Advice for UNC Charlotte ECE Computer Engineering Graduate Students


Disclaimer: An informal advice to computer engineering graduate students. The views expressed are my own. No guarantees are made on the accuracy or the applicability of the advice. The advice listed is subject to change.

Q: What is Computer Engineering?

A: Computer engineering involves study of computer hardware (think processor, memory, storage, network), and system software that interacts closely with the hardware (think operating systems, embedded software, firmware, cloud).

Q: What kind of courses does the ECE Department offer for graduate studies (Master’s or Ph.D.) in Computer Engineering?

A: The ECE department offers a variety of courses in hardware and system software. It is important to note that most courses are offered once a year, with some offered only once every 2-3 years. Careful planning is essential. Please check Banner ( to check the class schedule for the upcoming semester.

Below is a list of classes with an informal description. Note that this list is subject to change. Please see catalog for an official description of classes.

Hardware classes

  1. VLSI Design –  Design of digital circuits used to construct logic and memory
  2. Intro to VHDL – Design of custom compute engines in VHDL
  3. Computer Architecture – Design of a microprocessor
  4. Reconfigurable Computing – Design of FPGA based computing systems
  5. Advanced Computer Architecture – Advanced topics in computer architecture (prerequisite Computer Architecture)

System software classes

  1. Data Structures and Algorithms – necessary background for systems programming! (Offered by CS Department,)
  2. Embedded Operating Systems – Principles of operating systems with emphasis on embedded systems
  3. Advanced Operating Systems  – Advanced topics in operating systems (Prerequisite Embedded Operating Systems)
  4. Advanced Embedded Systems – Design of embedded system applications
  5. Internet of Things – Design of internet of things applications
  6. Mobile Device and Big Data – Design of mobile and big data applications  (pre-requisite Internet of Things)
  7. Research Tools and Techniques in Computer Engineering

Other Computer Engineering related classes

  1. Data Communication and Networking
  2. Introduction to Wireless
  3. Embedded Signal Processing
  4. Applied Computer Graphics
  5. Digital Signal Processing
  6. Wireless Communication and Networking
  7. Applied Artificial Intelligence
  8. Mobile Robot Sensing, Mapping, and Exploration
  9. Introduction to Robotics
  10. Wireless Sensor Networks

Q: What courses should I take?

A: If you are a Ph.D. student, please talk to your advisor. If you are a M.S. student the answer depends on what you want to gain from a M.S. degree. If your plan is to pursue a Ph.D., I would strongly encourage you to find an advisor in your area of interest as soon as possible. If your plan is to work in the industry after graduation, here’s a list of things to keep in mind –

  1. Start out with current online job postings, to identify the type of computer engineering jobs with 0-2 years experience that you are interested in.
  2. Carefully examine their background requirements. Note that realistically you cannot hope to obtain a background for all the jobs listed!
  3. Depending on your prior background, make a plan of study from the courses listed above that will help you meet background requirements that you identified.
  4. Note that the M.S. program is 30 credits – which means 10 courses.
  5. The industry expectation of an M.S. student is – reasonable mastery of an area (should be able to work on day-one with minimal help), and some breadth in related areas.

Q: How can I strengthen my resume further?

A: Summer industry internships is a good choice. You will have to start looking for internships starting around the previous November.

Another option is to contact a professor for opportunities to work on a research project with them during the summer. In my own case, I expect students to have taken the following courses before they do a summer project with me – Embedded OS, Advanced OS, and Computer Architecture. Additionally, Data Structures and Algorithms is strongly encouraged. My colleagues may have different requirements, depending on their research areas. Please contact the professor directly regarding this.

Q: I have interests in multiple areas – communication, signal processing, hardware, systems software etc. What do I do?

A:  Please see my answer to the question on “what courses should I take” – especially point 5. It is extremely important to realize that the M.S. program is only 4 semesters, with some courses having prerequisites. So, you should plan on what you would like to specialize in –  ideally before starting the program. Your statement of purpose submitted as a part of your graduate application should reflect your goals.

Q: What are my employment prospects after graduation?

Nobody can guarantee post-graduation employment or a specific career. Economic situations are hard to predict. Your best bet is to go to a program where you obtain a high-quality graduate education. Contacting alumni from the program is one possible approach to evaluate a program.

Q: I have registration issues. Who do I contact?

A: If the section of the class you are interested in is full, please email the professor of that course. Note that there is no guarantee that you will be permitted to enroll if the section is already full. For other registration issues (such as undergraduate pre-requisite violations), please contact the ECE graduate business service specialist, Ms. Stephanie LaClair.

Q: Should I do a thesis option, project option, or a course-only option?

A: Thesis option is for the research oriented student. For the project option, contact a professor in your area of interest to check if you can work on a project in their lab. The default option is the course-only option with the exit exam. Please see ECE website for details.

Q: Is there financial assistance available?

For more information about the ECE graduate program, please see


Last updated: Dec 9, 2016