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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in the ECE Department


Prospective Undergraduate Students 

I am a senior in high school. Can you tell me about your Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering is one of the broadest and largest engineering disciplines. Many electrical engineers work in the areas of design, analysis and application of electrical/electronic components, circuits and systems. Many electrical engineers work in areas focused on the analysis, design and application of information processing systems such as communication systems, medical imaging, military sensors, etc. The areas in which electrical engineers work span the spectrum from those focused on the atomic-level operation of micro-electronic devices to those focused on the design of integrated circuits using these micro-electronic devices, to those focused on the design of electronic circuits that use these integrated circuits, to those focused on the design of systems that use these electronic circuits, to process signals and information.

How is Computer Engineering different from Electrical Engineering?

Historically, the field of computer engineering encompassed primarily the design of computers, emerging as a bridge between electrical engineering and computer science. Driven by technological advancements that have made computing technology inexpensive and small enough to incorporate into a wide range of products and systems, computer engineering has become one of the core engineering disciplines. The scope of products and systems containing computer technology is ever-expanding, ranging from small embedded computers in consumer electronics, appliances and automobiles to complex computer-based systems controlling power generation, manufacturing and telecommunications systems. The role of the computer engineer includes the design, analysis and implementation of computing technology as well as its integration into devices and systems that use computers as components or tools. As a result, computer engineers work in many industries, including aerospace, automobile, computer, defense, electronics, information technology, networking and telecommunications. A computer engineer must draw from knowledge of electrical engineering, computer science and basic mathematics and sciences.

What is unique about studying electrical or computer engineering in the Watson

Our curriculum builds upon the base of the one-year core provided by the Engineering Design Division of the Watson School. The one-year core, required of all engineering students in the school, provides students with a broad foundation in engineering fundamentals, natural sciences, mathematics, communication skills and laboratory experience. The second year of the program covers basic electrical and computer engineering topics. Depth in computer or electrical engineering is obtained by a series of required courses and technical electives in the final two years of the program.

In addition to the four-year bachelor's degree in EE or CE, two combined-degree programs are available for undergraduate students. Qualified students can earn a BS in computer or electrical engineering and a master's degree in five years: either a BS in computer or electrical engineering and a MBA or a BS and MS. At the graduate level, students can earn a master's or PhD degree in computer or electrical engineering within the Watson School.

What kind of job can I get when I graduate?

Our graduates pursue their careers in various industries, including aerospace, automobile, computer, defense, electronics, information technology, networking and telecommunications. Our graduates have accepted various positions in companies such as Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, SRC Syracuse, BAE, Lockheed Martin (VA), Fidessa Corp., and PwC. They have also been admitted to graduate schools such as Penn State University, SUNY Stonybrook, SUNY Binghamton, and Syracuse University. Please feel free to click here and read about the career choices undertaken by our recent graduates.

Undergraduate Students 

Can I take a graduate course while I am an undergraduate student?

Undergraduate students who are within eight credits of graduation may register up to two graduate-level courses and receive graduate credit, provided the graduate courses are not used to meet the undergraduate degree requirements.

To receive graduate credit for such courses, the undergraduate student must complete the Petition to Receive Graduate Credits as an Undergraduate form (available from the Registrar or the Graduate School). This form is then filed with the Registrar and the Student Accounts Office before registration. These courses will appear on the undergraduate transcript but will not be counted towards undergraduate degree or calculated in the final GPA.  An exception to these policies is made for undergraduate students admitted to combined bachelors/master's degree programs.

What should an accelerated student do to apply for graduate school?

Through the 4+1 BS/MS Engineering Program, students will be able to earn both a BS and MS degree in five years. To be considered, students must have a GPA of 3.3 or higher. This is our web site's information about the Accelerated Program. You will find more information on what graduate courses to take during your senior year that can be counted for both your undergraduate and graduate requirements. When you are ready to register for your 500 level courses, please email the CRN, course names and numbers to the ECE graduate secretary.

