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Communications is as essential to modern society as electricity, providing both connectivity (cell phone, WiFi, Internet) and storage (hard drive, flash memory). The field of communications spans signal processing and error control coding for transceiver design, information theory to identify fundamental performance benchmarks, and the design of network protocols.

Signal processing, which refers to hardware and software to produce, transform and analyze signals (e.g., radio waves, sound, image, video, EEG, MRI), is a fundamental tool in every discipline in engineering and the sciences. Sophisticated digital signal processing algorithms, the cost of implementing which has been driven down leveraging Moore’s law, are at the core of an ever increasing number of devices, including communications devices (cell phones, WiFi), digital music/video players, televisions, GPS receivers, radar and sonar systems, and medical imaging and monitoring.

Communication Theory and Systems in Electrical and Communication Engineering involves the detection of signals, the prediction and filtering of random processes, the design and analysis of communication systems, the analysis of protocols for communication networks, and statistical processing of images.

Specific topics include the use of signal processing and error correction coding, and modulation techniques for both data transmission and digital magnetic recording, the use of spread spectrum techniques for wireless communications, and the design and analysis of multi-user communication networks.

Additional areas of research include time series analysis, adaptive filtering, sampling design, and wavelet theory. Applications are made to such fields as communications, radar, sonar, oceanography, holography, and image processing. Both theoretical and practical aspects of information processing are studied.

The focus is on improving utility to users, power efficiency, and reliability. Examples include:

  • Cellular and adhoc networks,
  • Full duplex radio,
  • Wireless communications,
  • Optical communications,
  • Data center networking,
  • Sensor networks.

Research Areas

Communications and signal processing research areas include but are not limited to:

  • Signal processing for communication
  • Wireless communication networks
  • Wireless sensor networks
  • Signal and image acquisition
  • Signal storage, transmission, organization
  • Signal processing (reconstruction, compression, enhancement, (de)coding)
  • Image analysis (vision and bio-microscopy)
  • Haptics, robotics, tactile sensors, signal and image acquisition (tactile), wearable computing, soft electronics
  • Information theory
  • Cyber-physical systems
  • Smart cities

Recommended Schools for MS in Communication & Signal

#1 University of California, San Diego

Program: MS Electrical and Computer Engineering (Specialization – Communications Theory and Systems)

Deadline – Dec 14; Avg GRE Quant 165; #25 ECE (ARWU)

Communication Theory and Systems in ECE involves the detection of signals, the prediction and filtering of random processes, the design and analysis of communication systems, the analysis of protocols for communication networks, and statistical processing of images. Specific topics include the use of signal processing and error correction coding, and modulation techniques for both data transmission and digital magnetic recording, the use of spread spectrum techniques for wireless communications, and the design and analysis of multi-user communication networks. Additional areas of research include time series analysis, adaptive filtering, sampling design, and wavelet theory. Applications are made to such fields as communications, radar, sonar, oceanography, holography, and image processing. Both theoretical and practical aspects of information processing are studied.

#2 Georgia Institute of Technology

Program: MS Electrical and Computer Engineering

#5 ECE (ARWU); Deadline – 16 Dec; Avg GRE Quant 164

Telecommunications is concerned with the characterization, representation, transmission, storage, and networking of information over various media including space, optical fiber, and cable.

Telecommunications encompasses several key areas of electrical engineering: digital signal processing, computer engineering, controls, and optics. Harnessing the leading technologies in these areas, the dynamic field of telecommunications plays a defining role in the information technology revolution that we are experiencing today. Specific applications include mobile communications, wireless local area networks (WLANs), television, telephony, and radar.

Telecommunications faculty and students are engaged in a range of basic and applied research projects, which are supported by a network of governmental and industry sponsors including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army, Scientific-Atlanta, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Hitachi and Nortel.

Telecommunications research falls within the following major areas:

  • Wireless Communications and Networking
  • Communication Theory
  • Information Theory and Adaptive Systems
  • Multimedia Networking
  • Inter-networking, Network Management, and Network Security
  • Optical Networks

Why Georgia Tech?

  • We have the largest ECE graduate academic program in the United States.
  • With over 110 faculty members, ECE covers a broad range of research topics and offers over 100 graduate-level ECE courses.
  • ECE is home to 11 areas of specialization, 19 research centers, and numerous laboratories.
  • Since 2010, ECE has averaged $51 to $58 million per year in corporate, governmental and research foundation support.
  • Our graduates are among the most sought-after in the world, employed with the world’s top high-tech companies and research universities and in governmental agencies and small businesses.

