What is the difference between your master's options?
  1. Master of Engineering: Does not require GRE scores for admission, often preferred by full-time workers, is optionally less technical and allows up to 15 course credits (of the minimum 30 necessary for graduation) to be in Engineering Management, for example.  All ECEN courses must be at 5000+ level. Must have at least 15 ECEN credit hours out of 30 credit hours required for graduation.  For tuition purposes, all ME degrees in the College of Engineering  are Professional master’s programs.  In our ECEE Dept, these include subplans in ESE, PPE and PHO (Embedded Systems Engineering, Professional Power Electronics and Photonics, respectively).
  2. Master of Science with thesis (MS-I): GRE scores mandatory for admission; more technical; All ECEN courses must be at 5000+ level. Must have at least 18 ECEN credit hours out of 30 credit hours required for graduation. Remaining 12 credits: All ECEN at 5000+ or any combination of Science, Engineering or Math courses with a maximum of 6 of those 12 credits at the 4000+ level. Four to six of your credits will be thesis credits.  A maximum of only one EMEN or other less technical course will be permitted.  Technical writing courses via the Physics dept do not count toward any of our graduate-level degrees).
  3. Master of Science no thesis (MS-II): same as #2., but no thesis hours.  (You only select MS-II vs. MS-I after studying in our dept; you can simply select “MS” while applying).
  4. Professional Master of Science (EEEN-MSEE):  Our department currently offers ESE (Embedded Systems Engineering), PPE (Professional Power Electronics)  and PHO (Photonics) sub-plans for this degree. Please see the ESE FAQs or PE FAQs for details. Same requirements the master of science, but with course work and background more specific to ESE, PPE or PHO studies.
What is the difference between the ME and MS degrees?

The GRE (must be no older than 5 years) is required for the Traditional Master of Science (MS) and Professional Master of Science (MSEE) degrees, but not for the Master of Engineering (ME) Degree.

Other differences between those two:

Technical Requirements

  • ME: Not as technical; favored by people simultaneously working in industry and studying, as you have up to six years to complete it if you are working full-time. You are eligible for hourly TA work, though only the best ultimately receive this. Students enrolled in ME (for tuition purposes) are considered professional masters students.
  • MS: More technical; preferred by professors looking for students potentially going on to PhDs. You have four years to complete the degree. You are more likely than ME to receive potential financial support from faculty, but less likely to receive this than PhD students. 

Credit Hours

  • ME: Minimum of 15 credit hours (equivalent to five courses) of ECEN 5000+ (grad-level) course work.
  • MS: Minimum of 18 credit hours (six courses) of ECEN 5000+ level course work.


  • ME: Remaining 15 credit hours (five courses): Can be almost any courses in math, science or engineering, including all ECEN 5000+ level courses, if approved in writing by your faculty advisor. The courses must be 5000+ level, although a maximum of two technical math, science or non-ECEN engineering courses may be at the 4000+ level. Students working in industry often favor taking EMEN (Engineering Management) courses.
  • MS: Remaining 12 credit hours (four courses): Can also be ECEN 5000+ level, or a combination of technical math, science or other engineering courses. A maximum of two of these (or six credit hours) can be at the 4000+ level.


  • ME: Diploma will state "Master of Engineering."
  • MS: Diplomas will state "Master of Science, Electrical Engineering"   
  • EEEN-MSEE:  Diplomas will state "Master of Science in Electrical Engineering"  

The MSEE is a professional Master of Science degree that requires more core ESE (embedded systems engineering), PPE (professional power electronics) or PHO (photonics) courses and more ECEN courses toward the ESE subplan. It prepares you for specialized and highly in-demand positions in industry, immediately following graduation. In contrast, the traditional MS can be more theoretical and more preparatory for research and subsequent PhD degree studies, in addition to preparing you for industry work.

If you start out as ME and wish to switch to MS, you must take the GRE and earn sufficiently strong scores. We prefer verbal/quantitative/analytical of 153+/159/.40+  (500+/750+/4.0+ old scale), but will occasionally accept verbal of 150 or analytical as low as 3.5+. Note that the actual average quantitative score of our applicants is 163 (780 on old scale), and that we accept the best of each of the three portions scores, regardless of exam date.

Can I earn my degree online?

Yes! The Graduate School offers distance learning for ECEE courses, including our embedded systems and power electronics master's programs. This program is for master's students only, since PhD work involves lots of lab and research time for which you must be on campus.

Please note that the department does not allow distance learning from outside the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America. 


How will I be evaluated for admission?

Your GRE scores, grade point average, strong letters of recommendation, well-written personal essay, work / research / teaching and other life experience are all taken into account for our admissions decisions. Your GPA must be at least 3.0 for all levels of past study (secondary / high school, undergrad / grad), and preferably closer to 3.5+ on a 4.0 scale. Your GRE verbal/quantitative/analytical scores must be no lower than 139 / 159 / 3.0+ ( 310+ / 750+ / 3.0+ on the former scale).

I have a GPA of less than 3.0. Can I still apply?

You can, but chances are not strong for admission. 

Our admissions committee almost never admits anyone below 3.0. In rare instances (perhaps 2 out of 1,000 applicants), they might admit someone with 2.9+ GPA, but only provisionally, per university rules. The provisions of a provisional admission are:

  • You must enroll in two ECEN 5000+ courses in each of your first two semesters (or in one each, if working 40+ hours/week) 
  • You must maintain at least a 3.25 minimum cumulative grade point average (total of four classes in your first two semesters, equivalent to 12 course credit hours). There is a chance you could be dropped from the degee-seeking program if these conditions are not met
  • You are not permitted to work as a TA or RA if you are on provisional status, but can do so after the provisions are met. Completing the provisions does not ensure TA nor RA work, but does make you eligible for such work

In general, if your undergrad GPA was less than 3.0, you are advised not to apply to our department. 

