Graduate Handbook

(currently under revision)

Academic Procedures
The Master's Degree
The Doctoral Degree
Financing Graduate Education at Berkeley


Academic Procedures


To be officially registered, you must enroll in at least 12 units and pay the first installment of your fees.  That will allow you to be assessed your semester's fees and give you access to the Class Pass (for transit), libraries, health services (if you pay health insurance fees), financial aid awards and fellowship stipends.  Therefore, it is best to enroll prior to the start of each semester.  A full course load of 12 units may be finalized after meeting with your Academic Advisor, during the first three weeks of classes.  Students may augment their course loads by signing up for units in CE 299 (independent research), CE 298 (group research), and/or CE 601/602 (individual study).  CE 298, 601/602 units may not count towards the unit requirements for master’s and doctoral degrees; CE 299 units may count but have some unit restrictions.  For more information, see Graduate Division's webpage.  (back to top)

Academic Advisors

You will find out your Academic Advisor assignment at orientation or directly prior to orientation.  Prior to or during the first week of class, you should meet with your Academic Advisor to discuss your course schedule.  With the goal of serving your interests and meeting degree requirements, you and your Academic Advisor will decide what courses you should take in the academic year.  Take with you a Graduate Student Class Schedule form and, after the first semester, an unofficial transcript.  These meetings will help you and your advisor monitor your academic progress towards the timely completion of your degree. (back to top)

Independent Study or Research Credit

To get credit for independent research or study, conducted under the supervision of a faculty member of your choice, you should enroll in 1-12 units of CE 299 or 1-6 units of CE 601 or 602.  To obtain the course control number of a CE 299/601/602 section, download an Enrollment Form at or pick up a hardcopy of the form outside of Academic Affairs Office (750 Davis Hall). Fill out the Enrollment Form, obtain your faculty supervisor’s signature on the form, and return the signed form to the inbox in the Academic Affairs Office.  The course control numbers will be e-mailed to you within two business days. (back to top)

Change of Class Schedule

It is possible to add/drop classes, change units in a variable course, and change your grading option through the third week of each semester using the CalCentral.  Schedule changes made after the third week of classes require a Petition to Change Class Schedule, and fees for adding or dropping courses may apply.  The petition must have the correct signatures (of student, graduate advisor, and professor of the class being added, if applicable).  The original signed petition must be submitted to the Graduate Student Advisor at least ONE WEEK PRIOR (not including holidays) to the last day of instruction.  The Graduate Petition to Change Class Schedule is at and a hardcopy of the petition is located outside the Academic Affairs Office.  It is essential that you be registered by the 15th day of classes.  Penalties apply to students who do not register on time, and there are significant budget consequences to the department when you fail to register by the deadline. (back to top)

Minimum GPA Requirement

Please read the policy on GPA on the Graduate Division website here.  If you are a GSR, GSI or a Reader, please read additional GPA information here.   A Master student must earn an overall 3.0 GPA and a 3.0 in the major. The College of Engineering requires that a PhD student taking the qualifying examination has a 3.5 or higher in the major and 3.0 or higher in the minor. (back to top)

The Master's Degree

Master's Candidacy

In order to advance to candidacy for the MS degree and be put on the degree list for Spring graduation, you must submit the Application for Candidacy for the Master's Degree to the Academic Affairs Office by the end of January; for December graduation, the form must be submitting at the beginning of September.

One faculty person in each program is responsible for scheduling the comprehensive exam in conjunction with the Graduate Student Advisor.  The exam is offered towards the end of the semester, April or May in the spring and November or December in the fall.  (Not all programs hold exams in the fall.)  Some programs post past exams on the Web to guide you in your studies.  Each program coordinates its own examinations.  You must sign up to take the comprehensive exam according to program’s instructions.  Ask the faculty member coordinating the examination for these instructions. The GeoSystems program, the Systems program and the MEng program do not have a comprehensive exam; rather they offer capstone courses that include a comprehensive or capstone project.  (back to top)

Filing a Thesis or Report

If you are filing a Thesis for a Plan I Master of Science degree and have submitted a Plan I candidacy form for the MS, please see "Filing a Thesis".

If you are filing a CE 299 report or MEng capstone project, please submit a title page with two signatures to the graduate advisor in the Academic Affairs Office, preferably by the Friday before finals week.  The two signatures should consist of a senate faculty member in your program and a second member, preferably faculty or adjunct professor at Berkeley.

