Frequently Asked Questions for Graduate Students

Center for Student Affairs
Faculty Advisors
Campus Resources
Filing Fee
Masters Degree Programs
Doctoral Program
Qualifying Exams
Designated Emphasis

Center for Student Affairs

Can you summarize the responsibilities of the Graduate Student Services Staff?



Susanne Kauer

Executive Director, Center for
Student Affairs



Shirley Salanio

Assoc Director of Grad Matters,
PhD Staff Advisor

Michael Sun

Masters Grad Staff

Audrey Sillers

PhD Staff Advisor


Patrick Hernan

MS/PhD Admissions
Officer & GSI Hiring

Michael Sun

Masters Grad Staff

Diana Smith

MS/PhD Admissions
Officer & GSI Hiring

Susanne Kauer (Director): All issues related to your funding. This includes questions about your Fellowships, Financial Aid, stipends, etc.

Shirley Salanio (Director of Graduate Matters): Team Lead for Graduate Matters and Graduate Advisor for EE students. This includes Advancement to Candidacy, Qual Exams, Prelim Exams, Filing Fee, Verification Letters, Add/Drop Petitions, Readmissions, etc. Also, if you need a signature from the "Head Graduate Advisor".

Audrey Sillers (Graduate Student Advisor): Graduate Advisor for CS students. This includes Advancement to Candidacy, Qual Exams, Prelim Exams, Filing Fee, Verification Letters, Add/Drop Petitions, Readmissions, etc. Also, if you need a signature from the "Head Graduate Advisor".

Michael Sun (Graduate Student Advisor): Graduate Advisor for Masters programs (MEng, MASIC, Fifth year Masters). This includes Advancement to Candidacy, Add/Drop Petitions, Verification Letters, Degree Check, etc.

Patrick Hernan (Graduate Admissions Coordinator): EE Admissions, Fellowships, and GSI Hiring.

Diana Smith (Graduate Admissions Coordinator): CS Admissions, Fellowships, and GSI Hiring.

When in doubt, any of the staff can point students in the right direction.

Who is my Staff Graduate Advisor?

The Staff Graduate Advisor for CS doctoral students is Audrey Sillers. Her office is in 367 Soda Hall and her email is araya@eecs.

The Staff Graduate Advisor for EE doctoral students is Shirley Salanio. Her office is in 217 Cory Hall and her email is shirley@eecs.

The Staff Graduate Advisor for masters students is Michael Sun. His office is in 205 Cory and his email is msun86@eecs.

Who is the "Head Graduate Advisor?"

The current Head Graduate Advisor for the department is Professor Murat Arcak. However, for most forms that need a signature from the "Head Graduate Advisor," the Staff Graduate Advisor (Michael Sun, Audrey Sillers, or Shirley Salanio) should be the one to sign. In general, the Head Graduate Advisor may not be familiar with each individual student case and the Staff Graduate Advisor can verify the information.

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Faculty Advisors

How do I find a faculty advisor?

Most students find a research advisor with little difficulty. For those who do encounter hardship, the least common reason is a lack of qualifications. Any professor is likely to be flattered by an invitation to supervise a student's research, even if s/he feels compelled to decline the invitation. So students should be assertive and flexible. The sooner a student starts looking for an advisor, the easier it will be for them to retarget their research interests, should that prove necessary.

Can I change my faculty advisor?

Students are free to change their faculty advisor, and quite a few students do this between the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. However, it can be awkward to leave an advisor who has invested their time, energy, and financial support. The best way to avoid awkwardness and misunderstanding is to have free and open communication; students should always inform their advisor of their intentions.

What do I do when I change my faculty advisor?

If students find a faculty advisor, or want to change their faculty advisor, they should send an email to their Staff Graduate Advisor. The previous and new advisors should also be CCed on the email so everyone remains informed of the change. The Staff Graduate Advisor will make the change on the department database.

Can I have more than one faculty advisor?

The EECS department has no specific guidelines on whether a student should or should not have co-faculty advisors. The decision should be determined between the student and their faculty advisor. In some cases, there are students that already have co-faculty advisors. In other situations, some students prefer to only have one. If a student does wish to have more than one faculty advisor, they should notify their Staff Graduate Advisor who will update their database entry.

When should I worry about not having a permanent advisor yet?

All students should have a permanent advisor by the end of their second semester, and no later than the end of their third semester.

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Campus Resources

It's my first year in grad school and I'm not very happy. What resources are available to help me cope?

