Admissions > Master's and Ph.D.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Program Questions

1. Do you have a Master's Degree Program?

2. Do I need an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering to apply?

No, it is not required to have a prior degree in Electrical Engineering to apply to our graduate program. We strongly advise that applicants have prior experience with Electrical Engineering research. Applicants should realistically assess whether their research interests are aligned with our graduate program options. It is unfortunate for everyone when a graduate student discovers that he or she has undertaken a course of study that does not fit his or her needs. Applicants with previous EE-relevant research experience and academic course work, however rudimentary, are more attractive because we can be more confident that the applicant understands both the rewards and frustrations to be encountered in his or her chosen educational path and career.

Students with a strong academic record who hold a B.S. degree in another engineering discipline, or in mathematics, physics, applied physics, chemistry, materials science, or computer science should expect to spend at least 1-3 additional quarters of study to strengthen their background in EE fundamentals as part of their graduate program, either MS or PhD. 

Students without a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than those above may require more than a year of additional study to provide the necessary EE background and fundamentals. 

3. What are your prerequisites?

Fundamental courses that are required of all non-EE degree holders are:

  • EE 215 "Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering"
  • EE 233 "Circuit Theory"
  • EE 235 "Continuous Time Linear Systems"
  • EE 271 "Digital Circuits and Systems"
  • Programming skills at the level of CSE 142 "Computer Programming I" and CSE 143 "Computer Programming II"

Beyond these basic requirements, students may also be advised to take additional 300-level and 400-level coursework by the Advising Office or faculty advisor to ensure proper preparation for graduate-level courses.

4. How long does the program take to complete?

Our Master’s program generally takes 1.5 to 2 years. 

Our Ph.D. program generally takes 5 to 7 years to complete. Courses are typically chosen with the guidance of your advisors and supervisory committee, who take into consideration your individual career goals.

5. If I already have a Master's degree, will the program be shorter for me?

It is unlikely that having a Master's degree before entering our program will significantly impact how long it takes to complete your degree. Nor is it required for one to have a Master's degree before applying to our PhD program.

6. Can I do this program on a part-time basis, or during evenings and weekends?

It is not possible to participate in our program on a part-time basis. This is generally a more than full time commitment which includes coursework, lab work, participation in seminars and lab meetings as well as a possible 20 hrs./wk appointment as a Teaching or Research Assistant.  If you are interested in a part-time Master’s Degree, please look into our Professional Master’s Program.

7. Do you have an on-line or distance-learning program?

Because of the intense nature of the program which includes a great deal of lab participation, it is not possible to do this program without being here in person.

8. How much is tuition?

Tuition rates can be found online here. The Department of Electrical Engineering is Graduate Tier 3. Please see skip down to FAQ 30: “How will I be funded? How do I apply for assistantships?” below for additional information on tuition, Departmental support, and financial aid.

9. Is this the right program for you? Is submitting an application worth your time and effort?

The faculty of the Electrical Engineering Graduate Program is committed, above all else, to research that promotes the advancement of Electrical Engineering as a science. Both the daytime Master’s degree and Ph.D. programs are research-centric.  The goal of both programs is to produce word class researchers.  Those interested in a practitioner-based program should look into our Professional Master’s Program.  In all fairness, we discourage applications from people who, for any of a variety of reasons, will be disappointed by participation in a science and research oriented program.

10. Do you accept transfer credit?

No. The Graduate School does not accept transfer credits for any doctoral programs.

11. Do you accept Graduate Non-Matriculated (GNM) students?

Yes. Please know that being accepted as a GNM student and completing a few classes with our department does not increase your chance of admission if you apply as a regular graduate student later on. Please email us directly, so we can properly advise you.

Admissions Questions

Pre Decision

12. Where do I mail my application materials?

We ONLY accept online application materials, including scanned and uploaded versions of unofficial transcripts. DO NOT MAIL HARD COPIES OF ANY APPLICATION MATERIALS, as they will not be accepted.

13. What is the application deadline and what if I miss it?

11:59pm (PST) on DECEMBER 15, 2015 – for international applicants and domestic applicants (U.S. citizens and permanent residents).

