Admissions FAQS

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Quick guide of FAQs:

Admissions Application

Core Skills & Preparation

Program Information

International Applicants


May I apply for fall or spring admission?

The MDes program only accepts applications for admission in the Fall semester. Visit the Admissions page to get more information about the deadline and events for the next application cycle.

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.

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.


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.


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

Applicants whose GPAs are not based on a 4.0 scale should not calculate or convert their GPAs or input WES evaluations. Instead, these applicants should leave the aforementioned GPA fields blank or enter “0.00” and enter their cumulative GPA as it appears on their transcript in the “Other Scale GPA” section.

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.

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 the MDes Admissions page for specific guidelines regarding the content of these essays. The Berkeley Graduate Admission also provides guidelines for the applications essays at the links below.

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

Who are the Faculty for the MDes Program?

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

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.


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

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

If you have specific questions not answered on their website, you can contact BIO directly for advising.

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.


How do I apply for department admissions awards or fellowships?

The MDes Faculty Admissions committee selects and distributes two types of departmental awards as part of the admissions process. These awards carry a monetary value that is applied to tuition and fees across the three semesters of the program. Recipients of MDes Departmental Awards are notified as part of your acceptance.

In recognition of the achievements of an applicant, the MDes Distinguished Scholar Award is an honor extended only to candidates of the highest caliber. MDes Distinguished Scholar awards are highly selective among the most competitive applicants. Decisions are based on overall strength of required materials submitted with the MDes admissions application and no separate application is needed.

The MDes also invites students seeking financial assistance to apply for an MDes Opportunity Grant. These grants are awarded to applicants whose lives, experiences, and knowledge contribute to the educational diversity and breadth of the cohort, or to applicants who have had limited access to educational resources or have persevered over economic disadvantage. Applicants may apply for an MDes Opportunity Grant by completing an optional section of the MDes admissions application.

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

MDes students are eligible to hold Graduate Student Academic Appointments, including Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) and Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) positions and 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. Open positions are listed on Handshake, the Career Center’s recruiting platform (including a job board) for UC Berkeley students and alumni and posted on the Open GSI/GSR Positions webpage.

Though incoming students are eligible to apply, ASE positions are competitive and the MDes program itself is demanding; students should consider carefully their ability to take on employment in addition to their coursework before committing to a position.

Partial Fee Remission for ASE Appointments

Registered MDes students with qualifying ASE appointments (Graduate Student Instructors, Readers, and Tutors working 25% or more time and Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs) working 25-44% time) for the semester are eligible to receive partial 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 partial 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 Berkeley Graduate Division information at the Graduate Student Academic Appointment website.