I recently graduated from UC Berkeley’s 5th Year Master’s program in EECS. I’m writing this post as a “memoir”, guide, and FAQ for those considering or in the program. The EECS 101 Piazza has a lot of good information, but I thought it’d be nice to have everything organized in one place.


  • FAQs
  • My experience with the program
  • Thoughts

I’m putting all the FAQs first for those who just want a quick answer. Also, definitely DOUBLE CHECK any information on dates, deadlines, etc. These dates reflect those of the 2021-22 academic year, so make sure you get the latest information from the program coordinator, whoever that may be at the time you read this.


What classes can I backdate?

You can backdate 1 grad-level EECS course OR 1 upper div breadth class, ONLY if that class hasn’t been used to satisfy any university, college, or major requirements. So make sure to double check with your college and major advisor! (This backdated course won’t show up in your APR on CalCentral). You backdate a course by submitting a general petition form.

Can I take more than 6 research units?

The website says to take 3-6 units of EE/CS 299 (grad-level research credits) but I asked and I signed up for 9 total units of CS 299.


  • Is due last day of the semester. If you need more time, you can push back your graduation term to the summer and submit it by the end of the summer term, and you won’t be charged extra tuition. The only difference is that your degree conferral will be in August instead of May.

  • Has no minimum length or formatting requirements.

When does fall enrollment start?

Since you’re technically starting a new degree program, you enroll for fall classes in the summer and not in the spring like continuing students.

My experience


I was going to finish all my CS requirements by the end of my junior year, so naturally the question arose of whether I should graduate early, continue onto my senior year of undergrad, or graduate and do the 5th Year MS in lieu of my senior year (a 4th Year Master’s). I quickly ruled out the first option, since at this point I was mostly set on doing a PhD post-grad. I had a couple of research projects in the Yosef Lab that I wanted to finish before applying.

After some thought, I decided to apply to the 5th Year MS. Ultimately, I decided for the MS because I wanted to take graduate classes in the EECS department, which are easier to get into as an MS student than an undergrad. With enough persuasion, I’m sure an undergrad could take the classes I took as a Master’s student, but grad students just have to jump through fewer bureaucratic hoops and not have to send emails to professors asking to be let into their classes.

I spent about two weeks writing up my statement of prupose and personal essays, and submitted my app on the regular March deadline. I highly recommend applying early in November, so you get your result earlier and can sort out logistical things like housing. I got my main recommendation from my would-be advisor, Nir Yosef; I had been working in his group for about six months by the time I applied, and we had a rough idea on what I’d be working on during the Master’s. I received my acceptance around mid April.

The Program

Overall, the MS felt very similar to undergrad. I had been doing research for some time already, so this just felt like a natural extension of my previous time in undergrad; people who were new to research may feel different.

Below are the classes I took:

Fall 2021 Spring 2022
CS 281A (3 units) CS 288 (4 units)
CMPBIO 290 (2) CS 294-150 (3)
BIOE 252 (2) MCB 290 (1)
CS 299 (5) CS 299 (4)

Of the CS classes listed, I think only CS 281A had a handful of undergrads in it.

Aside from courses, the main focus of the program is the thesis. It’s really just a detailed summary of your research work during the program that your PI and 2nd reader (who can be outside EECS) have to sign off on. Mine was 29 pages, and I submitted it on the last day of the year. Rule of thumb is to give your readers at least a couple weeks to review it.


I’ll put down my concluding thoughts Q/A style.

First, pros and cons of doing the Master’s instead of your senior year:


  • Access to grad classes (as described above). I took grad classes in CS, Comp Bio, MCB, and BioE, all of which I enjoyed thoroughly.

  • Easier grading. Grad class grades are curved much more generously than undergrad classes. Literally no one got a B in the Fall 2021 iteration of CS 281A.

  • Less tests, more projects. Could be a con depending on the person.

Pretty much all of these are biproducts of being able to take grad classes.


  • More requirements. Depending on how you spaced out your classes over 4 years, you could have a significantly reduced courseload your senior year. Graduating seniors only need to take 8 units their final semester, but the Master’s requries 12 units. Moreover, you’ll definitely need to take some techs to fulfill the MS requirements, but (EE)CS seniors don’t have such a requirement.

Is it worth it?

Compared to just working? I don’t know, you kinda have to make that decision. You can make a lot in a year working in the Bay, but you do get a bit of a pay bump with a Master’s. You probably will work on similar things as a person with just Bachelor’s, but YMMV. Everyone on the internet has a different opinion on whether you should just start working or spend the extra year(s) getting a Master’s. For me personally, having the Master’s degree itself isn’t worth much, since I’m getting a PhD, but I enjoyed the access to grad-level CS courses.

Compared to other Master’s programs? Absolutely. You get the same degree in half the time as a traditional MS, and it costs the same amount as undergrad in-state tuition (instead of some exorbitant tuition like some schoools).