We only accept applications once a year, for the following academic year which begins in late September. If you miss the deadline, you cannot apply late. Our deadline is a hard deadline and, unfortunately, we cannot accept applications after that date.  You will have to apply for the following academic year.

14. If the application deadline falls on a Saturday or Sunday, what do I do?

Since the application is online the deadline will remain the same even if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday.

15. Can you tell me if you received my application/GREs/transcripts/etc.?

You can log into your online application to check the receipt of all items as they arrive.

It is your responsibility to make sure your official test scores are received from ETS.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your recommenders submit their letters for you in a timely manner. Receipt of recommendations is noted when you log into your application. Then it is up to you when or how you choose to contact your recommenders to remind them of their submission.

16. Is my application complete?

We will update your application and the materials received on your behalf in late January.  In February, please log into your application profile periodically to see if your status has changed. Your application will be marked "complete" when all items you list in your profile are submitted online and are checked off. (Exception: if you listed any non-degree schools and did not upload your unofficial transcripts, we will not mark your application as complete).

17. How many applicants do you typically receive and how many do you admit?

This varies from area to area within the department, and from year to year. Overall, the department receives more than 1000 applications and our acceptance rate is between fifteen and twenty percent.

18. Can I apply to more than one area and how do I do that?

Students need to select both a primary and secondary area of interest.  Leaving these blank may mean that your application does not get reviewed. 

The selected areas of interest are used to determine which faculty groups will review your application.  Your application will be first reviewed by faculty in the primary area, and then in a second round, the application will be reviewed by faculty in the secondary area. 

The selected areas of interest are not binding decisions on your graduate studies, but simply indicate how your application will be routed for review. 

Each application will be reviewed by at least three faculty, with usually at least two in their primary area of interest. 

19. What criteria do you use in making admissions decisions?

Our evaluation will be based on the application as a whole. We do not have rigid cut-off points on conventional criteria such as GRE scores or GPA. However, the bulk of our accepted applicants are strong on these criteria.

In general, we are looking for students whose capabilities and motivation will allow them to contribute significantly to the advancement of Electrical Engineering. These capabilities include the obvious intellectual strengths, the ability to reason clearly and insightfully, creative imagination, the ability to articulate one's ideas, and mathematical and computational skills. It also includes diversity of perspectives, and the strength of motivation to pursue difficult problems.

20. Can you give me an update on my application or the admissions timeline?

We do not provide updates specific to an individual applicant. Applications will start being reviewed in mid-January. Applicants will be notified of acceptance or denial by email in late March. 

Please check FAQ 23: “When will I know if I have been accepted or denied?” for comments on the admissions timeline.

21. What if a faculty member contacts me directly?

This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn about the program and the research that is currently being done at our institution.  However, please remember that an offer of admission can only come from the Graduate Advising Office, not from individual faculty members.

22. When will I know if I have been accepted or denied?

Since each area within the Electrical Engineering Department has a different timetable for reviewing applications, we will notify applicants of decisions as soon as they are confirmed by the faculty review group in the specific EE specialty area. This does not usually begin until sometime in late February or March. Denials are sent via email. The Graduate Advising Office does not have any information on the reason for a denial.

The last day for making offers or accepting students to our graduate program is April 15. This is also the last day for applicants to notify us whether they intend to accept our offer.

23. What is the earliest I can apply?

The earliest you can apply would be the October before the deadline.

24. Can you mail me an application/information on the program?

Our application and its procedures are only available online on our Admissions page. We do not mail paper materials to save time and resources.

25. Can I visit the Department of Electrical Engineering or schedule an advising appointment?

The Department of Electrical Engineering hosts an invitation only Visit Days weekend for prospective graduate students. Applicants who have been selected will be notified personally, so please be sure to get your application completed on time and have current contact information.

Applicants who wish to visit at other times should contact faculty (with whom they are interested in doing research) in advance to schedule individual meetings prior to their visit. Meetings with faculty or current students (faculty might refer you to one of their students) are beneficial for visitors who are deciding if the UW Electrical Engineering Graduate Program is the right fit. In their meetings with faculty and students, applicants can assess where their own research interests fit in relation to the current research being done at UW EE.  Applicants may possibly be able to tour a lab, as well.

