This information has been designed as a reference guide for Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) students at Cornell University. The College of Engineering Undergraduate Handbook is available here.
The curriculum of an electrical engineer has two components:
- The Common Curriculum
- The ECE Major Program (requirements listed below)
The Graduation Checklist includes an overview of all requirements. General information such as Academic Standing, Dean's List requirements, Advanced Placement, Transfer Credit, Adding/Dropping courses and Leaves of Absence can be found in the Courses of Study from the University Registrar. You can also find information through Engineering Advising.
If you have questions regarding graduation or program requirements that are not answered here, contact one of our ECE Major Consultants:
Sample Course Sequence
To maintain good standing in the College of Engineering, a student must complete successfully all the required mathematics courses through MATH 2940 by the end of the fourth semester. To maintain good standing in the ECE major, every semester a student must achieve at least a 2.3 GPA, have no failing or missing grades, achieve a passing grade in at least 12 credit-hours' worth of course work, and make adequate progress toward the degree. An ECE major will also generally have completed all the required physics courses through PHYS 2214 by the end of the first semester in the major, typically the fourth semester overall.
A student must achieve a grade of C- or better in any course he or she counts toward major requirements, including ECE Core and Foundation courses; Upper-level ECE Electives; and Outside-ECE Technical Electives that offer a letter-grade option.
The ECE Major Program
Common CurriculumClick to Open
Course Categories and Credits
- Mathematics: 16
- Physics: 12
- Chemistry: 4
- Freshman Writing Seminar: 6
- Computer Programming (usually CS 1110 or 1112 and 1130 or 1134): 5
- Engineering Distribution (including ECE/ENGRD 2300): 7
- Introduction to Engineering (ENGRI course): 3
- Liberal Studies Distribution (6 courses, 18 credit minimum): 18
- Advisor Approved Electives: 6
- Total Minimum Common Curriculum Credits: 77
You must also:
Fulfill the Technical Writing Requirement by taking a technical course that has a substantial amount of writing. Courses that meet the technical writing requirement are listed in the Courses of Study publication.
Fulfill the requirement of at least three credits of computer programming at a level above that of CS 1110/1112/1114/1115 and CS 1130/1132/1133/1142 or an advanced computer-engineering course at a level above ECE 3140. (See: Advanced Programming/Computer Engineering Requirements under "Other Requirements" BELOW)
Note: The courses taken for all three of these requirements may be used to fill credits in other areas, such as Liberal Studies, Engineering Distribution, Advisor Approved Electives, or Major Program requirements.
Core and Foundation CoursesClick to Open
The Electrical and Computer Engineering program, which is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org, builds on the ECE Core Courses and ECE Foundation Courses listed in the tables below.
In addition to the Core and Foundation Course requirements described in what follows, every ECE major takes additional upper-level elective courses (see below).
Advanced ECE Electives are ECE courses at the 3000-level or above, some of which must be at the 4000-level or above. The Outside-ECE Technical Electives (below) include 9 credits of appropriate course work with a total of 3 credits at or above the 3000-level.
Core and Foundation Course Requirements
ECE majors who matriculate at Cornell during Fall 2011 or after (nominally Class of 2015 or later) must take all four ECE Core Courses and at least three out of five ECE Foundation Courses, including at least one of ECE 3100 and ECE 3250 and at least one of ECE 3030 and ECE 3150.
ECE Core Courses
- ECE 2100, Introduction to Circuits for Electrical and Computer Engineers: 4 credits; Fall, Spring
- ECE 2200, Signals and Systems: 4 credits; Fall, Spring
- ECE 2300, Introduction to Digital Logic Design: 4 credits; Fall, Spring
- ECE 3400 (formerly ECE 2400), Electrical and Computer Engineering Practice and Design: 4 credits; Fall
ECE Foundation Courses
- ECE 3030, Electromagnetic Fields and Waves: 4 credits, Fall
- ECE 3100, Introduction to Probability and Random Signals: 4 credits, Spring
- ECE 3140 (also CS 3420), Embedded Systems: 4 credits, Spring
- ECE 3150, Introduction to Microelectronics: 4 credits, Spring
- ECE 3250, Mathematics of Signal and System Analysis: 4 credits, Fall
Engineering Distribution RequirementsClick to Open
The engineering distribution requirement helps students achieve breadth in their programs. The requirement comprises three courses.
- The first is a mandatory Introduction to Engineering course, generally taken during the first year.
- The second is ECE/ENGRD 2300, required of all ECE majors.
- The third course is any ENGRD course that belongs to a different ENGRD category from ECE/ENGRD 2300. The Course of Study lists various ENGRD categories.
- ECE majors may not use ECE/ENGRD 2100, ECE 2200/ENGRD 2220 toward the engineering distribution requirement.
Liberal Studies Distribution RequirementsClick to Open
For more information on the Liberal Studies Distribution, visit the Liberal Studies page maintained by the College of Engineering. You will need to scroll down the page in order to find the appropriate information.
