Admissions FAQ

This page provides answers to questions frequently asked about the MDes application process. Applicants might find additional useful information on the Berkeley Graduate Admissions FAQ.

Admissions Process

Do you have both Fall and Spring admission cycles? Is there a rolling application deadline?

The MDes program only accepts applications for admission in the Fall semester. We do not have a rolling application deadline; all applications must be submitted by the annual deadline. We also do not have an early bird deadline; application review only begins after the deadline.

Do you offer a deferral option to admitted candidates?

No, the MDes program does not support requests for deferral of admission. The MDes Faculty Director may consider requests for an exception to this policy only in rare and exceptional circumstances. In such cases, admits should email and state the rationale for their deferral request. 

Because deferrals are in no way guaranteed and are only granted in rare and exceptional circumstances, applicants are advised to apply for the year that they intend to start the program.

I submitted my TOEFL or IELTS score but it’s not showing up in my application file; what should I do?

Please confirm that you sent your TOEFL score report via ETS to institution code 4833 for Graduate Organizations; no department code is needed.

IELTS scores must be sent electronically from the testing center; no institution code is required. Our address for identification purposes is: University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall Rm 318, MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. Please do not mail any score reports.

It typically takes 7-10 days for TOEFL and/or IELTS score reports to match in the application system. If your score report isn’t marked as “Verified” within 2 weeks, please contact Graduate Admissions at Graduate Admissions also accepts score reports past the application deadline.

If you may have used a different name variations or email on your test compared with the name/email that is on your application, please let us know, as this can cause the score to be separated from your other materials.

The application completion checklist that I received from Berkeley Graduate Admissions does not include my resume/CV or portfolio. Does that mean that you did not receive it?

The checklist is a generic one that is used for all Berkeley graduate programs, so the application materials that are specific to the MDes program are not reflected in the checklist. If you can see your portfolio uploaded under the MDes Materials section of your application and your resume/CV uploaded on the Supporting Materials section, it means we have received it. You can email to double-check, if you would like.

There are many GPA fields on the application from; which types of GPA am I required to provide?

The only GPA required for the Berkeley MDes applicants is the Cumulative GPA; applicants can ignore the other fields. Applicants can optionally choose to input their Advanced GPA (which is calculated from all grades for coursework undertaken after the first two years of study–not just grades for courses taken in the major or which are relevant to design), but it is not required.

My GPA is not on a 4-point scale. How should I enter my GPA on the application?

If your GPA is not based on a 4.0 scale (common for students that attended non-U.S. schools), do not calculate or convert your GPA or input WES evaluations. Instead, enter your cumulative GPA, as it appears on your transcript and without conversion, in the “Other Scale GPA” section. You should leave the other GPA fields blank.

Application Preparation

Is there a strict requirement for the amount of work experience one must have in order to apply?

No, there is not a strict requirement; some MDes students join the program directly from undergraduate while others join after some years of work. Regardless, MDes curriculum is designed to build upon your overall experience. For some this will draw on specific academic achievements, for others work and industrial successes, and still other personal projects.  As such, the admissions committee looks closely at your body of work across all these dimensions. Your portfolio of work should best represent and speak towards your specific achievements, interests, and passions across these domains.

Do I need a degree in a specific field to apply?

No. We welcome applicants from a variety of prior undergraduate and graduate fields of study. 

What core skills should applicants have before starting the MDes, in order to have a strong application and ensure success in the program?

We expect to admit a cohort of students representing a wide range of backgrounds and skill sets. Not every entering student will have strengths in the same area, and we expect that many of our entering students will want to spend some time before the program begins furthering developing some core skills, in order to prepare themselves for success, and take the most advantage of their time here at UC Berkeley.

The following is a list of skills and tools with which students will want to have some level of proficiency upon entering the program. Applicants without these competencies are strongly encouraged to pursue training in the relevant subject areas before the start of the program. This might be accomplished through enrollment in a formal course, either at a community college or online, or otherwise gaining the necessary experience.

