team ( 

Current Graduate Student Admissions

Students currently enrolled as a graduate student at UW-Madison, whether in or other than E C E, wishing to apply to this degree program should contact the E C E 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 E C E Graduate Admissions Team at


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

View tuition rates

Program Resources

Students in the ECE M.S.-Research program are eligible for assistantships from ECE and other departments.

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 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 15 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School’s GPA Requirement policy (
Other Grade Requirements 1. A grade of B or better in any course is acceptable.
2. A grade of BC in an E C E course is acceptable, provided the total cumulative GPA for E C E courses is greater than or equal to 3.00.
3. A grade of BC or C in a non-E C E course is acceptable only if approved by the Graduate Committee.
Assessments and Examinations Students must complete either a thesis or project. Details about these two paths can be found below.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Degree Credit Requirement:

UW-Madison Graduate School policy states that the M.S. degree requires at least 30 credits of courses (300 level or above, no audits or pass-fail) completed as a graduate student at UW-Madison.

The E C E department requires 30 credits for an M.S. degree and does not count E C E 300-level courses toward M.S. or Ph.D. requirements.

Research Option MS Degree Paths

Students must choose one of two distinct paths of study in order to fulfill the requirements for the E C E M.S. research option degree: Thesis or Project.

Thesis Path

To fulfill the requirements of the Thesis Path, the student must earn 30 graduate credits, attained with acceptable grades as defined on the Policies tab. Of these 30 credits, at least 15 must be in E C E Courses 400-level or higher, and at least 15 must be in courses numbered 700 or higher. Only graduate courses, namely those courses listed or approved for listing in the Graduate School Bulletin are applicable for graduate credit, with the exceptions that 300-level E C E courses and E C E 702 Graduate Cooperative Education Program are not acceptable. E C E 890 Pre-Dissertator’s Research and E C E 990 Dissertator’s Research are not applicable to the M.S. degree.

Of the 30 credits, a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 9 credits must be in E C E 790 Master’s Research. These E C E 790 credits are applicable toward both the 15 E C E credit requirement and the 700-level requirement. The combined number of credits in E C E 790E C E 699 Advanced Independent Study, and E C E 999 Advanced Independent Study applied toward the degree may not exceed 9.

At the conclusion of the research program, a thesis must be prepared.  If the thesis is formally defended, then a thesis committee must consist of at least 3 members, 2 of whom must be graduate faculty or former graduate faculty up to one year after resignation or retirement.  If there is no formal defense, the thesis only needs to be approved by the student’s graduate faculty advisor.

If depositing through Memorial Library, the thesis must: 1) conform to Graduate School and library formats, and 2) be filed with the Memorial Library where it is cataloged and stacked for future reference (if required by the master’s thesis committee). If submitting to Minds@UW, an electronic copy must be sent to the E C E Graduate Student Services Coordinator, who will deposit it into Minds@UW, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Thesis Collection. The Minds@UW system will provide a permanent URL, safe long-term archiving and is indexed by Google, Google Scholar and other specialty academic search engines.

At the conclusion of the thesis, all grades of P (Progress) and I (Incomplete) in E C E 790 Master’s Research are changed to either S (Satisfactory) or U (Unsatisfactory) by the advisor. In the final semester, the student is required to check in with the E C E Graduate Student Services Coordinator to start the degree warrant process by the announced deadline.

Project Plan

The Project Plan consists of the same credit and course requirements as the Thesis Plan. Under this plan, the student must perform a research project in consultation with a faculty advisor. At the conclusion of the project, a report is prepared. The research project is generally more limited in scope than a thesis and typically is not awarded as many credits. The report need not conform to Graduate School and library formats, but it must be typewritten. The student’s advisor must approve the report. No library or Minds@UW copy is required, but a copy may be requested by the faculty. In the final semester, the student is required to check in with the E C E Graduate Student Services Coordinator to start the degree warrant process by the announced deadline

Seminar Requirement (E C E 610)

All on-campus E C E graduate students must register for E C E 610 Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering during their first Fall semester of graduate studies. MS-degree seeking students must take 1 credit of E C E 610 in the Fall semester of which they are entering the program. Students with a course conflict with E C E 610 can defer taking the seminar by one year provided their faculty advisor agrees.

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

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

View the Graduate Guide for program-specific information on policies, rules and regulations.
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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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