Many students experience difficulty transitioning to graduate school and the EECS program during their first year. This is completely normal and to be expected. There are several different resources available. Students should speak with their faculty advisor to help strategize ways they can cope with the challenges of graduate school. The Staff Graduate Advisor can also be an excellent resource and advocate for students.

Professional counseling resources are also available on campus through the Tang Center. Furthermore, the College of Engineering has designated a Staff Psychologist to help students address personal concerns that may cause them stress. Her name is Shuangmei Christine Zhou and students can schedule an appointment for a free and confidential consultation with her by christinez@uhs or by calling 510-643-7850.

I have a disability and may need extra resources. What are my options?

As part of the Division of Equity and Inclusion, the campus has a Disabled Students Program (DSP) that ensures all students with disabilities have equal access to educational opportunities. The program offers a wide range of services that are individually designed and based on the specific needs of each student. Students with a disability should check in with the DSP to find out what resources are available to their specific situation.

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How many units do I need to be registered in every semester?

To maintain full-time status, students must be enrolled in at least 12 units during the spring and fall semesters. During the summer session, it will range between 3 - 6 units and will be depend on the session that you are enrolled.

I would like to take some time off from my studies. What do I need to do?

Graduate Division requires that students be registered continuously until a degree is completed. Students that want or need to take a leave of absence, should not just vanish. Students should notify their Staff Graduate Advisor by email and bring them the withdrawal form.

I withdrew from the University and plan to come back to finish my studies. What do I need to do?

If you have withdrawn from the university and want to come back and finish your degree, you will need to file a Petition for Readmissions and a Statement of Legal Residence (SLR). You can obtain this readmission form from the department Graduate Offices, the Graduate Division Degrees Office, in 318 Sproul Hall, or on the Registrar's website. Once you have obtained the necessary signatures you should file the petition with your Staff Graduate Advisor.

Note: Readmission is not guaranteed.

In addition to the Petition for Readmission you will need to submit the following materials to an EECS Graduate Assistant:

  • a statement of purpose which includes
    1. what you believe has changed since you were last enrolled and
    2. what your plans for research and financial support are upon your return
  • if you plan to use courses more than 7 years old in fulfillment of degree requirements and do not already have an approved program of study (blue or white card) on file with the Department's Graduate Office, you must submit a petition justifying the use of these courses in your program of study
  • official transcripts if you have attended school since you left Berkeley
  • a letter of academic, research and financial support from an EECS faculty member who will serve as your advisor
  • a processing fee
What is In Absentia Registration?

In Absentia is a type of registration for full-time graduate students that have an academic need to conduct research outside of California for a period of up to one academic year. A student will pay 15% of the Tuition (formerly educational fee) and Student Services (formerly registration) fee and 100% of health insurance, non-resident tuition, and, if applicable, professional degree fees.

As an international student, do I need to register in units to work off-campus?

Yes. To legally work in the United States, international students need to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). International students that register for summer units to participate in CPT will be expected to pay fees for summer sessions, or should discuss the payment with their faculty adviser.

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Filing Fee

What is filing fee?

Filing fee is a reduced fee for graduate students who are advanced to candidacy, are eligible to register, and have completed all requirements for the degree except for filing the master's thesis or doctoral dissertation, or taking the final examination for the master's degree. The Filing fee is not a form, nor the equivalent to, registration. It can only be used once during a student's academic career. For more information on Filing Fee, please refer to the Berkeley Grad Degrees FAQ.

I was on Filing Fee, but did not finish the requirements for my degree. What do I need to do?

Students that were on filing fee but did not finish need to be readmitted to the program if they plan to return for either the spring or fall semester. See the readmissions procedure in section 3 of the Handbook.

However, the exception would be if a student was on Filing Fee in the spring semester and planned to file in the summer. An approved readmissions application would not be required, but enrolling in summer sessions would be necessary.

How long is Filing Fee valid?

Filing Fee lasts until the last day of the semester it was approved.

Can I take classes while on Filing Fee?

No, students on Filing Fee are not permitted to take courses.

Can I be a GSR, GSI, Reader, or Tutor while on Filing Fee?

No, students on filing fee cannot have academic student employment.

Can I be on Filing Fee for the summer?

Filing fee is technically only for the Spring and Fall semesters. However, students may apply for the Filing Fee option any time over the summer. The last day they should submit their thesis will be the last day of the Fall semester.

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How do I find the Course Control Numbers for 299s (research units)?

The Course Control Numbers are updated on the EECS Grad Affairs website. Students should be aware that these codes change every semester.

Can I enroll in the 299 units for a letter grade?

No, the EECS department specifies that graduate students should enroll in the 299s under a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis.

