5.1 General

5.1.1 Age of Courses
5.1.2 Transfer & Other Credits
5.1.3 Auditing a Course
5.1.4 Challenging a Course
5.1.5 Course Appeals
5.1.6 Video Conferencing
5.1.7 Dual Degrees
5.1.8 Enroute and Continuing Students

5.1 General

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4XX LEVEL COURSES — Up to nine (9) credits at the 4xx-level are allowed on a Graduate Program of Study form under two circumstances:

  • They were taken as a graduate student, or
  • They were reserved for graduate credit as a bachelor degree-seeking student.

Certificate programs - A maximum of one-third (1/3) of the coursework may be 4xx-level.

For further credit-use restrictions, see Special Courses.

UNDERGRADUATE CREDITS — 3xx (or lower numbered) courses are not applicable to graduate degree or certificate requirements.  See the MSU Catalog section on Registration, Undergraduate Student Petitions for Registration and Reservation of Certain Courses.

5XX LEVEL COURSES — The number of 5xx-level course credits must be equal to two-thirds (2/3) of the total graded coursework, including Research credits (590) or Professional Paper/Project credits (574, 575).

5.1.1 Age of Courses

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CERTIFICATE — The age of courses at the time of certificate completion may not exceed six (6) years. 

MASTER'S — The age of courses at the time of graduation may not exceed six (6) years.

DOCTORAL — The age of courses at time of graduation may not exceed ten (10) years.

NOTE: In the case of the Education Specialist degree (Ed.S.) age of courses at time of  graduation may not exceed seven (7) years.

Courses aged up to one year beyond the Age of Courses limit at the time of graduation can be appealed for use toward a degree by submitting a policy appeal which includes a rationale and support from the student’s chair and department head (known as an “appeal packet;” see Policy Appeals for specific appeal information).

In the event of the birth or adoption of a child, a student can request an extension to Age of Courses policy up to one year by submitting a letter citing the date of birth/adoption and claiming the exception. They do not need to submit an entire appeal packet.

Similarly, a student can request an extension due to military duty up to one year by submitting a letter of explanation and claiming the exception. They do not need to submit an entire appeal packet.

If a student would like to include courses aged more than one year beyond the Age of Courses limit at the time of graduation, the appeal must include documentation of  current knowledge of the appealed courses (e.g. working in the field of study) which is supported by both the chair and department head.

Credits from a conferred master’s degree to be used toward a doctoral program at MSU are not subject to Age of Courses policy. See General Doctoral Credit Requirements for more information.


5.1.2 Transfer & Other Credits

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TRANSFER — Transfer credits are defined as credits coming from an external academically-accredited institution. 

New faculty who are bringing graduate transfer students to Montana State should email [email protected] for transfer information specific to your situation.

NON-DEGREE — Non-degree credits are credits taken in a non-degree status at MSU.

RESERVED — Reserved credits are credits reserved for graduate credit at MSU while pursuing a bachelor's degree. Registration, Undergraduate Student Petitions for Registration and Reservation of Certain Courses.

A combined total of no more than nine (9) non-degree, reserved, and transfer credits can be applied to a degree-seeking program of study.  A combined total of no more than three (3) non-degree, reserved, and transfer credits can be applied to a certificate program of study. See example.


All eligible credits to be transferred are subject to approval by the graduate student’s committee, department head, and The Graduate School.  Unless official transcripts were submitted with the initial application for admission, official transcripts of proposed transfer credits coming from an external academically-accredited institution must be filed with a program of study.  The program of study is to be filed by the end of the first term for certificate students, second term for master’s students, and third term for doctoral students.  See Program of Study (Certificate, Master's, Doctoral)

The following credits cannot be transferred to MSU:

  • Credits awarded by academic institutions in the United States that lack regional accreditation;
  • Courses with a grade of pass,  no credit, or satisfactory (non-traditional grades);
  • Courses older than six (6) years for certificate and master's students and ten (10) years for doctoral students;
  • Courses with a grade below a “B” (including non-degree courses and reserved credits taken at MSU);
  • Credits awarded by academic institutions for life experience;
  • Credits awarded by academic institutions for courses taken at non-collegiate institutions (e.g. government agencies, corporations, and industrial sponsored agencies);
  • Credits awarded by academic institutions for non-credit courses, workshops, and seminars as part of continuing education or professional development programs;
  • Credits on an undergraduate transcript (undergraduate status);
  • Credits used for completion of a degree at another academic institution.