Technical WritingClick to Open
The ability to communicate is essential to successful professional practice. In addition to taking two first-year writing seminars, engineering students must have a significant amount of instruction and practice in technical or scientific writing. They can fulfill the college's technical-writing requirement by enrolling in an Engineering Communications course (e.g., ENGRC 3350 or ENGRC 3500), enrolling in selected courses in the Department of Communication (COMM 3030 (formerly 2630) or 3520), or in an approved writing-intensive engineering course. The third option includes the following writing intensive courses:
- BEE 4890
- BEE 4730 (with co-registration in BEE 4930)
- ENGRD / AEP 2640
- CHEME 4320
- MAE 4272
- MSE 4030-4040
- MSE 4050-4060
For information on fulfilling the technical writing requirement by doing a writing-intensive Co-op, contact Engineering Professional Programs, 201 Carpenter Hall or the Engineering Communications Program in 465 Hollister Hall.
Other ECE RequirementsClick to Open
Advanced Programming/Computer Engineering Requirement
The courses that an ECE major takes to satisfy the ECE Major Requirements or the ENGRD requirement must include a least three credits of computer programming at a level above that of CS 1110/1112/1114/1115 and CS 1130/1132/1133/1142, or an advanced computer engineering course at a level above ECE 3140. Current courses that meet this requirement are:
CS 2110, ENGRD 3200, AEP 4380, ECE 2400, ECE 4740, ECE 4750, or ECE 4760. Other courses may be allowed by an ECE petition.
Probability and Statistics Requirement
The courses that an ECE major takes to satisfy the ECE Major Requirements or the ENGRD requirement must include at least one course with significant probability content. ECE 3100, ENGRD/ORIE 2700, CEE 3040, and MSE 5730 are appropriate such courses, but keep in mind that those courses are quite different and are by no means interchangeable. Other courses satisfying the probability and statistics requirement may be allowed by an ECE petition.
Advisor Approved ElectivesClick to Open
Your 6 credits of Advisor Approved Electives must form a relevant and appropriate part of an overall educational plan or objective, as determined by your faculty advisor (subject to the restrictions on Excluded Courses) -- and no one else. The Advisor Approved Electives can be used to broaden your education as an engineer. A wide variety of courses are acceptable; the key is to discuss your interests and educational goals with your advisor and obtain his or her approval. No one else may sign indicating approval of your Advisor Approved Elective choices on behalf of your advisor.
Advisor Approved Electives that are generally accepted by advisors include: one extra introduction to engineering course, engineering distribution courses, courses stressing oral or written communication, upper-level engineering courses, advanced mathematics, biological, and physical science courses. Selected business, economics, humanities, social science, and language courses are often acceptable depending on your career goals. Again, the courses you present to your advisor for approval must be sound choices that address your overall career or educational objectives.
Examples of how some students have used Advisor Approved Electives:
- Biology and chemistry course work as preparation for a career in medicine or biomedical engineering (e.g. BIOG 1105/1106, CHEM 3570/3580, BIONB 2220)
- Management and industrial relations courses for a career in management (e.g. AEM 2210/2220)
- Courses in communications; writing and public speaking from the Communication Department or the Engineering Communications Department
- Extra ECE courses in either your specialization area or for added breadth
- To acquire expertise in a career-related 'minor' or concentration, possibly computer science or ORE
The engineering curriculum permits you a great deal of elective flexibility. The only point that needs to be kept in mind is that we define the MINIMUM that you are absolutely REQUIRED to take. Following the minimal path gives a basic academic preparation with which to enter the profession. You are encouraged to take more than the minimum courses, as this will prepare you better to enter the job market or begin graduate studies.
Legitimate and beneficial opportunities can be engaged in that differ from traditional lecture courses. For example: independent design projects, Study Abroad, and an ECE Honors Program to name just a few. Such options can add a great deal of value to your engineering professional training, and enhance the value of your Cornell degree. The choice of whether to take extra courses, engage in meaningful extra-curricular activities, or avail yourself of other university programs is yours. It is important that you plan effectively to use the extra freedom within your engineering education.
The flexibility of the Major program courses --including those of an elective nature-- allows you to pursue diverse interests. You can use your course options to strengthen your electrical engineering program if your goal is to specialize or obtain depth within electrical engineering. Or, you can use Major Approved Electives to complement related interests in other majors of study.
Students interested in a career in medicine often select life science (such as BIOG 1105 / 1106), chemistry (CHEM 3570 and 3580), and bioengineering course work (in CHEME or EP) as their electives. Students who study energy systems can combine ECE course work with courses from the Nuclear Science or Mechanical Engineering departments. Students with an interest in computer engineering can focus on ECE course work in digital theory and microprocessor/microcontroller systems as well as selecting technical course work from the Computer Science department. The exciting area of MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) combines semiconductor fabrication with principles from courses like ENGRD 2020 & 2030.
