Article V. General Requirements for the Master's Degree


Section 1. Residency, Credit Requirements, and Admission to Candidacy

A. Residency

A minimum of six credit hours per semester constitutes residency. A student must be in residence in the Graduate School for at least one semester in order to be recommended for a degree. Credits advanced/transfered from other accredited graduate institutions may not be used to meet the residency requirement.

B. Minimum Credit Requirements

The minimum number of credits required for the Master's degree is thirty. However, departments may require credits in excess of this amount, and various factors may result in a students’ taking more than the minimum number of credit hours prior to satisfactorily completing the degree requirements. The completion of minimum course requirements or credit does not guarantee receipt of the degree.

The distribution of credits for the degree shall be as follows:

  1. Twenty-four credits in course work, at least eighteen of which shall be earned in the major subject.
  2. No more than six (6) credits in thesis writing courses may count towards the requirements of the degree.

C. Admission to Candidacy

Admission to a Master’s degree program does not automatically admit a student to candidacy for the Master’s degree. A student will be admitted to candidacy upon completion of the requirements for the Master’s degree, except the thesis or its equivalent.

Prior to admission to candidacy, a student must:

  1. Submit an admission to candidacy form (available from the Graduate School), listing graduate courses completed, in process, and yet to be completed.
  2. Pass all the required core courses.
  3. Pass the qualifying or comprehensive examination administered by the department (where applicable).
  4. Demonstrate proficiency in expository writing in addition to satisfying the RCR requirements as described in Article 1V, above.
  5. Pass the foreign language examination or fulfill the approved substitute where applicable.
  6. Secure the approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) or other institutional committees as required for the research project.
  7. Receive approval of a thesis subject or an optional requirement as determined by the Committee on Graduate Studies in the major department.
  8. Receive the endorsement of the Committee on Graduate Studies in the major department; and
  9. Receive the approval of the Graduate School.

Admission to candidacy must be achieved at least six weeks prior to the end of the semester in which the student expects to receive his/her degree.

Candidacy for the Master's degree shall be valid for no more than two academic years. Any student seeking renewal of candidacy must apply to the Graduate School through the department for reinstatement. The department in which the student is seeking the degree shall determine the conditions under which he/she may be reinstated, subject to the approval of the Executive Committee of the Graduate School.

The responsibility for fulfilling these requirements on time is that of the student. The departmental Director of Graduate Studies should be consulted regarding any of the stated requirements. Students should carefully note the specific requirements of their department relative to admission to candidacy and regard them as additional to these general requirements.

NOTE: Committee membership is final after advancement to candidacy. Requests for changes regarding membership to the approved Master’s committee must be put in writing to the Graduate Dean.

Section 2. Course Requirements

A. Length of Time for Completion of the Master’s Degree

Students are expected to complete a Master’s degree within a maximum of five years from the date of initial registration in the program. A student who exceeds the five-year period may be dismissed. After five years, students must petition for readmission and may be readmitted only upon fulfillment of conditions recommended by the departmental Committee on Graduate Studies and approved by the Executive Committee of the Graduate School, subject to the rules for readmission to the Graduate School in Article I, Section 7.

A Petition for Extension of Time to Complete Degree Requirements Form can be obtained from the Director of Graduate Studies in each graduate program or from the Office of Graduate Studies in the Graduate School. The form must be filed out completely and the necessary signatures must be obtained prior to submitting it to the Graduate School. Students who are in time-to-degree status will not be allowed to register for courses or enroll at the university as a former student returning until approval is granted to continue the program of study. If approval is not granted to continue, students will receive an official program dismissal notification letter from the Graduate Dean. Note that there are specific deadline dates that the form is to be submitted to the Graduate School for review and approval:

Fall Semester Review – August 15th

Spring Semester Review – January 15th

B. Course Viability

The Graduate School has a fundamental interest in ensuring that its graduating M.A. students have currency of knowledge in their fields. Therefore, the Graduate School places limits on the age of courses that can be counted toward the fulfillment of graduation requirements.

Credit for courses pursued more than five and less than seven years, prior to the term in which the student presents herself/himself for the final examination, can be counted toward the fulfillment of degree requirements only if they are restored as described in this paragraph with the approval of the departmental Committee on Graduate Studies and the Dean. In order for a course to be restored under this paragraph, the student must pass an examination administered expressly for the purpose of restoration of credits in the course concerned or a comprehensive examination in the field in which the course falls.

A student may not receive credit toward the degree for a course, which the student took and completed more than seven (7) years prior to the time the student presents herself/himself for the final examination. Such courses may not be restored.

In the event that a student has been granted a leave of absence pursuant to Article II, Section 3 on account of childbirth, adoption, illness, caring for incapacitated dependents, disability, military service, or similar circumstances, or if the student’s progress toward a degree has been delayed as a result of such conditions or circumstances but without the need for a leave of absence, the student may apply in writing to the departmental Graduate Studies Committee and the Dean for an exception to the foregoing limitations on course viability and course restoration. A copy of any such application must be provided to the Office of Special Student Services. Such exceptions are strongly disfavored where the courses exceed the foregoing time limitations because of the Graduate School’s fundamental interest in ensuring that graduating students have currency of knowledge in their disciplines.

C. Enrollment in Thesis Writing Courses

Students who have met course credit requirements but are using University facilities, or is conferring in person with the thesis advisor, must continue to enroll in a thesis-writing course. Students shall register as an auditor if they have already accumulated the maximum number of hours permitted for thesis writing courses.

