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Minimum Requirements for Master's Degrees Links of Interest


A master's degree program shall generally include 30-36 semester hours of course work, although some programs require substantially more. Refer to the appropriate program description for specific requirements. The student's program must be approved by the major academic unit. A student may be required to take courses beyond the minimum to ensure balance and depth in the discipline.

A minimum of 70% of the total required hours must be provided by 7000 level courses. No more than 12 hours of workshop courses and independent study courses may be applied to a master's degree. Individual academic departments may allow fewer workshop or independent study hours in their programs.

The maximum amount of combined hours of transfer credit, credit by examination, course validation and experiential learning that can be used to fulfill degree requirements is 12 hours or one-third of the number of hours required for the degree. 

Additional Program Requirements

Each graduate program listed in this catalog has minimum degree requirements. In consultation with the faculty, the graduate coordinator of each program may specify any additional requirements, such as prerequisites, a reading knowledge of a foreign language, a working knowledge of statistics, or specific courses related to graduate or teaching assistantships.

Foreign Language Proficiency

A reading knowledge of at least one foreign language is required in several graduate programs. This requirement may be met in one of the following ways

  1. achieving a grade of B ("3.0") or better in a fourth-semester language course (e.g. FREN/GERM/ITAL/SPAN 2020),
  2. achieving a grade of B ( "3.0") or better in a graduate reading course (FREN 7000 and GERM 7000 are the only two courses available for this option. They are usually offered in the summer)
  3. achieving a grade of B (“3.0”) or better in upper-division courses at the 3000- or 4000-levels (e.g. FREN 3302/GERM 3790/ITAL 3311/PORT 3301/SPAN3303),
  4. achieving a grade of B (“3.0”) or better in graduate courses taught in the target language at the 6000- or 7000 levels (e.g. FREN 6302/PORT 6024/SPAN 6307,
  5. students who provide evidence of knowledge of a foreign language other than that of the concentration equivalent to a fourth-semester language course or superior may arrange with the section head of the specific language for a written test to prove competency.

Time Limitation

All requirements for the degree must be completed in six years, or eight years in programs that require 36 hours or more. Courses older than these limits will not be allowed as credit toward the master's degree, although the grades will be calculated in the cumulative GPA. Grades earned in courses that are older than program time limits will be shown on the transcript and will be calculated in the cumulative GPA, but will not be accepted for graduation purposes.

There are no exceptions to program time limits. However, students may request the option of validating old courses as described in the Academic Regulations section of this Bulletin.

Comprehensive Examination

Before being recommended for graduation, every candidate for the master's degree who does not write a thesis is required to pass a final comprehensive examination. Many programs also require a comprehensive examination for those students writing a thesis. Some professional programs require a culminating experience instead of a comprehensive examination. Please see specific program requirements.

Some programs give the comprehensive examination within a short time period during or near the last semester of coursework or after all coursework is completed. In some professional programs the comprehensive examination is given during the calendar year in which the student expects to graduate. Other programs give a series of exams over several semesters. In all cases, comprehensive exams should be completed late enough in the student's program to ensure full coverage of content areas represented by required coursework.

In programs that do not require comprehensive examination for thesis writers, the thesis defense will include broad questions covering the breadth of coursework as well as the thesis content and will be used to satisfy the comprehensive examination requirement.

Comprehensive examinations are administered only to students in good standing and may be oral, written, or both. The result of the exam (positive or negative) must be communicated to the Graduate School on the Comprehensive Results Form within the same semester the exam was taken or by the specified deadline in this catalog.

Protocols and procedures for administration of comprehensive examinations can be obtained at the departmental level. It is the student's responsibility to confer with the appropriate academic department regarding the time and place of the examination.

A student who does not perform satisfactorily on the first comprehensive examination will be given an opportunity to take a second examination at the next regularly scheduled examination period. For serial examinations, given over several semesters, see the specific program repeat policies. The academic department may recommend appropriate coursework, which the student will take in preparation for retaking the exam.

Results of comprehensive examinations are not graded in the way that courses are and so cannot be appealed, nor can they be changed after the form has been filed with the Graduate School . A second failure results in termination, which can be appealed. The retention appeals process is formalized and must be followed in all cases. See the section on "Retention Appeals."

