What is the ESE program?

Our Embedded Systems Engineering (ESE) Professional Master’s degree offers a wide variety of technical embedded systems courses in CU Boulder’s Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering Department (ECEE) in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Curriculum is systemically kept current and strategically comprehensive across essential embedded systems technologies, design engineering techniques, development tools and key trends. Our program will generate creative, workforce-ready graduates equipped with versatile embedded engineering skills and thought leadership stemming from a greater context around organizational and business dimensions as well.

What are the prerequisites for ESE students?

A Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, or the equivalent is required. In order to be successful in these course, 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.

If you have questions about pre-requisites for individual courses, please seek clarification as needed with course instructors.

Is a GRE exam required for admission to the ESE program?

The GRE is optional for all applicants for Spring/Fall 2024. 

What is the tuition cost for ESE program?

For graduate students, Professional Master’s tuition rates are linear per student credit hour and have low differential for non-residents as compared with traditional rates. Please refer to officially published tuition rates from the Bursar’s Office. Further information for graduate non-resident and international students may be found here. Non-degree student tuition rates for ESE courses will generally follow the same rates as for graduate students. Tuition rates are administered through the respective enrollment processes for degree and non-degree students. (See "How and when do I enroll in ESE courses?" below.) Graduate students may be enrolled in only one Professional Master’s program at a time.

How and when do I apply for a Master’s Degree?

Complete details on the application process (admission requirements, deadlines and instructions for both visa and domestic students) can be found on the Graduate Program section of our website. 

What is the difference between this Professional MS Degree program and the traditional MS degree?

The ESE Professional MS Program is a non-thesis, project-based specialization in embedded systems design, to develop a foundation for a career in embedded systems. Upon graduation, the transcript will indicate completion of the sub-plan in Embedded Systems Engineering.

What is the difference between ME and MS degrees?

Our Embedded Systems Engineering program is offered under a Professional Master of Science degree (EEEN-MSEE), and optionally under our Master of Engineering (EEEN-ME) degree.

The ME degree rules offer greater allowance for non-technical course credit, e.g. EMEN (Engineering Management) or ITP / CYBR (Interdisciplinary Telecommunications / Cybersecurity) courses, than do MS degree rules. 


What are the ESE program requirements?

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, effective fall 2017:

  • 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)


What is the schedule for ESE courses?

Please refer to the ESE course page for semesters in which our classes are typically offered. For individual class details, click on the name of the class to view the instructor, meeting room and more. 

How and when do I enroll in ESE courses?

Graduate students in our Professional Master’s Program with an ESE subplan will receive ESE course enrollment priority over other graduate students. 

Qualified non-degree students must apply as Professional Certificate students (see Certificate Option on the ESE home page) and enroll in ESE course distance sections. Most ESE courses offer distance learning options to provide flexibility for those in industry.

Refer to the campus Academic Calendar for important enrollment dates.

Can non-ESE CU Boulder students enroll in ESE courses?

Qualified non-ESE degree-seeking students may access limited seats in some ESE courses (on-campus sections only), prioritized for ECEE grads, then ECEE undergrads*, then others.  Use the ESE Course Request Form for non-ESE Students.

Unlike traditional courses and degrees, professional master’s programs at CU are fully operated from funds generated only around professional master’s students and (non-degree) professional certificate students, and no others.

Effective spring 2019, there have been exactly 3 specific pathways to our Professional Certificate, or ESE courses in general:

  1. As an ECEE BS/Professional MS concurrent degree student (earn certificate along the way as a master’s student)
  2. As a full-time Professional MS or ME Graduate student accepted to ESE (earn certificate along the way as a master’s student)
  3. As a non-degree Professional Certificate student accepted to ESE (post-graduation) through Continuing Education (currently not available simultaneously to degree-seeking students)

*Please be aware that credit hours may not count both toward a BS degree (e.g. as electives) and a certificate.  Only 6 credit hours of ECEN 5000+ level course work may count for a BS and MS under the BAM (Bachelor's Accelerated Master's) degree.  Consult your undergraduate academic advisor as needed.

Can I take ESE courses online?

Yes! Courses that have online availability are indicated with an asterisk on our Courses page. Master’s degree students must initially matriculate as distance degree students through the application process to access distance degree sections of ESE courses via CU Boulder’s distance education program. All non-degree students can access ESE course distance sections and must apply as Professional Certificate students (see Certificate Option on the ESE home page). The ESE program and ECEE department offer many course options for completing a master’s degree online.

How much space is available in ESE courses?

