Master Degree Program Options

At the discretion of the individual degree programs, the following options are available to students completing a master's degree:

  • Comprehensive examination option. A minimum of 30 unit hours of course work, including a comprehensive examination.
  • Thesis option. A minimum of 30 unit hours of course work, including a thesis taken for one to six units.
  • Applied research project option. A minimum of 30 unit hours of course work, including completion of an applied research project course for one to six units.
  • Course work option. A minimum of 36 credit hours of course work.

Degree programs may set additional requirements for any of these plans. Students should check with their degree program coordinator for the options available and for the requirements within each option.

When options exist, students should consult their adviser early in their studies to determine which capstone experience best meets their needs. A thesis may be advised for those who wish to seek depth in an academic area, while those who prefer a breadth of knowledge may select comprehensive examinations.

Students formally declare the thesis option by registering for the course, 799 Thesis Research, after completing a Thesis Proposal Form found at and submitting it to the Graduate Studies Office.

Students declare the comprehensive examination option by submitting their graduation application and checking on the form that they plan to take the comprehensive examination.

After declaring an option, students are permitted to change options only once. Changing options penalizes students who have either prepared a thesis or invested time preparing for the comprehensive examination. Changes in options must occur before students have failed twice in their first option. Failure occurs when a student's comprehensive examination is adjudged a failure or at any time a student's thesis committee formally indicates failure.

Students must complete a minimum of 30 unit hours of graduate course work and pass a comprehensive examination in the major or emphasis field under the comprehensive examination option. Examinations may be written and/or oral at the discretion of the degree program. Written examinations are intended to take approximately six hours to complete. Questions may cover any graduate work done in the major or emphasis, including units transferred from other institutions.

Comprehensive examinations are administered once near the end of each term. In general, students may not take the examination until during or after the final term of their course work. Exceptions may be made for students who have a practicum or a semester of student teaching remaining. To be eligible to take the examination, students must have cleared all pending incomplete (I) and progress (P) grades and must be in good standing with at least a 3.00 grade point average in the graduate level credits earned in the degree program and in the emphasis area.

Comprehensive examinations are graded either “passed” or “failed.” Students who fail the examination may retake it after completing additional work, as designated by those administering the examination, in a subsequent term. Students may retake comprehensive examinations at most twice after an initial failure and after the required additional work has been completed following each failure. Specific programs may have more stringent rules.

The thesis option requires a minimum of 30 units of graduate course work including a thesis for which up to six units may be earned and applied toward the completion of course and credit requirements in the degree program. Because a thesis is a culminating experience for a degree, only students electing the thesis option within a degree program may register for 799 Thesis Research. Students wishing to pursue significant research projects outside of the thesis requirement for a degree may register for 798 Individual Studies. Students electing to write a thesis in a degree program must formally enroll and pay fees for at least one credit of 799 Thesis Research. Before being allowed to register for 799 Thesis Research, a student must submit to the Graduate Studies Office a thesis proposal form indicating the thesis topic, the proposed number of units, and the thesis adviser. This form, signed by the thesis adviser, must be on file before a student will be allowed to register for 799 Thesis Research. Enrollment and fee payment for 799 Thesis Research is done only once even though the thesis may require more than one term to complete. With the adviser's permission, in succeeding terms students may increase the number of thesis units up to the maximum of six by submitting a revised thesis proposal form, then adding and paying for the additional units. Students may download the thesis proposal form at

Theses vary in type, style, length, and content. They range from research projects to art exhibits. A thesis, however, must involve enrollment in 799 Thesis Research, an oral examination on the thesis, and the filing of the thesis in the Andersen Library. A thesis, including an art show, must have abstracts and are expected to contain evidence of research on the part of the student and must be submitted in a form and quality specified by the School of Graduate Studies. These standards and guidelines are available at the Graduate Studies Office and online at Unless a department informs the Office of Graduate Studies in writing that it has adopted some other style manual, theses should be prepared according to the most current edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. A PDF copy of the thesis and its abstract must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies Office by the end of the term in which the student plans to graduate. The Library has a copy of Adobe Acrobat accessible that students can convert their thesis from Word to pdf. Degrees are not conferred until these requirements have been met.

Students also must pass an oral examination over their thesis administered by an appointed thesis committee. The oral examination will be held in an open meeting, announced at least one week prior to the examination. A student’s committee will consist of a minimum of three persons, two of whom, including the committee chairperson, must have graduate faculty status. Committee members may be brought in from outside the faculty of the degree program. The majority of the thesis committee members must sign the signature page of the thesis, signifying acceptance by the committee of the thesis.

The thesis committee chair’s signature signifies successful completion of the oral examination.

In general, students may not take the oral examination until the term in which they expect to graduate. To be eligible to take the oral examination, students must have cleared all pending incomplete (I) and progress (IP) grades except for thesis research, and must be in good standing with at least a 3.00 grade point average in the graduate level units earned in the degree program and in the emphasis area.

All 799 Thesis Research courses are graded on a pass/fail (S/F) basis. A grade of pass (S) for 799 Thesis Research is not awarded until the oral examination is passed and the thesis is filed in the Graduate Studies Office.

A student who switches from a thesis option must have a revised program completion plan approved by the program coordinator. The School of Graduate Studies Office will then initiate a late drop or retroactive withdrawal, dropping any existing 799 Thesis Research units which show a grade of progress (IP). A withdraw (W) grade will be recorded.