Master of Science, Electrical Engineering: Machine Learning and Signal Processing

The Machine Learning and Signal Processing MS program educates students in the foundations of data science theory and methods. Graduates of this program will be poised to immediately participate in data analysis tasks in a variety of application domains using tools based in linear algebra, statistics, and optimization. The coursework includes a summer practicum that gives students hands-on experience with real-world datasets.

Is This Program Right For You?

The Machine Learning and Signal Processing (MLSP) program is intended for students looking for a jump-start on a career in data science, with a passion for quantitative thinking, practical problem solving, computer programming, and applications to a variety of domains. It is designed for students ready for the rigors of a 12-16 month accelerated program.  Extremely well-prepared students can complete the program in 12 months.  However, many students will find a 16-month timeframe best.

The required coursework draws upon foundational and cutting-edge methods in MLSP, and is taught by faculty conducting pioneering research in the field. Successful students will have some experience with linear algebra, statistics, and programming. The combined focus on the mathematical foundations of data science and their practical application to real-world problems will prepare graduates to be ready to immediately contribute in a variety of different jobs across data science, machine learning, and signal processing.

The focus of the MLSP program differs from the standard research-based MS program by the replacing the independent research that leads to a written thesis with an accelerated coursework plan, the summer practicum, and a focus on courses in the MLSP area. If you are interested in research and advanced concept development, you are better served pursuing a research-focused MS program. If you want to complete your degree in 12-16 months and be part of data science in the workforce, then the MLSP program is right for you.

What You Learn

  • Demonstrate a strong understanding of mathematical, scientific, and engineering principles in the MLSP field
  • Demonstrate an ability to formulate, analyze, and independently solve advanced MLSP problems
  • Apply the relevant scientific and technological advancements, techniques, and engineering tools to address these problems
  • Recognize and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct

At A Glance

DeliveryIn class instruction
Credits30 graduate credits
Time FrameCompletion of program may be done within 1 calendar year starting Fall semester only
Tuition$1,200 per credit plus fees (effective fall 2021) - scholarships are available
Degree Conferred Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Offered ByThe UW-Madison College of Engineering
Application DeadlineDecember 15

Degree & Prospective Student Information

Detailed program information:

Applicants must first meet all of the requirements of the Graduate School.
Please visit for details.

Applicants must also meet department specific requirements as outlined below:

  • Must have a bachelor’s degree or expect to earn a bachelor’s degree before their first semester in the program
  • Submit a Statement of Purpose


  • Submit 3 letters of recommendation
  • Non-native English speakers must have a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a minimum score of 580 (written), 243 computer-based test), or 90 (Internet version).
  • Scores from one these exams are required unless you met one of the following exemptions:
    • English is the exclusive language of instruction at the undergraduate level
    • You earned a degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment
    • You completed at least two full-time semesters of graded course work (excluding ESL courses) at an institution where English is the exclusive language of instruction, not more than 5 years prior to the anticipated semester of enrollment

Apply now or program website

Can I complete the program in less than 16 months?

Yes, it is possible to complete the MLSP program in less than 16 months for students who are extremely well-prepared and motivated. Students who earned their bachelor’s from UW-Madison may also find it easier to complete the program in less than 16 months by transferring up to seven credits. Generally speaking, most students find 16 months (three academic semesters, plus summer) to be the most comfortable timeframe.

Can I take more than 16 months to complete the program?

It is expected that students complete the program within three academic semesters plus summer.  In some circumstances, such as a coop or extended internships, students may be allowed (with faculty advisor approval) to take longer than 16 months from start to finish to complete the program.

Am I eligible for department funding?

Due to the accelerated nature of the program, MLSP students are not eligible for Research Assistantships (RA), Teaching Assistantships (TA), or Project Assistantships (PA) either in the ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) department or elsewhere on campus. Students are encouraged to focus on their coursework, as the program is designed to have heavy credit loads each term.  Limited merit-based scholarships are available to highly qualified students.

Can I do research while in this program?

The MLSP program is a course-only master’s program with an emphasis on professional experience and development. It is not a research-focused program. However, students are required to demonstrate practical application of MLSP concepts by way of an internship or the summer capstone course.

