Degree Requirements

Graduate handbook information is updated and maintained by each program. Graduate handbooks are available within each program's office and online at https://utexas.box.com/v/UTAustinGraduateHandbooks. Please contact the program with concerns or questions.

Overview

Students may apply to one of the Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) programs to pursue the MSE degree or may apply to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program to pursue the PhD. A master’s degree is not required to obtain the PhD. However, a student entering the PhD program without a master’s degree obtained while studying in the same or a closely related area within ECE also may obtain the MSE along the way to the PhD with typically little or no additional effort by using most or all of the same coursework for both degrees. A student admitted to one of the MSE programs may apply and be admitted to the PhD program subsequently. A student entering the PhD program with a master’s degree obtained here while studying in the same area may be able to reuse their master’s coursework to completely satisfy the PhD coursework requirements. A student entering the PhD program with a master’s degree obtained here while studying in a closely related area or obtained elsewhere while studying in the same or a closely related area may be able to reuse much of their master’s degree coursework toward the PhD here. Generally, classroom instruction coursework taken here or elsewhere not used toward a prior degree may be able to be used here toward the MSE, the PhD, or both the PhD and the MSE here; work not used toward a prior doctoral degree may be able to be used toward the PhD here. Use of prior coursework, however, is subject to limits on amount of coursework taken elsewhere that can be used for the PhD and, more so, for the MSE and to the higher academic standards for the PhD, both as detailed below.

Due to the considerable breadth of the field of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), a student is admitted to one of eight academic tracks, as described under Areas of Study. The coursework-only MSE can be overseen by the student's academic track advisor alone. Pursuit of the other MSE degree options and of the PhD requires the student to find a willing supervisor and perhaps co-supervisor, where the supervisor and/or, if applicable, co-supervisor are members of the ECE Graduate Studies Committee (GSC). The ECE GSC consists of tenured and tenure-track professors within the ECE department as well as some others within the University of Texas at Austin approved for the purpose by the tenured and tenure-track professors within ECE.

Degree programs and requirements are discussed briefly in what follows, although individual academic tracks may have additional requirements. Additional information is available online, from a graduate coordinator within the ECE Advising Office, from the academic track advisors, and from other sources as noted below.

Master of Science in Engineering

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering currently offers four Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) degree programs to meet differing needs: the traditional MSE program, the integrated BSEE/MSE program, the alternatively scheduled MSE program with a concentration in software engineering, and the primarily online professional MSE program. The latter two programs are offered through Texas Engineering Executive Education. The last is active but not currently accepting new students. The traditional, integrated BSEE/MSE, and professional programs share the same academic track advisors; the alternatively scheduled MSE program with a concentration in software engineering is a single-track program with its own program advisor. Students in each of these MSE programs are expected to meet the same academic standards, and neither course transcripts nor the diploma specify the MSE program within ECE.

Each of these MSE programs requires a Program of Work consisting of at least 30 semester hours of coursework (10 courses) primarily or entirely at the graduate level and not taken toward a prior degree. With approval, up to six semester hours of the graduate level classroom instruction coursework not used toward a prior degree may be transferred from another university. The traditional, integrated, and professional MSE programs each offer the thesis, report, and coursework-only options; the alternatively scheduled MSE program in Software Engineering offers only the report and coursework-only options. The thesis option requires original research and satisfactory completion of a written thesis and two associated three-hour thesis courses taken on the credit/no credit basis within the 30-hour total. The report option requires satisfactory completion of a written report and one associated three-hour report course taken on the credit/no credit basis within the 30-hour total. Otherwise, all other courses that count toward the Program of Work must be classroom instruction courses taken for a letter grade.

The MSE Program of Work is divided into major work and supporting work. At least 18 hours (six courses) must be in the major work, including any thesis or report courses. At least six hours (two courses) must be in supporting work. However, which courses may be counted as major work and which may be counted as supporting work can vary not only with the academic track but with the interests of the individual student. The academic track advisors and/or the student’s supervisor can provide guidance regarding which courses a student may count toward major or supporting work. Ultimately, all major and supporting coursework must be logically related, and the student’s MSE Program of Work must be approved by the student's academic track advisor and/or supervising professor, the graduate advisor of the Department of ECE, and the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin.

For coursework taken at The University of Texas at Austin, a minimum grade point average of 3.00 is required in major coursework and, separately, in supporting coursework within the Program of Work. Moreover, students may count only one course with a letter grade less than B- and no course with a letter grade less than C toward the Program of Work. University policy also forbids transfer of any course with a grade of less than B toward the Program of Work.

Traditional MSE program. Students admitted to pursue an MSE within the traditional program attend classes in person on The University of Texas at Austin campus. The MSE Program of Work can include up to two upper-division undergraduate courses (three hours or more each), but supporting work must include at least one graduate course (three hours). Students within the traditional program also have access to upper-division undergraduate courses and graduate courses taught outside of the Department of ECE.