Progression to the PhD

MS students who wish to progress to the PhD track, must submit three forms:  Graduate Petition for Change of Major or Degree Goal, Tentative Plan of Study for Doctoral Candidates and Anticipated Multi-Year Funding Path.  All 3 forms must be signed and submitted to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer in 750 Davis Hall during the last semester of master's study.  (back to top)

The Doctoral Degree

The doctorate is awarded in recognition of a student’s knowledge of a broad field of learning and for distinguished accomplishment in that field through an original contribution of significant knowledge and ideas.  To be eligible to receive the doctorate, the student must complete at least two years (four semesters) of academic residence, pass a preliminary examination, pass the qualifying examination administered by a committee approved by the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council, and submit an approved dissertation completed under the guidance of Berkeley faculty members.  The dissertation must reveal high critical ability and powers of imagination and synthesis.

Timeline for Forms

Within the first year, PhD students must complete, in conjunction with their academic advisors, the Tentative Program of Study.
Within the first or second year (depending on the program), PhD students must complete a final Program of Study for Doctoral Candidates form; all 5 required signatures must be obtained on the form before submitting it to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer, at least 1 month prior to the examination date.  Additionally, the Application for Qualifying Examination must be completed and submitted at least 1 month prior to the examination date.  T
After successful completion of the qualifying examination, students must submit the Application for Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree as soon as possible. (back to top)

Designated Emphases

A “designated emphasis” is defined as a 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 are required to complete the academic work in the area of specialization and all the requirements of the doctoral program.  To add a Designated Emphasis (DE), students must contact the department that offers the DE for application procedures.  Please let the Graduate Student Affairs Officer in 750 Davis know if you add a DE.  Students need to be admitted to a DE before taking the qualifying examination.  There are three designated emphases offered for CEE students.  They are:

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is usually taken in the second or third semester of the doctoral program.  Arrangements are made through the group’s Academic Advisor in conjunction with the Academic Affairs Office.  Please contact your Academic Advisor early in the semester that you are planning to take the exam.  Once a list of students is gathered, a date will be set, and students will be notified.  Students are only eligible to take the preliminary examination a total of two times.  If the second examination is failed, then the student may be dismissed from the program.  See the Graduate Division policy here. (back to top)


Financing Graduate Education at Berkeley

Numerous programs, fellowships, loans, instructorships, research assistantships, subsidized housing and childcare provide ways to earn money while being a student and thereby offset the cost of graduate school.  Some of the programs are merit-based and are administered through the Graduate Division Fellowships Office; others are need-based and are administered through the Financial Aid Office.  The academic departments and Organized Research Units (ORUs) administer additional funding sources.

GSI and Reader Positions
If you are interested in serving as a Graduate Student Instructor or Reader for a CEE course, you need to fill out the online application at the end of each semester for employment in the following semester.
Program Leaders, in conjunction with faculty, will choose GSIs and Readers from among this pool of applicants.  If you are chosen as a GSI or Reader, the Academic Affairs Office will send you an offer letter via e-mail with the course name, hours, salary, etc.  If you accept the offer (via the online system), you will need to attend a CEE Human Resources Orientation to fill out the necessary paperwork.  You will not be officially hired until the Human Resources Unit processes the paperwork.
If you were promised a GSI/Reader position by a faculty member, you still must fill out the online application.  In this case, you should also indicate on the application which faculty member promised you the position, and the amount of hours promised.  The department will confirm your communication with the faculty member and Program Leader and process the offer letter accordingly.


You must contact a faculty member directly for any open Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) positions.  Once you have an agreement with a faculty member, who will then become your research advisor, you need to complete the online form.

Getting Paid

GSIs do not have to submit timesheets.  Readers should pick up blank timesheets from ERSO and must submit them  by the 20th of each month, back to the ERSO office at 199M Cory Hall.  GSRs do not have to submit a timesheet unless their appointment is variable. 

Please note that GSRs earn wage increases when they have passed their preliminary examinations and when they advance to doctoral candidacy. (back to top)


The department receives numerous notices of fellowship opportunities.  Fellowship opportunities are advertised in the online newsletter published by the Graduate Student Advisor. (back to top)