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Requirements for Computer Engineering Master's Program

The Computer Science and Engineering Department (CSE) offers a graduate program leading to a Master of Science (MS) degree in Computer Engineering. Students enrolled in this program should refer regularly to the official catalog version of the requirements for the academic year in which they entered the program to verify degree requirements:

MS in Computer Engineering (2020-2021)
MS in Computer Engineering (2019-2020)

Requirements for the Computer Engineering PhD Program

Prior to 2020, the Baskin School of Engineering offered graduate programs leading to the Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in Computer Engineering. Admission to the Computer Engineering PhD program is currently suspended while degree requirements for the Computer Engineering MS program are listed above. Students currently enrolled in the Computer Engineering PhD program should refer to the official catalog version of their degree requirements linked below and also found in the Archive of Previous Year's General Catalog.

PhD in Computer Engineering (2019-2020)
Computer Engineering Programs (2018-2019)

Policies & Procedures for Computer Engineering Graduate Programs

A few of the procedures and policies related to the requirements of the Computer Engineering MS and PhD programs have been explained in detail below.  Students in these program should still first refer to the official catalog version of their degree requirements to ensure they are on track toward successfully completing their degree.

Base Requirement (for MS and PhD Students)

In their first year, Computer Engineering graduate students (both MS and PhD) must show proficiency in three fundamental subjects either by:

  1. completing one of the associated undergraduate courses, or
  2. establishing that an equivalent undergraduate course has been completed elsewhere, or
  3. passing the final exam (or project when deemed appropriate by the responsible faculty) of an associated course.
Subject Course(s) Faculty
Required courses:
Data Structures CSE 101 (formerly CMPS 101) or
CSE 102 (formerly CMPS 102) or
CSE 106 (formerly CMPE 177)
Computer Architecture CSE 120 (formerly CMPE 110) Litz, Miller, Renau
Pick ONE additional course from the following:
Logic Design CSE 100 (formerly CMPE 100) Schlag
Circuits CSE 121 (formerly CMPE 121) or
ECE 101 (formerly EE 101)
Varma (CSE/CMPE 121) or
AbrahamssonKang, Mantey (ECE/EE 101)
Software Systems CSE110A (formerly CMPS 104A) or 
CSE131 (formerly CMPS 111) or 
CSE115A (formerly CMPS 115)
Mackey (CSE 110A/CMPE 104A) or 
Miller (CSE 131/CMPS 111) or 
Jullig (CSE 115A/CMPS 115)

Fulfilling the base requirement is a degree requirement for the Computer Engineering MS and PhD. Each student should download the CE Graduate Base Requirement Worksheet and complete it by obtaining the necessary signatures from the faculty listed above for each subject area. The form must be submitted to the BSOE Graduate Advising Office no later than the start of Spring quarter of the first year so that it will be available for the annual review of progress. Enrollment in Spring quarter courses which will be used to fulfill the base requirement should be indicated on the form.

Letter Grade Policy (for MS and PhD Students)

Effective for New Students Entering Fall 2018 and Forward:
Letter grading for all courses applied towards the Computer Engineering MS and PhD degrees with an exception for up to 10 credits of the student’s choice and the following courses: Research and Training in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE 200 - formerly CMPE 200), Master's Project (296), Independent Study or Research (297), Thesis Research (299), and seminar courses (280 series). This policy includes courses used for these degrees that are sponsored by other departments. To ensure they will receive a letter grade, students should check that they have selected the letter grade option no later than the quarterly Graduate Student Grade Option deadline listed in the Academic and Administrative Calendar.

Internships (for PhD Students)

Where appropriate, research internships with companies, research organizations, or government labs are recognized as an integral part of the research leading to the PhD dissertation. At the adviser's discretion, internships in an appropriate company, research organization, or government lab may be required for individual students.

Examinations and Dissertation (for PhD Students)

To continue in the PhD program, students must pass a preliminary examination in their chosen research area by the end of their third year. Preliminary examinations are held during the first three weeks of each spring quarter; students must petition the computer engineering graduate committee for an examination in their chosen area two weeks before the end of winter quarter.

Examination committees consist of four faculty members, two chosen by the student and two by the computer engineering graduate director. The format of this oral examination is up to the examination committee; the examination will typically evaluate both general knowledge of the chosen area and specific understanding of selected technical papers. The preliminary examination requirement is waived for students who advance to candidacy by the end of their third year.

