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Master's Degrees

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Overview

Graduate students are responsible for knowing graduate requirements of both the Graduate College and their academic departments. Master's students must complete all required Forms and adhere to specific term Deadlines in order to earn their degree. Other important dates are identified in the University Academic Calendar.

A student with a recognized bachelor's degree (see Admissions Requirements) may be admitted to a master's degree program. A master's degree involves advanced training gained through intensive study, beyond the bachelor's degree, in a special field (or major) supplemented by study in supporting subjects. This section outlines general graduation requirements for the different master's degrees awarded by the University of Arizona; see individual department sections under Departments and Courses of Instruction for admission requirements and detailed information on requirements for each major. Requirements vary by program.

A master's enroute may be awarded in those PhD programs which lack an ABOR-approved master's and which admit directly from the bachelor's to the PhD.  Students who enter without a master's (or with a master's in an unrelated field) may earn a master's enroute when they are eligible for doctoral candidacy ("ABD").  In this case, an "unrelated field" means that credits from the master's will not be used toward the PhD.

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Credit Requirements

The total number of units required for a master's program varies by academic discipline, but all require a minimum of 30 units of graduate credit of which at least 24 credits must be in non-thesis credits.  Many students will take more than the minimum number of credits, and all students must meet the minimum unit requirement for the specific master's degree, which may be more than 30 units.  A thesis, substantial research project, final creative project, or additional coursework in lieu of a thesis is required.  The specific courses to be counted toward a student’s master’s degree requirements are subject to approval by the advisor and major department on the Plan of Study the student submits in GradPath.

Except for a limited number of units that can be transferred from other approved institutions, the remaining unit requirements must be met by University of Arizona (UA) courses. At least one half of the required units must receive a grade of A, B or C (rather than S or P).  Courses in which a D or E grade is earned cannot be counted toward a graduate degree. While a grade of D or E does not earn units for a graduate student, they still figure into the GPA. If a student completes a thesis, a limited number of thesis units (course number 910) may count toward the degree requirements.  Except as specified below, all units of coursework for the master's degree must be taken for graduate credit at UA while the student is matriculated in a degree program.  No course may be counted toward more than two degrees earned at UA or another institution.

Coursework taken outside degree program

No more than 12 units of coursework taken outside the degree program may be applied to master’s degree requirements. Under this limit, the courses which may be counted are:

  1. Courses taken in graduate non-degree seeking status at UA;
  2. 500-level courses taken for graduate credit at UA by qualified undergraduates and not counted toward a bachelor’s degree;
  3. Courses taken at UA in Medicine, Law or Pharmacy Practice; and
  4. Graduate courses transferred from other institutions.

The total units of courses in the above categories may not exceed 12, and there are specific limits on the courses in each category: 

  • No more than 12 units of coursework taken in graduate non-degree seeking status may be used toward a master's degree.
  • Transfer work may not exceed 20% of the required number of units for the master's degree being sought. (Example: For a degree that requires 30 units, no more than 6 units of transfer work may be used.)
  • Students who took 500-level courses for graduate credit as qualified undergraduates may use up to 12 units of that coursework toward the master’s requirements as long as those courses were not used toward a bachelor’s degree.  The only exception is that a student in an Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) may count up to 12 units of 500-level coursework taken for AMP credit toward the bachelor’s and again toward the master’s degree.
  • No more than 12 units taken at UA in Medicine, Law or Pharmacy Practice may be used toward a master’s degree.

Use of 400-level courses

  • For students admitted to the master’s program prior to Fall 2014, no more than 6 units of University of Arizona undergraduate coursework at the 400 level can be accepted into a master's program, and only if they were not used toward the undergraduate degree. Students admitted Fall 2014 and later may not use any 400 level coursework.

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Transfer Credit

No more than 20% of the minimum number of units required for a master's degree can be transferred from other accredited institutions (e.g., if a Master's degree requires 30 units, then no more than 6 units can be transferred from another university). Such transfer credit can be applied to an advanced degree only upon satisfactory completion of deficiencies as prescribed by the head of the major department in which the student seeks a degree. Transfer of credit toward an advanced degree will not be made unless the grade earned was A or B, and unless it was awarded graduate credit at the institution where the work was completed. Grades of transfer work will not be used in computing the student's grade-point average. 