When registering for courses through buffportal.colorado.edu, you will see the number of currently available slots for the appropriate course section based on your student type.  A number of seats in ESE courses are also reserved for ESE student priority enrollment. ESE courses have on-campus sections for students who attend class in person (degree and non-degree), and most ESE courses (after first run) also include distance sections, offered for degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students without consistent access to main campus.

Are there any TA, RA, GA or GPTI opportunities in the ESE program?

Students enrolled in Professional Master’s Degrees are eligible for an hourly appointment (Student Assistant IV – see current scale here) or fellowship, but are not eligible for TA, RA, GA or GPTI roles with a tuition waiver. Instead, Professional Master’s tuition rates typically offer lower differential non-resident rates that are much lower than traditional MS tuition rates. Please refer to “What is the tuition cost for ESE program” above. 

Does the ESE program exist under a designated STEM degree?

Yes. The ECEE Department’s ESE program resides under the MS and ME degrees in Electrical Engineering. The CIP code is 14.1001.01 with a CIP description of Electrical and Electronics Engineering. The base CIP code is listed on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website as a STEM-designated degree program

What is the course structure for the ESE program?

The ESE program requirements consist of 5 core ESE courses, 2 ESE electives, and 3 open graduate level electives, comprising 30 credit hours.  The ESE certificate requirements consist of 2 core ESE courses and 1 ESE elective, comprising 9 credit hours.  With ESE program expansion, core curriculum centers mainly on essential embedded technologies, while ESE electives generally steer more towards applications.  Students may also access a wide selection of ECEE graduate courses in many disciplines to fulfill their electives and customize their career preparation.

Does the ESE program include research or thesis?

No. Our ESE program is a Professional Master of Science degree and does not include research or thesis components as requirements. The main objective of the ESE program is workforce preparation around industry-driven, highly employable engineering skills. As such, most ESE courses will involve hands-on projects and course assignment-related research around new technologies and applications.

What is the expected timeline for completing a master’s degree through the ESE program?

The ESE program offers great flexibility. Now with an expanded number of ESE courses, we typically offer 8-12 courses per semester, with all core ESE courses being offered twice per academic year. Full-time students typically complete a master’s degree in two years or less, taking 2 or 3 courses per semester and sometimes taking summer courses as well. Master of Science students must complete their degree in four years.

What ECEE courses are available for credit under the ESE program? From other departments as well?

Required ESE course options as well as recommended electives are provided on our embedded systems webpage. Further ESE program requirements and guidelines are posted there as well. For courses in other departments, students may consult with their home department academic advisor, or with faculty and advisors in other departments more familiar with their courses.

In the past, some embedded courses have been offered with less regularity as they require updating to meet our standards. Now with our expanded ESE program, we offer updated versions of our best courses along with new courses that provide wider coverage of embedded systems technologies and applications.

Credit for courses taken from other departments is subject to degree requirements. Please consult MS degree requirement details, as well as in the Graduate Studies Guide available through Adam Sadoff, our ECEE graduate advisor.

Can I still take Computer Engineering graduate courses in the ECEE department?

While our ESE program focuses on embedded-specific courses, electives under the 30-credit hours required to complete the Master’s degree may include other 5000-level graduate courses in our department, from which there are many to choose. Enrolling in the ESE program provides access to the best of both worlds.

We believe there is significant industry and student demand for embedded systems engineering education. Our ESE program is essentially a spinoff from our Computer Engineering curriculum (expanding our embedded systems design certificate) into a more practical, industry-driven professional master’s degree. While ECEE Computer Engineering courses may be taken as electives under the ESE program to access broader subject matter, our embedded-centric courses may be preferred to ESE students as more become available.

Will the Professional MS Degree in ESE be recognized by industry?

Employers will recognize relevant demonstrated and proven skills of our students, and benefit immediately from inherent versatility of our program graduates. In turn, program graduates will access more opportunities from which to choose, many of higher quality enabled by our ESE Program.

Thus far, our Professional Certificate in Embedded Design has been in high demand, and is a key reason behind our decision to accelerate ESE program expansion.

What are some prospective career paths I may pursue with an ESE certificate or Master’s Degree?

Example career roles targeted by this program are (not limited to):

  • Firmware Engineer
  • Design Engineer
  • Solutions Architect
  • Embedded Systems Architect
  • Software Engineer
  • Embedded Software Engineer
  • Systems Engineer
  • (Field) Applications Engineer
  • Embedded Software/Hardware Developer
  • Technical Project Manager
  • Product Engineer
Is there a graduate advisor for the ESE program?

Yes. For further inquiries or assistance, please contact ECEE Graduate Advisor Adam Sadoff at adam.sadoff@colorado.edu or (303) 735-0490.