Master's Degrees



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 academic programs 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.

back to top

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 faculty 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 at UA or another institution. A minimum of 12 units of regular grades taken at the University of Arizona are required to establish the Grade Point Average (GPA).

Coursework taken outside degree program

The graduate certificate is considered distinct from a graduate degree (masters or doctorate). Limits regarding the use of units applied towards a graduate certificate and a graduate degree are determined by the certificate program. Graduate certificates are exempt from the 12 unit policy below and are determined by the certificate and the degree program.

Except in cases of a graduate certificate, 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;*
  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.

*Grades earned on another system such as the + or -  system used in the College of Law will be converted to the grading system used in the Graduate College.

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.

back to top

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.

Grades and the number of units for transfer credits may be adjusted so that they are consistent with the University of Arizona grading and credit system. Transfer credits used on a fully approved Plan of Study appear with a grade of “T” on the University of Arizona transcript and are not calculated in the University of Arizona GPA. The name of the transfer institution appears on the University of Arizona transcript with the number of transfer units from that institution that were brought in towards the graduate degree.

Credit for Prior Learning

Master's students may be eligible to transfer in credit for prior learning if attained though a University of Arizona or affiliate program.

Graduate students interested in receiving credit for prior learning must first consult with their faculty advisor or program Director of Graduate Studies for degree applicability. Prior learning materials (proof of verifiable learning) should be submitted to Graduate Student Academic Services via a GradPath petition form for evaluation of credit by the Director of Graduate Studies in the appropriate department or college. Prior learning materials should detail the content learned (i.e. hours, subjects, texts, relevant documents, completed work, etc.).  If the petition receives full approval the student should submit the Transfer Credit form on GradPath. Student should select "GRAD UArizona Prior Learning" as the transfer institution. If the transfer credits are marked “eligible for transfer” the student should submit the Plan of Study and use the “Get Transfer” button on that form to put the credit for prior learning on the Plan of Study.  Please see the policy on Graduate Credit for Prior Learning.

back to top

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. For exception, see Pathway to Degree Completion for Returning Master's Students.

It is expected that students will complete and defend the master's thesis or master's project within 1 year after completing the required coursework for the degree.

Master's students must be enrolled in the semester in which they file their final document with the Graduate College. 

Students must file the final version of their thesis within one year of defending or be subject to a repeat defense. 

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. See also, Pathway to Degree Completion for Returning Master's Students.

back to top

Pathway to Degree Completion for Returning Master's Students (new fall 2021)

Students who exited their master's program before degree completion, who were in good standing, and who completed all degree requirements except their Master's Report or Master's Thesis, may be eligible to return and complete the final report or thesis and earn their master's degree. Students who wish to return and complete their Master's degree must first contact the current Graduate Program Coordinator and/or Director of Graduate Studies of their original program to inquire about whether they are eligible and whether the program accepts returning students. To be eligible for reactivation, returning students must demonstrate that their knowledge and mastery over the subject area is current and meets current degree requirements. The degree program determines how the student will demonstrate mastery and currency; options might include a master's qualifying exam, dossier, or portfolio demonstrating core concepts. If the program determines the student is eligible for reactivation, the student will file a GradPath petition for program extension. The program must supply supporting documentation that the returning student demonstrated mastery over the subject area and is eligible to return to complete the degree. If the petition is approved, the Graduate College will reactivate the student so that the student can complete the final thesis/project or complete limited coursework required to gain currency and complete the final thesis/project. It is expected tht the student complete degree requirements within a semester of reactivation but may not take longer than two semesters. All University and Graduate College polies apply to returning students, including that the student must be enrolled in at least one graduate unit while they are working on degree completion, and must also maintain continuous enrollment from the point or reactivation.


Continuous Enrollment

A student admitted to a Master's or Educational Specialist degree program must register every fall and spring semester for a minimum of 1 graduate unit, from original matriculation until all course and thesis requirements are met. A semester in which a student is enrolled for course credit will be counted toward continuous enrollment. Non-credit courses, audited courses or courses from which the student withdraws do not count toward the determination of continuous enrollment.

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 the full-time status requirement. Similarly, international students may have different requirements to maintain their visa status.  All students should check with their program advisor regarding such requirements to ensure that they remain qualified for funding and/or their visa.

