Jun 16, 2024  
2021-2022 Academic Catalog 
2021-2022 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Master’s Requirements

Advancement to Candidacy

Students should seek advancement to candidacy as soon as possible for their given program and on the advice of their graduate advisor. Graduate students may submit a Petition for Advancement to Graduate Candidacy form to the GAPE office after satisfying the following:

  • achieved classified status
  • completed a minimum of nine letter-graded units with all grades “C” or higher
  • fulfilled the GWAR requirement
  • achieved a minimum cumulative and program 3.0 GPA, and,
  • graduate within the seven-year time limit for degree completion.

Graduate students must submit their petition no later than one semester prior to graduating.

University Policy S19-3 requires that the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR)  be fulfilled before advancement to candidacy. However, for special cases, the candidacy form may be filed during the semester in which a GWAR-satisfying course is taken

Note that Title V (CCR 40510) requires a minimum 3.0 grade point average for all courses to satisfy graduate degree program requirements. Should courses in the graduate degree program be completed with unsatisfactory grades, these grades must remain in the program and will continue to be computed in the grade point average of the program. Therefore, the candidacy form will record each program course repeated and the grade earned. Course grades will be effectively averaged in the GPA calculation for advancement to candidacy and graduation. Please review University Policy F08-2 for more details.

Finally, students should be aware as to which catalog year they wish to declare and use to fulfill their graduation requirements. As program requirements may change slightly over a student’s course of study, catalog rights  should also be discussed with an advisor as needed.

Graduate Degree Program

As indicated above, the Petition for Advancement to Graduate Candidacy (“candidacy form”) is submitted to GAPE when the student is qualified to advance to candidacy. This form lists all courses and culminating experiences that must be fulfilled for degree award. The proposed program must meet the following requirements:

  • statement of the total number of units in the degree program.
  • at least half of the units included on the form must be in 200-level courses.
  • at least 60% of all units included must be in letter-graded course work.
  • at least 70% of the units included must be in residence at SJSU. Therefore, a maximum of 9 units may be transferred into a 30-unit program from all sources.

Included coursework may be entirely within the major department, or may include a combination of courses drawn from other fields accepted by the major advisor. If deficiencies in the student’s record are identified, including prerequisites for required courses, additional coursework can be assigned by the major advisor. This course work would not appear on the candidacy form and would not be counted in the total number of units required for the degree.

Coursework that may not be applied to the graduate degree include lower-division work (numbered 1-99), courses used to earn any prior degree (except other master’s degrees at SJSU), courses taken at unaccredited institutions, directed (student) teaching, 300-level residence or 400-level Professional Education courses taken at SJSU, or courses taken over seven years previous to current degree conferral. Graduate credit by examination is not permitted.

There is no restriction in the number of units for project or dissertation research attempted, however, students completing a thesis must include at least one 299 unit on the candidacy form, and the total number of units must equal program unit requirements. Students may not receive credit for project or dissertation units unless successfully completed; instead either an RP, or NC grade will be assigned in the semester of enrollment. For courses in RP status, students may enroll in 1290R to maintain continuous enrollment until completion of their culminating experience. Students earning a NC must enroll in the course again and earn a CR to fulfill their culminating experience.

The original copy of the completed, signed Petition for Advancement to Graduate Candidacy should be submitted to the GAPE office by the deadlines. The student will be informed by the approval or denial of the petition through the student’s MySJSU account under “Other Indicators”.

Program Course Work

Once approved, the candidacy form, is an official contract between the student and university. It can be changed only with the permission of the graduate advisor via written petition to the Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. Both elective and core course substitutions can be made by submitting appropriate course substitution forms found at www.sjsu.edu/gape/forms. A course may not be dropped from the candidacy form, once it has been completed and approved.

If a student obtains permission to change programs and the second program has different requirements than the first one, then a new candidacy form must be filed; graded courses on the first form can be eliminated on the second form if not part of the new curriculum.