Applicants may also contact the Lead Graduate Advisor by email to schedule a meeting to discuss general admissions questions only. We will not review transcripts or critique writing statements, and we do not have insight into other graduate programs/departments. In-depth questions about labs and the research being conducted are better answered by our faculty or their graduate students.

26. When is your Visit Days event, so I can save the date?

March 3-4, 2016.

27. When will I know if I have been selected to visit the department?

Each area within the Electrical Engineering Department has a different timetable for reviewing applications. Most areas begin to make selections in February. Applicants who are invited to Visit Days will be contacted via e-mail in late February. We encourage applicants to visit if they have been invited to do so. We only invite prospective applicants who are currently residing in the United States and Canada.

Post Decision

28. I was denied admission; what was the reason and what do I do now?

All admissions decisions are final. Unfortunately, the Graduate Advising Office does not have any specific information in regards to an admissions denial, as faculty make recommendations for admissions decisions.

29. How will I be funded? How do I apply for assistantships?

Unfortunately, we cannot make funding offers to all students.  Applicants may be considered for either a Teaching or a Research Assistantship for half time (expected workload of 20 hrs./wk.). Occasionally, we have access to fellowships for which we can nominate incoming students. Your application to our program makes you eligible for this support. There is no additional application to apply for departmental funding. Your consideration is automatic.

Research Assistantship appointments come with a full tuition waiver, a modest monthly stipend (For the 2015-2016 year, the stipend for TA/RA is $2,263/month) and health benefits including medical, dental and vision coverage (GAIP). After the waivers are applied, students can expect to pay ~$450 per quarter.

The funding package is usually enough to cover the needs of most students including international students. Some students may require additional funding for books, childcare, etc. If so, you may consider applying for financial aid through the UW's Office of Student Financial Aid or various other outside funding agencies. These sources are not generally available to international students.

International applicants: In order to qualify for TA funding, a speaking language exam must be taken (either TSE, TOEFLiBT speaking portion, or the UW offers the VERSANT test). More information can be found on "conditions of appointments for TAs who are not native speakers of English." Please also view the Section entitled "Graduate Application Questions" below for additional information on testing.

30. I was admitted, but my admission letter stated: We are unfortunately not able to offer you a Teaching or Research Assistantship at this time.”   What does this mean?

If you received an admission letter stating: “We are unfortunately not able to offer you a Teaching or Research Assistantship at this time,” you currently have no funding for your graduate degree.  However, financial support decisions have not been finalized, and the Department of Electrical Engineering will continue to make funding offers through April 15, 2016.  If you do not receive a funding offer by April 15, 2016, please know that it is still possible to find an assistantship, in Electrical Engineering or in another department, after enrolling in the program.  Eighty percent of our students are funded.  While your chances of receiving funding are high, we cannot guarantee that your education will be funded.

31. If I get in, can I defer enrollment one year to gain more experience?

Yes, the deferral application deadline is April 15th. Please follow this link to review deferment information and to apply for a deferral:

Graduate Application Questions

Regarding Online Graduate School Application

33. Where is the link to the online Graduate School application?

34. What's the difference between the "Statement of Purpose" and "Personal Statement?"

Statement of Purpose (required): Typically, the statement of purpose describes what motivates you to pursue a career in Electrical Engineering. What theoretical issues, research problems, or application areas are your central interests? Why are these issues especially interesting and important? Include in your statement the following: description of research experience, reason for applying to our graduate program, and the name(s) of faculty members who are pursuing similar research in our department with whom you may wish to work. Statement of Purpose is on average 1-2 pages, double spaced (or equivalent formatting).

Personal Statement (optional): You may also include a brief section on any of the following topics that may apply to your situation: first generation to attend graduate school, low-income background, overcoming adversity in your educational or other development. This information is voluntary and will be used only to identify students who may qualify for diversity funding.  Personal Statement is on average 1-2 pages, double spaced (or equivalent formatting).