Integrated BSEE/MSE program. Admission to the integrated BSEE/MSE program is open only to undergraduate students within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. The integrated BSEE/MSE program is designed to provide a smooth, accelerated connection between the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) degree and the MSE degree. It results in the simultaneous awarding of a BSEE degree and an MSE degree. However, the course options and requirements of the MSE portion of the integrated BSEE/MSE program are identical to those of the traditional MSE program, and students in the integrated BSEE/MSE program attend classes in person with those in the traditional MSE program. Admission requirements and procedures for the graduate portion of the integrated BSEE/MSE program also are much the same as for the traditional MSE program, except that students are expected to have taken and reserved for graduate credit two graduate courses prior to entering the graduate portion of the integrated BSEE/MSE program, and the requirements for an undergraduate degree upon entering the MSE program and for taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) have been waived by the University. Information about the requirements of the undergraduate portion of the integrated BSEE/MSE program is available from the integrated BSEE/MSE program sub-section of the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering section of the Undergraduate Catalog, from the ECE website, and/or from an undergraduate advisor within ECE Advising.

Professional MSE program. This program currently is active but not accepting new applicants. This online program is designed to provide students from industry with the tools, skills, and knowledge needed to advance into leadership positions with greater responsibility and impact, and (as an Option III program) is administered by Texas Engineering Executive Education (TxEEE). Students in this program may complete 100% of their coursework online. The course requirements of the professional MSE program are identical to those of the traditional MSE program. However, not all graduate ECE courses offered within the traditional and integrated MSE programs can or will be offered online. Beyond any report course or thesis courses, online courses are selected each semester from primarily graduate courses that are offered in the traditional and integrated programs, vary from semester to semester, and mix the students from the traditional, integrated, and professional programs in the same classes, albeit virtually in the case of the professional program students. Each of these online courses is provided synchronously and interactively and are recorded and provided asynchronously. Students within this professional program, however, may choose to take up to 20% of their coursework (two courses) in person as space allows. 

Alternatively Scheduled MSE program with a concentration in Software Engineering. This single-track MSE program is designed with full-time engineers and computer professionals in mind, and also is administered by Texas Engineering Executive Education (TxEEE). Students attend classes in person taught by faculty from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering once a month on Fridays and Saturdays. The alternatively scheduled MSE program is separate from the traditional, integrated, and professional MSE programs; students within the alternatively scheduled MSE program may not register for courses offered to students in the other MSE programs and vice versa, all courses offered in this program are at the graduate level, and this program has its own academic advisor. Additional information about this program is published by TxEEE.

Doctor of Philosophy

The ECE PhD program also requires a Program of Work consisting of at least 30 semester hours of graduate level classroom instruction courses (10 three-hour courses) taken for a letter grade and not used toward an undergraduate degree nor a prior PhD. Coursework is divided into major and supporting work with at least 18 hours (six courses) of major work and at least six hours (two courses) of supporting work. Which courses may be counted as major work and which may be counted as supporting work can vary not only with the academic track but with the interests of the individual student. Ultimately, all major and supporting coursework must be logically related. However, in contrast to the MSE degree, up to 18 semester hours of graduate level classroom instruction coursework taken at another university and not used toward an undergraduate degree nor a prior doctoral degree may be counted toward the PhD Program of Work with approval. For coursework taken at The University of Texas at Austin, a minimum grade point average of 3.5 is required in major coursework and, separately, in supporting coursework within the Program of Work, and no course with a grade of less than a B- may be counted toward the Program of Work. University policy also forbids use of any course with a grade of less than B toward the Program of Work. The Program of Work including coursework taken at another university also should meet these standards. The student’s PhD Program of Work must be approved by the student's supervising professor or professors, his or her dissertation committee (see below), which can require additional coursework beyond the above described minimums, the Chair of the ECE GSC, and the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin.

Beyond the requirements for a master’s degree (whether or not the student actually has or obtains one), the PhD becomes primarily or entirely a research-based degree requiring the student to make a significant original contribution. For students who entered or enter the PhD program fall 2018 or later or who entered earlier but choose to follow the rules that are mandatory for students entering fall 2018 or later, research milestones toward the PhD include finding a research supervisor or supervisors, forming a dissertation committee consisting of the research supervisor or supervisors and of other members inside and outside of the ECE GSC, and performing a Candidacy Evaluation and being admitted to PhD candidacy by the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin, passing a Progress Review, and ultimately writing and successfully defending their PhD dissertation, each before their dissertation committee. For students who entered the PhD program prior to fall 2018 and choose to be grandfathered into the rules in effect at that time, research milestones toward the PhD include finding a research supervisor or supervisors, performing any prequalifying examination or procedure as defined by the student’s academic track, forming a qualifying committee consisting of the research supervisor or supervisors and of other members inside and outside of the ECE GSC and successfully performing a qualifying examination before their qualifying committee, forming a dissertation committee (probably but not necessarily the same as their qualifying committee) and being admitted to PhD candidacy by the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin, and ultimately writing and successfully defending their PhD dissertation before their dissertation committee. PhD students also take accompanying individual instruction research problems and dissertation courses before and after entering candidacy, respectively, as required to meet registration and employment requirements. These matters are discussed in detail in the Rules, Procedures and Expectations Regarding Academic Progress within the ECE PhD Program which can be found on the ECE website.