During your junior year, fill out the " Application for Accelerated BS/MS Engineering" form that can be found here. Two signatures of ECE professors who are recommending you are required on the form if your GPA is below 3.5. During your senior year, you should submit your formal application to the Graduate School. If you have specific questions after you have checked out the information at the sources listed above, please contact the Graduate Director.

If you are an international student, you will need to submit the financial information. Then pay your application fee. After that, a decision will be entered into our system (usually after the grades are recorded from the Fall semester) and you will receive an e-mail from the Graduate School. When you confirm (by following the directions in the Graduate School’s e-mail) that you are coming as a Graduate Student, you have completed the "formal application" for Accelerated students.

When do I use the yellow "Independent Study Registration" form?

Use this form to register for independent study courses, including:
  • Undergraduate Research (499)
  • Internship (594)
  • Project (595, 598)
  • Thesis (599)
  • Pre-dissertation and dissertation (698, 699)
  • Other independent study (497, 597, 697)
  • Continuous registration (700)
  • Assistantship credit (701), for TA, GA, and RPA only

Independent Study can be registered any time, beginning with the pre-registration period, and running through the sixth week of classes. Note that the registration deadlines (e.g. the "Add / Drop" deadline for course registration) do not apply to independent study, which can be freely added, dropped or changed, up until (approximately) the sixth week of classes. To register for Independent Study, you must submit a completed Independent Study Registration Form (a "yellow form"), signed by you faculty adviser. This form is submitted to your department office, where it will be processed.

How do I apply to be an Undergraduate Course Assistant?

A link to a Google Doc will be e-mailed to students each semester sometime after early registration for the following semester. The doc will ask you to fill out information about the courses you have taken and what grades you received for those courses. The professor of each course can add anyone he/she chooses from the list or from an approval made by the student contacting the professor requesting to be a UCA. If you are chosen as an Undergraduate Course Assistant, when your registration has been entered, you will see ECE 491 on your list of courses in BU Brain.

Prospective Graduate Students 

Where can I find course information if I don't have a log-in yet?

Course information can be found by going to, click "Course Registration" on the left of the page. Then click "Schedule of Classes." Choose the semester on the drop-down menu. On the next drop-down menu choose "EECE." Click submit at the bottom of the page.

What specializations are offered within the ECE department?

We are specializations in the following:
  • Computer Architecture & Networks
  • Control Systems
  • DSP and Communications
  • Information Assurance
  • Physical Electronics/Electrooptics
  • Power and Energy
  • VLSI

For more information on our different areas of research as well as the courses we offer within the specializations, please click here.

I would like to work towards my PhD as a part-time student. What are the details for

If you are not going to be a full-time student there is no requirement on the minimum credits per semester. Obviously, since most courses are 3 credits that is typically the minimum level you'd be taking - at least at first when completing your course work. Later, when you are doing your research it is possible to register for just 1 credit of pre-dissertation credit per semester (EECE698) and then later still you can register for 1 credit of dissertation per semester (EECE699). There really is no requirement on the number of credits of 698 and 699 you must complete... you just need to complete the research needed to write your dissertation and then actually write it!

There are some limits on how long you are allowed to take to complete a few milestones:
A student in a doctoral program must be admitted to candidacy within five years of admission to the Graduate School if entering directly into a doctoral program or within five years after award of a master's degree at Binghamton University. You are admitted to candidacy after completing your course work and passing the comprehensive exam.

Doctoral candidates must complete all requirements for the degree, including the dissertation, within five years after admission to doctoral candidacy. So... you've got 5 years to get to from entrance to candidacy and another 5 years from candidacy to completion of dissertation and all degree requirements. Your plan of taking one 3-credit course each Fall and Spring gets you to candidacy in 4 years. It is possible to also take a 3-credit independent study in the summer and that would get you to candidacy in 3 years.

If I am denied from the PhD program, can I still be considered for the MS program?

