New Students


Department tasks

  • Enroll in classes using Cal Central prior to arriving on campus. You will meet with your academic adviser either during CEE orientation or the first week of class.  However, do not wait to enroll. You can adjust your schedule any time within the first 3 weeks of classes.
  • Set up a CEE computer account.
  • Take the Lab Safety Training. Before working in shops and labs, with the exception of computer-based labs, you are required to take the online safety course “EHS 101 UC Laboratory Safety Fundamentals.” This safety training is required by the University for all graduate students who are new to the campus laboratories. To register for To register for the course click on the link (http://www.ehs.berkeley.edu/training), which will take you to the training website of the UC Berkeley Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S) department.  Click on the UC Learning Center Access link, log-in using your Calnet ID, search for “EHS 101 UC Fundamentals of Laboratory Safety” in the search engine.  Click the Start button and begin taking the online course.  Make sure to fill out your name, SID, and supervisor information when the course asks for it.


    After you have taken the quiz, a congratulations letter will show up with your name and score.  Please take a print screen shot of the congratulations letter and upload it to the CEE department safety link (https://app.ce.berkeley.edu/safety/).  After you submit your EH&S 101 certificate, download the required documents for the class(es) you plan to take under the Students tab.

  • Attend CEE orientation (Typically this orientation is held on the Monday prior to the first day of class. Details will be e-mailed to you.)
  • Attend GSI Training (if you have, or hope to attain, a GSI appointment)
  • Take the Speak Test (if English is not your native language)
  • See Reader guidelines (if applicable)

Once classes begin

  • Activate your Cal ID card for After-Hours Access to Davis and McLaughlin Halls. Office keys/codes will be issued through the Davis Hall Building Coordinator, Jackie Garcia, in 209 Davis Hall.  Jackie will file the SID number from the Cal ID card with the campus police. The card will be activated in 5 business days.  Should the card not work after activation, contact Jackie.  Card keys remain active while the student is an active student in CEE. The card and punch code access will be deactivated during the summer following the student’s graduation date unless special arrangements have been made. A $30 deposit is required for the metal keys used to access the building entrances and laboratories in McLaughlin and O’Brien Halls.  Keys should be returned to 209 Davis Hall before you leave the campus. Key deposits will be refunded at this time.
  • Locate the student mailboxes on the 7th Floor of Davis Hall.
  • Obtain a Student Office Space/Desk Assignment (if you are a GSI or GSR). Your Program adviser will inform you of the location.

Miscellaneous administration

  • Schedule a classroom or conference room. Often students need a place to hold meetings, take an exam, or schedule a review session for a class. If you need a room that holds up to 12 people, you should reserve one of the conference rooms in Davis Hall.  Contact support@ce.berkeley.edu. If you need a room for more than 12 people, you will need to request a classroom. Reservations for a one-time use of a classroom are handled by contacting the Academic Affairs Office, aao@ce.berkeley.edu, 750 Davis Hall.
  • Reserve audio equipment. Students can check out departmental LCD projectors, slide projectors, overhead projectors, and 1 portable screen. CEE does not have laptop computers to lend to students. Reserve the equipment ahead of time by contacting support@ce.berkeley.edu and/or by talking to the front desk receptionist in 760 Davis Hall.
  • Check requests, purchase orders and travel reimbursements.
    • Check request/supply reimbursement. If your professor approves an out-of-pocket expenditure that relates to your project with him/her and will be paid by the Department, you must fill out a Check Request Form to be reimbursed. The professor who authorized you to pay for the item or service must sign and indicate on the form the account to be charged. (A full chart string is required.)  Keep all original receipts as all original receipts will need to accompany the form. 
    • Purchase order requests. If your professor requests you to order an item through an outside vendor, you must fill out a Purchase Order Request Form. The professor authorizing the purchase must indicate on the form the account to be charged. (A full chart string is required.)
    • Entertainment check requests. An Entertainment Check Request Form is to be completed for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenditures for any food/beverage expenses. Save all original receipts.
  • UC Berkeley Policy on Accommodation of PhD Student Parents


All Students


To be officially registered, you must enroll in at least 8 units and pay the first installment of your fees. That will allow you access to the Class Pass (for transit), libraries, financial aid awards and fellowship stipends. It is best to enroll prior to the start of each semester.  A full course load consists of 12 units, which may be finalized after meeting with your Academic Adviser. Students can take additional units by signing up for 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 Registration Policies and Exchange Programs.

Academic advisers

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

See Additional advising resources for a full list of faculty and staff advisers and how they can help you from admissions through graduation.

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 CE 299 Enrollment Form at or pick up a hardcopy 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 2 business days.

Change 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 Cal Central.  Schedule changes made after the third week of classes require a Graduate Petition to Change Class Schedule, and fees for adding or dropping courses may apply.  The petition must have the correct signatures (of student, graduate adviser, and professor of the class being added, if applicable). The original signed petition must be submitted to the Graduate Student Adviser 1 WEEK PRIOR to the last day of instruction. A hard copy 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.

Minimum GPA requirement

Read Graduate Division's policy on GPA.  If you are a GSR, GSI or a Reader, read additional GPA information. 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.