D. Assignment of Grades for Thesis Writing Courses

Thesis writing courses shall be assigned a grade of satisfactory (S) or unsatisfactory (U) while the work is in progress. These grades may be removed after completion of the final oral examination on the thesis.

E. Enrollment in the Semester in Which the Degree is conferred.

A candidate for a degree must be enrolled in the Graduate School during the semester in which the degree is conferred.

Section 3. Program of Study

The department in which the student is enrolled shall specify the program and departmental requirements for each of its candidates. An approved Program of Study for each student must be filed with the department no later than the end of the first semester in residence. The responsibility of submitting the individualized Program of Study is that of the student. Failure to do so in a timely manner may result in suspension of enrollment privileges at the University.

Section 4. Grades and Academic Status

  • A. A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 (B) is required for graduation.
  • B. A student who falls below the 3.00 GPA shall be warned and informed by the Graduate School and must raise the quality point index to 3.00 in the next two terms in residence. Students failing to do so will be dismissed from the Graduate School.
  • C. A student may earn no more than two C grades. If a student earns three grades below a B, he/she will be dismissed from the Graduate School
  • D. A student who demonstrates an inability to perform satisfactorily at the graduate level should be recommended for dismissal.

Section 5. Transfer of Credit

Course work taken in another graduate program may be approved for transfer up to a maximum of six credits provided the courses to be transferred were not applied to satisfy requirements for a degree. The specific courses for which these six credits may be transferred shall be determined by the Committee on Graduate Studies in the major department subject to the approval of the Graduate 
School. Official transcripts must accompany any request for transfer of credits. Viability of transfer courses shall be governed by the rules specified in Section 2B above.

A. Request to Leave Current Program of Study

Students currently enrolled in a program of the Graduate School who wish to seek admission to another program in the Graduate School must obtain written permission from the department in which the student is enrolled for transfer to another program. A copy of the approved document must be submitted to the Graduate School. The student must formally apply for admission into the new program. The rules on transfer of credits noted above will apply to students who desire to switch programs.

  • Graduate students who wish to transfer to a different degree program must:
  • Be in good standing (3.0 or higher).
  • Receive written permission from the Chairs of the program to transfer out of the program.
  • Not be in time-to-degree status
  • Apply through the standard university admission process.
  • Submit an admissions application by the program deadline.
  • Only apply for transfer up to two times in an academic career.
  • Receive a separate GPA for the new program.
  • Check with financial aid regarding financial aid program transfer status.

Section 6. Foreign Language Requirement for a Master’s Degree

The department in which the student is enrolled shall determine the foreign language requirement, if any, or its substitute for the Master’s degree.

Students may satisfy the foreign language requirement by passing an examination prepared by the foreign language department at Howard University based on materials submitted by the department concerned.

Section 7. Qualifying and/or Comprehensive Examination

Graduate departments require that students pass a qualifying and/or a comprehensive examination before they qualify for candidacy. Students must consult their departments for specific information on the examination(s).

A candidate who fails such an examination on the first try may sit for a second examination, provided that the second examination is not administered earlier than two months from the date of the first examination. Failure on the second examination will result in dismissal from the Graduate School.

Section 8. Thesis or its Equivalent: Committee, Document, and Defense

Master's degree programs require the submission of a thesis, or in the case of a non-thesis equivalent, completion of a project or courses in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree. A member of the Graduate Faculty who shall act as his/her advisor must supervise students preparing a required document. The advisor must be a member of the department in which the degree will be granted. Students are advised to consult their departments concerning requirements and options, because departments, in accordance with disciplinary practices, determine acceptable projects.

The subject of the thesis or its equivalent shall be determined as early in the program as possible.

A. The Committee

The committee for the thesis or its equivalent must consist of the thesis advisor (who must be a graduate faculty member of the department in which the degree will be granted) and at least two other members (faculty members on the committee who are not members of the department in which the degree will be granted must seek approval from the department chair), a majority of whom must be members of the Graduate Faculty at Howard University. Each member of the committee is responsible for fully reviewing and approving both the process and the final document (i.e., the thesis or its equivalent). Final approval of the thesis or its equivalent in all aspects is the responsibility of the full committee acting on behalf of the Graduate School.

There are three categories for graduate faculty membership. To include emeritus graduate faculty, clinical or research faculty, scholars from other institutions, independent scholars and practitioners, the department/program adopts the criteria for the appointment. Final approval is granted by the Graduate Dean for a fixed term.

B. The Document
The document shall be prepared in accordance with the conventions of the discipline and shall conform to requirements of the Graduate School as specified in the manual available in the Graduate School.

Thesis students shall deposit three approved copies with the department no later than two weeks after the date of the final oral examination; these documents along with other supporting documents will then be forwarded to the Graduate School. Students who fail to comply with this regulation will be considered to have failed the first oral examination and will have to sit for a second one.

C. Defense

The candidate is required to pass a final oral examination in defense of the thesis or its equivalent. In accordance with the academic calendar of the Graduate School, the department must notify the Graduate School to schedule the examination. In scheduling the examination, the student’s major department shall furnish the names of the members of the oral defense committee. The examination shall be based primarily on the research, the field of research, and related areas of study. The majority of the oral examination committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty at Howard University.

The final examination shall be open to members of the faculties of the University, and to other persons who may be invited by the candidate's major department and by the candidate.

A candidate who fails such an examination on the first try may sit for a second examination. Once an examination has started, it is considered an attempt. The second examination cannot be administered earlier than two months from the date of the first examination. Failure on the second examination will result in dismissal from the Graduate School.