Can I transfer units from another institution that would apply to my coursework here at EECS?

Yes, this is possible. However, the process is slightly different between Masters students and Doctoral students. In addition, only MS students are eligible to transfer their coursework. MEng and MAS-IC students may not transfer units.

For MS students, a maximum of four semester units or 6 six quarter units of credit earned while in graduate standing at another institution will be eligible provided the following requirements are met:

  • The credit was not applied toward satisfying the requirements of a previously conferred degree
  • The credit was earned for coursework normally offered within the current program of study, and
  • The credit will not be used to reduce the minimum requirement for 200-level courses.

Petitions are considered on an individual basis and should be completed before applying for candidacy. They will be granted only for students with high achievement (i.e., a GPA of at least 3.3 at both Berkeley and the original institution). UC Berkeley undergraduates that took a graduate course for a grade during their final semester which did not count toward their undergraduate degree may be able to transfer this course towards the M.S. program. See the Staff Graduate Advisor for details about this .backdating graduate standing. process and for the proper petition form.

For Doctoral students, the maximum amount of transfer units is 12 semester units or 18 quarter units. In most cases, not more than one course will be accepted for the major field. Units used to complete a bachelor's degree will not be accepted. A Transfer of Credit petition is required for each course a student intends to transfer. See the Staff Graduate Advisor for details.

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Masters Degree Programs

What are the Masters degree programs offered through EECS?

The EECS department currently offers a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a Masters degree in Computer Science. There is also a professional Masters of Engineering degree and an online Master of Advanced Study in Integrated Circuits. In addition, there is also a Fifth Year Masters Program available only to Berkeley EECS and CS L&S Undergraduates. It is a five year combined Bachelor/Master's program geared toward outstanding and highly motivated students who desire a program of study that offers greater breadth than is practical in the B.S. or B.A. programs alone.

What is the difference between the various Masters degree programs?

  • MS - research program for students looking at a PhD in the future or going into R&D within industry
  • MEng - professional program for students going into industry
  • MASIC - online professional program for working students going into or currently working in industry
  • Fifth Year Masters - only available to Berkeley EECS and CS L&S Undergraduates

Which Masters degree is more highly viewed in industry?

We have heard from our industry partners that any Masters degree from UC Berkeley EECS is seen very highly. They trust in our faculty and our programs that we are effectively preparing students for careers in today's EECS fields. It is then the student's role to explain their degree program, accomplishments, projects, learning outcomes, and experiences to the employer during interviews. The same goes for Plan I vs Plan II. The employers do not know the difference, so it is up to you to decide which best fits your learning goals and then explain your thesis or technical report to the employers.

As a Ph.D. student, is it possible for me to also get a Masters in EECS?

Yes, students can get a Masters degree before receiving their doctoral degree. However, the Masters degree must be completed before a doctoral student plans to file their dissertation. Information on what steps are needed for the Masters degree can be found on the Information for EECS M.S. Students website

Is it a possible for a Masters student to get the Ph.D. degree?

Yes, it is possible. However, Masters students would need to petition the department for approval to change their degree goal to the Ph.D.

What is the difference between a Masters Plan I and Plan II?

The differences between Plan I and Plan II are summarized in the chart below. A majority of EECS students (approximately 90%) complete Plan II. The end result is the same Masters degree.

Plan I Plan II
Coursework 4-10 units of 299 3-6 units of 299
Advance to Candidacy Department form + University form Department form only
Thesis Committee 3 members 2 members
Thesis Format University format (specific) Department format (flexible)
Thesis Availability University Library + EECS Website EECS Website
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Doctoral Program

What is required of students to get the Ph.D. program?

There is a series of steps students must do to achieve the doctoral degree. To summarize, there is coursework, preliminary requirements comprised of an oral exam and breadth courses, a qualifying exam, teaching requirement, dissertation talk, and writing the actual dissertation. A flowchart illustrating the steps can be found on the EECS Ph.D. Flowchart. In addition, more specific information can be found on the Information for Ph.D. Students web page.

What constitutes a Major and Minor for doctoral students on the Blue and White cards?

A coherent program of graduate courses (200 level) or the equivalent, with a GPA of 3.5 or better, as approved by your Research Advisor, will satisfy the major requirement. The minor subject areas requirement is typically met by taking 2 courses in a given area. At least one of the courses must be a graduate (200 level) course. In both cases, the actual nomenclature can be determined by the student and their advisor.

How many cross-listed courses can I use to fulfill my coursework requirements?