  • The MDes program includes a rigorous technical curriculum. To ensure success, applicants should be comfortable with programming, including the ability to learn new languages and software tools quickly. While there is no official MDes programming language, students should have prior programming experience and be able to readily work with variables, data structures, functions, classes, syntax, and any required compilers for a new language. Throughout the program, students will encounter a variety of different technologies with various APIs and programming environments. Introductory instruction on how to engage with each of these technologies and program them using software code will be provided. However, students will be expected to draw on their existing programming skills to further develop these systems into desired final designs. Some examples of commonly encountered computer languages within the MDes include Python and Java. Students will also need similar programming skills to complete the technical elective requirement.
  • For success in a design program such as the MDes, applicants should possess a fundamental understanding of design processes and methods. This could include familiarity with formal design methods such as human-centered design or user research, as well as experience with tools commonly employed in design such as 2D (Adobe Creative Suite) and 3D (Fusion360, Rhino, etc) software tools.
  • Applicants should have a basic understanding of physical prototyping and fabrication. This could include traditional fabrication techniques in materials such as wood or metal, or digital fabrication techniques such as laser-cutting or 3D printing.

Applicants without these skillsets are strongly encouraged to pursue training through community college or online courses or tutorials before the start of the program. For suggested options, please contact our admissions team at



Program Information

Do you offer a part-time study option? Is it possible for me to continue working full-time while completing my studies?

The MDes is a full-time program with a rigorous course load. Students can expect to spend a minimum of 13 hours of in-class time per week and twice as many hours per week of work outside the classroom. Some MDes students take part-time jobs, but maintaining a full-time job during the program is not feasible.

Do you offer a remote or hybrid study option?

No, the curriculum is delivered fully in-person and we do not offer remote or hybrid study options. The MDes is an in-person, studio-based program, with many courses and projects requiring extensive hands-on, team-based work. 

I am interested in a specific field in design and/or technology; will I be able to focus on that area during my MDes studies?

The MDes core curriculum introduces students to a variety of technologies and design practices, rather than focusing on one field for the entire duration of the program. For instance, students may have one course module on AR/VR before pivoting to the next module on microcontrollers. That said, there are several ways that students are able to shape their learning experience to explore their individual interests; these include the selection of elective courses, the shaping of the Design@Large summer experience, the decision about what extracurricular activities to join, and what capstone thesis topic to select.

Can I earn a concurrent degree or dual degree during the MDes?

No, the MDes does not offer a concurrent or dual degree program. UC Berkeley does not offer ad hoc joint degree programs and applicants may only apply to one single degree program per admissions cycle.

Do you accept transfer students or transfer of credits?

No, we do not accept transfer students; any student who joins the MDes after leaving another program will be considered a new student and follow the same standard curriculum plan as their peers. The program also does not accept transfer units or classes taken prior to a student’s enrollment in the MDes program. This includes UC Berkeley undergraduate students who took elective-eligible courses prior to admission into the MDes.



International Applicants

Will the MDes program sponsor visas for international students admitted to the program?

Yes. If an offer of admission is extended, then the Berkeley International Office (BIO) will assist you in obtaining a visa to study at UC Berkeley. Please see the BIO website for information for new students regarding applying for a visa or F-1 Visa employment related information.

BIO is also a good starting resource for other questions regarding international student resources and policies. If you have specific questions not answered on the BIO website, you can contact BIO directly for advising. 

Is the MDes STEM OPT-eligible?

Yes, the MDes is classified as a STEM program under CIP code 14.999 – Engineering, Other, so MDes graduates can request a 24-month STEM extension to their standard 12-month OPT. Learn more about STEM OPT from the Berkeley International Office.



Funding Resources

Am I eligible for Academic Student Employment (ASE) positions as an admitted student?

MDes students are eligible to hold Academic Student Employee (ASE) Appointments, including Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) and Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) positions. They may apply for ASE appointments in any of the three semesters during which they are enrolled. ASE (Academic Student Employment) positions are selected within the departments according to academic, budgetary, and staffing circumstances. 

Some ASE appointments qualify  fee remission up the equivalent in dollar amount to a UC state-supported graduate program tuition, campus fee, and health insurance fee.

MDes students who are fully sponsored, meaning all fees are paid by a third party or outside agency, may choose to work as GSIs and/or Readers. However, if you are eligible for a fee remission from UC Berkeley, you will only receive it if your sponsoring agency reduces the sponsorship by that amount. Fee remissions will not be paid to the student as a refund if fees are being covered by an outside source.

For comprehensive information about these appointments, please see the Berkeley Graduate Division’s Graduate Student Academic Appointment website.