Yes. If you apply as a PhD applicant but you are denied, you can request to be reviewed for the MS program. If you know, in advance, that you are interested in being reviewed as an MS applicant (in the event you are denied) when you apply for the PhD program, please e-mail the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department as soon as you send your packet to “My Credential Vault”.

What is the difference between a MS in computer engineering and MS in computer

The difference between computer engineering (CoE) and computer science (CS) is a lot like the difference between psychologist and psychiatrist - there are some clear difference and some clear similarities. Psychiatrists can prescribe drugs so they deal more with the "hardware" of the mind while psychologists discuss a patient's thoughts and feelings so they deal more with the "software" of the mind. Of course, each is keenly aware of the interaction between the "hardware" and the "software". CoE deals more with the hardware aspects of computer design and the interfacing/networking of computers with other devices and systems. To study CoE you need to have a solid background in electronics. To study CS you would not need to understand electronics at all. To study CS you need to have a solid background in advanced programming. To study CoE you need to have some background in programming but it need not be an extensive background. As an example, both CS and CoE students may have a course in "digital logic" but the CS students would mainly discuss it in the abstract (e.g., what are the logical functions of AND, OR, etc... and how are they used to form functional operations used in computing) while a CoE would also be concerned with things like how much current could this logic circuit actually source into this other device to which I am connecting it... and what happens if the device needs more current?

As to what each does after graduation, many jobs could be filled with one or the other without any trouble. Jobs that are programming-heavy are better filled by CS grads and those that are hardware-heavy are better filled by CoE grads. The job market for each type is quite strong.

I am a physics undergraduate student and would like to earn a MS degree in ECE.
What should I do?

Admission Requirements

To be admitted, a student is required to have earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering (EE), computer engineering (CoE), or a related field. All students are expected to have the equivalent of the courses listed in the following content areas: calculus through differential equations, computer programming, electrical circuits (EECE 260), electronics (EECE 315), digital logic design (EECE 251) and laboratory experience. Qualified students with non-electrical and computer (ECE) backgrounds are admitted on a conditional basis until the undergraduate ECE course(s) needed to fulfill this requirement are taken.

Required courses for both EE and CoE:
  • Electrical Circuits (EECE 260)
  • Signals and Systems (EECE 301)
Students specializing in EE need:
Choose 2 out of the 6 listed below:
  • Linear Algebra and Matlab (EECE212)
  • Electronics (EECE 315)
  • Semiconductor Devices (EECE 332)
  • Electromagnetic Theory I/II (PHYS 331/332)
  • Control Systems (EECE 361)
  • Communication Systems (EECE 377)
Students specializing in CoE need:
Choose 2 out of the 6 listed below

(note: taking one of the programming courses, CS 211 or EECE 212, is highly recommended if the incoming student does not have any programming experience)

  • Programming for Engineers (CS 211)
  • Linear Algebra and Matlab (EECE 212)
  • Digital Logic Design (EECE 251)
  • Computer Organization and Microprocessors (EECE 287)
  • Digital Systems (EECE 351)
  • Computer Architecture (EECE 352)

How many years would it take for a graduate student to complete the PhD program?

For students who come in with an MS degree, the typical time is 3 to 4 years, although 3 years is a bit rushed. If a student comes in with a "perfect" background (e.g. already quite familiar with the literature and issues in the area, possibly from their MS thesis work or from R&D-type work for the dissertation topic they choose), then 3 years is doable. Otherwise, 4 years is more common. If you do not yet have an MS degree, that adds another 1.5 years. It is possible to go straight from BS to PhD and that would only add 1 year to the 3 to 4 years stated above (the risk though is that if you don't complete the PhD you may not have met the degree requirements for the MS, so you might leave without a degree). Those numbers are for full time students; part-time students are quite different because such students progress at variable rates.

I am a non-traditional graduate student and have been working for many years. What
materials do I need?