For EE students, there is no limit on the amount of cross-listed course that can be used towards a student's Major and Inside Minor. For CS students, the process is slightly different.

What are the breadth requirements for the doctoral degree?

The breadth requirement stipulates that students must take additional courses outside of the area of their oral preliminary exam. All courses must be a graduate or advanced undergraduate level of at least three units in two different areas in the EECS Department, outside of the area of the oral exam. EE students must complete two approved breadth courses with a grade of A- or better. CS students must complete three approved courses with at least a B+ or better (only one B+ is permitted). (CS does not allow advanced undergraduate level courses for the breadth course requirements)

How are the breadth requirements different from the inside minor?

EE students can use a course listed in their inside minor towards counting for the breadth requirements. However, the inside minor needs at least two courses in the same area. The EE breadth courses require at least one course in different areas. CS students can use the breadth courses to count towards their inside minor but these courses need to be from the same subject areas. CS requires breadth courses to be completed in three specific subject areas and students must choose from the list of prescribed courses in fulfillment of the breadth requirements.

When do I need to take the Prelim Exam?

All students are expected to take the exam no later than their third semester. In some cases, a student may wish to take an exam earlier or later. For both cases, students need to submit a general petition justifying their reasons for taking the exam and solicit their faculty advisor's approval.

Who is on my Prelim Committee?

The Prelim Committee is comprised of faculty members with expertise in the particular exam area. The members are usually assigned by the Vice Chair of Graduate Matters and the Staff Graduate Assistant. Students are notified approximately one month in advance of the exams who the faculty members will on the committee.

Where can I find the Prelim syllabus?

Information on the Prelim exam syllabus and other useful information can be found on the Graduate Student Affairs website.

How do I know which Prelim Exam to take?

Students should chose the Prelim Exam that most closely matches their research interest.

If I am an EE student, can I take a CS prelim exam? And vice versa?

Yes, it is possible with approval. Students need to fill out a General Petition, have it approved by their faculty advisor, and presented to their Staff Graduate Assistant who will get final approval from the Vice Chair of Graduate Matters.

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Qualifying Exams

When do I need to take the Qualifying Exam?

The Qualifying Examination must be taken within 6 semesters of starting the program, and if the Qual is not a Thesis Proposal, then a satisfactory Thesis Proposal should be presented by the end of 10 semesters. In some cases it may be necessary to delay this strict deadline depending on the format of the exam. Significant delays, however, will be brought to the attention of the research advisor and to the faculty at large at the EE and CS Student Review meetings. The exam is meant to demonstrate readiness to do research; it is not intended as a defense of an all-but-completed dissertation.

Who should be on my Qualifying Exam committee?

The Qualifying committee must consist of four members, all regular faculty members at Berkeley. A student's advisor is normally a member of the committee but cannot be the chair. Another committee member must be from outside the EECS Department, representing some area of expertise relevant to the student's research area, and usually from one of the areas declared as the outside minor. All members of the Quals Committee must be able to examine the student on at least one of the three subjects of the examination. The outside minor need not be one of the three subject areas.

What are the requirements to take the Qualifying Exam?

Since the Qualifying Exam is a University requirement, it can be taken only with the approval of, and at a time approved by, the Graduate Division. Eligibility requirements for taking the exam are as follows:

  • Students must be registered the semester in which the exam is taken (an exam may be taken during the summer or winter breaks IF the student paid fees for the semester immediately preceding the exam or intends to pay fees for the semester immediately following the exam).
  • Students must have completed at least one semester of academic residence at Berkeley.
  • Students must have passed the Preliminary oral exam and met the breadth course requirements.
  • Students must have a GPA of at least 3.5 in their major subject area, at least 3.0 in each of the minor areas (298 and 299 not included), and have no more than 2 .Incomplete. grades.

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Designated Emphasis

What is the Designated Emphasis?

A designated emphasis (DE) is an interdisciplinary specialization, such as a new method of inquiry or an important field of application, which is relevant to two or more existing doctoral degree programs. Students must apply to the department offering the DE for admissions before taking their Qualifying Exam. For a list of the areas that are offered as a DE, the Graduate Division maintains a list.

Does EECS have a Designated Emphasis?

Yes, EECS offers a designated emphasis in Communication, Computation, and Statistics.

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Funding (Only applicable to MS and Doctoral Students)

What is the GSI supplement and how do I receive it?