It is university policy to require final examinations or defenses in all master’s degree programs. Departmental examinations vary; they may be oral, written, or a combination of both. Students following Plans A and C are usually examined primarily over areas of their theses or projects. Plan B students are generally required to demonstrate their competence by writing in a broad field of concentration, by taking comprehensive examinations, or by completing a broad course project.

In all cases, it is the candidate’s responsibility to register through the departmental coordinator of graduate studies to take all required final examinations. The candidate’s advisor and/or the departmental graduate coordinator will provide general information concerning the nature of the examinations and recommended preparation for them.

The master’s degree cannot be considered for conferral to the candidate until the major department certifies to the program evaluator at GAPE either through messaging or by submitting a Verification of Culminating Experience memo that final examinations have been completed satisfactorily.

Master’s Thesis Requirements

Time is critical during the semester thesis submission and timelines should be planned carefully to ensure that all department and university submission deadlines are met. Students must allow enough time for multiple draft preparation, committee feedback, formatting/word processing, and allowances for faculty time constraints. Students must leave time for the final reading and signing by the committee members. A minimum of two months may be needed for the entire process, and departments may require a longer period. Students must have completed all degree requirements within seven years of achieving classified standing in the master’s program. All instructions for thesis formatting and submission to Graduate Studies are located in the SJSU Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines.

These instructions provide general thesis guidelines. Students should read the guidelines carefully and consult with their advisors concerning options for thesis formatting, and professional style guide to use. Departments may also provide students with more additional formatting instructions. In rare cases, the College of Graduate Studies will provide individual assistance.

SJSU partners with the University Microfilm International (UMI) Dissertation Information Service. Students completing theses and dissertations are required to email their committee-approved manuscript and accompanying documents to Graduate Studies according to Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines instructions.

Checking the Manuscript

The College of Graduate Studies does not serve as an editor nor content reviewer. The author and graduate committee members should carefully proofread the thesis before submission and are responsible for content and formatting. The review conducted by the College of Graduate Studies should also be regarded as an indicator of problems to be addressed globally throughout the manuscript. A careful review of feedback should be done by the student as a guide to correcting similar errors in the entire manuscript. Making only the changes specifically indicated by the College of Graduate Studies rather than applying the feedback to the remainder of the document may result in a substandard thesis. The College of Graduate Studies may reject a thesis with excessive errors.

Students can prevent thesis rejection by ensuring that the final manuscript is free of the following frequent errors: pages for which no numbers are assigned, failure to apply reference style consistently or to cite references when needed, careless spacing or centering, inappropriate margins, incorrect footnotes or bibliography entries, redundancy, awkward or unclear sentences, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, spelling errors, word-usage errors and inconsistencies in or lack of adherence to style-manual formatting rules.

Neither SJSU nor any of its separate offices or departments are responsible for matters concerning a student’s relationships or agreements with any outside agency or individual consulted for manuscript preparation. Neither the university nor any of its offices will take part in disagreements between students and typists, editors or copy shops with regard to thesis preparation services, expected costs or billed costs. A student conducting thesis research off site, for example at a local company, must be free to include all of it in the thesis SJSU’s legal relationship is only with the student and their compliance with the rules set forth in this and related documents and does not include any obligations to the company in question unless expressly agreed upon in a separate legal document.

For information about copyright permission, IBC, IRB & human subjects research, and animal research requirements, view the Research Policies and Procedures  section.

Plans A, B and C

SJSU offers three plans for candidates for master’s degrees.

Plan A - Thesis Plan

This plan requires approval by the candidate’s advisor and other members of the thesis committee.. Plan A requires registration in departmental 299, Master’s Thesis, for at least one unit. Departmental 298 units or other department-specific thesis research or methodology courses are often also taken during the data-gathering stages of the thesis research. While the total number of 298 and 299 units, as well as units in any other project or thesis-research or preparatory course, is restricted to six units for degree credit (and therefore inclusion on the candidacy form) by departmental rules and university policy, the total number of these units taken is not restricted.