Nontraditional graduate students, including those who have been out of school for a while (or other special cases) should contact the Graduate Director. Some requirements can be waived on a case-by-case basis.

What do BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin employees need to apply for a Master's Degree?

BAE and Lockheed employees only need to submit their undergraduate transcript to be reviewed for a decision. TOEFL scores, GRE scores and Letters of Recommendation will be waived.

Where can I look for funding as a MS or PhD student?

There are several areas you can look for funding as a master student or a PhD student:

1. Teaching Assistantship (TA)
2. Research Assistantship (RA)
3. Scholarships, Fellowships, Etc.

Information on Teaching Assistantships
Each Fall we appoint about a dozen students as teaching assistants; appointments in Spring are quite rare. These are very competitive; preference is given to new PhD students but new MS students also have a chance to be appointed. Selection of students for TA appointments is done by the graduate director of the ECE department during the review of your application. To be considered for a TA international applicants must have a TOEFL iBT score of at least 100.

Information on Research Assistantships
Students are appointed as RAs by individual professors who have external funding to support students to work on their research projects. To be considered for an RA position you must contact individual professors in your area of specialization. The ECE graduate director does not control such appointments. Please visit our website to determine which professors work in your area of interest.

Research Foundation Employee Self-Service
Research Foundation Benefits Website Call: 607-777-4264 Location: BI-1214

Information on Other Funding Sources

Whether or not you receive funding as a TA or an RA, you may want to consider a combination of funding options. A number of US funding institutions are now making educational loans available to international students; we invite you to explore the opportunities for financing your graduate education on the Graduates School’s website. Scroll past “Tuition & Funding” and read the information under the section “Aid & Funding." Our own ECE website also has information on internships and scholarships.

Graduate Students 

How do I identify my faculty advisor?

MS students should take steps to identify an advisor to guide their thesis project as soon as possible. Similarly, PhD students should also take steps to identify an advisor to guide their research projects as soon as possible. Until you have found an advisor, the ECE Graduate Director will act as your interim advisor.

How do current or former Binghamton University students apply for graduate school?

The Graduate School’s “How to Apply” web page You do not need to submit TOEFL , IELTS or PTE scores. Your BU transcript will come into the system automatically. You will not need to submit your GRE exam scores. After you submit your application and pay the application fee, your application will show in our electronic system. E-mail and let her know if you are either a current or former student. You will receive an e-mail near the beginning of the semester you applied for that will give you information about our ECE Graduate Orientation. ECE Graduate Orientations are every fall and every spring. If you are a current student and would like to register for the next semester, the system will look at you as a new student and will not likely allow you to register for graduate courses. You can e-mail the CRNs, course names and numbers and your name and B# to and she will register you.

Can a Master's Student be a Research Assistant?

Each professor handles the hiring decisions for Research Assistants in their research area. Students should contact the professor(s) in the field that they are interested in. When the application is reviewed, the Graduate Director refers professors to quality applicants. However, while professors typically look for PhD students, MS students that exhibit exceptional talent are also funded.

I am a PhD student. Where are the requirements for thesis or dissertation?

The requirements for submitting thesis/dissertation can be found on the graduate school website linked here.

I am a PhD student about to fill out a form to be ABD. What forms do I need to graduate?

If you have not already done your prospectus & colloquium please see the ECE Graduate Handbook.

There is a form you will need when you take your comprehensive exam on our forms web page called the "PhD Comprehensive Exam Approval Form" at this link. The "Recommendation for Admission to Candidacy" form (to be advanced to ABD status) is also at that link.

The Graduate Application for Degree Form and information about the Graduate school can both be found on the Graduate School's Web site. You need to fill out the form before the date listed on the web site.

There is a triplicate form in the ECE secretary's office that needs to be filled out and requires signatures.