35. I have completed all the steps and printed the application, but it still won't let me pay and submit?

Be sure to use the "Click here to print this application" link on the screen and not File/Print or Ctrl-P otherwise the system will not recognize you as having completed this step.

36. How do I apply for an application fee waiver?

There are a few application fee waivers available for U.S. Citizens. More information on requesting one is available on the payment step of the online application. If you are waiting to hear back from your fee waiver request, please let the Graduate School know in case the waiver is processed after our application deadline.

37. I have an update to my application after I submitted it, can I fix it?

We cannot accept any revisions to your application once it has been submitted. However, we will contact you if a file cannot be read/opened and ask that you email us the requested file quickly.

38. Can I get my application materials back if I wasn't accepted?

Since all your application materials are electronic, you should have the original of all the materials.  We cannot mail you copies of any application materials.  You are not eligible to see the recommendation letters. Please see FAQ 58: “I retained the right to view the letters, may I see them?” below to know why.

Regarding Exams: GRE, TOEFL, etc.

39. What are the institution/department codes for sending my GRE/TOEFL scores?

ETS will send your scores electronically to the UW Graduate School as long as you use the UW's institution code, 4854. A department code is not necessary. We can look them up once you have submitted your application to the Graduate School, provided that you use the institution code as shown above. If you are applying to another UW department at the same time, there is no need to request two scores; both departments can have shared access to your scores.

In the event that you reapply to us the following year (or later), please check with us because we may still have your scores so you don't need to re-send them.

40. Do you require a subject test in the GRE?

No, we do not. Only the general test—verbal, quantitative and analytical—is required. We do not keep statistics on whether successful applicants have taken the Electrical Engineering subject test.

41. What if I took the GRE/TOEFL test late?

It is strongly encouraged that you take the GRE no later than the October or November exam. Scores will be sent to the Graduate School two to three weeks after you take the exam but there may be delays due to the increased enrollment for graduate admissions across the country. You may self-report scores to us within your online UW Graduate School Application. If you must take the exam in December, scores received after January 1 run the risk of missing important selection committee review meetings. If we cannot receive your scores by our December 15th deadline, then we recommend you apply next year, as your materials will be marked late and incomplete.

42. Do you have a GRE cut-off? What if I don't get that score? Should I retest?

You can check out admissions statistics to see what successful applicants have scored by visiting our Admissions Page. If you find your scores do not fall in those listed or among our suggested scores, it's up to you if you'd like to apply and/or retest.

43. Do you accept other tests besides GRE/TOEFL?

Unfortunately there is no substitution for the GRE or the TOEFL.  Please see FAQ 45 for all the foreign language exams and their minimum scores which may be accepted by the Graduate School.

44. What if I took the GRE Revised General Test?

The GRE Revised General Test began being administered on August 1, 2011. The revised test features a new score scale that reports the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures on a 130 – 170 score scale, in 1-point increments (vs. 200 – 800 in 10-point increments). Compressing the reporting metric means producing scores that won't exaggerate small performance differences between examinees.  For more information, please visit the ETS GRE Revised General Test webpage.

45. What are the language requirements for international applicants?

International applicants are required to take either TOEFL (minimum score 580), TOEFLC (minimum score 237), or the TOEFLiBT (minimum score 92 includes all 4 sections).

A score of 26 or higher on the speaking portion of the TOEFLiBT will allow international and permanent resident graduate students to assume teaching duties required of a teaching assistantship. The UW also provides the VERSANT test for a fee which is can be used for this requirement (it is only accepted at UW though).

The language requirement is waived for individuals who have completed a bachelor’s, master's or doctoral degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or from an institution in Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, or the United Kingdom. However if you are a degree-holder but not a citizen of the above countries and wish to be qualified for TA funding, you will need to provide a TOEFL iBT speaking score (or VERSANT) and participate in the Center for Instructional Development and Research, International Teaching Assistant Program.

More details can be found on the Graduate School website, Memoranda no.8 and no.15.

46. Do you accept old exam scores?

We accept GRE scores that are within 5 years of the test date. ETS may not keep scores as long though, so you should contact them immediately if you have taken the GRE close to 5 years ago. If you have taken it multiple times, we look at the single highest exam sitting. Please see FAQ 47 for more details.