#3 Purdue University

Program: MS Electrical and Computer Engineering (Communications, Networking, Signal and Image Processing)

#12 ECE ARWU; Deadline: 15 Dec; Avg GRE Quant 166; Tuition $23K

The Master’s and PhD graduate programs in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) have more than 700 graduate students from around the world. Over two-thirds are in the PhD program. It is the largest in the College of Engineering at Purdue. Nation-wide, ECE is ranked consistently among the top schools in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

We offer an educational experience that is among the best in public universities. Our students can learn from the many graduate level classes offered to become proficient in their research area. The depth and breadth options available are considerable. Our faculty members are active in state-of-the-art research and training, within electrical engineering and across disciplines with faculty members in other departments. In spite of the size of our programs, students will find help from his/her Advisory Committee of faculty members in formulating an individual plan of study that satisfies the degree requirements and matches his/her own needs, interests, and long-term goals.

#4 University of California Santa Barbara

Program: MS ECE (Communication and Signal Processing)

Deadline – 15 Dec; #15 ECE ARWU; Tuition $38K

The communications and signal processing faculty at UCSB engage in cutting-edge research in communication theory and networking (with current focus on next generation wireless communication and sensor networks), novel compression techniques (for audio, image, and video), pattern recognition (e.g., in images and sound signals), image reconstruction (e.g., for radar, sonar, microscopy, medical devices), and image informatics (extracting and organizing information from images for biological research, diagnosis, surveillance, production monitoring). In addition, research is also directed at advancing core knowledge in CSP in areas such as information theory, estimation theory and harmonic analysis. Much of the research in the CSP group involves interdisciplinary scientific and industrial collaborations, and results in software and hardware prototypes. Close connections with industry are maintained through faculty interactions and student internships, leading to an understanding of emerging trends and bottlenecks in technology.

#5 University of California Berkeley

Program: MS Electrical Engineering Computer Science (Communication and Networking)

#1 ECE ARWU; Tuition $34K; Deadline – Dec 15; Avg GRE Quant 165

Wireless and Sensor Networks: Architectures and protocols for ad-hoc, mobile and vehicular networks. Multiple antennas. Opportunistic communication, cognitive radio, and spectrum sharing. Distributed source coding. Distributed estimation. Spatial sampling.

Network Design and Analysis: Market-based architectures. Incentive compatibility. Auction design. Peer-to-peer networks. Quality of Service. Communication for control. Cross-layer optimization. Network coding. Simulation tools. Privacy and Security.

Implementation: Energy-efficient transceivers. Ultra low-energy wireless sensors. Communication system/circuit co-design. Control over wireless. Sequence reconstruction algorithms, Magnetic resonance imaging.

Berkeley EECS graduate programs rank first and second in the nation and provide one of the best educational experiences anywhere. Our graduate students are immersed in an intellectually rigorous, interdisciplinary, globally aware environment, and have the opportunity to study and do research with faculty world-renowned for their innovation and discovery.

#6 Ohio State University

Program: MS ECE (Communication and Signal Processing)

Deadline: 1 Feb; Tuition $34K; #23 ECE ARWU;

The Ohio State University has been home to innovative contributions in mobile wireless, video streaming, high-dimensional inference, cardiac MRI, wearable biosensors, and radar imaging. A broad set of technical courses is offered, encompassing both system-oriented courses and theoretical preparation for PhD research.

Graduates pursue career paths in academics, consumer products, biomedicine, and defense/security, as well as start-up ventures. Recent employers include QualComm, Nvidia, Google, Microsoft, Lincoln Laboratories, Ford Motor, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Bose, Intel, US Air Force Research Laboratory, Broadcom, and more.

Why OSU?

  • The ECE program at Ohio State is the top ranked electrical and computer engineering program in Ohio and is consistently ranked in the top 10 percent nationally.
  • In a comparison of tuition costs to graduate earning power in SmartMoney magazine, Ohio State ranks 11th best nationally, with an average return of 179 percent on tuition investment.
  • Our fully-equipped laboratories provide invaluable, hands-on experience with cutting-edge research, while the cooperative education and internship program offers students work experience and financial assistance. Unlike some fields, most ECE internships and co-operative experiences are paid opportunities; with ECE students making an average of $18.12 per hour.

#7 North Carolina State University

Program: MS ECE (Communication and Signal Processing)

#29 ECE ARWU; Deadline: 9 Jan; Tuition $27K

Research in the Communications and Signal Processing area focuses on issues regarding the efficient processing and transmission of data. Some examples of sources of data include sound, images, and sensor output signals. Signal processing algorithms deal with efficiently transforming the signals resulting from these sources into digital data streams. Communications research focuses on efficiently transmitting streams of data from one location to another. One important example of communications research is the investigation of techniques that transmit ever increasing data rates with multiple users while consuming less radio frequency spectrum and transmitted signal power.