Admission to Candidacy

Before an applicant will be officially admitted to candidacy for a master's degree, the student must have satisfied the following requirements:

  1. The "Master's Degree Candidacy Form" for the Master's Degree and a graduation application (Apply to Graduate - available in MyMemphis) must be filed by the deadline published in the Graduate Catalog, posted on academic department bulletin boards on campus, and available on the Graduate School web site. No exceptions will be made if both the graduation application and degree candidacy forms are not submitted by the stated deadlines.
  2. If a student is writing a thesis, an approved Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Form must be filed with all necessary human or animal subjects approvals before any research is undertaken. See the section on "Regulatory Issues."
  3. The student must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on all graduate work undertaken at The University of Memphis whether or not the courses are listed on the candidacy form. Grades of "D" or "F" are not accepted for any graduate degree credit, but these grades will be computed in the GPA. No more than seven (7) hours of "C+," "C," or "C-" will be counted toward degree requirements.
  4. The student must have at least a 3.0 average in all graduate work at the time the graduation application in My Memphis is filed.
  5. The program must include a minimum of 70% of the total required hours as 7000 level courses.
  6. All requirements of the Graduate School, the student's college, and the academic department must be met.
  7. If a student wishes to substitute a course for a required course, the substitution must be approved by the student's advisor or the program coordinator on the Course Substitution Form. The form must accompany the candidacy form.
  8. The student's graduate work up to this point must be acceptable in quality and quantity to the major advisor, department chair and/or director of graduate studies in the student's college, and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Enrollment Requirements

Students must be enrolled during the semester in which they defend the thesis. Colleges and departments may require enrollment during the semester in which comprehensive exams are taken; check with your program for details.

Thesis Requirements

Most academic departments provide students both a thesis and a non-thesis option (see department descriptions). A thesis of 3 to 6 semester hours may be presented as partial completion of degree requirements. Students must enroll for thesis credit each academic semester until the thesis is completed, regardless of how many hours the program will accept.

Students electing to write a thesis should familiarize themselves with the Thesis/Dissertation Preparation Guide before starting to write. An approved Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Form must be filed with any necessary human or animal subjects approvals before any research is undertaken. See the section on "Regulatory Issues" for more information.

Thesis Committee

The student will select a thesis committee (minimum of three members) made up of graduate faculty approved by the head of the academic unit and/or the college director. The chair of the thesis committee must hold full or associate graduate faculty status. Only one affiliate or adjunct graduate faculty member may serve as a voting member of a thesis committee. If the thesis committee differs from the advisory committee, a new committee form must be filed with the Graduate School.

Continuous Enrollment Policy

The continuous enrollment policy applies to thesis, capstone projects, and all other culminating experiences. Most programs require at least one culminating experience course; see specific program requirements for details. A student must be enrolled for at least 1 hour each Fall and Spring semester until the thesis or project is complete. A student must be enrolled in the Summer semester if the thesis will be completed then. Failure to so register will result in the student being charged tuition for each semester he or she did not enroll.

The only exception to this policy is if the student's major professor is on leave or otherwise unavailable. In such cases the approval of the appropriate college director and the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs is required. In case of serious medical circumstances, students may request a leave of absence, subject to the approval of the program graduate coordinator, the college director of graduate studies, and the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs. Retroactive approval will not be granted. A leave of absence does not extend time limit to degree.

Defense of the Thesis

 Students must be enrolled in the semester during which they defend the thesis. Upon completion of the thesis, the student must successfully complete an oral defense administered by the student's advisory committee and the results reported to the Graduate School. All committee members must be present at the examination and the results are determined by a unanimous vote of the committee. Only one adjunct or affiliate graduate faculty member may serve as a voting member on a master's committee.

If the oral exam encompasses both the comprehensive and the defense, the results should be reported separately on the forms provided. In this case, the thesis defense will include broad questions covering the extent of coursework as well as the thesis content.

The final draft of the thesis must be approved by all members of the student's committee. After the successful defense, a copy of the defended and corrected thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School along with the committee approval form. This copy must contain all corrections which may have been given to the student during the final defense. 

After the Graduate School has reviewed the final draft, the student must make all additional corrections. At such time, the student will convert the final corrected document into a PDF version and upload to the Electronic Thesis/Dissertation (ETD) archival system.  See the Graduate School Thesis/Dissertation Preparation Guide for instructions on how to upload to the ETD system.

Students who unsuccessfully defend their thesis will be assigned a "U" (unsatisfactory). The Graduate School will then send a letter of termination from the program.

Thesis Credit

Credit will be posted upon completion and acceptance of the thesis. No more than six (6) hours will be allowed for a master's thesis, even though the student may have been required to register for additional hours in order to maintain continuous enrollment. If a student elects not to complete the thesis, a retroactive drop (or withdrawal) must be processed for the last term of enrollment in thesis credit to reflect the change of program on the student's transcript.

Second Master's Degree

Students who hold a master's degree from The University of Memphis may pursue a second master's degree with a different major or degree if the academic unit accepts them. No more than six (6) semester hours of the first degree may be applied toward the second degree (see exceptions in the MFA in Creative Writing, MFA in Art, MFA in Theatre, and the MCRP).The second academic department will determine whether any credit from the former degree will be accepted toward the second degree. Any credit accepted toward the second degree must be within the regular time limit requirements for the second master's degree. Two degrees may be pursued simultaneously or sequentially.

Education Specialist

The Education Specialist degree is designed for the educator-practitioner who desires post-master's training but who does not wish to earn a doctorate. For additional information, please refer to the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences section of this catalog.

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Minimum Requirements for Master's Degrees
Minimum Requirements for Doctoral Degrees

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Last Updated: 4/16/15