International applicants: Language exams are accepted within 2yrs of the test date and the most RECENT exam is used for admission.

Contact Educational Testing Service (ETS) for questions about your exam.

47. If I've taken the exam more than once, what scores do you consider?

We look at all submitted exam scores if you have taken the GRE more than once. So, if you submit 2 sets of GRE scores, both will be visible to the admisions committee when reviewing applications. 

International applicants: Regarding the language exams, we will only review the most recent scores. Only tests taken within the past 2yrs are valid.

48. Do I have to take the GRE/TOEFL? Can it be waived?

Yes, you MUST take the GRE and/or the TOEFL; scores cannot be waived. More details can be found on the Graduate School website, Memoranda no. 8 and no. 15.

Regarding Letters of Recommendation

49. Do you have forms for the letters of recommendation?

No, we do not require or provide forms for the online letters of recommendation. We only accept letters online through the UW Graduate School Application. The letters should address your academic and research abilities as much as possible.

50. How many letters of recommendation do I need?

We require three online letters of recommendation.

51. Letters of recommendation must be submitted online, what does this mean?

Letters of recommendation will ONLY be accepted online, as part of the online UW Graduate School application. We do not accept paper letters. While completing your UW Graduate School online application, you will be given the opportunity to designate (or list) who your recommenders will be. Your recommenders will be notified via email that they have agreed to submit a letter for you. It is your responsibility to ensure the email addresses are correct. Please contact us if you have any difficulty with this step.

52. My recommender did not receive the request email to submit an online letter.

The email request may have been identified as spam or bulk mail. Have your recommender add our email address to their address book and then re-send the request. You may log into your UW Graduate School online application and select the option to re-send any recommendation request.

53. When will my recommender get the email request?

The email request is sent immediately, once you enter the information in "Recommendation Detail" and then click "Save and Continue."

54. Do I have to wait until I'm completely done with my application to designate recommenders?

You do not have to wait until you are done (have submitted your application) to do this step. Please designate your recommenders early, check in with them, and take your time with the rest of your application (while submitting everything by December 15, of course). Recommendations can still be received after our deadline, but could get missed being reviewed along with your other materials. It is your responsibility to ensure that your letters are submitted in a timely manner.

55. What if I use service that collects my letters, can they still be sent to you?

We do not accept letters of recommendation that have been stored with a letter service; we only accept online letters of recommendation that are submitted through the UW Graduate School Application.

56. My recommender does not want to submit a letter online, can it be mailed?

Unfortunately, no paper letters are accepted by our department.  We only accept online letters of recommendation that are submitted through the UW Graduate School Application.

57. Advice to share with your recommenders regarding the online request:

Recommenders should write your letter of recommendation in a Word document (or other file type) and save it to his/her computer. Upon receiving the email request for the recommendation, s/he is lead to a webpage with a form where s/he can either copy/paste a previously written letter or upload a previously written letter. It is not recommended to type the letter directly into the text box as the individual can 'time out' and lose any information entered, especially if the letter is an original version. Once the recommendation is uploaded, s/he will not be able to review what was submitted, this is why it's very important to inform your writers to compose their letters in a Word document (or other file type) and save to his/her computer before uploading.

58. I retained the right to view the letters, may I see them?

Only those who have retained the right to view the letters AND accepted an admissions offer here are eligible to see letters of recommendation received on their behalf. View full rules in the "Designate Recommendations" step of your online application for more details.

Regarding Transcripts & GPA

59. What transcripts are required?

All Applicants: You are required to upload an unofficial transcript as part of the online Graduate Application. Unofficial transcripts are typically available in the student portal of your University's website; you can save the entire page as a pdf file. Or you can scan a paper transcript and upload the file. Please make sure that your unofficial electronic transcript, if scanned, can actually be read. If we cannot read it, then we cannot use it to evaluate your application.  We do not accept paper application materials of any kind, including transcripts. 

