The Graduate School Manual - Policies: Master's

Academic Policies: Master's Degree

Advising and Guidance

At the beginning of a student's work toward the master's degree, the Dean, chair or director of graduate studies in his or her program designates a principal advisor. The principal advisor may be the director of graduate studies or another faculty member. If a student has a faculty guidance committee, the committee chair is the principal advisor. The principal advisor is expected to meet periodically with the student to discuss his or her progress.


Requirements for a Master's Degree

The Bulletin stipulates the specific requirements for a masters' degree in each program of the University. In addition to any specific program requirements, Graduate School policy requires the following:

  1. Continuous registration, including the semester (fall, spring, summer) in which final degree requirements are completed.
  2. Completion of at least 24 credit hours of graduate coursework in residence, exclusive of a thesis, plus total number of credit hours required by the degree program. Transfer credits require approval of the Graduate School.
  3. Maintenance of at least a B (3.0) average in courses approved by the department or school graduate committee and presented for the degree. All courses for which the university has provided financial support to the student count as "presented for the degree".
  4. Fulfillment of all departmental or school course requirements. No credit is granted for graduate courses in which a grade lower than a C- has been received.
  5. Demonstration to the examination committee, by means of a master's examination (written and/or oral) and required papers or thesis, of familiarity with basic hypotheses and techniques of the discipline and competence in applying them.
  6. Completion of any research skills requirements.
  7. Completion of any additional work that may also be required.
  8. Fulfillment of any intra- and inter program major and minor requirements.
  9. Completion of all requirements, including thesis if required by the program, within five years after admission to the Graduate School.
  10. Completion of all courses in progress, and posting of final grades on the student transcript. The student should work with the department to attain final grades for all courses; students with in progress grades or missing grades cannot be conferred a degree.



If a general examination is required for the student's masters' degree, the Dean, chair or director of graduate studies in the program appoints an examination committee. The examination committee consists of at least three faculty, one of whom is normally the principal advisor. The examination may be written or oral, or a combination of both. The decision for pass or fail shall be by majority vote of the examiners.


Master's Thesis


If a thesis is required for the master's degree, the dean, chair, or director of graduate studies designates a thesis committee consisting of at least two members of the faculty who supervise and approve the thesis, with one of these designated as first supervisor.

The principal advisor may also serve as first supervisor of a student's thesis. If the student has an advising committee, it may also serve as the thesis committee. Programs may designate additional examiners for the master's thesis beyond the two thesis supervisors.

Faculty with the formal (tenured or tenure-track) rank of assistant, associate or full professor in an academic department offering advanced degrees may serve as members or chairs of graduate student thesis committees, or serve as faculty advisors. Faculty who do not meet these criteria must petition for approval. To be approved, faculty must submit a current curriculum vitae and letters of endorsement from the chair or graduate director of the department offering the advanced degree. These materials are to be submitted by the office of the dean of the college or school to the Associate Dean of the Graduate School for evaluation by the Academic Standards subcommittee of the Graduate Council. If approved by the Graduate Council, that faculty member may serve as a member or chair of a graduate student thesis committee, or serve as a faculty advisor, for the period of three years, at which point the individual may reapply.

Preparation, Submission and Binding of the Thesis


Graduate Application for Degree

Master's degree students must file a Graduate Application for Degree (GAFD) form at the beginning of the semester in which they plan to complete all degree requirements and graduate. This serves as notification to the Graduate School, the student's department, and the Office of Student Records and Registrar Services of a student's intent to graduate. The GAFD is valid for one semester only. If a student files a GAFD but fails to graduate, they must submit a new application for degree the following semester or the semester of intended completion.



The deadlines for students to submit their master's thesis (if applicable) and Recommendation for Award Form (RFA) are posted online by the Office of Student Records and Registrar Services each semester. Students who have not completed all degree requirements by the established deadlines will not graduate, and are required to register for the following semester and resubmit the Graduate Application for Degree (GAFD).


Degree Conferral and Commencement

Degrees are conferred by the Office of Student Records and Registrar Services three times each year: December, May and August. Students who complete degree requirements in the fall semester are awarded degrees in December; students who complete degree requirements in the spring semester are awarded degrees in May; students who complete degree requirements in summer are awarded degrees in August. Formal investiture of degrees awarded in all semesters will occur at the annual spring Commencement. Information regarding Commencement is mailed approximately two months prior to each commencement ceremony to all students who have declared themselves candidates. Commencement details are distributed via Binghamton University e-mail addresses; thus, it is imperative that candidates have access to their Binghamton University e-mail accounts. 


When Completion Letter is Needed

Students who complete ALL requirements for the degree well in advance of the award of the degree may, upon request to the Degree Coordinator in the Office of Student Records and Registrar Services, receive a statement from the Office of Financial Aid and Student Records certifying that all requirements for the degree have been completed.


Checklist for Completion of Degree Requirements

"No thesis" option

    • Have you maintained continuous registration?
    • Have you completed (or have you nearly completed) the minimum required credit hours for your degree program (please keep in mind the 24 credit hour residency requirement as a graduate student)?
    • Have you successfully completed any additional departmental programmatic requirements (e.g. internship; termination project)?
    • Have you submitted a Graduate Application for Degree for the semester you intend on completing all degree requirements?
    • Have you addressed any incomplete or missing grades on your academic record, ensuring ample time (two weeks is recommended) for your instructor to grade any incomplete courses or to resolve any missing grades prior to the last day of classes?
    • Have you cleared up any financial obligations or holds on your account?
    • Have you electronically submitted the Recommendation for Award Form (RFA) by the degree completion deadline?

