Academic Programs Catalog

Graduate Education

Master's Programs

Graduate programs leading to a master's degree are offered by most colleges, departments and schools at Michigan State University. A student's program of study is administered by the officially designated unit and is  subject to approval by the dean of the college. Some variations exist in the requirements of the several master's degree programs. It is important, therefore, for the student to become acquainted with all of the applicable university and unit requirements. The following description covers the all–university requirements, and most of the regulations, and will serve as a general guide.

 


Master's Degrees Granted at Michigan State University and Minimum Credit Requirements

Following is a list of titles of master's degrees granted at Michigan State University.

Master of Arts M.A.
Master of Arts for Teachers M.A.T.
Master of Business Administration M.B.A.
Master of Fine Arts M.F.A.
Master of International Planning Studies M.I.P.S.
Master of Human Resources and Labor Relations M.H.R.L.
Master of Music M.Mus.
Master of Science in Nursing M.S.N.
Master of Public Policy M.P.P.
Master of Science M.S.
Master of Social Work M.S.W. I
Master of Social Work M.S.W. II
Master in Urban and Regional Planning M.U.R.P.


Credit Requirements

The minimum number of credits required for a master's degree program is 30 beyond the bachelor's degree. Specific, approved programs, however, have different credit requirements. See the specific program sections in this catalog.

 


Residence

A minimum of 6 credits in the degree program must be earned in residence on the East Lansing campus or at approved Michigan State University instructional sites, but many programs require more. Requests for waivers of this requirement must be submitted by the department or school responsible for the degree program to the appropriate college and then to the Dean of  the Graduate School.

Certain off-campus and online master’s programs do not require the minimum residence. Contact the department, school, or college offering a specific program for additional information.


Planning a Master's Program and the Appointment of an Academic Advisor

An academic advisor for each student is assigned by the responsible unit in which the student takes the major work. The advisor alone, or in consultation with the student's advisory committee, will assist the student in planning a program satisfactory to the needs of the student and acceptable to the responsible unit. Changes in program plans may be made only with the approval of both the advisor and the responsible unit administrator, and, in some cases, the dean of the college.

 


Programs of Study

Two types of programs are available:

Plan A        consisting of prescribed course work, research, thesis, and a final oral examination.

Plan B        consisting of prescribed course work, without a thesis, and with a final examination or evaluation.
 
Some colleges, departments, and schools offer programs only under Plan A or only under Plan B. Unless such limitation is explicitly stated in the catalog description of a program, both Plan A and Plan B are available.



Course Work

Courses taken toward a master's degree should fit into a unified plan aimed at providing the student with both a comprehensive background and a depth of understanding in a major field. The number of course credits required in a major area is determined by each responsible unit. Some programs require a minor. Whether a minor area of study is required, optional, or not accepted toward a degree depends on the student's major program. In any case, the detailed course requirements are left to the judgment of the academic advisor and/or committee subject to the approval of the responsible unit administrator and the dean of the college. More than half of the credits of the total required for a master's degree must be taken in courses at the 800 and 900 levels except as specifically exempted by the dean of the college.

 


Research and Thesis Plan A

A minimum of 4 credits in master's thesis research (course number 899) is required; some programs require more. The thesis, an abstract of the thesis, and an abstract title page must be prepared in accordance with the specifications in The Formatting Guide-Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations, a handbook that is available, along with a packet of required forms relating to the thesis online at www.grad.msu.edu/etd.

After the thesis advisor—and, if required by unit bylaws, members of the guidance or examination committee—indicate(s) that the thesis is acceptable for examination within the time frame determined by the department the semester in which graduation is anticipated, the student must submit copies of the thesis and abstract for distribution to the thesis advisor and other examiners. The thesis must be in completed form, with finished diagrams, etc. It must not, however, be bound. The oral examination in defense of the thesis must be scheduled within the time frame determined by the department the semester in which graduation is anticipated. After the examiners have reviewed and approved the thesis and voted to pass the student on the final oral examination in its defense, the student must incorporate into the thesis any recommended change(s) and corrections before presenting it to the thesis advisor for final review and signature of the approval form. Not later than the deadline date indicated by the Graduate School the semester in which graduation is expected, the student must submit to the Graduate School a final electronic copy of the thesis online and the approval form signed by the thesis advisor following the instructions at https://grad.msu.edu/etd/electronic-submission-to-proquest. Some departments, schools, or colleges require additional copies of the thesis, and it is the student's responsibility to provide such copies to them. In some colleges the master's thesis is first approved in the dean's office before the student submits it to the Graduate School. 