After that, the triplicate form, your proposed course of study form which is also found on our resources page-see the link above (signed by your advisor, found at the forms link) and your PhD Comprehensive Exam Approval Form go together to our Graduate Director, Professor Chen. From this point our office handles the travel of the forms through these next steps. Once they are reviewed and signed, they go to the Dean of Watson. From there they go to our Graduate Coordinator, Ellen Tilden, who processes them and takes them to the Graduate School.

Do undergraduate course grades affect a graduate student's GPA?

Undergraduate courses taken as a graduate-level student will not be calculated into the graduate GPA. It will appear on the student's transcript with whatever grade is received but it will not be used to calculate the student's graduate GPA. The only "bad thing" that could happen is that if the student receives a failing grade, that will remain on the student's transcript.

I am an international student. Where can I find information about Full-Time

When a student is course complete as a master’s student and therefore only needs to register for 1 credit (of thesis or project), he/she needs to complete a Full-time Certification form for students not receiving funding.

The full-time certification forms can be downloaded from our forms web page. Choose either the MS or the PhD form. Have your advisor sign your form after you fill it out. Take it to the ECE secretary. You must be registered for qualifying classes before you can be certified.

As an international student you are required to be full time. As a PHD student, 9 credits is considered full time. If you have completed all coursework, you may register for one credit per the policy above, and be certified full time for the balance.

Note: If you are beginning your first year of PHD study it is unlikely you have met all course requirements and can be certified full-time per the policies found at the first link. If you aren’t registered for a qualifying course as noted in the procedures you cannot be certified full time

Is there a deadline that I need to take my Comprehensive Exam so my status changes
to ABD?

In order to be considered ABD for the next semester, the student would need to pass the comprehensive exam and be officially designated as ABD prior to the start of classes for the next semester. In the case of mid-semester exam completions, students would have to wait to be ABD until the next major semester. Please schedule your Comprehensive Exam before the middle of the semester if you wish to use the Full-time Certification form for the following semester.

The graduate course I want to take is full. Is there a waitlist?

Please check out the document that we have created with all the information on waitlists.

Is there a time limit for me to get my Master's and PhD degrees?

In general, a student has 5 years from their matriculated admittance to get their master's, 5 years from their master's to get their ABD, and 5 years from their ABD to get their PhD. Special cases involving classes taken while a student is non-matriculated student are reviewed by the Graduate School. More information is below as well as the location of an extension form.

A petition form to extend the 5-year limit for Master’s, Post-Master’s or Doctorate degree is located on the Graduate School’s website. You can also find more information about degree requirements in the above link. 

Can I switch from doing a Thesis to doing a Project?

Your advisor needs to be on-board with the change. You do not need the approval of the Graduate Director. Be sure that you have enough courses and ones that fit the categories for doing a project: the key is that you’ll need an additional "breadth" course (thesis requires only 2 breadths and project requires 3).

How do I apply for a Teaching Assistant position?

What should I do when I identify my Outside Examiner?

The Graduate School has a very extensive page regarding the doctoral degree. In this section, you can find information regarding an outside examiner.

How do I locate my thesis in the University library?

Head over to the university library page and search "Dissertations" under the "Datebases" tab.

What forms do I need to fill out to graduate and what are the deadlines for them?

All of the forms needed to graduate can be found on the Graduate School's website linked here. On this page, you will also find information on all of the deadlines as well. If you are a PhD student about to graduate, please look at the Graduate School's Checklist for Completion of Degree Requirements to make sure you have completed all the necessary requirements.

Where can I find more information about non-matriculated study?

We have a page on our department website dedicated to those who are interested in taking courses as a non-matriculated student.

Where can I find information about Curricular Practical Training(CPT) for F-1

The ISSS has a very detailed page on everything related to Curricular Practical Training for F-1 Students. You can find answers to many frequently asked questions along with a student checklist to apply for CPT.

What can you tell me about Distance Course Offerings?

Distance Courses are offered as EngiNet courses which show on the BU Brain course schedule as Section 20. Section 20 courses have the "OC" in the Instructional Method column.