Application Process

What is the deadline to apply?

For details on application deadlines, please visit our Admissions page. 

It's very important that you don't wait until the last minute to apply. For instance, if you are applying for spring admissions, our graduate advisor strongly urges you to begin applying in July. You can submit scans of transcripts initially and send the hard “attested” copy of your official transcripts when ultimately admitted to our program. 

I know the deadline to apply was Dec. 1, but can I still submit my application now?

You must submit the online application strictly by 23:59 p.m. on Dec. 1.   

Any supplementary items (recommendation letters, GRE scores, etc.) should also be received by Dec. 1.

If the software permits it, our dept will accept those supplementary items no later than Dec. 15.  Dec. 1 is best--as the software strictly closes on Dec. 1.

If you start your university application on Nov 28 or later, you will probably be too late, especially for your letter writers to submit letters in time. We recommend starting your application well in advance of Dec. 1, for fall (well in advance of Sept. 1 for spring).

Can you waive my application fee?

Almost never. Only for some with a particular scholarship from Vietnam; for those who are part of the Western States group of universities in the U.S.; or for a very select few who are recommended by our own faculty due to special circumstances.

In the university application, how do I indicate that I want to study embedded systems?

Begin by choosing EEEN-ME (Master of Engineering) or EEEN-MSEE (Professional Master of Science) from the drop-down menu. Once you've made your selection, you'll see another pull-down menu where you can select Embedded Systems. 

English is my second language. Do I need to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score?

You do not need to take the TOEFL or IELTS if you provide an official transcript showing more than one academic year of studies in India, Nigeria, the U.S., Canada, Australia or in another country in which English is one of the official languages.

If you are citizen of one of the following countries, and did your university studies in one of the following countries, then you do not need to submit a TOEFL nor IELTS score:

  • Australia
  • Belize (British Honduras)
  • Botswana
  • Canada (except Quebec)
  • Commonwealth Caribbean
  • Ghana
  • Great Britain
  • India
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Zimbabwe
  • Scotland
  • Singapore
  • South Africa

If you are not a citizen of one of the above, but did at least one academic year of university studies in one of the above during the past two years (that were in engineering or history, for example, but not in English as a Second Language), then you also don't need to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.

My TOEFL score is lower than 100. Will my application still be considered?

We are flexible into the 90s with TOEFL, as long as other parts of your application are sufficiently strong. Instead of TOEFL, IELTS of 7.0 or higher is also accepted. 

These test scores are not necessary if your education was in the U.S., Canada, Australia or in another country in which English is one of the official languages, and provided that those studies were during the past two years.

Can I waive the TOEFL if my university studies were in English, even though English was not an official language in my country?

Sorry, but no. The determining factor is not English in the classroom. You must still submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Can you admit me so I can get a visa, and then I’ll take English courses and submit a TOEFL score later?

Sorry, but no. You must provide sufficiently strong scores prior to being considered for admission.

Can you admit me without GRE scores, and I’ll just send my scores after I’m admitted?

Not in this instance, sorry. We had a former Soviet researcher with a PhD, two master's degrees and 20 years’ research experience, and she still was required to submit GRE scores no older than five years.

Can I just send in copies of my GRE scores?

No. We require full scores for all three portions of the GRE general exam (verbal, quantitative and analytical writing) from ETS (Educational Testing Service) prior to even being considered for admission. These take about two weeks to reach us after your exam date and submission by the testing service.  

How many recommendation letters are required?


One of my letter writers did not receive the link. What can s/he do?

Your letter-writers should immediately receive the University software link to submit their letters, as soon as you enter it into the application.

If, for some reason, they don't receive the link, then have the first check their spam box, as those occasionally end up there.  If they either still cannot find the link, or have been slow to submit their letters, it is your responsibility to contact them and urge them to submit their respective letters. 

Alternately, please have each of your letter-writers:

  1. print out an attachment that you can send your letter-writer after you request it from
  2. fill it in
  3. scan it (along with an actual letter of recommendation, on a separate piece of paper)
  4. email both documents to (for applicants who are U.S. citizens, greencard holders or refugees seekin asylum in the U.S.) or to  (for all visa students).

Transfer Students

I want to transfer from my current university to yours. What are the rules to transfer?

Exactly the same as if you were applying as a new student. You must submit the same paperwork as anyone else entering our program for the first time.

I want to transfer courses from my other university. What are the rules at CU Boulder to transfer courses?
  1. You apply to do this only after completing six credits as an MS student, or after passing your preliminary exam as a PhD student. You must also be a regular student (not provisional or conditional status) at the time you apply for credit transfer.
  2.  You must provide original transcripts of the university at which the course credits were originally earned
  3. You must prove that the course work was completed within the past four years (only for masters transferring, not PhD), or you must validate the material by taking an oral and/or written exam to show you still retain the material covered by the courses.
  4. You must also show that the courses were not applied toward completion of any other degree (if trying to transfer credit toward a masters; if trying to transfer toward a PhD, then the credits might already have applied toward a previous masters degree)
  5. You must show that they are exclusively graduate-level courses and show the course numbering system (for example, exclusively graduate level courses here at CU are 5xxx)
  6. You can transfer up to 9 semester credit hours for an MS degree in our department, or up to 21 for a PhD degree. If you earned your masters in our department at CU Boulder, then you can potentially transfer all 30 credit hours of masters work toward your PhD in our same department, if they are all at the 5000+ level.
  7. Only credit hours -- not grades -- will transfer in.
  8. You must have earned at least a "B" in each course you wish to transfer.