Examples of signal processing research includes processing blurry images, recognition of features in images, efficient coding of signals and images into data, and algorithms for implementation of communications modulation and coding techniques.

Techniques such as multiple antennas, spread spectrum, software radios, modulation and error control coding schemes, sensor networks, and ultra-wideband radio are examples of topics of research in communications.


Our collection of prestigious professors, degree options, superior facilities, and proximity to leading research and technological institutions combine to create an unparalleled learning environment.

Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, is home to North Carolina State University and is consistently rated one of “”America’s Best Places to Live.”” Located mere miles away, Research Triangle Park (RTP) is the technological hub of the East Coast; it combines the needs and resources of area industry with the teaching and research capabilities of North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Graduate programs in Electrical and Computer Engineering provide a variety of excellent education and research opportunities for outstanding students from around the world. Our Master’s Degree Program offers a variety of options for specialization including a Master of Science in either Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, or Networking (available via distance learning or on-campus enrollment). Also, a strong Ph.D. program is available for students who wish to complete their education in the field of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Our superior degree programs are made possible by a nationally recognized faculty that consists of over 54 tenured and tenure-track professors as well as Adjunct and Visiting lecturers, many of whom possess extensive experience in industry.

#8 Arizona State University

Program: MS Electrical (Signal Processing and Communication)

Deadline – 31 Dec; #47 ECE ARWU; Tuition $46K

The School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering at Arizona State University offers instruction in the related areas of signal processing and communications systems (SP/Comm) at the graduate level.

Why ASU?

Our electrical engineering programs remain highly recognized—ranked 27 by U.S. News and World Report and in the top 20 by the National Research Council. Our faculty, staff and students have enabled us to grow our externally funded sponsored project expenditures to an all-time record high of $31.8M in the fiscal year ending June 2015.

Students are involved in a variety of research activities and have access to state-of-the-art facilities, such as the electromagnetic anechoic chamber, the wireless communications lab and the integrated circuit fabrication clean room.

#9 Rutgers School of Engineering

Program: MS ECE (Cmmunications Engineering)

Deadline: 1 Dec; #13 ECE (ARWU); Avg GRE Quant 163; Tuition $31K

The electrical and computer engineering faculty are actively engaged in research in areas ranging from wireless systems to future Internet design, sensor networks, signal processing, control theory, low-power electronics, materials, hardware and software engineering, computer graphics and vision, robotics, and virtual reality technologies. Students have access to cutting edge research laboratories, such as the Wireless Information Network Laboratory (WINLAB), the Microelectronics Research Laboratory (MERL), and the Center for Autonomic Computing (CAC). The graduate faculty guide students through the research process, from problem formulation to publication in top-tier journals and conferences to filing patent applications and technology transfer.

Why Rutgers?

Rutgers is one of sixty-three institutions that are members of the prestigious AAU (American Association of Universities) as well as the Big Ten Academic Alliance, an elite consortium of top-notch research universities comprising all 14 members of the Big Ten as well as the University of Chicago. Rutgers University has one of the best faculty cores in the U.S. The annual research expenditures at Rutgers are over $400 million. Rutgers excels in all areas, from the liberal arts to the sciences, from the humanities to engineering.

Size matters to us. The School of Engineering is small enough to promise the focus graduate education demands, but large enough for students to enjoy all the advantages, resources, and opportunities of a leading public research university.

SoE faculty member are outstanding—every year, two or more of our faculty members, on average, receive the NSF CAREER Awards. Our faculty members are frequently honored by their peers with awards and fellowships from the most prestigious professional organizations. Books written by our faculty are used world-wide.

#10 Michigan State University

Program: MS ECE (Signal Processing and Communications)

Deadline: 30 Dec; #51-75 ECE ARWU; Tuition $43K

The Communications and Signal Processing (CSP) group in the ECE department is engaged in a broad range of fundamental and applied research areas. Examples of fundamental research areas include:

  • Statistical communications
  • Statistical signal processing
  • System identification and adaptive filtering
  • Time-frequency analysis
  • Multidimensional signal processing
  • Information theory and coding

In addition to making theoretical contributions in these areas, the CSP group is engaged in emerging and traditional CSP applications. In particular, CSP faculty members are active in several applied research areas including:

  • Wireless communications and networking
  • Speech processing and voice recognition
  • Visual processing and multimedia networking
  • Biomedical signal processing
  • Non-destructive-evaluation (NDE)
  • Sensor networks and compressed sensing
  • Secure communications and network security

Being leaders in their respective fields of research, CSP faculty research is supported by federal agencies, such as NSF and NIH, state technology programs, and industrial partners. Both national and international collaborative efforts are pursued. CSP faculty members collaborate with faculty members of other ECE areas and other colleges within and outside MSU on multidisciplinary research projects.