Master's Degree Requirements

The Graduate School at Northwestern University offers the degrees of:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) 

All Northwestern University graduate students must fulfill a set of requirements regarding:

Each student's program of study for a master's degree must be approved by the student's academic program. Each student enrolled in a Master's program must have a committee and an advisor who advise on plan of study, degree requirements, and thesis and/or final exam, if required. The advisor and at least two of the committee members must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty. In addition to requirements directly related to awarding of a degree, all students are required to maintain satisfactory academic progress and standards of academic integrity.

Registration and changes of academic program regulations apply to all students across degree programs and disciplines. These policies are subject to change without notice.

11.1 Master's Residency And Courses

To be eligible for a Master's degree, a student must successfully complete at least nine letter-graded courses (non P/NP) authorized for graduate credit and meet the minimum residency requirement. Residency is calculated in terms of quarters of full-time study:

  • Students pursuing the Master of Arts, Master of Science, or Master of Public Health must meet a residency requirement of the equivalent of three quarters of full-time registration in courses authorized by the Graduate Faculty for graduate credit.
  • Students pursuing the Master of Fine Arts must meet a residency requirement of the equivalent of six quarters of full-time registration in courses authorized by the Graduate Faculty for graduate credit.

Credit earned at an undergraduate institution or at another graduate school or a professional school may, with program approval, be applied toward the program's coursework requirements, but not toward The Graduate School’s residency requirements. Specific course requirements for the master's degree are listed on each program's website. For a full explanation of courses that count for graduate credit, see the Registration section.

No more than one-third of the total units presented for the Master's degree may be 499 Independent Study.

11.2 Master's Timeline

Students must complete all the requirements for the master's degree within five years of the date of their initial registration in The Graduate School, which falls on the last day of the 20th quarter.

Students who do not complete their degree within five years will not be considered in good academic standing and will be placed on academic probation

11.3 Master's Degree Completion

11.3.1 Final Examination And Graduation Requirements

A minimum of two individuals must serve on the Master's committee and confirm that all requirements for degree completion have been met. At least two members of the committee, including the chair, must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty. In order to receive the master's degree, the student must:

  • Complete all required coursework and the program's requirements for the degree.
  • File for degree by completing an Application for a Degree form via TGS Forms in CAESAR by the date specified in the Academic Calendar.
  • Complete the Master's Degree Completion form via TGS Forms in CAESAR and receive program approval of the form by the date specified in the Academic Calendar. (Students in a combined Bachelors/Master's Degree Program who are unable to access TGS Forms should email Student Services for assistance.)
  • Have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA and no X, Y, or NR grades on their transcript. All grades must be entered and Change of Grade forms submitted by the grade deadline specified on the Academic Calendar.
  • If required by the program, engage in a culminating academic experience, such as a thesis or oral presentation, or pass a final exam as a part of the program of study for a Master's degree. Programs will determine the nature of this culminating experience requirement, with the approval of The Graduate School, and the corresponding number of units of credit, if any. The Graduate School does not collect Master's theses or documentation of the academic culminating experience.

11.3.2 Thesis Or Final Project

A program may require the preparation of a thesis or, in the case of a Master of Fine Arts degree, a final project, as a part of the program of study for a Master's degree. Programs will determine the nature of the thesis or project and, with the approval of The Graduate School, the number of units of credit, if any, to be allowed for the thesis. The Master's thesis or project is submitted to the program.