Some courses are offered using a Panopto platform, which are identified by "OH" (Online Hybrid). When taking an "OH" course, please contact the professor to let him/her know you are enrolled in the course.

Application Process 

What application materials do I need for my application to be complete?

In order for the ECE department to make a recommended decision on your application, we will need:
  • Application Fee
  • Official Transcripts
  • Personal Statement
  • At Least Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Official GRE or GMAT scores
  • Resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Proof of English Proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS and PTE Academic Scores)

Once you have submitted your online application and paid the application fee, our department can view them electronically and recommend a decision. We consider all factors of the application including high test scores, research experiences, industry experiences, and reputation of applicant's undergraduate university. 

* If you are a US Citizen, Permanent Resident, BU Student, or Local Employee, please email so we can work with you individually *

If I will be graduating from an ABET accredited school, do I still need to submit my

Graduates from an ABET accredited school within the United States do not need to submit TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores. If you have graduated from Binghamton University, you do not need to submit GRE scores and TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores. 

One exception: applicants who wish to be considered for teaching assistant positions who are an international applicant and come from a country whose primary language is not English who wish to be considered for a TA position are required to submit TOEFL/IELTS or PTE scores.

When does the fall application process start and what are the deadlines?

We begin looking at fall applications in November of the preceding year.

There are no specific dates for an application to be submitted. You may apply up to one month before the beginning of the semester as we have a "rolling" admissions process. If you are an international student, the time frame for you to get your visa and travel documents in order may be a concern for you. For your best interest, please begin your preparation as soon as possible.

Will you consider an applicant whose GPA is low or have low test scores?

All factors are taken into consideration, including GPA. Strength in other areas can compensate for low GPA. We pay particular attention to your academic performance in the key courses in Electrical and Computer Engineering; grades in junior- and senior-level courses tend to be weighted most heavily. If any part of the application is weak, other strong areas in an application may lead to an acceptance.

What are acceptable test scores and what is the Binghamton University code to send
them to?

Below are our minimum requirements:
  • GRE: 155 (minimum) 159 (recommended)
  • TOEFL: 80 (minimum) 100 (if you would like to be considered for a TA)
  • IELTS: 6.5 with no individual band below 5.0
  • PTE: 53 (minimum)

For more details on our examination requirements, please click here. The code to give your testing center for your scores to be sent to is Binghamton University 2535.

After completing the online application, can I update my test scores if I take it again?

If you would like to take your exam again because your score is low, please retake the exam. Request your new scores be sent to Binghamton University. When your new scores arrive, e-mail to let them know there is an update that you would like to be considered. If your application is complete and ready for review at that time, it will be reviewed using the highest scores. If your application had been denied due to low score, please e-mail that information and request for reconsideration if your have met our minimum requirements.

There is no specific deadline. If you are an international student, your application must be complete for a decision to be made in time for the Graduate School to work with International Student Services for your I20 and travel papers to be prepared and sent to you. If you live in the United States and can travel on short notice, that is a determining factor. Also keep in mind if you would like to have your application reconsidered and it is almost time for your requested semester to begin, the availability of the Graduate Committee to review your application may be an issue depending on what conferences are taking place at that time.

What do I do with Application Materials I can not Upload to the Online Application? 

If you cannot upload application materials to the online application, e-mail them to the Graduate School at

  • Use "Additional Application Materials - [Student's Name]" in the subject line
  • Include your application materials as attachments. Preferred file format is PDF. Other accepted file formats include .doc, .docx, .rtf, .jpg, and .tif. 
  • Include your full name (as you used in the online application), your date of birth, the program to which you applied and the semester in which you expect to start graduate studies at Binghamton University in the body of the message. 

How do I pay my deposit once I have been admitted?

Congratulations on your acceptance! You can pay your deposit by going to the Graduate School's website. Your admission deposit confirms your intent to enroll and we will use your deposit to credit your first semester's bill.

Last Updated: 11/8/17