Graduate Program

Caltech has a reputation as a world-class research university, and it is no exaggeration to say that much of this reputation is based on the quality of its graduate students. The Electrical Engineering Department at Caltech is no exception: its bright and motivated graduate students collaborate with its professors in their research efforts and make it one of the top Electrical Engineering departments in the country.


Graduate Option Rep

Changhuei Yang

Academic Options Coordinator

Tanya Owen

For questions regarding the Graduate Program, please contact Tanya Owen at

An application for admission can be completed electronically through the Graduate Studies Office website. Admission will be granted only to a limited number of students of superior ability, and application should be made by the posted deadlines. Completed applications are due in the Graduate Office between December 15 and January 15. Please refer to the Graduate Office website for specific deadlines. Some options will review an application received after the deadline, but that applicant may be at a disadvantage in the allocation of financial assistance or in the priority for admission. In general, admission to graduate standing is effective for enrollment only at the beginning of the fall term. The California Institute of Technology encourages applications from members of groups underrepresented in science and engineering, including women. Graduate admissions is covered by Caltech’s Nondiscrimination Policy. For more information on this policy, please refer to page 70. Applicants will automatically be considered for financial aid; no additional application is required.

To be admitted to graduate standing, an applicant must in general have received a bachelor’s degree representing the completion of an undergraduate course in science or engineering equivalent to one of the options offered by the Institute. He or she must, moreover, have attained such a scholastic record and present such recommendations as to indicate fitness to pursue, with distinction, advanced study and research. Admission sometimes may have to be refused solely on the basis of limited facilities in the option concerned.

Please visit the Caltech Graduate Studies website for downloadable forms, important dates, and further information about the admissions process. Apply now!

Aims and Scope of the Graduate Program

Award of the Bachelor of Science degree may be followed by graduate study leading to the Master of Science degree in electrical engineering, and the more advanced degrees of Electrical Engineer or Doctor of Philosophy. Because admission to graduate studies in electrical engineering at Caltech is extremely competitive, the Admissions Committee attempts to select those applicants it judges both best qualified and best suited for the graduate program. Applicants should submit Graduate Record Examination scores.

Master’s Degree

Normally, the master’s degree in electrical engineering is completed in one academic year. The principal criteria for evaluating applicants for the MSEE are the excellence of their preparation for the math- and physics-oriented nature of Caltech’s graduate courses, and the judgment of the Admissions Committee on their ability to successfully pursue and benefit from the course program. The Institute does not normally admit an applicant to the master’s degree in a field in which the applicant already has a master’s degree from another U.S. institution. Financial aid is seldom offered to those who intend to complete their graduate work with a master’s degree. A joint B.S./M.S. degree is not available in electrical engineering.

135 units (100 or above except some specially petitioned humanities courses) are required as approved by the electrical engineering graduate student adviser. No more than 30 units of pass/ fail grades may be counted toward this requirement. Units toward this are not transferable from other schools. At least 54 units of EE letter-graded courses (courses listed or cross-listed as EE) labeled 100 or above and not counting EE 191 or EE 291 are required. EE 105 abc, Electrical Engineering Seminar, is also required. Students are urged to consider including a humanities course in the remaining free electives.

Students who have been admitted to the M.S.-only program must reapply if they are interested in the Ph.D. program.

Degree of Electrical Engineer

The engineer’s degree may be awarded in exceptional cases. The awarding of this degree requires fulfilling the Institute requirements for an engineer’s degree and receiving a recommendation for its awarding from the candidacy oral examination committee.

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

As a rule, applicants who wish to undertake research work leading to a degree of Doctor of Philosophy in electrical engineering are admitted initially only for the MSEE. They are, however, evaluated according to additional criteria, the most important of which is the applicant’s interest in and potential for research in one of the areas described below. The statement of purpose required as part of the application should clearly address this match. Considerable weight is also given to the opinions expressed in the applicant’s letters of recommendation.

During the Ph.D. applicant’s master’s degree year, evaluation continues. It is based in part on performance in courses and in part on a one-hour oral presentation scheduled early in the second quarter. As the year progresses, the electrical engineering faculty get to know the student, and the student makes contact with the professor in his or her area of research interest. Upon acceptance into a research group, the student begins research work and defers receiving the master’s degree until formal admission into the Ph.D. program. Before the end of his or her second academic year of graduate study, the student normally takes the Ph.D. qualifying oral examination. This must, however, be done no later than the end of the third academic year.

Ph.D. applicants who already hold a master’s degree in electrical engineering from another U.S. institution may be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program, but must provide sufficient information to obtain advance acceptance into a research group.

Financial aid available to a Ph.D. applicant includes teaching assistantships and fellowships. TA duties consist of grading papers or lab instruction but not classroom lecturing. A fellowship may be supplemented by a teaching assistantship, and either or both include a full tuition scholarship. Tuition scholarships alone are not available. If financial aid is not requested, or if the box on the application form labeled “willing to come without aid’’ is checked, information on the source of funds for each year of intended graduate study must be included.


To be recommended for candidacy for the doctor’s degree, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements (and pass the Ph.D. qualifying oral examination) no later than the end of the third academic year:

  • Complete 18 units of research in his or her field of interest.
  • Obtain approval of a course of study consisting of at least 135 units of advanced courses in electrical engineering or the related subjects approved by the Ph.D. advisor, with at least 54 units of letter-graded EE courses numbered 100 or above (not counting EE 191 or EE 291). Only up to 27 units in research (e.g., EE 291) may be counted in this total. No more than 30 units of pass/fail grades may be counted toward this requirement. The courses taken to satisfy the math requirement below and courses taken to fulfill the Master of Science degree requirement may be included to satisfy this requirement. Units toward this requirement are not transferable from other schools.
  • Pass 27 units of mathematics courses, as approved by the student’s research adviser, with letter grade no lower than C.
  • Pass a qualifying oral examination covering broadly the major field. Students are strongly encouraged to do this before the end of the second year of residency.

Ph.D. Committee

The Ph.D. qualifying oral exam and the final defense exam are conducted by committees that are set up by the student and approved by the option representative. Members of these Ph.D. committees also serve as second or backup mentors in cases where such additional advising and problem solving are appropriate.

Thesis and Final Examination

The candidate is required to take a final oral examination covering the doctoral thesis and its significance in and relation to his or her major field. This final examination will be given no less than two weeks after the doctoral thesis has been presented in final form, and before its approval. This examination must be taken at least four weeks before the commencement at which the degree is to be granted.

Advising and Thesis Supervision

Periodic meetings between the advising faculty and the graduate student are an integral part of the Ph.D. program. These meetings should be at sufficiently frequent intervals, as determined by the student and adviser. Students are also encouraged to meet with other members of the Ph.D. committee, the option representative, the executive officer, or Caltech’s ombudsperson to discuss problems relating to satisfactory progress.

Subject Minor

A student majoring in another option at the Institute may elect a subject minor in electrical engineering. He or she must obtain approval from the electrical engineering faculty of a course of study containing at least 45 units (over the 100 level) of advanced courses with an EE listing (excluding EE 191 and 291). At least 36 of these should be for letter grades no lower than C. Freshman classes cannot be counted toward this.

Department of Electrical Engineering