Master's degree

Advance to 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 submitted at the beginning of September.

Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Exam is taken at the end of the spring semester of the Master's year with the purpose of testing students' general knowledge and mastery of their degree coursework. The exam format varies by program and may take the form of a written exam , an oral exam , or a report from individual research  or class project  (see below). While some programs may offer two options, students may only choose one. Students who take a third semester to complete their Master's degree may take the exam at the end of their third semester if their program allows.

  • Written exam: ECIC, EPM, ENV, SEMM

  • Oral exam: TE

  • Individual Research: GEO, SEMM, SYS

  • Class Project: GEO, SYS

One faculty member in each Program is responsible for scheduling the Comprehensive Exam in conjunction with the Graduate Student Adviser. The exam is offered towards the end of the semester: April/May in the spring and November/December in the fall. (Not all Programs hold exams in the fall.)  Some Programs post past exams to guide you in your studies. Each CEE 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. GeoSystems, Systems, and the MEng programs do not have a Comprehensive Exam. These Programs offer capstone courses that include a comprehensive or capstone project.

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, see Filing a Thesis.

If you are filing a CE 299 report or MEng capstone project, submit a title page with 2 signatures to the graduate adviser in the Academic Affairs Office, preferably by the Friday before finals week.  The 2 signatures should consist of a senate faculty member in your program and a second member, preferably faculty or adjunct professor at Berkeley.

Progression to PhD

MS students who wish to progress to the PhD track, must submit 2 forms: Tentative Plan of Study for Doctoral Candidates and Anticipated Multi-Year Funding Path.  Both forms must be signed and submitted to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer in 750 Davis Hall by the end of March in the last semester of master's study. Decisions will be made by end of May.


Doctoral degree

Academic residence requirement

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 2 years (4 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 form submission

Within the first year, PhD students must complete, in conjunction with their academic advisers, 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 (See Higher Degree Committee eForm in CalCentral) must be completed and submitted at least 1 month prior to the examination date. 

After successful completion of the Qualifying Examination, students must submit the Application for Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree as soon as possible.

Designated emphases

A designated emphasis is a specialization, such as a new method of inquiry or an important field of application, which is relevant to 2 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. Inform the Graduate Student Affairs Officer in 750 Davis if you add a DE. Students need to be admitted to a DE before taking the Qualifying Examination.  

Preliminary exam

The Preliminary Examination is usually taken in the first year of the doctoral program, after a student completes a Masters Degree. Arrangements are made through the CEE Program's academic adviser in conjunction with the Academic Affairs Office. Contact your academic adviser early in the semester that you are planning to take the exam. Once a committee is gathered, students will set a date and notify their committee and AAO. Students are only eligible to take the Preliminary Examination a total of 2 times. According to Graduate Division policy, if the student fails the second examination, then the student may be dismissed from the program.


  • 2-hour Oral Examination - ECIC, ENV, EPM, SYS, TE

  • Abstract or Short Proposal Required - ECIC, ENV (1 page max), EPM

  • Written Exam Required 

    • In Person Examination - SEMM

    • Take Home Examination - GEO, SYS, ECIC, TE


  • Generally taken in the 1st year after starting the PhD. 

  • Usually taken at the end of the 1st year for students with earned master's degree or the end of the 2nd year for students completing a masters in CEE first. 

Qualifying Exam

The intent of the Qualifying Examination is to ascertain whether the student is prepared to conduct independent research in their field of study. Additional details on the rules for the qualifying examination are available on UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division website. 

Students are encouraged to take the Qualifying Examination and be advanced to candidacy as soon as they are prepared, and unless exceptional circumstances exist, within the Normative Time to Advancement of the program.  For CEE students who already have a MS degree, this usually means within one to three years of entering the doctoral program. 

The student should identify a faculty member in their program who is willing to serve as the qualifying examination committee chair. This person cannot be the student’s dissertation chair (i.e., research advisor). The student should confer with the chair of the qualifying exam committee when they are prepared to set the date of the examination.  

In preparation for the exam, the chair of the qualifying exam committee will work with the student to determine the appropriate structure. The qualifying exam is an oral examination that usually lasts two to three hours. Depending upon the nature of the research, the format of exam may vary. This includes the format and length of materials provided by the student prior to the examination (e.g., dissertation proposal, research report) as well as the length and format of the oral presentation given by the student at the start of the examination. 

The student will also discuss the makeup of the qualifying exam committee with the chair prior to submitting a proposed list of committee members as described in the section of the Graduate Handbook that describes the doctoral degree. This form will be reviewed by the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies and the Graduate Division. An exam can only be scheduled after the committee is approved by the vice-chair and graduate division. At a minimum, the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering requires four committee members (i.e., the chair, an academic senate representative and at least two additional members).  The academic senate representative is usually comes from a department outside of CEE. The two additional members usually are CEE faculty members.  One of the additional members can be the dissertation committee chair.

The student may apply for advancement to candidacy after passing the Qualifying Exam and completing all other degree requirements other than research, writing, and filing of the dissertation. 

Program Specific Requirements can be found here:  ECIC, EPM, ENV, GEO, SEMM, SYS, TE


Campus links to academic procedures