An electronic copy of the thesis will reside in the MSU library and the abstract will be published online at www.proquest.com under Master’s Abstracts. The student may order bound paper copies for the department, the thesis director, or others through ProQuest-UMI, or may make other arrangements for obtaining additional bound copies.

A fee is charged by ProQuest-UMI if the thesis is to be copyrighted.


Examinations

Students in a Plan A master's degree program are required to pass an oral examination in defense of the thesis. However, students in certain programs are required to pass an oral examination that covers both a defense of the thesis and course work. This examination must be scheduled within the time frame determined by the department the semester in which graduation is anticipated. The examination for a Plan A master's degree is administered by an examining committee consisting of at least three Michigan State University regular faculty members (as defined in the Faculty Handbook).

“ The ‘regular faculty’ of Michigan State University shall consist of all persons appointed under the rules of tenure and holding the rank of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, or instructor, and persons appointed as librarians. In addition, the principal administrative officer of each  major educational and research unit of the university shall be a member of the ‘regular faculty.’ ”

An exception may be granted by the Dean of the Graduate School to allow a non–tenure stream faculty member or an Academic Specialist to serve on a master's student's examination committee as one of the three required faculty members, or in special circumstances, as the chairperson of a master's student's examination committee or as the thesis advisor. With the approval of the chairperson or director of the department or school, an exception may be granted to allow an Emeritus faculty member to serve as one of the three required faculty members on a master's student's examination committee; in addition, an Emeritus faculty member may continue to serve as the chairperson of an examination committee.  At the discretion of the examining committee, the presentation and defense of the thesis may be open to members of the academic community. The thesis and the student's performance on the oral examination must be approved by a majority vote of the examining committee.

A final examination or evaluation is required for students in a Plan B master's degree program with the following exceptions:  the Plan B programs of study that lead to the Master of Business Administration degree, the Master of Human Resources and Labor Relations degree, the Master of Social Work degree, and the Master of Science degree in Accounting. The examination or evaluation is  administered in accordance with department or school and college rules by a committee consisting of at least two Michigan State University regular faculty members (as defined in the Faculty Handbook).

“ The ‘regular faculty’ of Michigan State University shall consist of all persons appointed under the rules of tenure and holding the rank of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, or instructor, and persons appointed as librarians. In addition, the principal administrative officer of each  major educational and research unit of the university shall be a member of the ‘regular faculty.’ ”

An exception may be granted by the Dean of the Graduate School to allow a non–tenure stream faculty member or an Academic Specialist to serve on a master's student's committee as one of the two required faculty members, or in special circumstances, as the chairperson of a master's student's committee.  With the approval of the chairperson or director of the department or school, an exception may be granted to allow an Emeritus faculty member to serve as one of the two required faculty members on a master's student's  committee; in addition, an Emeritus faculty member may continue to serve as a chairperson of a committee.  In the event of significant discrepancy between the two assessments, the unit chair or coordinator would arrange for a third assessment to break the tie. The content and format of the examination or evaluation are specified by the department or school and college.

For both Plan A and Plan B, the student must be registered during the semester in which the examination or evaluation is administered (see Maximum and Minimum Credits). This requirement may be waived if the examination is administered during the summer session immediately following a spring semester during which the student was registered and/or prior to a fall semester in which the student will be registered.


Academic Standards

Michigan State University is committed to high academic standards and expects all graduate students to excel in their particular majors.

A 3.00 cumulative grade–point average for all courses counting toward the master's degree is the minimum university standard; however, colleges, departments, or schools may establish a higher minimum standard.

Each college and department or school determines whether the minimum standards must be attained at the completion of a certain number of credits or by a specified interval after the student's first enrollment in the degree program. Some colleges, departments, and schools will not permit a student to remain in a program if there is an accumulation of more than a specified number of graduate credits with lower than a 3.0 grade even though the cumulative grade–point average is 3.00. A student who fails to meet the standards set by the university, college, and department or school will not be permitted to continue to enroll in the degree program, and appropriate action will be taken by the college, department, or school.

 


Transfer Credits

As many as 9 semester credits of graduate course work (excluding research and thesis credits) may be transferred into a 30-credit master's degree program from other postsecondary accredited institutions comparable academic quality, if they are appropriate to a student's program and provided they were completed within the time limits approved for the earning of the degree desired at Michigan State University. The department or school chairperson or director and dean must grant approval. Only courses in which at least a 3.0 grade or its equivalent was received will be considered for transfer. Exceptions to this policy (at least a 2.0 grade) have been granted for the dual degree programs between Michigan State University and the Michigan State University College of Law. 

