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The professional master’s program in embedded systems engineering (ESE) provides comprehensive coverage of essential embedded technologies, current tools and trends. It is structured to provide students with a broad, versatile skillset and coupled with industry input for continuous curriculum updates.

Through flexible core course options and electives, students enrolled in the ESE program may pursue a 9-credit hour certificate or a 30-credit hour degree. Many courses offer distance learning options. Please refer to our course schedule for more information.

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While CU Boulder and Colorado in general have cleared most of the pandemic hurdles as of summer 2021, we recognize that many of our international students still face significant challenges in their home countries. Therefore, our ESE program will continue piloting our ESE-Global Live extension to accommodate new international students facing F-1 visa challenges induced by the global pandemic. Our ESE curriculum is largely hands-on and intended for in-person experience. However, our ESE-Global Live modality will be offered for several ESE courses (see “ESE-GL” notations on the ESE course listing page) and will allow remote students outside the U.S. to directly engage select ESE courses interactively with faculty, TAs and other students, receiving the same quality, rigorous course content and learning objectives. Longer term, based on the outcome of the pilot, we may consider further expansion. Meanwhile, students engaging ESE courses in fall 2021 or spring 2022 from their home countries should carefully review course-specific details before finalizing their decision to leverage ESE-GL modality.

Most of us will casually encounter dozens of embedded systems by mid-morning each day throughout our residences, roadways and workplaces. Fundamentally, an embedded system is some combination of hardware and software that is designed for a particular function. It senses a real-world condition, does some computing, then produces output data or control of some kind. These intelligent machines are a permanent part of our global landscape, and are continuously being expanded and upgraded by a world of forward-thinking engineers and entrepreneurs. Application domains include aerospace and defense, energy, industrial automation, medical, networking and communication, security, transportation and more. Also expected to fuel much more growth is an overarching megatrend referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), which involves connecting more embedded systems to the internet, enabling countless human-to-machine and machine-to-machine applications ranging from home automation to security and many beyond. Fueled largely by new internet protocols and wireless technology convergence, industry-wide estimates of 20 to 30 billion connected devices by 2020 are common among major technology research companies. Of course, this trend ushers in greater hardware and software design challenges of effectively managing and securing connected devices, as well as capturing and harnessing the vast amounts of data the devices are meant to produce around their associated services.

A Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, electrical and computer engineering or the equivalent is required. Exceptions are possible with significant electrical and computer engineering background or industry experience as summarized here. In order to be successful in these courses, students must have foundational knowledge and experience in embedded systems architecture, components, circuits, C programming and some assembly language, some operating system coursework, use of lab equipment such as oscilloscopes, multimeters, function generators, digital logic analyzers and protocol analyzers, etc. Embedded Systems Engineering courses at CU Boulder engage high-caliber students from around the world. The courses typically run at a fast pace, often involving intense hands-on projects. Students who enter our program have embedded systems experience through undergraduate projects and internships. Students may be either degree-seeking (i.e. admitted to our Graduate School), or non-degree seeking, often pursuing a Professional Certificate in Embedded Systems Engineering. Please also review any course-specific prerequisites on the course pages, and seek clarification as needed with course instructors.

The ESE courses lead to a Professional Master of Science degree or a Master of Engineering degree through successful completion of 30 credit hours under the rules of the corresponding degree. 

ESE program requirements:

  • Any five ESE core courses
  • Any two ESE elective courses (or additional ESE core courses)
  • Three open 5000-level electives, either ESE core or elective, other ECEE or in other departments (must be approved by academic advisor)
  • Students must first be admitted to the Graduate School for course credit towards the Professional MS degree, the ME degree or our concurrent BS/MS degree.  Students accepted by the ECEE Department specifically into the ESE program will be designated with an ESE sub-plan.

The ESE program offers an abundance of courses relative to the program requirements.  These courses are also offered frequently, providing great flexibility for degree planning.

A Professional Certificate in ESE requires successful completion of 9 credit hours (with no lower than a B- in any of these three courses):

  • Two of these three ESE core courses plus one other ESE course (core or elective) OR all three of these:
    • ECEN 5613 Embedded System Design
    • ECEN 5623 Real-Time Embedded Systems
    • ECEN 5803 Mastering Embedded Systems Architecture
  • Graduate students pursuing an ESE Certificate are not required to matriculate into the ESE program sub-plan through a master's degree, although degree-seeking students enrolled in the ESE program will be given ESE course registration priority.
  • All non-degree students must be admitted as Professional Certificate students to enroll in ESE courses.

Admission & Registration

  • Admission to the Graduate School is not required for students pursuing only the Certificate.
  • Once admitted, non-degree Professional Certificate students should register in course “B” sections, where seats are allocated specifically for Professional Certificate and distance degree students (i.e. not on-campus students). While these sections indicate “distance," campus attendance is also available for those enrolled.
  • Upon completion of certificate requirements, contact our ECEE Graduate Advisor for final steps.
  • ESE certificate credit hours may be applied towards a full master’s degree, provided the student is admitted to the Graduate School. However, credit hours may not count towards both a BS and a master’s degree.