Admissions FAQS

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May I apply for fall or spring admission?

The MDes program only accepts applications for admission in the Fall semester.

The application cycle for the Fall 2021 cohort opens September 15, 2020, and we will be accepting applications up to the deadline of 8:59pm PST on Monday, January 4, 2021.

Are there concurrent degree or dual degree programs with the MDes?

No concurrent degree programs have been developed for the MDes. UC Berkeley does not offer ad hoc joint degree programs and applicants may only apply to one single degree program per admissions cycle.

What core skills should applicants have before starting the MDes, in order to 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

How many hours per week do MDes students spend on the program?

The MDes program is a full-time on-campus 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. Studio courses will involve extensive on-site studio work.

Can I apply if my work experience is not in a design field?

Students in the MDes program come from diverse academic and professional backgrounds with a range of different levels of experience. Prior work in either design or engineering (or related fields) is strongly encouraged, but is not required. We are interested in how students can apply their existing domain expertise into the scope of a design practice.

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.

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

The 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, we look closely at your body of work across all these dimensions when making admissions decisions. Your portfolio of work should best represent and speak towards your specific achievements, interests, and passions across these career domains.

Who are the Faculty for the MDes Program?

MDes Faculty includes both College of Engineering and College of Environmental Design professors, lecturers and professionals.

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

Yes. If an offer of admission is extended, then UC Berkeley will assist you in obtaining a visa to study at UC Berkeley.

Is the MDes STEM OPT-eligible?

Yes. The MDes has been classified as a STEM program under CIP code 14.999 – Engineering, Other. Learn more about STEM OPT from the Berkeley International Office.

My GPA Is not on a 4-point scale. How should I complete that section of the application?

If your GPA is not on a 4-point scale, please respond “N/A” in that field.

How do I apply for department admissions awards or fellowships?

There is no separate application for MDes competitive departmental awards, which are both need-based and merit-based. Submission of the required application materials automatically qualify you for department award eligibility. Students awarded a department awards will be notified by the MDes program office.

For the MDes application, are there word or character limits for the personal essay and statement of purpose?

There is no word limit specified for the two application essays, but we advise applicants to follow Berkeley Graduate Admission advice stated below.

Be concise; an ideal essay should say everything it needs to with brevity. Approximately 500 to 1000 well-selected words (1-2 single space pages in 12 point font) is better than more words with less clarity and poor organization.

Please see Berkeley Graduate Admission guidelines for the applications essays at the links below.

Will Berkeley Graduate Division Admissions accept the home edition of the TOEFL iBT exam this year?

Berkeley Graduate Admission advises as long as you still take the TOEFL iBT then the at home test is fine.