Each student must write a PhD dissertation. The dissertation must show the results of in-depth research, by an original contribution of significant knowledge, and include material worthy of publication. As the first step, a student must submit a written dissertation proposal to a School of Engineering faculty member. By accepting the proposal, the faculty member becomes the student's dissertation supervisor. The student may choose a faculty member outside the Computer Science and Engineering Department but within the School of Engineering as adviser only with approval from the computer engineering graduate director. The dissertation proposal is publicly and formally presented in an oral qualifying examination given by a Qualifying Exam Committee, approved by the computer engineering graduate director and the graduate council. The student must submit his or her written dissertation proposal to all members of the qualifying examination committee and the graduate adviser at least one month in advance of the examination.

Students are advanced to candidacy after they have completed the course requirements, passed both the preliminary and qualifying examinations (or just the qualifying examination if passed prior to the end of the student's third year in the program), cleared all Incomplete grades from their records, have an appointed Dissertation Reading Committee, and paid the filing fee. Students who have not advanced to candidacy by the end of their fourth year will be placed on academic probation.

Each PhD candidate must submit the completed dissertation to a reading committee at least one month prior to the dissertation defense. The appointment of the dissertation reading committee is made immediately after the qualifying examination and is necessary for advancing to candidacy. The candidate must present his or her research results in a public seminar sponsored by the dissertation supervisor. The seminar is followed by a defense of the dissertation to the reading committee and attending faculty who will then decide whether the dissertation is acceptable or requires revision. Successful completion of the dissertation fulfills the final academic requirement for the PhD degree.

Transfer Credit (for MS and PhD Students)

Up to 3 School of Engineering courses (15 credits) fulfilling the degree requirements of either the MS or PhD degrees may be taken before beginning the graduate program through the concurrent enrollment program.

M.S. students who have previously successfully completed graduate-level classes in a related field at another institution may substitute courses from their previous institution with the approval of the graduate director. The number of courses that can be substituted is limited so that, in all cases, students must complete a minimum of four graduate-level classes during their matriculation at UC Santa Cruz. These classes must be School of Engineering graduate-level courses and must be approved by the student's adviser and the program’s graduate director. Petitions for course substitutions should be submitted along with the transcript from the other institution or UCSC extension. For courses taken at other institutions copies of the syllabi, exams, and other coursework should accompany the petition. Such petitions are not considered until the completion of at least one quarter at UCSC.

Ph.D. students who have previously earned a Master's degree or have successfully completed graduate-level classes as regular students in a graduate program in a related field at another institution may apply for a modified program of course requirements taking into account their previous coursework. Such a modified program should specify the coursework that will be completed at UCSC, which must include no fewer than four graduate-level courses and must be approved by the student's adviser and the computer engineering graduate director. These four courses must be taken while in the graduate program at UCSC.

Application for a modified program of course requirements must be made within the first year of graduate study at UCSC, and will be reviewed by the graduate director and a committee of three faculty members approved by the graduate director. Copies of the syllabi, exams, other relevant coursework, and the relevant transcript from the other institution, must accompany the application. Interviews with the committee members may be required to properly assess the coursework. The petition for a modified PhD course study can be downloaded here.

Acceptance of prior work for course transfer and modified programs of study is at the discretion of the department.

Review of Progress (for MS and PhD Students)

Each year, the program faculty reviews the progress of every student in the graduate program. Students not making adequate progress towards completion of degree requirements (see the Graduate Handbook for policy on satisfactory academic progress) are subject to dismissal from the program. Students without adequate academic preparation may be required to take additional courses. Full-time students are normally expected to complete the degree requirements at the rate of at least two courses per quarter. Full-time students must complete CSE 201 (formerly CMPS 201) and CSE 220 (formerly CMPE 202) within two years and normally must complete all course requirements within two years for the MS and three years for the PhD program.

Students receiving two or more grades of U (Unsatisfactory) or below B- in School of Engineering courses are not making adequate progress and will be placed on academic probation for the following three quarters of registered enrollment. Withdrawing or taking a leave of absence does not count as enrollment. Part-time enrollment is counted as a half of a quarter of enrollment.

Should any Computer Engineering graduate student fail a School of Engineering course while on probation, the program faculty may request the graduate dean to dismiss that student from the graduate program. If, after being removed from probation, the student again fails a School of Engineering course, they will return immediately to academic probation. Taking a leave of absence does not count as enrollment, and it does not extend the degree timeline. Part-time enrollment is counted as a half of a quarter of enrollment.

Graduate students experiencing circumstances or difficulties that impact their academic performance should contact their Graduate Student Advisor, faculty advisor, and the Graduate Director immediately. Students may appeal their dismissal.

For graduate admissions information and applications, please direct email inquiries to