2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
    Jun 24, 2024  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Master’s Degree Requirements

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Admission Requirements

The application must include the application fee, all post-secondary transcripts, degree certificate, and other materials as required by specific programs before processing of the application will begin. The Graduate School employs a rolling deadline, however, students should check with their program of interest for specific admission deadlines. Master’s degree applicants must have an approved Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution (except in approved/accelerated programs). Domestic, international or non-degree seeking students may submit an application online.

Advisory Committee - Option A (Thesis)

All students are required to have a major advisor. As soon as possible, but no later than the completion of fifty (50) percent of the credits toward graduation, any option A (thesis)  student will request to the major advisor and the Graduate School (by submission of the committee approval request form) members of an advisory committee. The advisory committee must be composed of a minimum of three (3) members. Option B, C, and D students may also form an advisory committee; however, it is not a requirement. The committee must include:

  • Committee Chair – must hold full graduate faculty status at SDSU to chair master’s (option A) committees. Lecturer or senior lecturer-rank faculty who hold associate graduate faculty status may chair master’s (option A) committees with Department Head approval. This member assists the student in developing a suitable graduate program, provides continuing guidance and counsel, evaluates student progress, informs the student as to who will provide primary research supervision, serves as a contact for the committee, and ensures the completion of the degree requirements to the Graduate School.
  • Additional member(s) with expertise within the discipline - must hold either full graduate faculty or associate graduate faculty status at SDSU. Additional members assist the student in developing a suitable graduate program, provide continuing guidance and counsel, evaluate student progress, and assist with the completion of the degree requirements. Additional members may serve as co-chairs.
  • Graduate Faculty Representative - graduate faculty member from within a distant, broadly-defined discipline. This member represents the Graduate Council to ensure the supervision of the student is carried out with sufficient integrity. This member ensures that minimal academic standards are maintained and acts as an advocate and counselor for the student. For votes regarding the final oral defense, the graduate faculty representative must vote in the affirmative for the vote to carry.

Professional doctorate degree holders with full graduate faculty status may only serve as chair for a committee for the degree which they hold.

Adjunct faculty members or University employees holding a master’s degree who fail to qualify as associate graduate faculty member may serve on graduate student committees. Such committees must contain the minimum number of full/associate graduate faculty in addition to the master’s degree holder. A committee may only include one master’s degree holder. The master’s degree holder is not considered as having associate graduate faculty status and cannot serve as co-chair.

The advisory committee is responsible for approving the content and scope of final examinations. The committee must evaluate the student’s performance for the final oral exam and all other degree requirements taken under the auspices of -798 coursework (including those internal to the program).

All committee members must be available for regular meetings with the student and/or committee. Each committee member has voting privileges. Only committee members may vote on business before the committee. For activities requiring committee votes, the chair must ensure due diligence for accommodating all members of the committee. The graduate faculty representative and all but one (1) of the graduate committee must vote in the affirmative to pass the student.

The Department Head is responsible for informing the Graduate School if and when a committee member can no longer fulfill her/his duties consistent with the policies of the University.

Plan of Study/Credit Requirements

The major advisor and the student will develop a plan of study. The plan of study must be submitted using the plan of study form and approved by the major advisor and the Graduate School prior to completion of 50 percent of the credits toward graduation. Delay in submitting a plan of study may result in disapproval of courses taken prior to approval and/or registration restrictions. Changes in the approved plan of study must be requested using the change in plan of study form. While devising the plan of study, please refer to specific academic program requirements in the Academic Programs  section of the graduate catalog in addition to the following information.

Plan of Study Total Credits Required

Options Minimum Credit Hours*
A Thesis 30
B Research/Design Paper 32
C Coursework only 35
D Coursework only (Professional) 30

*Requirements may vary by Graduate Program

Graduate Credit Requirement

Credit applied toward graduate credentials should be at the 500-level and above. At least fifty (50) percent of the credits on a plan of study must be in courses 600-series or above. Please refer to the Graduate Credit Requirements Policy for more information.

Annual Evaluation

A formal review of the progress of degree completion, including performance in coursework and completion of thesis goals should take place annually and be standard in format and timing for all students within a program. The review will include a written evaluation portion, including one opportunity for the student to rebut, followed by a meeting for a discussion.  The written portion should take place using a program-standard format and include a synopsis of progress made the previous year, as well as guidance for the upcoming year.


Master’s programs require completion of a capstone component. The capstone component must be conducted under the supervision of no fewer than two graduate faculty and approved through normal curriculum processes. Capstone components must be associated with graduate coursework.

The capstone component for an option A is the final oral exam. The capstone component for options B, C, and D may include a research paper, oral exam, portfolio of the student’s work or other suitable exercise.