Students who wish to transfer credit must submit a Transfer Credit form in GradPath before the end of their first year of study.

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Time Limitation

All requirements for the master's degree must be completed within 6 years to ensure currency of knowledge. Time-to-degree begins with the earliest course listed on the Plan of Study, including credits transferred from other institutions. Work more than 6 years old is not accepted toward degree requirements.

Students who take a break in their studies or whose time to degree exceeds 6 years should check with the Graduate Student Academic Services office to determine their options.

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Continuous Enrollment

A student admitted to a master's program must register each fall and spring semester for a minimum of 3 graduate units, from original matriculation until all course and thesis requirements are met. When these requirements are met, master's students not on financial assistance and/or not needing to maintain appropriate visa status, must register for a minimum of 1 unit of thesis or master's report credit each semester until the thesis or report is finalized. While 1 unit satisfies Continuous Enrollment, it does NOT meet requirements for full-time status.  Students receiving funding such as assistantships, fellowships, loans, grants, scholarships or traineeships may be required by their funding source to register for more than 1 unit to meet full-time status requirements, and should check with their program advisor regarding such requirements to ensure that they remain qualified for funding.

If the degree program requirements are to be completed in the summer or Winter, the student must register for a minimum of 1 unit of graduate credit during that term. Master's and Educational Specialist candidates do not have to register for graduate units during Summer or Winter sessions unless they plan to make use of University facilities or faculty time. If they do plan to use facilities or faculty time, they must enroll for a minimum of 1 unit of graduate credit.

Students who do not maintain continuous enrollment or file for leave of absence are subject to automatic discontinuation from their program for lack of registration. 

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Second Master's Degrees

Normally, students earn only one master's degree at the University of Arizona. However, a student may be permitted to enter a second master's degree program if the majors are substantially different, with the approval of the Graduate College. If some course work can legitimately apply to both degrees, students may -double count- up to 20% of the required coursework (i.e., 6 hrs for a 30-hour master's degree).  Credits may not count toward more than two degrees.

Students sometimes want to pursue a UA master’s along with a UA doctorate in a different major. This is allowed, subject to the following restrictions:

  • No credit may be counted for more than two degrees. Thus UA credits could not be used for a master’s in UA major 1, a doctorate in UA major 1, and a master’s in UA major 2.
  • A student may use no more than a total of 30 credits from all master’s degrees toward a doctorate. Thus, if a student earned a non-UA master’s, up to 30 credits could be used toward a UA doctorate. In that case, none of the transfer credit nor any additional coursework toward the UA doctorate could be used toward a UA master’s in a major that differs from the doctorate because the student would have exhausted the 30 credit limit of master’s coursework that can be shared with a doctorate.

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Dual Degrees

A number of dual degree programs are available. These allow qualified students an opportunity to earn two degrees with a reduction in the total number of credit hours required. Dual degree programs allow students to use a certain number of units in common between the two degrees.  The number of shared units varies by the dual degree program.

Please contact individual departments for more specific information about their dual degree programs.

This is the list of all approved Graduate Dual Degree Programs.

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Major Professor

The department head of the student's major department will designate a major professor (advisor) and, when applicable, a thesis director (who may or may not be the same faculty member as the major advisor). The major professor serves as the student's advisor and mentor. Students may change major professors, but are required to have a major professor in order to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress. The major professor is responsible for meeting with the student periodically to review the student's progress.

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Plan of Study

In conjunction with his/her major professor, each student is responsible for developing a Plan of Study as early as possible during the first few months in residence, to be submitted to the Graduate College no later than the second semester in residence.

All deficiencies must be satisfied before the Plan of Study is approved.

The Plan of Study identifies

  1. Courses the student intends to transfer from other institutions;
  2. Courses already completed at the University of Arizona which the student intends to apply toward the graduate degree; and
  3. Additional course work to be completed to fulfill degree requirements.

The Plan of Study must have the approval of the student's major professor and department head (or Director of Graduate Studies) before it is submitted to the Graduate College.

There is a Fee associated with the submission of your Plan of Study.