Plan B - Degree-Without-Thesis Plan

Plan B is characterized by substitution of the thesis and departmental 299 units with another set of courses and either a project or comprehensive exam. The plan is expected to provide substantial practical experiences by means of the tools and techniques of advanced study in the field. The purpose of Plan B is most often to provide breadth, rather than specialization, and so is tailored by the selection of courses and the nature of the final, comprehensive exam. The exam may be oral, written, or both and constitutes the culminating experience in the plan. Many departments historically have assigned students to Plan B for projects, whether they are also accompanied by a comprehensive exam or not. The projects are usually conducted as part of a departmental 298 or otherwise numbered 200-level project course for a maximum of six units, as stipulated by the department, and the write-up for the project is required as part of the culminating experience. Departmental 299 units are not permitted for graduate credit under this plan.

Plan C - Special Plans Including Creative Projects

This plan is reserved for exceptional cases for which needs will be served best through a special arrangement of courses and/or special creative assignments. The assignments might include original paintings, dramatic presentations, motion picture productions, works of sculpture, electronic media or videotapes. In these cases, the candidate is required to submit a written report on the creative project in the form of a supplementary guide or handbook that puts the work into historical, cultural and/or professional context. This written report is to be cataloged in the university’s institutional repository in the University Library in the same manner as regular theses discussed under Plan A. Departmental advisors will provide further information on special requirements of the plan. Plan C requires registration in a minimum of one unit of departmental 299. Note that creative projects can also be conducted under the Plan B umbrella without the submission of a thesis or taking departmental 299 units.

Thesis/Creative Project Unit Conditions

Registration for departmental 299 thesis courses occurs only after advancement to candidacy for the master’s degree. By that point, the thesis committee should be fully established in accordance with the SJSU University policy. Before collection of data from human subjects, prior approval must be granted by the Institutional Review Board; see the section on Human Subjects Data Collection . Similarly, prior approval for research on or employing animals must be granted by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee; see the section on Animal Research Guidelines . Finally, prior approval for research utilizing hazardous biological agents, recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules, materials derived from humans and nonhuman primates, toxins, or select agents must be granted by the Institutional Biosafety Committee; see the section on recombinant DNA and hazardous biological agents.

A student is allowed a maximum of six semester units of thesis research and writing courses (departmental 299 and usually 298 but other thesis courses apply) for graduate credit in Plan A and Plan C, although more of these units can be attempted. The student may register for any or all of the required thesis units in one semester, but the sequence should follow departmental guidelines and regulations. All 299 units will receive a grade of “RP” until a final grade (“CR” or “NC”) is awarded when the thesis is approved by Graduate Studies. “RP” units cannot be changed to “CR” until that time. Extensions of the two-year period for completing thesis work under the “RP” designation should be made before the period expires by means of the form available at www.sjsu.edu/gape/forms. Upon satisfactory completion of the thesis, a “CR” is submitted by the thesis chair via the Change-of-Grade form to the Registrar to clear the “RP.” A separate form must be submitted for each occurrence of “RP” (each semester the grade is displayed) on the record.


The last three steps in the thesis process are outlined below:

  1. After the thesis has received final departmental (graduate committee) approval, as indicated by committee signatures, the complete document should be emailed along with the completed Thesis Information Packet. Deadline dates for submission may be found at Thesis and Dissertation Information. The deadlines are firm, and exceptions are extremely rare.

  2. The thesis will be read and returned to the student with an assessment by the staff from the College of Graduate Studies as accepted without corrections, provisionally accepted with corrections, or not accepted.

