Degree Requirements - Master's
5.3 Master's Requirements
General Credit Requirements
Research (Thesis) Master's
Professional (Non-thesis) Master's
Optional Graduate Representative
Program of Study
Defense of Thesis
Degree Requirements/General & Age of Courses
Commencement & Degree/Certificate Completion
A Master degree (M), Master of Art (M.A.), Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Engineering (M.Eng.), Master of Fine Art (MFA), Master of Nursing (MN), and Master of Science (M.S.) are earned after completing discipline-specific coursework, and in some fields comprehensive exams, thesis and/or professional paper.
- All master’s candidates are expected to be familiar with both The Graduate School and their specific academic college and department degree requirements.
- The minimum credit requirement for master's degrees is thirty (30) credits; individual degree programs may require more.
- Only those courses listed on an approved graduate Program of Study are applicable toward graduate degree credit requirements.
- In all non-thesis programs, a minimum of thirty (30) credits (or more as determined by the department) must be for coursework and not thesis credits.
- See Minimum Enrollment.
- Conversion of thesis credits to professional paper credits: If a master’s student changes from a research (thesis) master's to a professional (non-thesis) master's, a maximum of six (6) credits of thesis (department rubric 590) may be converted to six (6) credits of Professional Paper (department rubric 575). Students wishing to make this change must submit a Program of Study Revision form to the Graduate School.
- Conversion of professional paper credits to thesis credits: Professional paper credits cannot be converted to thesis credits.
This is a research-oriented master’s degree. In some professions, the master’s is a necessary step to the doctorate.
THESIS REQUIREMENTS — A thesis, written by the student seeking the degree and based on original research, is a requirement for all research (thesis) master’s degree programs.
COMMITTEE COMPOSITION — A master’s committee is comprised of a minimum of three (3) members who guide the thesis. A tenured or tenure-track faculty member serves as the chairperson of the student's graduate committee. See Committee
COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION — In the research (thesis) master's, a comprehensive examination and thesis defense are required. These may be combined and offered simultaneously.
SUBMISSION OF THE FINAL THESIS — The thesis must be submitted in final form to The Graduate School by the published deadlines (no later than fourteen (14) working days before the end of the term in which graduate work is completed).
THESIS (590) CREDITS —
- Ten (10) thesis credits must be completed successfully for thesis plan programs. An unlimited number of 590 credits may be taken. However, only ten (10) 590 credits count toward degree requirements along with a minimum of twenty (20) content coursework credits.
Note: A department may require more than thirty (30) credits for degree completion.
- If a student is using faculty time or university facilities to work on their thesis, they must be registered for thesis credits.
- 590 credits are pass/fail or N grade.
- “N” grades may be assigned to students enrolled in specified continual or ongoing courses only (for example 590 and 690 thesis courses). This grade indicates that, although students have made progress, they have not completed the course objectives successfully. These students must re-enroll in the course immediately in order to continue with the course work and complete the course objectives. The N grade does not affect the GPA.
ELECTRONIC THESIS/DISSERTATION (ETD) — The thesis must meet all formatting requirements set forth by the Graduate School. Final authority for approval or denial of a thesis rests with the Graduate Dean.
For students in professional or terminal degree programs, a professional paper or project is sometimes part of the program. For other programs, only courses are required. A minimum of thirty (30) approved coursework credits is required. See Degree Programs for more information.
PROFESSIONAL PAPER/PROJECT (575) CREDITS —
- A maximum of six (6) professional paper/project credits can be taken. See department for how many can be counted toward professional paper/project degree requirements.
- If a student is using faculty time or university facilities to work on their professional paper/project, they must be registered for 575 credits.
- 575 credits can be graded or pass/fail. See department requirements.
(Revised April 28, 2021)
This committee advises the student on academic matters and is the examining committee for the master's comprehensive and/or thesis defense examinations.
COMMITTEE CHAIR — A tenured or tenure-track faculty member serves as the chair of the student's graduate committee and acts as a channel of communication within the degree-granting department. In the event that the student does not select a chair of their graduate committee within the first (1st) term of attendance as a master’s student, the department head will appoint a temporary advisor. This advisor will advise the student until a tenured or tenure-track faculty member is selected as the graduate committee chair.