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Qualifying Examinations

Many departments require a qualifying (diagnostic) examination in the proposed major field to determine areas of study where further course work is necessary, and to assist in the development of an appropriate Plan of Study. The examination should be taken during the first semester of residence.

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Final Examination

Many academic departments require a final examination (oral, written, or both) that is administered by a committee of faculty members recommended by the major department and approved by the Dean of the Graduate College. A candidate who fails a final examination may, upon the recommendation of the major department, be granted a second examination. The results of the second examination are final.

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Thesis or Synthesizing Experience

Master’s programs at the University of Arizona typically require a capstone or culmination experience that allows the student to prove the ability to synthesize material from course work and to apply information and knowledge to a specific issue or problem. While the thesis (910) or final report (909) are common options, the synthesizing requirement may take other formats such as a rigorous creative project, a demanding comprehensive exam, or some other culminating requirement, such as a public concert or show, a final portfolio, a documented contribution to a group project or outcome (common in professionally-focused programs), or a report of internship for fieldwork experiences. The University of Arizona supports a variety of master's options appropriate for the different kinds of master’s degrees offered in various fields of study. Since master’s programs also hone their students’ ability to communicate in one’s field, the culminating requirement typically includes opportunity for the student to present scholarly information in both written and oral form to different kinds of audiences. In order to accommodate these goals many programs also require an oral presentation or defense of the master’s thesis or project. In keeping with the University of Arizona's high expectations for Graduate Education, the Graduate College expects that master’s students receive faculty guidance from a primary advisor on the research and preparation of the thesis or final project, aided by the other members of the student’s master’s committee.

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Thesis Committees

Master's thesis committees must consist of three members; at least two must be current tenured, tenure-track, or approved tenure-equivalenUA faculty members. If the third member is not a current tenure-track UA faculty member, he or she must be approved by the Graduate College as a special member. A member who is not a current tenure-track faculty member will not be eligible to serve as sole chair of the committee but can serve as co-chair if approved to do so by the Graduate College.

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Thesis Archiving

A student completing a master's thesis (with enrollment in course number 910) is required to archive the thesis upon final approval of the thesis committee.  The thesis will be added to the University of Arizona Campus Repository and to the national archive of dissertations and theses maintained by ProQues/UMI.  There is no charge to the student for archiving the thesis.  The thesis must have been successfully defended and approved by the thesis committee with all final edits completed in time for the student to submit it online for archiving by the graduation deadline for the student's graduation term.

Upon submitting the thesis for archiving, the student may elect to file the copyright for it.  Students who may wish to file the copyright can refer to this copyright explanation. There is a fee for copyrighting should a student choose that option. 

Archiving the thesis does not preclude publication by other methods. Successful master's candidates are encouraged to submit thesis material for publication in scholarly or professional journals. Suitable acknowledgment must indicate the publication to be a thesis, or portion of a thesis, submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master's degree at the University of Arizona.

Research involving human subjects or vertebrate animals requires permission from the relevant University committee. Consult your research director and the Office for the Responsible Conduct of Research for details. For specific questions please contact them at (520) 626-5515.

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Completion of Requirements

When the student's department determines that the student has completed all degree requirements, the department's Graduate Coordinator will submit the Master's/Specialist Completion Confirmation form in GradPath on behalf of the student.  The submission of the Completion Confirmation form initiates the Graduate College's final audit of the student's program and ultimately leads to the award of the student's degree following resolution of any outstanding issues.

All grades for Incompletes and current semester coursework must be received before the degree is considered completed. A student must have a cumulative GPA in all graduate coursework of at least 3.000 in order to graduate. 

For dates by which requirements must be met to graduate in a particular semester, please refer to our Important Deadlines.

While minor changes to the name on the diploma may be requested from Graduate Student Academic Services, changes to the official name on the student record or significant changes to the diploma name must be filed with the Registrar's Office.  Any outstanding financial debts to the University may prevent students from ordering official transcripts or receiving their diploma. Please contact the Bursar's office at 621-3232 for assistance with these matters.

Graduating students are requested to complete our exit survey so we can provide a great student experience to future students.  We need and appreciate your feedback.

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Last updated 26 Jan 2017