  3. If the manuscript has an abundance of errors in formatting, grammar, punctuation or other writing parameters, corrections will have to be made. The advisors on the student’s graduate committee should be consulted about these corrections. It bears repeating that the College of Graduate Studies staff reads and edits only portions of the manuscript, but it is expected that errors of the kinds indicated be corrected throughout the manuscript. If the manuscript is accepted with corrections, the student will be instructed to resubmit it within about a four-week period from the point of notification. If it is rejected, the revised manuscript may not be submitted until the following semester.


Graduation Requirements

After being admitted to candidacy for the master’s degree, the student is then required to:

  • Maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (“B”) in completing requirements in the graduate degree program. The program is defined as completed courses included in the original graduate degree program plus all additions or substitutions.
  • Complete all courses in the graduate degree program with grades between “A” and “C,” or “CR.” Grades of “C-” or lower, including “NC,” “U,” “IC” and “WU,” are considered to be unsatisfactory. Should courses in the graduate degree program be completed with unsatisfactory grades, these grades must remain in the program and will continue to be computed in the grade point average of the program whether they are repeated or not.
  • Complete all requirements for the degree as listed in the degree template in the university catalog. Substitutions for core and other required courses in the template must be justified and approved by graduate advisor and department chair by submitting a Core Substitution Petition
  • Complete an acceptable thesis, project or comprehensive examination. The thesis (Plan A) or creative project (Plan C) requires that one copy be submitted to the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. In Plan B, completed projects are submitted to the student’s major department and a final comprehensive oral and/or written examination over the field of concentration for the degree must usually be successfully completed. Failure on initial attempts at these exams results in administrative-academic probation. Failure of the final attempt results in administrative-academic disqualification from the degree program. The program evaluator at GAPE is notified of passage of the exam by means of graduate advisor completion of the Verification of Culminating Experience memo or in some cases,verification through a message to the GAPE evaluator.
  • Complete all work on the graduate degree program within seven years preceding award of the degree. If courses become outdated, the candidate should consult the section titled Time Limits  on Courses in Graduate Degree Programs concerning steps to be followed.
  • Apply for award of the master’s degree by the posted deadline dates through your MySJSU account two weeks after achieving advancement to candidacy.
  • Note that failure to clear incomplete (“I”), report-in-progress (“RP”), or report-delayed (“RD”) grades will prevent graduation. An “I” obtained in a graded class results in an automatic grade change to an “IC” grade after one academic year has elapsed and conditions to remove the “I” are not met. This calculates to an “F” grade on the transcript, even after separation or graduation. In an ungraded (“CR/NC”) course, the “I” reverts to a no credit (“NC”) grade and is, therefore, also unsatisfactory for graduation if in a course on the candidacy form.
  • Be in good academic standing (cumulative 3.0 minimum GPA in Graduate Division) at San José State University to receive a degree from this university.

Applying for the Master’s Degree

The Petition for Advancement to Graduate Candidacy Form must be approved by the GAPE office before applying for graduation. Students should apply for graduation at least one semester before the date of anticipated graduation. However, it is highly advised that students apply at least one year before their future graduation date.

Advancement to candidacy is permitted only when all conditions of admission, if applicable, are met, nine letter-graded units, all with grades of C or better and a GPA of 3.0 or better have been achieved, and the graduate GWAR has been completed. For detailed information about these requirements, please visit the GAPE website or the above section on Advancement to Candidacy.

IMPORTANT: Eligible students can apply for graduation through self-service within their MySJSU account approximately two weeks after students have been approved for advancement to candidacy by the GAPE office. Students will be sent a MySJSU message including instructions and prompting them to apply for graduation. Only students who apply for graduation will be considered for graduation review.