CO-CHAIR — A co-chair is not required. If a student elects to have a co-chair serve on their committee, they may choose one of the following committee compositions:
- Chair, co-chair, and members
- Co-chair, co-chair, and members. If there are two co-chairs, at least one must be tenured/tenure-track faculty. For information regarding non-tenure track committee members, see section below.
- More than two co-chairs and members. If there are more than two co-chairs, the majority must be tenure/tenure-track faculty.
COMMITTEE COMPOSITION — Master's committees should be formed in the best interest of the student. For a research master's (i.e. those with a thesis or a research paper) a master’s committee is composed of a minimum of three (3) members. The majority of the committee and the committee chair should be from the degree-granting academic unit or be affiliated with the academic unit. The chair must hold a master's or doctoral degree and sufficient expertise to supervise student work. For a professional master's (i.e. those with a professional paper or course-based) the graduate committee can be one faculty member from the degree-granting academic unit and upon matriculation each student should be assigned at least one faculty advisor. The graduate committee chair and the academic unit head recommend the committee composition to The Graduate School. Final approval of committee composition rests with The Graduate School. See Graduate Program of Study or Committee forms.
EXPECTED ROLES OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS
The expected roles of the committee chair are to
- Ensure that all graduate program and Graduate School standards and requirements relative to the graduate degree are met, and that any conditions set by the committee are fulfilled.
The expected roles of committee members are to
- Provide diverse opinions and advice on the student’s scholarship
- Members should have expertise in the subject area as defined be the direction of the student’s scholarship.
- Each committee member should be available to serve as a resource for the student, independent of the chair. Every committee member should be able to provide valuable insight and advice to students on their scholarship.
- Express their independent evaluation of the scholarship
- On a committee where the exists a potential for a lack of independent evaluation the academic unit head should request a graduate representative to join the committee. The role of the graduate representative is to monitor that the work of the committee adheres to graduate school policy, but not necessarily to provide expertise in the subject area.
- If the student believes that there exists a potential for a lack of independent evaluation, the student may ask the academic unit head to request a graduate representative for their committee.
NON-TENURE-TRACK COMMITTEE MEMBERS — Committee members not holding tenured or tenure-track faculty status at MSU must be approved by the student’s department head. In some cases, these committee members may act as co-chairs of a student’s committee.
CHANGES TO THE COMMITTEE — The student may make changes to their committee composition, using the Graduate Committee Revision form. Committee makeup should not be changed simply to accommodate short term scheduling issues.
COMMITTEE APPOINTMENT DEADLINE — The committee composition must be submitted to The Graduate School by the end of the student’s second (2nd) term of graduate attendance.
See Graduate Program of Study form.
See Fees & Holds.
The Graduate Representative is an optional member of the graduate committee. The criteria for selection of the Graduate Representative and their responsibilities are listed below.
If the committee chair or a committee member or the student wishes to add a Graduate Representative to the student's committee, they should contact The Graduate School for assistance. If the committee chair or committee member or student cannot agree on the choice of the Graduate Representative, one will be appointed by the Graduate School Dean.
CRITERIA FOR SELECTION — Criteria for selecting a Graduate Representative are as follows:
- A Graduate representative must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member at MSU who is not a member of the student’s degree-granting department.
- The student and the committee chair(s) are responsible for selecting and inviting the Graduate Representative to serve. The Graduate Representative must sign off on the student’s Program of Study & Committee form.
- The Graduate School has the final approval on the eligibility of all Graduate Representatives.
GRADUATE REPRESENTATIVE'S RESPONSIBILITY — The primary responsibility of the Graduate Representative is to ensure that examinations and defenses are conducted in a fair and satisfactory manner. The Graduate Representative is to attend all examinations and defenses with the exception of the written examination. The Graduate Representative, however, must be a participant in any reviews of the results of the written exam. At examinations and defenses the Graduate Representative has the same privileges to ask questions and offer comments that are accorded to any other committee member.
EXAM REPORT — An exam report is not required but will be recorded if submitted. See Graduate Representative Report. Reports should be submitted to Degrees & Certificates . Comments also may be made regarding the student’s performance. The Graduate School
will consider carefully any written comments submitted by the Graduate Representative.
The program of study acts as a contract between the student, the department, the college, The Graduate School, and the University. The program of study, jointly developed by the graduate committee and the student, defines the minimum requirements for the degree. Other requirements as determined by the student's graduate committee may also be listed. Once a course is graded, it cannot be removed from a program of study. Courses applied toward one degree may not be used for another. Students may take classes beyond those listed on their program of study.