5.1.3 Auditing a Course

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Graduate students may audit courses for zero (0) credit with the permission of the instructor.  The following policies apply to audit courses:

  • They will have the designation on the graduate transcript as “AU” in place of the grade.  The AU is not included in the calculation of the GPA.
  • They may appear on a Graduate Program of Study & Committee form as a course that is not required by the department, and does count towards degree requirements.
  • They are subject to full tuition and fees, and may not be covered by GTA/GRA tuition waivers.
  • They will count toward the total credit load when considering residency.
  • They will not count toward the total credit load when considering financial aid.
  • They may be changed to graded courses up to the tenth (10th) class day.  After the tenth (10th) class day the audit status cannot be changed.

Graduate students may request a course to be changed to a status of audit (AU) by submitting an Add/Drop Request with the instructor’s and chair of their graduate committee’s signatures to the Registrar’s Office.

5.1.4 Challenging a Course

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The policy on challenging a course provides the opportunity to earn college credits and quality points without formal course enrollment.  A fee of $30.00 per credit is assessed.  A graduate student accepted into a degree program may challenge a graduate course through their department or program.  A graduate student may challenge a course only if the prerequisites for the course have been met.

  • Master's students may challenge no more than a total of six (6) term credit hours and apply those credits to a degree program.
  • Doctoral students may challenge no more than a total of nine (9) term credit hours, including those hours successfully challenged for a master's degree.

See Advanced Standing on the Office of the Registrar’s site for more information.

5.1.5 Course Appeals

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Graduate students seeking exceptions from established Graduate School academic policies such as admission, retention, or graduation requirements may do so by submitting an appeal packet to The Graduate School for review.  See Policy Appeals.

5.1.6 Video Conferencing

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(Revised January 1, 2015)
(UGC revised April 29, 2015) 
(UGC revised September 28, 2021)

Videoconferencing is available for all students but is at the discretion of the committee.

The Graduate School requirements for video conferencing during all examinations and defenses are as follows. This policy applies only to committee members and the student:

  • The conference must have two-way video with audio for its duration. Neither the student nor any committee member is allowed to participate in the conference via telephone (or audio only). Video for a committee member can be off while the student is screen-sharing a presentation.
  • If communication is broken during the examination or defense the conference must be paused until connection is re-established. If the video connection cannot be re-established within 30min, the examination or defense must be terminated and rescheduled for completion at a later time/date.
    • The 30 minutes is cumulative. If connection is lost and reestablished multiple times that add up to 30 minutes, consider that the interruptions might not be in the best interest of the student and reschedule.

Suggested best practices:

  • Confidentiality should be considered for sensitive topics.
    • An RSVP can be utilized for the public portion.
    • The public can be removed after the public portion or a separate link can be used for the private portion.
  • To allow the student to focus on their examination or defense, another designated person, such as the committee chair, should be responsible for initiating and implementing the conference process.
  • If bandwidth becomes an issue, you might suggest that people who are not required participants (e.g. the public) turn off their video except when they are speaking.

5.1.7 Dual Degrees

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See Dual Degree

Note: Dual degree is when an applicant is seeking two (2) graduate degrees simultaneously.

CONTINUING CREDITS — Students may “double count” up to twenty (20) percent of MSU-Bozeman credits across degree programs (i.e. six (6) credits for a thirty (30) credit master’s degree). Research Credits may not be double counted.

A degree program may overlap with only one other program for the purpose of double-counting credits. In other words, credits may never be counted for three or more certificates or programs. If a student seeks a third certificate or program, it must be treated as an independent certificate or program.

Individual departments and programs may establish their own limits on double-counting, up to the general Graduate School maximum, or they may prohibit double-counting altogether.

CREDIT TRANSFER — Up to nine (9) hours of transfer credits from another institution may be applied to one of the two degree programs, or divided between the two degree programs. The nine (9) hours of transfer credit cannot be applied to each degree program separately.

AGE OF COURSEWORK — The age of courses at the time of graduation may not exceed six (6) years for certificates and masters, and ten (10) years for doctorate.

CHAIR AND COMMITTEES — The student must have a separate chair and committee for each degree program.

DUAL DEGREE FORM PROCESS — Separate graduate forms must be filed with The Graduate School for each degree program. This includes; Application for Graduate Admissions, Graduation Application, Graduate Program of Study and Committee, Program of Study Revision, Committee Revision, Report on Comprehensive exam/Thesis Defense form, and forms for submitting an Electronic Thesis/Dissertation.

CONFERRAL OF DEGREES — There will be two separate diplomas awarded upon completion of all degree program requirements.

5.1.8 Enroute and Continuing Students

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DEFINITION OF ENROUTE — Student applies and is accepted into a Ph.D. program with the option to be awarded a master's degree while in the Ph.D. program.

DEFINITION OF CONTINUING — Student applied and is accepted into a Master’s program. Student is awarded master’s degree and plans to pursue a doctoral degree within same department.

NOTE: Students who are in a master's program and plan on continuing to a Ph.D. are not considered enroute.

NOTE: Enroute only pertains to students who are enrolled in a Ph.D. program.