The Master's Degree

The master's degree represents a well-balanced and unified program of study in an academic or professional discipline that enables the student to master the subject and develop faculties for critical thinking and independent research. Students may earn a master’s degree following one of two plans.

Academic Residence
Three quarters of academic residence are required for the master's degree. In addition, at least one quarter in full time registered status must elapse between advancement to candidacy and conferral of the degree.

Plan I (Thesis)
Thirty academic units and a thesis are required. A minimum of 12 units must be taken in 200 series courses in the major subject. Of these 12, only eight units of course work numbered 250 may be used toward the master's degree.

The following courses are graded only S/U: 220,221,250,298,299, and 300. (215 Lab Rotation may be approved as an exception.) In other 200 series courses, S/U grading may be offered as an option for graduate students.

A maximum of six units of course work for which S/U grading is elected may be used toward the unit requirements for a graduate degree.

The thesis constitutes the results of an original investigation of a problem. It should be carried out in the same systematic and scholarly way as investigations of greater magnitude, such as a doctoral dissertation. Students must either be registered or on filing fee for the quarter in which they submit their thesis.

Plan II (Comprehensive Examination)
Thirty-six academic units and a comprehensive examination are required. A minimum of 18 units must be taken in 200 series courses in the major subject. Of these 18, no more than 12 units numbered 250 may be applied toward the degree.

The following courses are graded only S/U: 220,221,250,298,299, and 300. (215 Lab Rotation may be approved as an exception.) In other 200 series courses, S/U grading may be offered as an option for graduate students.

A maximum of six units of course work for which S/U grading is elected may be used toward the unit requirements for a graduate degree.

The comprehensive examination should demonstrate the student's mastery of the major field and ability to think critically. The nature and matter of the examination are determined by the faculty of the degree program. Students must either be registered or on filing fee for the quarter in which they submit their comprehensive examination. A student who fails the comprehensive examination is allowed to take a second examination after a suitable period of additional preparation. Students may not submit more than one exam per quarter. A student who fails the comprehensive exam a second time is no longer eligible to receive the master's degree.

Advancement to Candidacy - MA/MS/SON MS
Students must apply formally for advancement to candidacy. The application for candidacy form for MA/MS is available on the Graduate Division website:

MA advancement to candidacy
MS advancement to candidacy
SON advancement to candidacy: nursing only

This form indicates the plan of study for the degree and whether the student will write a thesis or take the comprehensive examination. In the case of a thesis, the committee to supervise the research and writing of the thesis must also be indicated. Students must be registered for the quarter in which they advance to candidacy. To be effective for a particular quarter, applications for advancement to candidacy must be received by the first day of that quarter. Students with provisional I grades will not be allowed to advance to candidacy. All provisional grades must be removed before an application to advance to candidacy will be approved. After the application for candidacy is reviewed and approved by the graduate advisor, the student must file the application with the Graduate Division. The form is checked to make sure that the plan for the degree will enable the student to meet all University requirements for the master's degree. A student may not be advanced to candidacy and apply for filing fee status during the same quarter. For example a student who plans to go on filing fee status in order to take the comprehensive examination during the spring quarter must file an application for candidacy by the first day of the winter quarter (and be in full time registered status for that term) in order to meet the post-candidacy registration requirement.

Note: If the application for advancement is to be effective for the summer term, then the application must be received by the first day of the summer term, and the applicant must be registered for the entire summer term.

Candidacy for the master's degree is lapsed if a student has not completed the requirements for the degree within five quarters (exclusive of summer) after advancement to candidacy. Leaves of absence count against this time. Students must either be registered or on filing fee for the quarter in which they graduate.

See the full list of graduate programs, including master's degree programs.