The goal of the EECS Department is to equalize the amount of funding doctoral students receive over the course of their doctoral study. Because a GSI salary is slightly lower than a GSR salary and because students on GSIs receive only a partial fee remission, students supported solely by a GSI may request a small supplement or GSI/GSR combination appointment. If you are a doctoral student supported by a GSI this semester, please contact your Research Support Officer (RSO) and Campus Shared Services (CSS) Team 2 formerly named ERSO), the Human Resources division for the College of Engineering, at ERSOhrops@berkeley or see the list of RSOs. You will need to inform your RSO that you have a GSI position, and the percentage of your appointment (i.e., 25% or 50%). Please note that you are also responsible for paying any remaining University fees (typically $340.75 per semester) from your own funds. For questions, please contact Susanne Kauer (skauer@eecs.

What is the current Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) salary rate?

The current GSR salary rate will depend on whether or not a student has advanced to candidacy. For fall 2013, the rates for GSRs are:

Not advanced to candidacy: $5,153 at 45% = $2,318.85
Advanced to candidacy: $5,153 at 47% = $2,421.91
During the summer, students can work up to 100%.

Please note that it is the student's responsibility to notify the Campus Shared Services Team 2 office when they have officially been advanced to candidacy.

If I have a summer GSR, do I need to be registered for summer courses?

In general, no, students do not need to be registered for summer courses to receive a summer GSR. However, the following exceptions may apply:

  • Your fellowship requires summer enrollment.
  • You are not a continuing graduate student.
  • You were not registered either in the spring before starting your GSR, or do not plan to register in the fall following your summer GSR.
How will I receive my departmental fellowship payment?
  • Unless indicated differently in your award letter, stipend payments are disbursed August 23, 2013 (fall) and January 24, 2014 (spring) for the 2013-14 academic year. Summer stipends are disbursed on June 10, 2014.
  • Students on national fellowships will have a slightly different schedule (eg NSF typically starts in Sept) and may have work restrictions please read the terms of your award letters carefully.
  • Fees and/or nonresident tuition will be credited directly to your CARS (Campus Accounts Receivables System) account.
  • You must be registered to receive payments. At the beginning of the semester, this means you must be enrolled in at least one class, have had at least the first installment of fees paid, and have no registration blocks. You will ultimately be required to register in 12 units each semester.
  • All students should sign up for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) at If you do so, your fellowship stipend will be deposited directly into your bank account and you will receive an email confirmation from the University about this.
    1. If you have not signed up for EFT or if you have a past due CARS balance, your fellowship stipend will be paid by check. An email notification will be sent to you once the fellowship stipend check is available for pick-up at Cal Student Central, 120 Sproul Hall.
    2. If the check is not picked up within a week (7 days), it may be mailed to your local address on file in BearFacts (if your CARS account is not past due) or it will be cancelled. Therefore it is important to make sure your address on file is up to date.
    3. Re-issuance of a check usually takes about 3 weeks.

Mailing Address
Please make sure your mailing and email address information is up to date at this time. You can change your local, permanent, and billing addresses and phone numbers via Bear Facts. You can change your e-mail address via the CalNet Directory Services page. (There's also a link to this page on Bear Facts.)

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
To sign up for direct deposit (also called EFT), go to the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) website.

What are the terms and conditions of my award?

Please see the Summary of Terms of Award and Payment Schedule for the terms and conditions of your award.

Where can I find information about the taxes that apply to my award?

Fellowship Recipients
General Fellowship Tax Information
Graduate Student Support and Taxes Appendix
Financial Deadlines
Financial FAQ

US Citizens and Permanent Residents - If you were on fellowship last year you will receive a 1098 form from the University. Please confirm your email and mailing address (see below) at this time.

International Students - International students on fellowships will receive a 1042-S. Your 1042-S will eventually be available through Glacier (by March 15th, if not earlier). Excellent information, workshops, and even free tax software is online courtesy of the Berkeley International Office (BIO).

Student Employees
Students employed by the University in the last calendar year you should receive a W-2 form each spring. If you were employed by the University but did not receive a W-2 you may email the Payroll Office to request a duplicate copy.

Free Legal Advice (including Tax Advice)
The ASUC Student Legal Clinic provides free tax advice.

Mailing Address
Please make sure your mailing and email address information is up to date at this time. You can change your local, permanent, and billing addresses and phone numbers via Bear Facts. You can change your e-mail address via the CalNet Directory Services page. (There's also a link to this page on Bear Facts.)

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
To sign up for direct deposit (also called EFT), go to the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) website.

I'm an international student. Where can I find out more information about how my award will be taxed?

Please see the International Student Memo for information about the taxes that apply to international students.

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If you have any additional questions you would like to see in this FAQ, please send them to Shirley Salanio.