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Degree Requirements - Research Master's



To define the minimum requirements for obtaining a research master’s degree (M.A. or M.S.).


Academic Goal

To ensure that all research master’s degrees adhere to a minimum set of credit requirements along with an approved culminating experience.



All research master’s degree programs (M.A. or M.S.).

The Graduate School recognizes a difference in purpose, which is reflected in the requirements, for two types of master’s degrees: academic and professional. Of the master’s degrees conferred, the Master of Arts and Master of Science are academic in nature. The Master of Arts and the Master of Science degrees have the same general requirements, and the major field of study determines which degree is conferred. Programs for both degrees are strongly oriented towards research and the creation of new knowledge.

A graduate degree is not conferred for a mere collection of credits. A well-balanced, unified, and complete program of study is required, including the preparation and acceptance of a high-quality approved culminating experience. The overall program of the student frequently will exceed the minimum requirements specified here.

Major Graduate Program
The graduate program within which the student is pursuing their degree.

Policy Statement

  1. A research master’s degree requires at least 30 credits at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level. In addition:
    1. At least 18 credits in the 500 and 600 series, combined.
      1. If a student is required to write a thesis, at least 6 credits in thesis research (600 or 610) must be included in the program.
      2. If no thesis is required, at least 18 credits must be in 500-level courses.
    2. A minimum of 12 credits in course work (400, 500, and 800 series) must be completed as defined by the major program in the Graduate Bulletin.
    3. At least 20 credits must be earned from the campus where the program is approved to be offered.
  2. Graduate programs can require additional credits for the degree as approved through the Graduate Council curricular review process.
  3. A culminating experience is required (see GCAC-642 Culminating Experience - Research Master's).

Revision History

  • Approved by Graduate Council, October 18, 2023. Effective immediately.
    • Policy Statement 1.b. and 1.c. revised for clarity.
  • Adapted from Graduate Bulletin: July 2018
This page was generated on December 4, 2023 at 8:01 AM local time. This may not be the most recent version of this page. Check the Penn State Graduate School website for updates.