UNC Charlotte Academic Policy: Master’s Degree Requirements

I. Executive Summary

This policy outlines the Master’s degree requirements including residency requirements and grade point average for graduate students. To graduate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, students must be in good academic standing, and must have earned a minimum grade point average of at least 3.0 in the major.

II. Policy Statement

Residence Requirements

No more than thirty percent (30%) of the total credit hours required will be accepted for transfer into a master’s degree program. All other work must be residence credit.

Residence credit is credit that is earned under the conditions specified herein and may be applied toward the attainment of graduate degrees at UNC Charlotte. These conditions must be satisfied regardless of the location (on campus, online, or distance) in which the course is given.

The instructor must be a member of the UNC Charlotte Graduate Faculty.

The content of each course must be approved by regularly established college, Graduate School and University curricular processes before the course is scheduled or offered.

Residence credit may also be awarded by virtue of an examination administered by the Graduate Faculty of the department offering credit. A student may also, with the prior approval of the appropriate UNC Charlotte department and the Dean of the Graduate School, take graduate courses for residence and course credit at a college or university accredited by an accepted accrediting body.

Advisory Committee

All students in graduate programs must have a graduate advisor who is a regular member of the Graduate Faculty in the student’s major program. The graduate advisor appointment must be approved by both the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate School. Students completing a master’s thesis are required to establish an advisory committee, with the graduate advisor serving as chair or co-chair. Master’s programs may choose to require an advisory committee in cases where a student is not completing a thesis, such as a master’s project and/or final oral examinations.

In all situations requiring a committee, the committee will consist of at least three graduate faculty members, one of whom is designated as chair. For students completing a master’s thesis, the appointment of the master’s thesis committee form should be approved by the Graduate School prior to the student’s proposal defense.

Program Approval

Each student’s individual program of study must be approved by their department/college. A maximum of twenty percent (20%) of the total credit hours may be included in the approved program of study.

Minimum Hours and Quality

A student is expected to satisfactorily complete a minimum of 30 or more credit hours of approved graduate level courses, depending upon their individual program, with a GPA of 3.0 or above in courses on the degree plan of study. Grades in all courses attempted, whether or not on the plan of study, remain on the transcript and will be included in the calculation of the student’s cumulative GPA as it is reported on the transcript. Courses graded as C on the degree plan of study must be offset by an equal number of graduate-level credits graded as A. Some programs may have stricter requirements regarding the applicability of grades of C towards degree completion. Please reference the program-specific entries of the Graduate Catalog. Students and faculty should refer to the Academic Suspension and Termination policies in the Graduate Catalog regarding the accumulation of marginal grades of C.

Culminating Experience

The intent of graduate education is to provide exposure and training in a specific discipline, culminating in an independently researched comprehensive demonstration of a student’s competence in the field. For both the Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees, the culminating experience is normally a thesis or written comprehensive examination. In some cases, M.A. or M.S. programs may substitute another culminating experience, such as an independent research project, internship, portfolio, or capstone course. Such substitutions must be formally approved through the graduate curriculum review process. Students must be enrolled during the semester in which they take the comprehensive examination or any other type of culminating experience.

A few graduate programs offer professional (non-research) master’s degrees in designated fields. Most professional master’s programs at UNC Charlotte require a culminating experience. In rare cases, a professional master’s degree program may seek approval, via the graduate curriculum review process, to waive the culminating experience requirement provided the program can sufficiently demonstrate that this practice is consistent with the guidelines of its field and/or accreditation requirements. (Note: The culminating experience requirement cannot be waived for individual students.)

Comprehensive Assessment

The plan of study for a master’s degree may or may not include a comprehensive assessment. Comprehensive assessments are administered written and/or orally by graduate program faculty. Students should refer to their program for the exam deadline. Students who fail a comprehensive assessment are subject to termination and should discuss options with their graduate program director. With program approval, a comprehensive assessment may be retaken one time. If the student fails the exam a second time, the program may, in rare circumstance and with compelling evidence, allow a student to, within four months, retake the exam (or portion of the exam). In such cases, the program must document the circumstances under which the student is allowed to retake portions of the exam and demonstrate that the student’s committee unanimously supports the decision. Documentation must be submitted to the Graduate School for review prior to the exam date. In no instance will the student be allowed to take the exam (or portion of the exam) a fourth time. Students may only appeal a termination to the Graduate School if their appeal to retake the exam is based on a procedural error or discrimination (please see the Category 2 appeal description under Appeal for Academic Termination) and their initial appeal to the program was denied.


The plan of study for a master’s degree may or may not include completion of a thesis. The thesis and non-thesis approaches are designed to meet the needs of students preparing for different types of careers and represent qualitatively different educational experiences. Consequently, the academic departments and the Dean of the Graduate School discourage any switching from one plan to another. If a switch from a thesis to non-thesis plan is approved, the student must submit a graduate academic petition to withdraw from the thesis credit. The grade for the thesis work will be changed to W on the transcript with no refund of tuition for the course(s). Students pursuing the thesis option must successfully defend a proposal of their thesis topic. It is expected that all thesis committee members be present for both the thesis proposal defense and for the thesis final defense. Upon successful defense of the proposal, students should submit the Proposal Defense for Doctoral Dissertation and/or Master’s thesis form to the Graduate School. This form is available on the Graduate School website.

