ECE Graduate Student Handbook

This online handbook is to help students with departmental policies and procedures.

  • M.S. Degree Timeline: Step by step instructions from the beginning to the end of your degree program.
  • Ph.D. Degree Timeline: Annual guidelines for Ph.D. students
  • Plan of Work: How to create and submit a Plan of Work using DegreeWorks.
  • CPT and OPT: Information about Curricular Practical Training (internships), and Optional Practical Training (OPT) for international Students
  • FAQ: Frequently asked questions

M.S. Degree Timeline

After admission

  • Browse our curriculum of courses and select appropriate courses that meet your interests.  Further information about the courses may be found in our course descriptions or the graduate bulletin. Be aware that not all classes are offered every semester. Check the class schedule for your upcoming semester to see if it is available. 
  • Make a draft Plan of Work. This form will be submitted later during your first semester; however, drafting it now will help you plan your courses to meet graduation requirements
  • If you have transferred to our program from another university or department, and would like to transfer classes, submit the Transfer of Credit Form to the graduate program officer prior to your first day of class.  Please ensure that you meet eligibility requirements.
  • Thesis Option
  • International students

First semester

  • Register for classes before the deadlines listed in the registration calendar to avoid late fees.  Tip: Register early to secure a spot in your selected courses.
  • Thesis Option
    • Finalize a thesis topic and select thesis committee members.
  • International Students
    • You must be registered full-time (8 credits fall and winter terms, 4 credits in the summer) to maintain your visa status.  If you are not, please contact OISS

Second and third semester

Last semester

Ph.D. Degree Timeline

Please visit the graduate school website for more detailed Ph.D. student information.

The timeline below intended to serve as a year-by-year guide for Ph.D. students.  Each box lists annual milestones and mandatory reporting requirements.  The leftmost column shows coursework, the middle column shows key milestones and corresponding forms to be submitted, and the rightmost column shows annual review forms which must be completed by the student and advisor every year the student is in the program. 

Year 1
Milestones: Identify Advisor & File Plan of Work

Fall / Winter / Spring
10cr / 10cr / 2cr
ECE 9997 (1cr Fall / 1cr Winter)
GS 090 (0cr, Fall or Winter) 
Core and Elective Courses
Directed Study (ECE 7990)
Research (ECE 7996)

Confirm Faculty Advisor
File Plan of Work
Qualification Exams

Annual Review
Individual Development Plan

Year 2
Milestones: Prospectus and Candidacy

Fall / Winter / Spring
10cr/ 10cr / 2cr
Core and Elective Courses
Directed Study (ECE 7990)
Research (ECE 7996)
Form Dissertation Committee
Annual Review
Individual Development Plan

Year 3
Milestones: Present at Conference and Publish in Academic Journal

Fall / Winter / Spring
10.5cr / 10.5cr / 2cr
Dissertation Credits (ECE 9991/9992)
Research (ECE 7996)
Dissertation Committee Meeting Prospectus 
Present at Conference
Publish in Journal
Annual Review
Individual Development Plan

Year 4
Milestone: Dissertation Defense

Fall / Winter / Spring
10.5cr / 10.5cr / 2cr
Dissertation Credits (ECE 9993/9994)
Research (ECE 7996)
Register for Dissertation Defense Dissertation Defense
Submission of Dissertation
Annual Review
Individual Development Plan

Plan of Work Submissions

What is Degree Works?

Degree Works is an electronic degree auditing system which helps students track progress towards their degree.  Students can create a Plan of Work on Degree Works, and get it approved.  Degree Works also helps the department check to ensure that graduating students have met degree requirements.  

What do I have to do, and by when?

  • New students (who have not yet submitted a plan of work) are required to create a plan of work and have it approved by the graduate program director prior to completing 12 credit hours.  The plan of work is required to reach candidacy status, and failure to do so will result in an academic hold on the student account. 
  • Students doing CPT (curricular practical training, ie internship credits) are required the plan of work and get it approved by the first week of classes.  The plan of work must include ECE 6991.  The approved plan of work must be printed and submitted with your CPT application. 

How do I use Degree Works?