Students are permitted to enroll in Independent Study under the guidance of a faculty member. An Independent Study is an opportunity for a student to study a topic in more depth, allowing students to delve into a specific area of interests. Please note that it is the student’s responsibility to find a professor willing to supervise the independent study. The number of faculty available is limited and students should not assume they will be able to pursue this option in advance.

The summer MLSP capstone course is a project-based course in which students will write a project proposal, conduct their project, and finally present and submit a technical report.

Who will I be taking classes with and who will be teaching these classes?

MLSP students take all courses with other Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) MS and PhD students, as well as Computer Science students, and other engineering  students. The classes are taught by professors that are experts in machine learning, signal processing or closely related fields.

What courses will I take?

The program is designed for flexibility in course selection, and students can take a wide variety of applicable courses across campus.  The program requires a minimum of 15 courses (15 credits) in machine learning/signal processing inside the ECE department, and allows 3 related courses (9 credits) outside of the ECE department (for example, computer science, statistics, or math), and total of 30 credits of coursework.  Detailed curricular requirements can be found in the ECE Graduate Student Handbook.

Can I switch to the M.S.-Research or Ph.D. in program once on campus?

Student’s goals and intentions may change overtime.  To change to an M.S.-Research or Ph.D. program, students are required to have support from a faculty research advisor, and then must apply to change to a different ECE program.  Please note that the MLSP program is intended to be a terminal degree program and should not be viewed as a guaranteed stepping stone to the ECE Ph.D. program.

Is summer enrollment required?

Summer enrollment is required after completion of the first academic year.   Students are required to enroll in either (i) ECE 702 (2 credits) in conjunction with a program related internship or (ii) ECE 697 (5 credits), the summer capstone design course.  Students that have completed two MLSP courses at UW-Madison prior to start of the program may be eligible to enroll in ECE 702 the summer before the start of the program. 

Can I do an internship for longer than just the summer?

Students are allowed to continue summer internships through the following fall semester.  In this case, students are permitted to extend the duration of the program accordingly.  If students do an internship for summer and fall, they must enroll in two credits of ECE 702 summer and two credits of ECE 702 in fall.

Can I enroll part-time in my final semester?

Domestic students can enroll part-time in their final semester.

International students are often eligible for a Reduced Course Load in their final semester per International Student Services (ISS). If students only require six more credits, for example, that can be a reason to be able to enroll part-time. This is something that international students should confirm and work out with ISS at a later date, but it is a relevant point to consider.

What resources are available to help me find a job?

Engineering Career Services (ECS) is a fantastic job-search service specifically for engineering students. Students can schedule appointments with ECS for resume and cover letter review, practice interviews, salary negotiation advice, and job searching tips. ECS hosts career fairs in the fall and spring semester and coordinates campus interview opportunities with a large number of companies. For example, over 500 companies recruit students through ECS. ECS services are available free of charge to all MLSP students.

What is the cost of tuition?

$1,200 per credit plus fees (effective fall 2021). Merit based scholarships available.

Questions about financial aid and housing? Please see the helpful links below:

Financial Aid

University Housing

Campus Area Housing  – Off-Campus

Additional Questions?

For content and curriculum-related questions please contact:


Katie Bourassa

Graduate Student Services Coordinator



Duachi Yang

Graduate Student Services Coordinator



Matthew Malloy

Director, Machine Learning & Signal Processing


Information for Current Students

Click HERE to view or download the most current ECE Graduate Student Handbook and Forms.

Click here to be directed to Graduate School information.

Learn more about the Machine Learning and Signal Processing accelerated program.

View The Guide here.

2020 MLSP Kickoff Meeting


Please do not mail any paper copies of application materials. They will not be reviewed. Please only upload the required application materials with the Graduate School application. This includes official transcripts. If an applicant is admitted by the ECE Admissions Committee, they will receive further instructions from the ECE Graduate Admissions Office.

Applicants should monitor your application status by visiting the “Graduate Application Status” window within your MyUW portal (information on this is received after submitting an application). You may need to activate a NetID to gain access to the MyUW portal.

We anticipate most decisions will be made no later than mid-March for Fall semester applications. Applicants will receive an e-mail from the ECE Graduate Admissions Office with the Admissions Committee’s decision as soon as the office receives it.

Further questions related to the ECE admissions process may be directed to