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Master's Degree Programs, General Requirements

Number of Units Required in a Master's Degree Program

  1. A minimum of 45 quarter units of approved graduate work.
  2. No fewer than 60% of the units required for the degree shall be in courses organized primarily for graduate students (500 level).
    • Certain 400-series courses may be completed by the graduate student as part of the degree program when this is consistent with university requirements, departmental master's degree specifications, and the candidate's formal program of study.
    • Only 400- and 500-level courses are allowed in an approved graduate plan of study.
    • In those programs where specific courses below the 400-level may be essential for a student's success, the student may be conditionally accepted to the program contingent upon completing those courses.
    • Courses below the 400-level may not constitute any part of the approved units in the plan of graduate study.

Culminating Experience

The culminating experience for the granting of a graduate degree is the successful completion of a thesis, project or comprehensive examination.


  1. A thesis is the written product of a systematic study of a significant problem. It identifies the problem, states the major assumptions, explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and methods of gathering information, analyzes the data, and offers a conclusion or recommendation.
  2. The finished product evidences originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, and thorough documentation.
  3. Normally, an oral defense of the thesis is required.


  1. A project is a significant undertaking appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields.
  2. It evidences originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale.
  3. It is described and summarized in a written report that includes the project's significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion or recommendation.
  4. An oral defense of the project may be required.

Comprehensive Examination

  1. A comprehensive examination is one of the possible culminating experiences for the master's degree and assesses the student's ability to integrate knowledge, show critical and independent thinking, and demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.
  2. The results of the examination should show independent thinking, appropriate organization, critical analysis and accuracy of documentation.
  3. A record of the examination questions and responses is maintained.

Course Unit Limitations

  1. No more than nine quarter units shall be in student teaching.
  2. No more than nine quarter units shall be allowed for a thesis or project. (Title 5, Section 40510)

Time Limit for Degree

The time allowed to complete coursework in the formal study plan, including thesis and project courses, is seven years.


  1. Specializations are defined as an aggregate of courses within a graduate degree program designed to give a student specialized knowledge, competence, or skill.
  2. As originally outlined in EO 283, a specialization must be related to an approved graduate degree major program on campus by a common core requirement of at least three courses.
  3. Completion of a specialization will be noted on the graduate student's transcript and will be shown on the diploma.
  4. In order to ensure accurate reporting of enrollments and degrees granted, the major program core must have more required units than the number required in the specialization. Thus, specializations need to constitute less than 50% of the major curriculum. Conversely, the core must constitute more than 50% of the major curriculum. Source: ASA-2017-02.


Source: AS-825-17 Resolution on Academic Standards for Masters Degrees.

For additional policies and information about the Graduate Office, refer to Campus Administrative Policies, Graduate Education, Section 228.

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