Some colleges with programs that require more than 30 credits for the degree may accept more than 9 credits in transfer, but not more than 30% of the total number of credits required for the master's degree may be accepted in transfer.

Students in any master's program may apply a maximum of 9 credits earned through any combination of courses taken through lifelong education, or in transfer from another institution. Each program may determine if courses are appropriate for the master's program and may allow fewer than 9 credits to be applied to the specific master's program.

For programs requiring greater than 30 credits, the limit on the number of credits transferable from lifelong education remains 9.

Michigan State University will allow the College of Education or any other college to recommend the acceptance of up to 6 credits toward a Michigan State University master's degree if these credits are recognized on an official American Council on Education (ACE) transcript showing completion of the National Board Professional Teaching Standards Certification.

See Credits in the General Information, Policies, Procedures and Regulations section of this catalog for additional information.


Off-Campus Work

Credit for courses taken at Michigan State University off-campus instructional centers is of equal value to credit for on–campus courses. However, for the master's degree at least 6 credits must be earned in residence on the East Lansing campus or at approved Michigan State University instructional sites, although some programs may require more. A student who plans to take off–campus courses should discuss the possibilities of acceptance of such work toward the degree with the academic advisor, department or school chairperson or director, or dean. Such approval should be obtained before enrolling in an off–campus course, just as is done for an on–campus course.

 


Online Learning

The university offers selected degree programs (primarily, professional master’s degree programs), certificate programs, and individual courses online. All university regulations, policies, and procedures described in this catalog that apply to on-campus programs also apply to online programs, unless specified otherwise. For more information about online learning, visit the web at https://reg.msu.edu/UCC/OnlinePrograms.aspx.

Michigan State University courses offered online are considered on-campus courses. Applicability of specific online Michigan State University courses is determined by the requirements of specific programs.


Time Limit

Unless otherwise specified, the time limit for the completion of the requirements for the master's degree is five calendar years from the date of enrollment in the first course included for degree certification. The colleges of Arts and Letters, Human Medicine, Natural Science, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, Social Science, and Veterinary Medicine permit six years with the following exception: the time limit for the completion of the Master of Fine Arts degree in the College of Arts and Letters is nine years. 

Michigan State University must reserve the right to modify or eliminate programs that are described in this publication. In the event such an action is taken, students affected will be advised by their units of the options available to them to complete their degrees. Every reasonable effort will be made to permit students to complete these programs or similar programs.



Requirements for a Second, Joint, or Dual Master's Degree

A candidate for a second master's degree, or for joint or dual master's degrees, from Michigan State University may request the application of up to 9 credits, appropriate to both programs, from the first master's degree program to the second or from one master's program to another. These 9 credits must have been earned within the time limitations of the college concerned. Credits used to satisfy the requirements of one master's degree may not be used to satisfy the residency requirements of another master's degree. The candidate must obtain written approval from both programs indicating which 9 credits will be shared. Some colleges with programs that require more than 30 credits for the master's degree may apply more than 9 credits toward the master's degree but not more than 30% of the total number of credits required for the master's degree. Credits applied to a Second, Joint, or Dual Master's Degree Program are not eligible to be applied to any other graduate degree program.

 


Requirements for a Linked Bachelor's-Master's Degree

A candidate for a Linked Bachelor's-Master's Degree from Michigan State University may request the application of up to 9 credits toward the master's program for qualifying 400-level and above course work taken at the undergraduate level at Michigan State University or another postsecondary accredited institution of comparable academic quality. The number of approved credits, not to exceed 9, are applied toward the credit requirement of the master's degree. Some colleges with programs that require more than 30 credits for the master's degree may apply more than 9 credits toward the master's degree but not more than 30% of the total number of credits required for the master's degree. Credits applied to the Linked Bachelor's-Master's Program are not eligible to be applied to any other graduate degree program.


Requirements for a Joint Master's Degree and Medical Degree

A student who is enrolled in a graduate–professional program in Michigan State University's College of Human, Osteopathic, or Veterinary Medicine, and who is also enrolled in a master's degree program at Michigan State University may request the application of up to 9 credits, appropriate to both programs, from the graduate–professional program to the master's degree program, as well. These credits must have been earned within the time limit for completing the master's degree program in which the student is enrolled. Some colleges with programs that require more than 30 credits for the master's degree may apply more than 9 credits toward the master's degree but not more than 30% of the total number of credits required for the master's degree if approved by the master's degree and graduate-professional degree program. Credits applied to a Joint Master's Degree and Medical Degree Program are not eligible to be applied to any other graduate degree program.

 


Educational Specialist Program

For information about the Educational Specialist program, refer to the Educational Specialist statement in the College of Education section of this catalog.