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Washington State University Graduate School

Master’s Degree Requirements

All master’s degree programs require that a candidate prepare a thesis, complete a special project, and/or pass a comprehensive examination. The thesis is a scholarly study, which makes a significant contribution to the knowledge of the chosen discipline. To successfully complete a master’s degree program, candidates must satisfactorily demonstrate to the graduate program faculty that they can carry on a critical dialogue, integrating and interpreting material in their major and supporting fields. The Graduate School provides a semester by semester guideline to assist each graduate student in timely completion of all necessary documentation:

A. Maximum Time Limits for Completion of Master’s Degree

Most full-time students enrolled in master’s degree programs at WSU require 2-3 years for completion of their program. The maximum time allowed for completion of a master’s degree is 6 years from the beginning date of the earliest course applied toward the degree. The Graduate School recognizes some programs are designed for the part-time student and can be expected to require a longer completion period. As appropriate, departments may request an extension of this time limit as described in Chapter 6 (General Academic Requirements).

B. The Faculty Advisory Committee

1. Faculty Advisory Committee. The Faculty Advisory Committee guides the student through the master’s program, advises the student on required coursework, oversees the student’s scholarly activities or research, reviews progress toward degree, and conducts the final exam. The master’s committee is nominated on the Program of Study. For thesis and non-thesis programs, a master’s committee should include at least three faculty members. During the first semester or summer session of enrollment, the chair/director of the major program should, in conjunction with the student, appoint an advisor to serve as chair of the student’s master’s committee until a permanent chair is obtained; ultimately, it is the student’s responsibility to obtain a permanent chair and committee members for his/her graduate program committee. For additional information on bylaw committee requirements, see Chapter 1, Section D.

  • The committee must include at least three WSU faculty members, and all members must hold a degree of comparable level to the degree sought by the student.
  • If program bylaws ARE NOT on file: The chair and at least one committee member must be tenured or tenure track faculty who are also members of the graduate faculty in the student’s graduate program; the third member must be graduate faculty in the student’s program, but is not required to be tenured or tenure track faculty.
  • If program bylaws ARE on file: At minimum, the committee must include one tenured/tenure track faculty member who is graduate faculty in the student’s graduate program. The second member must be graduate faculty in this program, but is not required to be tenured/tenure track faculty. The third member can be from inside or outside the student’s graduate program, does not need to hold graduate faculty status, and does not need to be tenured/tenure track faculty. The committee chair must be tenured or tenure track in the graduate program unless specified otherwise in the bylaws for the student’s graduate program.
  • Tenure-track or non-tenure WSU faculty (research, clinical, adjunct, or affiliate) who are participating as graduate faculty within a program may serve on, co-chair, or chair a committee if approved in the program bylaws.
  • An additional committee member who holds the highest appropriate degree and whose special knowledge is particularly important to the proposed program, but is not a member of the graduate faculty, may be requested, subject to approval by the Dean of the Graduate School. This might be a non-tenured/non-tenured track faculty from another graduate program at WSU or from another university, or an individual from an appropriate government, business or industry organization, who is not designated as an official graduate faculty of a program. Such an individual may be nominated and approved to serve on a graduate student committee on a case-by-case basis by the program upon written request by the program chair to the Dean of the Graduate School. A current curriculum vita must be included with the written request. A WSU tenured/tenured track faculty member in good standing from another graduate program at WSU can serve as an additional committee member in any graduate program if approved by the committee and program chair on the Program of Study. No CV or exception to policy is required.
  • Committees may have more than three members; however, members must meet Graduate School policy and program bylaw guidelines. (See Chapter 1, section on Graduate Faculty, for more information.)
  • It is imperative to avoid situations that may constitute, or may be construed as, a conflict of interest when forming a graduate student’s committee.
  • The Graduate School has the final approval for all graduate student committees.

The student is responsible for establishing and maintaining a faculty advisory committee.  WSU faculty have the right to decline to serve on any specific student’s committee. All committee members and the major department chair/director must sign the Program of Study. Once the Program of Study has been filed with the Graduate School, changes may be made to the committee composition by completing the Committee Change form.

The Dean of the Graduate School has the authority to remove a faculty member from a student committee after consultation with the program/department chair, the dean of the college and the provost when it is in the best interest of the student and the program.

C. The Program of Study

University Requirements, Filing, Changing, Fulfilling the Program of Study.

D. Master’s Degree Academic Policies

Faculty Advisory Committee, Thesis/Non-Thesis, Final Master’s Exam, Second Master’s Degree


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