You have greater flexibility in choosing and designing a particular program if you plan early and carefully, ask a lot of questions, and take the right combination of courses that suits your particular interests.
Upper-Level ElectivesClick to Open
Every ECE major must take at least 5 Upper-level ECE Elective Courses. These courses must be at the 3000-level or above. See below for restrictions.
Revised Upper-Level ECE Technical Electives Requirement for Students Entering in Fall 2014 or After
As of January 2017, ECE revised and simplified the Upper-level ECE Technical Electives Requirement to apply to students who matriculated at Cornell in Fall 2014 or after.
NOTE: If you matriculated prior to Fall 2014, consult with the ECE Undergraduate Coordinator in Phillips Hall 222.
Revised Upper-Level Technical Electives Requirement
Students must take at least five (5) technical ECE courses at the 3000-level or above (in addition to ECE 3400 and the three courses used to satisfy the ECE Foundation Course requirement). These five courses must include at least three (3) courses at the 4000-level or above, at least one (1) of which is a Culminating Design Experience (CDE) course, and the credit hours for these five courses must add up to at least 18.
- All of these five courses must be technical ECE courses.
- Courses cross-listed with ECE course numbers are acceptable as ECE technical electives.
- Courses that will not satisfy the ECE technical electives requirement include independent projects such as ECE 4999; non-technical courses such as ECE 3600 and ECE 5830; and seminar courses such as ECE 5870 and 5880 (Note: ECE 5830 counts as an Outside-ECE Technical Elective).
- CS 4120 and/or CS 4410 may be used as 4000-level ECE technical electives.
Downloadable Checklists and Chart:
- Revised course checklist [PDF] for students entering Fall 2014 or after. Download course checklist as XLSX
- Revised Revised curriculum chart [PDF] for students entering Fall 2014 or after.
Culminating Design Experience (CDE) Courses
Every CDE course includes a significant and open-ended engineering design assignment with realistic constraints. The principal goal of a CDE course is to help students develop the ability to design a component, system, or process to meet desired needs taking into account some or all of the following: economics, the environment, sustainability, manufacturability, ethics, health and safety, society, and politics. Currently, the following CDE courses are offered: ECE 4250, ECE 4370, ECE 4530, ECE 4670, ECE 4740, ECE 4750, and ECE 4760.
If you have questions, contact the ECE Undergraduate Coordinator in Phillips Hall 222.
Outside-ECE Technical ElectivesClick to Open
9 credits minimum, among which at least 3 credits must come from lecture course work at 3000-level or above. Courses must be taken for a letter grade unless offered S/U-only.
Rules governing traditional lecture courses
Courses allowed in this category must be technical courses whose technical scope lies outside the course offerings of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Almost any non-ECE math, science, or engineering course at the 2000-level or above will do. A student may count a 1000-level course as an Outside-ECE Technical Elective only if the course lists an explicit university-level prerequisite that the student has completed successfully either at Cornell or through AP or transfer credit. For example, none of the ENGRIs is acceptable since none of them has any prerequisites. Non-technical courses such as ENGRC and pure business courses are also not acceptable. ECE majors may, however, count ECE 5830 --- Introduction to Technical Management --- as an Outside-ECE Technical Elective.
For an engineering course in a non-ECE major to pass muster as an Outside-ECE Technical Elective, the major offering the course must allow its own students to use the course to fulfill a technical course requirement. For example, CEE 3230 and ORIE 3150 are acceptable because they include engineering applications of the business topics they cover, and the offering majors consider them technical courses for their students. When in doubt about the suitability of any course, a student should obtain evidence that students in the major offering the course can use the course in question as a "technical course" and submit associated documentation to 223 Phillips Hall.
One additional option exists for ECE students. A student may, with advisor approval, count one advanced ECE course as an Outside-ECE Technical Elective provided that the course's subject matter lies outside the student's major disciplinary area as determined by the focus of the student's upper-level ECE course work.
Rules governing project work and independent study
Students may count in the Outside-ECE Technical Electives category up to 3 credits of work that results from either (but not both)
- Work on a student project team. For comprehensive information about student project teams, see Student Project Teams.
- Enrollment in an independent-study course at the 3000-level or above (i.e. ECE 4999) satisfying the following requirements:
- If the independent-study course is a reading course, its subject must be unavailable in existing ECE courses. A student wishing to count the credits from such a course as Outside-ECE Technical Elective credits must obtain prior approval from the ECE Curriculum and Standards Committee by writing a proposal documenting his or her objectives and rationale for taking the course and must at the end of the semester submit to the supervising faculty member a written report on which the faculty member will base the student's grade.
- If the independent-study course entails participation on a research project and the student wishes to count its credits as Outside-ECE Technical Elective credits, the student must obtain prior approval from the ECE Curriculum and Standards Committee by writing a proposal documenting his or her objectives and rationale for taking the course and must at the end of the semester submit to the supervising faculty member a written report on which the faculty member will base the student's grade.