Final Oral Exam – Option A (thesis)

The student arranges with his/her advisory committee the time and location for the final oral examination.   The student will submit the final oral exam form to the Graduate School no less than two (2) weeks prior to the examination date. A final oral examination will be administered by the advisory committee, covering the student’s plan of study and thesis. The graduate faculty representative and all but one (1) of the graduate committee must vote to pass the student.  The final oral exam must be completed three (3) weeks prior to the end of the semester in order to graduate. Option B, C, and D students may also choose to complete a final oral exam, but are not required to do so.

Remediation Opportunity: Students who fail an academic exercise will be afforded a remediation opportunity.  The student should 1) be provided feedback regarding the deficiencies of his/her performance; 2) be provided resources useful to remediate his/her deficiencies; and 3) be allowed an appropriate length of time to prepare for the next attempt.

Thesis, Research Paper, or Design Paper

Research Paper/Design Paper Requirements

Students following Option B must complete at least two (2) credits for a research problem/design paper in the major field and present a written report. The content, style, and format of the report must meet the requirements of the program. The research report or design paper must be approved by the advisor and filed in the major department.

Thesis Requirements

A thesis must meet the requirements of the program and the Graduate School and must be submitted by each student completing an option A master’s degree. The thesis must represent a scholarly contribution to research knowledge in the major field.  A research area for the thesis topic should be chosen after consultation with the major advisor as early in the student’s program as possible. The thesis accounts for five (5) to ten (10) semester hours in the major.

Thesis Formatting & Deposition

All theses must be submitted for appropriate format checking and deposition with the library. Instructions are found on the Graduate School website.

Use of Human Subjects or Vertebrate Animals in Research

After receiving approval of the research proposal students must also seek approval for the use of human subjects or vertebrate animals in research, when applicable, from the appropriate committee. These approvals must be secured before beginning the study. For more information, visit the Research Compliance website or contact the SDSU Research Compliance Coordinator in the Office of Research & Sponsored Programs, Morrill Hall 200, Telephone: 605-688-6975.

Credit Sharing between Graduate Credentials

(SDSU Policy 2:17)

Credit can be used for the satisfaction of more than one graduate credential (graduate certificate, master’s degree) issued by SDSU and may be paired to share credit. Each graduate credential may be paired with itself or any other graduate credential. For example, two master’s degrees may be paired or a master’s degree and a graduate certificate. A master’s degree may not be paired with a 60-credit doctoral degree (master’s required) within the same discipline.

The allowable credit shared between graduate credentials is 12 credits. A single graduate certificate may be shared, in entirety, with credits for a master’s degree. Once a graduate credential participates in a credit pairing, the graduate credential may not be paired with a third credential with the exception of a certificate. Validated credit or course credit with an x798 or x788 suffix may not be shared between graduate credentials.

Time Limitation

Obsolete Program

If the requirements for the master’s degree are not completed within six (6) years from the program start date, the request for extension of the graduate program form must be submitted to the Graduate School.  The request will be reviewed and a decision as to whether the student may continue in the program will be made by the Graduate School Director.

Obsolete Coursework

Courses completed more than six (6) years prior to completion of the requirements of the master’s degree are regarded as obsolete coursework. Such courses may be used in the master’s degree program if validated. Validation is allowed at the discretion of the advisory committee and department involved and can be accomplished by passing validation requirements in the subject matter area and submitting the validation form to the Graduate School. Validated coursework cannot exceed fifty (50) percent of the total coursework (excluding thesis and research paper credits) listed on the plan of study and must be certified by the advisory committee.  Course validation will be subject to a processing fee. Only courses taken at SDSU may be validated.

Master’s Degree Checklist

Requirements Timeline
Designation of Major Advisor Upon acceptance into Graduate School.
Designation of Advisory Committee - Option A During first semester of graduate work graduate faculty representative will be assigned by the Graduate School.
Plan of Study During the first semester of graduate work or before 50% of coursework is complete. Must be approved by major advisor and submitted to Graduate School.
Graduation Application During final semester, by deadline.*
Final Oral Exam - Option A During final semester, by deadline.*
Final oral exam form must be submitted two (2) weeks prior to exam date.
Capstone Component During final semester, by deadline.*
Final Submission of Thesis (Option A Only) Final submission due by deadline.* Signed acceptance page, copyright form and library fee must also be submitted.
Final Submission of Research/Design Paper (Option B Only) Submitted directly to the Department by specified deadline.

*The Graduate School sets deadlines for graduation each semester. Please also consult with your department for other program specific requirements and deadlines.  All forms are available on the Graduate School Forms website.