Please note the following:

  • All courses and requirements must be completed by the date of graduation.
  • Any Incomplete (I), Report Delayed (RD), or Report Pending (RP) grades must be cleared before the degree can be awarded.
  • Once the degree has been posted, no grade changes can be made to the record unless the Associate Dean for the College of Graduate Studies petitions the Registrar’s Office on the student’s behalf and only in rare cases.
  • If a student is unable to complete the course work stipulated on the candidacy form or if the date of graduation is delayed, a Graduation Date Change Request for Award of Master’s Degree must be requested through www.sjsu.edu/gape/forms (see Online Graduation Date Change Request)
  • Required forms must be submitted by the deadlines posted on the GAPE website at deadlines website.
  • Students are urged not to delay; failure to submit forms by the deadlines posted could delay graduation.

Master’s Degree - Second

or Sequential and Simultaneous Master’s Degree

There are two options for acquiring a second master’s degree. Graduate students who have completed one master’s degree program at San José State University may, with the approval of the new department, complete requirements for a second master’s degree at this institution.

In the first option, the student interested in a sequential second graduate degree after finishing another master’s degree must apply for admission to the second graduate degree program after the first degree is completed and recorded on the permanent record. All policies and procedures listed in this catalog applicable to satisfactory completion of a master’s degree apply to completion of requirements for a second master’s degree, including that program requirements must be completed within a seven-year period. Graduate Studies at SJSU will not admit an applicant in pursuit of a master’s degree if it is determined that the applicant has a similar degree already. Pursuit of a second master’s degree will receive a lower priority for admission.

The second option is pursuit of two simultaneous master’s degrees. A student in good standing enrolled in one master’s program may pursue a second master’s degree. Matriculated master’s students do not need to formally reapply to the university through Cal State Apply. However, the student must secure approval from and admission into the second master’s degree program. This requires submission of all application materials previously requested of applicants by the department or school to the first degree program, as well as any additional materials required by the second program. Current transcripts, GRE scores, English-language test scores and letters of recommendation might be among those items required by the second department or school. The student is responsible for making those items available to the department regardless of his or her date of matriculation into the first major. Individual department deadlines apply for acceptance in any particular semester. Note: Approval for admission into the second master’s program is given by means of its graduate advisor’s signature on the Master’s Level Double Degree Application; Contact the GAPE office for more information on this process.

The stipulation, however, is that a student pursuing simultaneous master’s degrees cannot apply for graduation or be awarded either degree until both degree programs are complete. Both degrees must effectively be completed at the same time, and diplomas are issued for both degrees. If a student gains admission into a second degree program while still pursuing the first degree and applies for graduation before finishing the second program, he or she will be awarded the first master’s degree and then lose matriculated status. Student status will thus be revoked and pursuit of a second master’s degree prohibited. To satisfy this procedural requirement, a student should simply delay the request for award of the first degree until the second degree program requirements have been fulfilled. Please keep in mind that graduate units expire after seven years.

Alternatively, if a second master’s degree is desired but will not be completed at the same time as the first, the student must file for graduation from the first degree program and formally apply for admission into the second program. That would require a full application, submission of all documentation required by the university and the department of the second master’s program, and acceptance by both entities. Pursuit of a second master’s degree will receive a lower priority for admission.

Per University Policy F77-1, an approved program for a second master’s degree should be prepared by the student and graduate advisor in the new field. If the new program happens to include coursework taken in the first degree, a maximum of 33% of the total units required for the new degree may be courses completed in the previous degree at this institution. For example, a student might be permitted to apply up to 10 units toward a 30-unit program. Such courses must have been completed by the student with a grade of “A,” “B” or, in special cases, “CR.” The courses must be approved by the graduate advisor, who may limit the number of transferred units. The 33% level is allowed only for transfer of units from master’s degree programs taken at SJSU. Transfer from completed degree programs at other institutions is not allowed.

Please note that both simultaneous degree programs must be completed in the same semester to qualify for the double degree award. Both programs must also be completed within seven years. The student who finds he or she cannot complete both degree programs in the same semester has the option of dropping one of the programs and receiving a single degree. Dropping one of the programs requires informing GAPE in writing.

Interdisciplinary Studies Master’s Program

See the College of Graduate Studies .