U.S. Applicants: One set of transcripts from all collegiate institutions from which you earned a Bachelor's degree or higher needs to be uploaded into your online application. This means we do not need transcripts from community colleges or your previous institution if you transferred in. These credits will be reflected on your degree-earning transcript under "transfer" or "outside." If you studied abroad, we do not need that transcript, either. If you have taken additional, relevant coursework since earning your degree, we would like to see that transcript uploaded as well (helpful for those who did not have Electrical Engineering undergraduate degrees or for those who have been out of school for a few years), but it isn't required.

International Applicants: Please upload unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended into your online application.

60. I earned two Bachelor's degrees, how do I enter this in the online application for the two major GPAs?

Enter your undergraduate institution twice, one for each degree you earned and its corresponding major GPA.

61. My school doesn't have official online transcripts.

At this time, most schools do not have official online transcripts, this is not required. However if you are referring to unofficial online transcripts, you can save it as a pdf and upload it into your online application.  If you already have a paper copy of your transcript, you can scan it, save it as a pdf, and upload it into your online application. Please know that the application system does not accept image files of your transcripts.  

62. What if I haven't graduated and earned my Bachelor's/Master's degree by the application deadline?

You will still need to upload an unofficial transcript, but we understand if your degree is still in progress. 

63. I just received new grades/degree; can I send you an updated transcript?

No, but thank you for offering.

64. Do I still need to upload a transcript if I'm currently (or was) a student at the University of Washington?

Yes, you still need to upload an unofficial transcript into your online application, even if you are/were a UW student.

65. Can transcripts be mailed directly to the Department or can I mail them to you?

We do not accept paper application materials of any kind, including transcripts.  Unofficial transcripts must be uploaded to your online application. 

66. How do I calculate my GPA?

The UW Graduate School requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) for at the last two years (90 quarter credits or 60 semester credits) of study where you earned your degree (Bachelor's or higher). Exceptionally strong applicants with a GPA below 3.0 may still be considered. If you have taken classes after graduating but did not earn a degree at this second institution, please do not factor the grades you earned at this second institution. Only use the GPA from the program where you earned your degree (Bachelor's or higher). If your institution grades by letter, or by a different numeric scale, you can estimate your grades by using the scale located here. If you cannot figure out your GPA or your school does not provide grades (letters or numbers), you may skip this step because we will look at your transcript regardless.

67. How do I convert semester credits to quarter credits (and vice versa)?

Colleges and universities that operate on a semester system award semester credit. The UW awards quarter credit. To convert semester to quarter credits, multiply by 1.5. For example, a student who earns 30 credits in an institution on a semester calendar would have earned 45 quarter credits at the UW.

Note: This is not required of our application process, but we have been asked this a few times.

Regarding Reapplication Procedures

68. How do I reapply? What materials do you keep?

We do not keep application materials. If you are reapplying to our program, you will need to create a new online UW Graduate School application and submit another application fee.

Please do not retrieve your application from the previous year and overwrite it with your new materials. You must start a brand new application from the beginning in order to see the updated materials. We have put dates on the application components so you'll know if you're looking at the current version.

Regarding other Questions or Concerns

69. What if I can't get electronic copies of my exam scores, transcripts, or letters of recommendation, etc.?

We understand that not all materials are easily obtained electronically. Unofficial transcripts can usually be found on the student portal site of your university's website. Save the entire page as a pdf file and upload it into your online application. Otherwise, you can use a document scanner and scan a paper transcript so that you can upload it into the application.

Exam scores are sent to the University of Washington electronically upon your request to ETS, but a self-reported score entered in your online application will assist us as we begin our reviews.

Although the process of submitting online recommendations may sound complicated, it is no more complicated than having to write a letter in the first place. Please read FAQ 51 above to understand the online process and convey this information to your recommenders. Receiving materials online is immediate, which benefits everyone by allowing us to make decisions that much sooner. We appreciate your cooperation.

70. What happens to separate or late materials?

We do not accept separate or late materials.  All application materials must be submitted together into the online application, ON TIME.  Late items will not be processed.  This is your responsibility, as a prospective student.

71. How do I make a PDF?

You may visit PDF Online and use their free and easy PDF converter for your Word Documents and other file types as well.

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