"With thesis" option - completion of all of the above items plus:

    • Is your thesis in acceptable format as outlined in the Thesis/Dissertation Formatting Guide?
    • Have you submitted your thesis electronically via ProQuest?
    • Have you submitted your thesis processing fee?


Dual and Double Degree Programs

Dual and double degree programs are separate graduate options for students, with the main difference being the SUNY and NYSED policies that they are subject to.

While dual degree programs are registered with SUNY and NYSED, double degree programs are approved by Binghamton University internally and they do not require additional SUNY and NYSED approval due to a change in the policies governing new program approvals.

Students enrolled in a dual/double degree program typically receive the two degrees concurrently.  With approval of the respective departments and concurrence of the Graduate School, it is possible for a student to complete the two degrees consecutively if they are able to maintain continuous registration and complete all second degree requirements within five years of entering the program. 

Dual Degree Programs

Applicants to dual-degree programs should apply to both degree programs at the same time by submitting two graduate applications and paying two application fees. Both academic departments must recommend the applicant for admission to the dual-degree program. If the student later decides to withdraw from one of the programs, the student is required to notify both academic departments and the Graduate School immediately in writing.

Students are expected to complete the dual-degree program as prescribed. Students are required to maintain continuous registration for the fall and spring semesters and complete the dual-degree program within five years of entering the program.

Only under special circumstances will a student be admitted to a dual-degree program after the student has started the first semester of one of the component degree programs. When applying for the dual degree program, the student must present a course schedule for every semester and have the schedule approved by both academic departments. The course schedule should meet the timeline prescribed by the dual-degree program. If the student is admitted to the second degree program, enrollment in that program will not begin until the subsequent semester.

Double Degree Programs

Applicants interested in obtaining a double degree are required to apply to both degree programs. They are encouraged to do so at the same time. It is possible, however, for a student to apply for the partner program after they have started one of the degree programs. Both academic department make their recommendations for admission separately.

Students are expected to complete the double degree program as per the individual program requirements. They will be able to double count credits per the policies outlined in the Double Counting Credits portion of this manual. Students are required to maintain continuous registration for the fall and spring semesters, must complete the double degree program within five years of entering the program, and are subject to the academic policies of each of the partnering programs.


Double Counting Credits

Students admitted to a graduate program may, within certain guidelines, double-count some courses for credit toward two degrees. A candidate for two degrees of the same rank (e.g., master's degrees) in separate disciplines may be allowed to double count some courses within the guidelines below. For details regarding recognized double degree programs approved internally by Binghamton University, recognized dual-degree programs registered with the State University of New York (SUNY) and New York State Education Department (NYSED), or recognized accelerated degree programs, please see the corresponding sections of the Graduate School Manual.

General Guidelines for Double Counting Credits

Double counted credits must meet at least one of the following criteria:

    • Equivalent courses in both programs (such as introductory research methods classes) for which both programs determine that either one (or a specific one) will fulfill the requirements of both programs;
    • Elective credits for one program that are fulfilled by taking required courses in the other program;
    • Elective credits outside of either program, which count towards both degrees;
    • Experiential credits, which can be coordinated to simultaneously meet the requirements of both programs.

Culminating experience credits, such as thesis, capstone and dissertation hours cannot be double counted. Thesis research (599) and dissertation research (699) cannot be double counted.

Double counted credits cannot be justified if they diminish the rigor and depth of either program.

Two MA or two MS in different disciplines

If the two programs are part of a recognized double degree program or a recognized dual degree program, no more than 25% of the combined credit hours in the two degree programs and no more than 50% of the credit hours in any one degree can be double counted.

Double counting of credits is not permissible if the two degrees are not part of a recognized double degree program or a recognized dual degree program.

MA and MAT in the same discipline, concurrently or subsequently

A maximum of five courses that are regularly listed as common to both graduate programs may be double counted.

Two Master's Degrees: Any combination besides MA + MA, MS + MS or MAT + MA described above

Partnering departments or programs will together approve the number of courses to double count for each student enrolled in a double degree program. The maximum number of courses allowed for double counting shall not exceed 25% of the total credit hours of each degree program.

Two PhD in different disciplines

Requests for double counting of credits will be reviewed by both graduate programs in consultation with the Graduate School on a case-by-case basis.

Tuition Scholarships and Double Counting Credits

Unless they are part of a recognized double degree program or a recognized dual degree program, courses paid for by a tuition scholarship cannot be used for a second master's degree, a second doctoral degree or a master's degree after a doctoral degree. See Terms & Conditions of Tuition Scholarship.


Award of a Second Degree in the Same Field

The State University of New York policy states that a second degree at the same level (e.g., master's or doctorate) can be awarded only when a significant amount of additional course work in a very different field is completed. Normally when a student has already earned a master's or doctorate in a given discipline (e.g., economics or history) at another foreign or U.S. institution, a second degree at the same level in that discipline cannot be earned at Binghamton University.