This document is a good place to start. There is also a video tutorial the ECE YouTube channel.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Plan A students (master thesis), please email the graduate program director to have your degree requirements changed to Plan A.  Plan C students may skip this step.
  2. If you wish to change your degree from electrical to computer engineering, or vice versa, please fill out the degree change form below, and bring it to the graduate director. 
  3. Log into Degree Works with your access ID .
  4. Create a new plan, as shown in the video.  The title can be formatted like the example below:
    John Oliver - MS Plan A - 1/10/2018
  5. Select your planned courses for each semester.  If you are not sure which classes you want to take, it is ok to select some now and change later.  Please ensure that the courses you choose meets our degree requirements.
  6. Save the plan by clicking save on the bottom right corner.
  7. Audit the plan to ensure it meets your degree requirements.  Click the Audit button in the lower right corner, and review the audit report.  If the audit report says  'Still Needed', then the plan does not meet degree requirements and should be updated. 
  8. If the audit report has passed, save the plan. 
  9. Inform the graduate director by email that your plan of work is ready for approval. 
  10. The graduate director will lock the plan, make it your active plan, and add a note indicating it has been approved.
  11. If you need a printed copy of your plan of work for CPT or other reasons, you may print the plan in the Notes view, which shows the approval note.  The approval note serves as an e-signature. 
  12. You will not be able to make changes to the plan after it has been approved.  If you expect changes in your course plan, please submit a new plan of work.  You may wish to open your previous plan and click 'Save As' to copy the old plan to a new one.

Where can I get more information on Degree Works?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optical Practical Training (OPT)

Many ECE international graduate students take advantage of CPT and OPT, which allow international students to gain work experience in the US while on a student visa (F-1).  CPT enables students to do internships at companies, while OPT allows students to work for 1 year (extendable to 3 years) after completing the degree.  More information on CPT can be found at OISS's CPT website as well as the CPT form.  Please note that the maximum allowable time for CPT is 11 months.  It is important to not go over this time, because if you do, your OPT time will be reduced. 

CPT is subject to strict OISS deadlines for completing paperwork, and typically no extensions are allowed.  Our department advisor Emily Reetz handles CPT applications, and will email about OISS deadlines each semester.  You are required to complete CPT paperwork and register for ECE 6991 for each semester you do an internship. Submit all of the following items to the ECE front desk (electronic submissions will not be accepted).  Please do not staple the items together; instead, place them in a folder or use a paper clip.

  1. Completed CPT form.
  2. An up to date plan of work from Degree Works (including ECE 6991, Industrial Internship in the correct semester).  
  3. A job offer letter that includes ALL of the following items:
    • Job title
    • Start and end dates of employment. The start and end dates must be within the dates given by OISS each semester. The dates can be within this range, but not outside of this range.  In addition, your start date should be at least one week after you turn in your paperwork.
    • Wage/Salary/Stipend/Renumeration
    • Number of hours per week to be worked
    • Full address of employer
    • Description of the training program
    • The name, phone number, and e-mail address of the supervisor (the person who will be supervising your work).
    • Goals of the internship (these must be specific goals determined by your employer regarding what you will accomplish during the internship)

Please allow at least two business days for Ms. Reetz to review the paperwork, sign it, and leave it at the front desk for you.  You will be given permission to register for ECE 6991 once Ms. Reetz has approved your CPT documents.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Registration and Coursework

I can't register because I have a hold on my account. What should I do?
Visit to understand why a hold has been placed on your account and see who to contact.  Financial holds are placed by the cashier's office due to non-payment of tuition.  The ECE department cannot help in this regard. If your hold indicator says 'contact department', here are some common reasons for academic holds:

  • Your annual review or IDP has not been completed (Ph.D. students).  Please contact Sondra Aurbach, Dean of student services. 
  • Academic probation due to Low GPA; see the ECE graduate director.
  • Plan of work not submitted; See the ECE graduate director.
  • TB Test: go to OISS.

How do I get an override to register for a course?
In most cases, you can email the professor asking for an override, and forward the approval email to Emily Reetz.  Please ask your professor to provide your 9 digit ID.

How do I register for GS 09000?
GS 09000 is required of all Ph.D. students.  You may register for it the same as you would for any other class, except you will need to email Cindy Sokol or Timothy Stemmler for an override.

How do I register for ECE 9997 Doctoral Seminar?
Have your Ph.D. dissertation advisor send an email to the departmental academic advisor (Emily Reetz), and she will process an override.

How do I register for ECE 9991/2/3/4?
Email for an override.

Do I need to register for 9991/2/3/4 in consecutive semesters?
In general, yes. An exception to this: If a student gains permission to register for 9991 prior to candidacy and does not gain candidacy during that semester, the student must register for 9990 until candidacy is achieved.

