Admissions FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are compiled from years of experience and are an important resource for you as an applicant. If you have a question, please investigate if that question is already answered here first.

What can I do to prepare for applying to Materials Science and Engineering(MSE) at UC Berkeley?

We encourage you to begin early and prepare all documents needed to support your application. Register and prepare for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Contact three (3) of your academic or other references regarding letters of recommendation. Letters should speak to your academic, research, work ethic, and other factors that can indicate your educational and research potential and prowess. International applicants should request official transcripts early and have official translations prepared. Applicants from countries where English is not the official language must also register for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Please read the information for prospective applicants on the Graduate Division Admissions web page.

What are my chances of being admitted to the Department of Materials Science & Engineering?

Because of the large volume of applications and inquiries we receive during each admissions cycle, we cannot evaluate the potential success of your application in advance. In general, we admit approximately 10-15% of all applicants. Admissions decisions are made by the Admissions Committee after an application is completed (including receipt of all supporting documents). The Admissions Committee considers many factors in its decision, including but not limited to: academic record, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, research experience, and test scores.

Does MSE admit applicants for the Spring semester?

No, the department does not admit in the spring admissions cycle.

Do you offer online courses in Materials Science & Engineering?

No, the department currently does not offer online courses.

What are the minimum requirements to be considered for admission to a graduate program in Materials Science & Engineering?

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  • A bachelor’s degree (B.S. or B.A.) or recognized equivalent (must be conferred prior to enrollment into our program) from an accredited institution
  • Sufficient undergraduate training to complete graduate work in your chosen field
  • A satisfactory scholastic average, with a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B)
  • The General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)

Please read the Graduate Division webpage on Admission Requirements. If you received or are a candidate to receive a degree from an institution outside the United States, please read the section on International Applicants in Admission Requirements.

Which program track (M.S., M. Eng., M.S./Ph.D., Ph.D.) should I apply to?

If you have a B.S./B.A. degree and wish only to obtain a Master’s degree → Apply to the M.Eng. program. The MSE department administers their terminal Master’s degrees through this program.

If you have a B.S./B.A degree and wish to obtain a Ph.D. → Apply to the M.S./Ph.D. program. The M.S. degree is offered on the pathway to the Ph.D. as the requirements are satisfied.

If you have a B.S./B.A. and a M.S./M.Eng. degree and wish to obtain a Ph.D. → Apply directly to the Ph.D. program.

How long does it take to complete an M.Eng. degree? M.S. degree? Ph.D. degree?

Master of Engineering (typically over 1 year or 2 semesters):

25 semester units
12 in technical expertise
8 in core leadership curriculum
5 in capstone project

Master of Science, Plan I: (typically over 2 years or 4 semesters)

20 semester units
8 strictly graduate units in the major subject
2 units of MSE 298 or 299

Master of Science, Plan II: (typically over 2 years or 4 semesters)

24 semester units
12 strictly graduate units in the major subject
2 units of MSE 298 or 299
Comprehensive exam

Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering: (usually in 3 years after completion of the MS Degree)

28 semester units
16 graduate units in the major subject
2 minors for breadth
Pass the Preliminary Examination
Pass the Qualifying Examination
Serve 1 semester as Graduate Student Instructor

What should I know if the person I want to work with has a primary appointment in another department at Berkeley, or at another institution, or is emeritus?

Several of the faculty who hold appointments in MSE have their primary appointment in other departments or at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. You can identify these faculty by their location on our listing of faculty.

Core Faculty – Primary appointment in MSE; can serve as an advisor to any student.

Joint Faculty – Primary appointment in another department. It is possible for a student enrolled as a graduate student in MSE to work with faculty from any of these groups. Students admitted to MSE who work with Joint Faculty are required to fulfill all the requirements for an MSE degree. You should give careful consideration to whether this is consistent with your educational objectives. If so, we suggest that you apply to MSE. If not or if you are only interested in Joint Faculty from other departments, then it may be in your best interest to pursue admission to the Joint Faculty member’s home department.

Adjunct Faculty – Typically have their primary appointments at other institutions, such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Students who work with Adjunct Faculty are required to be jointly advised by one of the Core or Joint Faculty members in the department. Strong collaborations between faculty is common, which makes this a viable option!

Emeritus Faculty – These individuals cannot supervise the research of Ph.D. students, unless they are listed with the title of “professor of the graduate school.”

Does the Department have a supplemental application?

No. There is no supplemental application.

Is a statement of purpose required?  What information should it include?

Yes, a statement of purpose is required and should be included in your online application.  Please describe your aptitude and motivation for graduate study in your area of specialization, including your preparation for this field of study, your academic plans or research interests in your chosen area of study, and your future career goals.  Please be specific about why UC Berkeley would be a good intellectual fit for you, which research groups you are interested in, etc.  The personal statement should be no more than 2 pages.  Please also submit a personal history statement to augment this document.

Is a personal history statement required?

Yes, this is used for fellowship consideration. Please answer the prompt on the online application and limit your essay to two pages.

Does the department of Materials Science & Engineering require that I calculate and list my grade-point average (GPA) on the application?