PROGRAM APPROVAL —The program of study must be recommended by the student’s graduate committee chair and department head. Final approval rests with The Graduate School.
Note: Approval comes with a fee. See Fees & Holds.
FILING DEADLINES — The program of study must be submitted on an official Graduate Program of Study form to The Graduate School by the end of the student’s second (2nd) term of graduate attendance. A one-time fee is associated with the filing and approval of this form. See Fees & Holds. See Degree Requirements/General/Other Credits.
A student must have an approved, not just submitted, Program of Study and Committee form on file with The Graduate School prior to sitting for any portion of the comprehensive exam or defense.
CHANGES TO THE PROGRAM OF STUDY — The program of study may be amended through the course of the student’s graduate study. Changes to a student’s program of study must be made through the Program of Study Revision form and recommended by the graduate committee chair and the department head. Final approval rests with The Graduate School. No fee is associated with this form.
HOLDS — See Fees & Holds.
The major department may administer a comprehensive examination. The form of this examination may be either or both oral and written sections. The purpose of this examination is to determine if the student has attained sufficient mastery of their discipline. In the research (thesis) master's, a comprehensive examination and thesis defense are required. These may be combined and offered simultaneously. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all committee members are available when scheduling an exam.
PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE/CERTIFICATION — Examinations for professional licensure or certification may not be used for or in place of the comprehensive examination.
MINIMUM REGISTRATION — The student must be registered for a minimum of three (3) credits at MSU during the term in which the examination is taken. If the student wishes to sit for the comprehensive examination during the time between terms, then the student must be registered for a minimum of three (3) credits in the term prior to or immediately following the time between terms.
DEADLINE — The last day to sit for the comprehensive examination is on or before the fourteenth (14th) business day prior to the end of the term the student intends to graduate.
COMMITTEE REPRESENTATION — See Committee
GRADING — The comprehensive examination is graded with either a passing or failing grade determined by a majority vote of the student’s approved graduate committee.
REPORTING THE RESULTS — The committee and department head are responsible for submitting written notice of the results of the comprehensive examination to the student and to The Graduate School no later than five (5) business days after the examination is held or after each section is administered. The Report on Comprehensive Exam/Thesis Defense is to be submitted to The Graduate School by the department, not the student.
ACCEPTABLE AGE — The maximum time allowed between the comprehensive examination for research (thesis) master's students and degree completion is five (5) years.
FAILED EXAMINATION — The student is allowed two (2) total attempts to pass the comprehensive examination. At least two (2) months must elapse before the second attempt at the examination. Failure to pass the second (2nd) attempt results in termination of graduate study and dismissal from the academic program. Students who are dismissed from the program due to a second (2nd) failed attempt are ineligible to reapply to the same degree program.
In research (thesis) master's, the thesis defense examination is required. The student’s approved graduate committee carries out this examination. The student should have prepared and distributed a draft of the thesis to the committee at least fourteen (14) business days prior to date of defense.
Note: Video Conferencing Policy.
MINIMUM REGISTRATION — A student must be registered for a minimum of three (3) credits at MSU during the term in which the defense is held. If the student wishes to sit for the thesis defense during the time between terms, then the student must be registered for a minimum of three (3) credits in the term prior to or immediately following the time between terms.
DEADLINE — The last day to defend a thesis is on or before the fourteenth (14th) business day prior to the end of the term the student intends to graduate.
COMMITTEE REPRESENTATION — See Committee
INVALID DEFENSE — A thesis defense held in the absence of the chair of the student’s graduate committee will be considered invalid and the defense will have to be rescheduled.
GRADING — The thesis defense is graded with either a passing or failing grade determined by a majority vote of the student’s approved graduate committee.
REPORTING THE RESULTS — The graduate committee and department head are responsible for providing written notice of the results of the defense to the student and to The Graduate School no later than five (5) business days after the defense is held. The Report on Comprehensive Exam/Thesis Defense is to be submitted to The Graduate School by the department, not the student.
FAILED DEFENSE — The student is allowed two (2) total attempts to pass the defense. At least two (2) months must elapse before the second (2nd) attempt takes place. Failure to successfully pass the second attempt results in termination of graduate study and dismissal from the academic program. Students who are dismissed from the program due to failure to pass the defense are ineligible to reapply to the same degree program.
See Special Courses