Why can't I register for more than 13 credits?
Starting in Winter 2017, departmental permission is needed to register for more than 10 credits.   This policy was put into place because many students were registering for 4 courses, though they only intend to take two.  This was making it difficult for students to get into the courses they want.

Why won't my professor give me an override?
It is up to the course instructor. Some classes have a lab component, which limits the number of students who can be enrolled in the course.

Can I take courses in another department for my coursework only masters? 
Yes. MS students can take up to 8 credits of non-ECE courses, selected from our pre-approved list. See our degree requirements for more details.

What courses should I take?
Select courses based on your areas of interest listed in our curriculum.  Keep in mind that graduate courses are not offered every semester.  Check our course descriptions or the class schedule to see which terms courses are typically offered. 

Will special topics courses (5995 and 7995) count towards the major requirement for my MS degree?
Yes, all special topics courses allowed for EEs. For CE's, see our degree requirements

How do I create a Plan of Work?
Plans of work can be created on DegreeWorks.  Instructions are here.

How many credits to I need to be full time?
A minimum of one class (2 credits) in the Spring-Summer term, and a minimum of 8 credits in the Fall and Winter terms.

Admissions and Credit Transfer

Can I transfer credits from another university? 
Yes, please use the transfer of credit form.  Leave the form and an official transcript in my mailbox.  I will sign it and send it to the records office the Records office ( in order for to be added to the student's record.  The student must have have completed at least 1 semester of coursework for the transfer credit to be added to their record. 

Do I need to take a TOEFL for admission?
If you have completed your bachelors or master's degree in the USA or other English speaking countries listed at, you do not need to complete the TOEFL.  If you have not completed the degree, but have taken a substantial number of credits (>20) at one of the eligible universities listed above, you may waive the credit.

I am a current graduate student at Wayne State, and I wish to switch my major.  How do I do this?
For current students looking to change programs they can complete the Graduate School's change of status form.  More information can be found here.  Transferring to ECE requires approval of the graduate director.  If approved, the gradute director can sign the transfer form and send it to The form also requests sending a copy to the student, OISS for international students (, and the previous department.

Transferring or Changing Programs

I am an electrical engineering student but want to switch to computer engineering  [or vice versa].  How do I do this?
Fill out the change of status request form, and bring it to the Graduate Program director during office hours for approval.  The signed form can then be emailed to course records (, and your status will be changed in the system.

I am a Wayne State graduate student majoring in a different degree program other than ECE. I am interested in transferring to the ECE program. How do I do this?
See above.  Please note that you may be required to take some prerequisite courses if you do not have an undergraduate degree in electrical or computer engineering.

I am a graduate student at a different university, and I am interested in transferring to the ECE graduate program. How do I do this?
Please apply to our program at  We accept strong students from all backgrounds, provided you meet admission requirements.  Please note that if you do not have an undergraduate degree in electrical or computer engineering, you may be required to take some prerequisite undergraduate courses before being admitted to our program.

Full time Status for International Students

What is considered full time?
To be considered full time, you must register for at least 8 credits in the fall and winter terms, and 2 credits in the spring/summer term.  Ph.D. candidates must register for at least 7.5 credits to be considered full time.

Do international students need to be full time?
In general, yes. Your first two terms you are required to be full time. 

  • Vacation semesters – see the question below Do I need to be full time in the summer?
  • If you are in your last semester, and you have less than 8 credits remaining to graduate.
  • Academic hardship or medical emergency [requires documentation and can only be used once]

Other than vacation semesters, less than full time enrollment requires that the student fill out the exception from full time form and get it approved by the graduate program director.

I only have 4 credits left to graduate. Do I still need to be full time?
No, see the information for the full time exceptions above.

Do I need to be full time in summer?
If you are eligible for summer vacation, no you do not need to be full time in the summer.  Students are eligible for summer vacation after they have completed 2 fulltime terms.  For example, suppose a student begins a degree program in the fall term, and is full time in the fall and winter term.  This student is eligible for summer vacation, and does not need to be full time in the summer.  However, a student who begins in winter term would not be eligible for summer vacation in the year they begin.

ECE 9995 is 0 credits; will that cause a problem for me as international student who need to be full time?
No.  ECE 9995 is considered full time even though it is 0 credits.

I am in my last semester, and will have completed all my credits by the end of the term.  However, I did not complete my MS thesis. What do I do?
Register for 1 credit of ECE 8999 to remain in student status. File a last semester exception with the graduate program director.  The graduate director will indicate on the form that the extra semester is to complete an MS thesis.