Master's students doing a thesis must enroll in at least 1 unit of thesis in the Spring or Fall semester that they undertake their thesis defense. Master's students doing a master's report must enroll in at least 1 unit of master's report in the Spring or Fall semester that they complete their master's report. Master’s students who have maintained continuous enrollment, fulfilled all their other degree requirements and were enrolled in the prior semester may defend and file for the degree in the summer or winter term without registration while they complete their thesis or masters report. If, however, students need library privileges or plan to use other University facilities or need significant faculty time during the summer or winter session, enrollment is required. Enrollment in GRAD 922 to allow access to the Library during the summer or winter terms is available to eligible master's students as well as doctoral students.

Summer-only students are required to enroll continuously during consecutive summers until all degree requirements are met.

Unless excused by an official graduate Leave of Absence (which except under exceptional circumstances, may not exceed one year throughout the student's degree program), all graduate students are subject to the Continuous Enrollment Policy. Students who require significant faculty time (e.g. advising, reviewing, collaborating) must be enrolled rather than on Leave of Absence.

If the student fails to obtain a Leave of Absence or maintain continuous enrollment, he or she will be required to apply for re-admission and to pay the Graduate College application fee. There is no guarantee of re-admission. Tuition or registration waivers cannot be applied retroactively.

Please note that "continuous enrollment" is not the same as "full time enrollment" for financial aid purposes. Please refer to the University policy on Full-Time Status

Continuous Enrollment and Incompletes

Students who have maintained continuous enrollment, fulfilled all their other degree requirements and are only completing an incomplete in coursework (a class other than 900 level) are not required to enroll while they complete the incomplete. If, however, students need library privileges or plan to use other University facilities or need significant faculty time while they complete their incomplete, enrollment is required.

back to top

Second and Duplicate 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 at the University of Arizona if the majors are substantially different, with the approval of the Graduate College. If some coursework can legitimately apply to both degrees, students may share (double count) up to 20% of the credits required by the smaller of the two degree programs (i.e., 6 hrs for a 30-hour master's degree).  Credits may not count toward more than two degrees.

The Graduate College does not permit a person who already holds a master’s degree to pursue a second master’s degree in the same discipline. Individuals wishing to expand their training are encouraged to pursue a graduate certificate, doctoral degree, or professional degree (MD, JD, PharmD, VetMed). In the rare case a graduate program wishes to admit a student for a second master’s degree in the same discipline, the case must be justified by the department in a petition subject to approval by the Graduate College. This rule applies to cases where the first degree is from the University of Arizona or from another domestic or international institution. Students will be held to all the usual degree requirements and policies including transfer credit limits. 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.

back to top

Dual Degrees

A number of dual degree programs are available. Dual degrees must be officially approved by the Graduate College and Curricular Affairs. These dual agreements 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 while completing the requirements for both degrees.  The number of shared units varies by the dual degree program but depending the approved plan may be up to 50% of the credits required by the smaller of the two degree programs (i.e. 15 of 30 credits).

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

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

back to top

Major Professor

Each Master's student must have a major professor. The major professor serves as the student's faculty advisor and mentor. The major professor will either be selected by the student (and approved by the DGS) or designated by the DGS. When applicable, a thesis director (who may or may not be the same faculty member as the major advisor) may also be designated/selected. 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.

back to top

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.

back to top

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.

back to top

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. For those programs that require a defense of the master's thesis, the basic procedural rules for dissertation defenses apply to the procedures for a master's thesis defense.

back to top

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.

back to top

Thesis Committees

Master's thesis committees must consist of three members; at least two must be members of the Graduate Faculty. If the third member is not a member of the Graduate Faculty, he or she must be approved by the Graduate College as a Special Member. Special Member requests are submitted by the Program Coordinator of the student's major department. Special Members are not eligible to serve as committee chair, but may co-chair with a Graduate Faculty member.

back to top

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 ProQuest/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.

back to top

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. If a student receives an incomplete (an "I" grade) in a 900-level course, that grade applies only to the semester when the course was taken.  For master's students completing a 909 report or a 910 thesis, an incomplete does not override the need to register for a minimum of one unit for the semester in which the student defends or submits the final master's document and 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.

back to top