The thesis should be submitted for final approval by the student’s thesis committee at least three weeks before the date of the oral examination in which the thesis is defended. Following the successful completion of this defense, the master’s candidate must submit a copy of the approved and error-free thesis to the Graduate School (via ProQuest) no later than the filing date indicated in the University Calendar. Guidelines for the preparation of the thesis are available online on the Graduate School website under Current Students. Additionally, the student must submit the Defense Report for Doctoral Dissertation and/or Master’s thesis form and the original thesis title page to the Graduate School (with original signatures).

As a research university, UNC Charlotte contributes to the scholarly community through the work of faculty and graduate students. Students are required to submit their dissertation or thesis to ProQuest, an online repository for scholarly work. Although the author of the work retains the copyright, open access may impact the likelihood of publication in some journals. More information is available at www.ProQuest.com.

Under certain circumstances, research may need to be temporarily withheld from publications or “embargoed.” Such restrictions may be requested when a:

  1. patent application is expected;
  2. publication has been submitted to a journal and the publisher’s copyright excludes publication of the work in ProQuest. In this case, a screen shot of the journal policy must be included.
  3. contract with an outside entity, such as a government agency, requires that the research be embargoed temporarily.

To request an embargo of a dissertation or thesis, the student and the advisor must submit a request to the Graduate School, which will include supporting documentation. Embargoes may be requested for up to one year, after which time the document will be made available through ProQuest. In extraordinary circumstances, an extension to the embargo may be requested. This form is available on the Graduate School website under Current Students. Embargo requests should be submitted three weeks prior to the final defense date, when possible.

Time Limit

All requirements for the master’s degree must be completed within seven (7) calendar years, beginning with the student’s first term in the program. The time limit cannot be paused, even if the student takes an approved leave of absence. No course older than seven years may be applied towards a master’s degree (including transfer credit). Any course that exceeds this limit must be retaken. Failure to adhere to the time limit may result in the termination of a student’s enrollment.

The Graduate School may consider requests for a single extension of one (1) year in cases with rare, extenuating circumstances. In such cases, the student and graduate program must provide a signed timeline for program completion that does not exceed one year. Failure to adhere to the approved timeline for completion will result in automatic termination of the student’s enrollment for a lack of satisfactory academic progress. Multiple extensions will not be approved.

Courses and Other Requirements

The courses and other requirements for specific degree programs are presented in each of their individual sections throughout this Catalog. Students are encouraged to review their individual DegreeWorks audit prior to registration to ensure they are making sufficient progress towards graduation.

Application for Degree

Students who are co-enrolled in a master’s and doctoral program should be enrolled in both programs for two academic terms prior to graduation from either degree. Students should submit the Online Graduation Application at the beginning of the term in which they anticipate completion of the master’s program. Adherence to Graduate School deadlines is expected. Students are encouraged to review their individual DegreeWorks audit to ensure they have met all graduation requirements.

Students completing their degree and/or certificate requirements in May participate in the May commencement ceremony. Students completing degrees and/or certificates in a summer term, as well as those completing in December, participate in the December commencement ceremony.

III. Definitions

  • Admission to Candidacy – The period in a doctoral student’s studies when they are deemed ready to undertake research resulting in a dissertation or scholarly project.
  • Catalog – A resource of all academic policies and procedures, college and degree requirements, faculty, and course descriptions. UNC Charlotte has both an Undergraduate Catalog and Graduate Catalog.
  • Embargo – In academia, an “embargo” is a restriction placed on research, typically a thesis or dissertation, to be temporarily withheld from publication.
  • Graduate Faculty Representative – A member of the doctoral student’s advisory committee appointed by the Graduate School that assures that the doctoral student is treated fairly and impartially by his or her advisory committee, and assure that University standards and policies are upheld.
  • Master’s degree – An advanced degree (e.g., Master of Arts [M.A.], Master of Science [M.S.]) awarded by a university after completion of studies beyond a bachelor’s degree.
  • Residence – For degree-seeking students, a residency requirement indicates the number of credits you must complete through the University in order to graduate.
  • Thesis – A long essay or dissertation involving personal research, written by a candidate for a graduate degree.

IV. Policy Contact(s)

V. History

  • Established: TBD
  • Revised: TBD

VI. Related Policies, Procedures, and Resources

VII. Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where is this policy referenced?
    The policy is published on the Academic Policies & Procedures webpage of the Provost website and in the Degree Requirements & Academic Policies section of the Graduate Catalog.
  • What is an Assistantship and where do I look for one?
    Graduate assistants receive financial support for their contributions to the teaching, research, and service missions of the University. The great majority of Graduate Assistants on campus are hired by the student’s department. Check with your Program Director to seek out those opportunities. Additionally, other campus offices and initiatives seek graduate assistants from time to time. Visit the University’s Hire-A-Niner portal for current openings.
  • Is Financial Aid available to graduate students?
    The Office of Student Financial Aid administers several federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs available to graduate students who complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Visit the Graduate School’s website for details of current programs open to graduate students.