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Requirements for Master's Degrees

Type: University Requirements
Effective Date: 3/25/2016

Units Required for Master's Degree Programs

Master’s degree programs at NAU require a minimum of 30 credit units. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 credit units. 

Academic Requirements  

Northern Arizona University expects students to have adequate undergraduate preparation for their intended major. Generally, the student must have at least the equivalent of an undergraduate minor (18 units), and the student's advisor or academic unit may require that the student take, as a prerequisite for graduate study, any undergraduate course normally required of undergraduate majors in the field.  

To earn a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University under the thesis option, students must complete at least 18 units of formal, letter-graded coursework, that is, courses other than such individualized studies as independent studies, directed readings, and research. No 400-level courses may be used toward this 18-hour formal coursework requirement.  

To earn a master's degree at Northern Arizona University under the non-thesis option, students must complete at least 24 units of formal, letter-graded coursework—that is, courses other than such individualized studies as independent studies, directed readings, and research.  

The student's program may allow the student to take a maximum of two 400-level courses (6 credit units) at Northern Arizona University as part of the student's master's program with prior approval by the student's program committee. Students must file the "Override Authorization—Audit/Class Links/Out of Career form" (available on the Registrar's Office website), to get credit for a 400-level course in their master's degree.  

All graduate students must adhere to the academic requirements and criteria outlined by their program, Graduate College, and NAU. See NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate for more detailed information. 

Graduate students must, at a minimum, meet the “Academic Requirements for Continuation in a Graduate Program” found in NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate, in order to graduate. To begin the graduation process, please see NAU Policy 100334: Applying for Graduation, Graduate Students.

Time Limits for Completion

Students must complete all requirements for their master's degree within a six-year period. Additionally, courses applied to the Master’s degree must have been successfully completed within the 6-year time period required for completing the current degree. 

However, the Graduate College may grant students one extension of time for up to one year to complete degree requirements, with proper approval from the academic unit or program, if there are compelling extenuating circumstances. The reasons for which the Graduate College may grant an extension include, but are not limited to: job relocation, military duty, pregnancy, illness, a serious accident, divorce, or other life-impacting events within the student's immediate household.   

An exception to the 6-year time limit for courses may be granted by the Graduate College, with proper approval from the academic unit or program, through a request in writing to the Associate Dean of the Graduate College. Application of courses beyond the 6-year time limit depend on the nature of the courses, the student’s experience in the workforce, and/or the student’s utilization of their previous coursework. However, faculty within a graduate program/department assume the responsibility to ensure these courses demonstrate the current core learning competencies, expectations, and criteria for the student’s degree or certificate program. The age of the transfer work under consideration, or the year taken, may be a factor in the decision as to whether or not the coursework is admissible into a graduate student’s program. 

To request an extension of the six-year limit, either for completion of the degree or applying previously earned graduate credit for courses completed beyond the time limit, students must submit a "Petition for Extension of Time Limit for Master's Degree" form to the Graduate College. This form, available on the Graduate College website, must be endorsed by the student's advisor and department chair. The Graduate College Dean or Associate Dean makes the final decision. 

Transfer Credits

If students have been admitted to a graduate program at NAU and have earned resident graduate credit at another institution, they can petition the Graduate College to apply such credit toward a graduate degree. Please see Transfer Credits – Graduate Students (NAU Policy 100336) for details and procedures.

Petition eligible: Yes

Graduate students may petition for an exception to any academic, non-grade-related, graduate regulation for which no specific appeal or petition process exists. Petitions should be submitted, in writing, to the Associate Dean of the Graduate College. When applicable, the student’s advisor and department chair may endorse the petition letter. In some specific instances, utilizing the Academic Appeal Policy and University Graduate Committee Hearing Panel  is more appropriate. 

Students should contact the Associate Dean of the Graduate College for clarification on which process to initiate.

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