All applicants are required to enter their GPA as instructed in the online application, you should also enter your school’s grading scale for each GPA calculation.

Where do I send supporting documents?

All supporting documents should be submitted online.

Please do not submit extra items or documents that are not required. No items should be sent directly to the department. If admitted, official paper copies of transcripts of all college-level work will be required and need to be sent in sealed envelopes to the Graduate Division.

Where do I send the application fee?

Please check the online instructions given by Graduate Division Admission Office.

Can I have the application fee waived?

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and can demonstrate financial need, you may be eligible for a waiver of the application fee.

Who needs to submit TOEFL scores?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language is required of all international applicants who received their undergraduate degree at a university or college in a country where English is not the official language. However, if at the time of application, you have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a U.S. university, you do not need to take the TOEFL. Instead, you must upload an unofficial transcript from the recognized U.S. University. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement: 1) courses in English as a Second Language, 2) courses conducted in a language other than English, 3) courses that will be completed after you apply, 4) courses of a non-academic nature. For more information about TOEFL requirements, please see Evidence of English Language Proficiency on the Graduate Division Admissions Requirements webpage.

What code do I use to have an official GRE/TOEFL score report sent to UC Berkeley?

The institution code for UC Berkeley is 4833. You can enter any departmental code.  As long as you enter the correct institutional code for Berkeley your scores will be matched with your submitted application.

Does MSE have a minimum GRE score requirement?  How about average GRE scores for admission?

We don’t have minimum GRE score requirements and we don’t keep statistics on average GRE scores for admission.  The 85th percentile is a GRE desirable score but not an absolute requirement for admission into our program.  We consider all aspects of your record when reviewing your application for admission into our program.

Will I be notified when my application has been submitted or is complete?

The Graduate Division Online Application System sends a confirmation email after your online application is submitted.  Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the application is submitted and all supporting documents are received by the appropriate deadline. Your application will not be reviewed until all materials have been received. Please do not contact our office to check on the status of your application. Due to the large volume of applications processed by our department, we are unable to check on individual applications.

What sort of financial support will I receive as a graduate student?

The financial support depends on your degree track and your progress towards the degree.

M.Eng Students

The department does not provide support to terminal M.Eng. students, but there is financial support through the M.Eng. program.

M.S./Ph.D. and Ph.D. Students

As is common in engineering and science graduate programs in the United States, the vast majority of our graduate students working (ultimately) towards their Ph.D. will have their tuition, campus fees, insurance, and stipend covered for them. This support can come in multiple forms:

  • Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) – Applicants and admitted students are encouraged to contact faculty in your areas of research interest to discuss the possibility of joining their groups as GSR. GSRs are paid from research grants of the faculty and enable the graduate student to student and research throughout the year. Note that not all faculty will be taking students each year. Faculty members may offer you a position in their group at the time you are admitted, after you have been admitted, or upon your arrival at campus at the start of your graduate career.
  • Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) – At least once semester during your career, you will serve as a GSI to enhance your educational process. Openings for positions as GSIs are announced each semester and appointments are offered by the individual faculty instructors after reviewing the applicants. During this semester the department will support your tuition, fees, insurance, and stipend as you support the educational process. Students who do not speak English as a native language and do not hold a bachelor’s degree from an institution in the United States must demonstrate oral English proficiency to be appointed as a GSI. In those countries where the TOEFL Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT) is administered, English language proficiency is determined by the speaking section score of the TOEFL iBT. If the TOEFL iBT is not available, students can demonstrate their proficiency by taking and passing the SPEAK test offered on the Berkeley campus. Please visit the GSI Teaching & Resource Center for more detailed information about the language proficiency test.
  • Campus Fellowships – UC Berkeley offers a number of campus-wide fellowships including the Chancellor’s and Berkeley Fellowships. These awards are made to the individual graduate student to aid them in their education process.
  • Outside FellowshipsDomestic applicants are highly encouraged to apply for any number of graduate fellowships. For a complete listing see our Financial Assistance International applicants are also highly encouraged to see financial support from funding agencies in your home country.

Although not a requirement for admission, being awarded one of these external fellowships can greatly expand your graduate career, open up new possibilities for research programs, provide additional financial benefits, and is a wonderful resume line for the awardee.

When will I be notified whether I have been admitted?

We will begin sending notification letters to applicants beginning as early as late December or early January and will continue to do so until the Admissions Committee has made all of their decisions. All applicants are notified by e-mail. If your application is successful, the Department will notify you that you have been recommended for admission. However, only the Dean of the Graduate Division can offer admission and send the official admission letter. The number of offers of admission we are permitted to make is determined by the Graduate Division, not by the department, and, unfortunately, is often the reason that we are not able to admit even exceptionally well-qualified applicants. 

Do I need to return the Statement of Intent to Register?

Yes, the admission letter to new graduate students contains instructions on how to submit your Statement of Intent to Register online.  Submitting the online form to the Graduate Division Admissions Office indicating an intention to register will reserve the registration slot allocated to you. If you decline the offer of admission, you should submit the online form indicating your decision.