How to Earn a Graduate Degree
General university and specific degree requirements for UAF graduate programs are described in this section of the catalog, along with requirements for each graduate program. You’ll find instructions for applying for admission in the Applying for Admission: Graduate Degree Programs section.
Many academic policies and regulations apply to both graduate and undergraduate students. These guidelines are relevant to your academic experience at UAF and important for you to read and understand. Topics include definitions and requirements for official university communications, full- and part-time student status, academic progress, academic dismissal, grading system and policies, FERPA and the student code of conduct. See Academics and Regulations for descriptions of UAF academics, policies and regulations.
- Catalog and Time Limit
You may elect to graduate under the degree requirements in effect the first semester of your enrollment in your graduate degree program or under the catalog in effect when you graduate. However, if you do not meet continuous registration requirements, you waive the right to use the catalog in effect when you first entered your graduate program; you will use either the catalog in effect during the semester of your re-entry or the catalog in effect when you graduate.
All non-academic policies and regulations listed in the current catalog apply, regardless of the catalog you are using for your degree requirements. You must satisfactorily complete all course work listed on your Advancement to Candidacy form and all other degree requirements within seven years for a master’s degree and 10 years for a PhD.
- Grades and Grade Point Average
You must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in the courses identified on your Advancement to Candidacy form to remain in good standing and to graduate. In addition, for the purpose of satisfying degree requirements, you must earn a B (3.0) or better (no P grades) in each F400-level course and a C grade (2.0) or better in each F600-level course. NOTE: A B- is less than a 3.0 and, if obtained in a F400-level course, will not count for meeting degree requirements; likewise, a C- is less than a 2.0 and, if obtained in a F600-level course, will not count for meeting degree requirements.
- Registration Requirement
Graduate students must be registered for at least 6 credits per year (fall, spring, summer), in graduate or F400-level courses relevant to the graduate degree, while actively working toward a degree. Those who wish to temporarily suspend their studies should obtain an approved leave of absence.
You must be registered for at least 3 graduate credits in the semester in which you receive your degree and you must apply for graduation in that semester.
- Temporary Leave of Absence
If you need to temporarily suspend studies while earning a graduate degree, you must obtain an approved leave of absence. If you fail to register for at least 6 graduate or F400-level credits in a school year (fall, spring or summer semester) or to obtain a leave of absence, you will be dropped from graduate study and will have to be reinstated before resuming graduate studies. Contact the Graduate School for information at 907-474-7464.
- Transfer Credit
Up to one-half of all graduate degree credits approved for a graduate program may be transferred from UAA and UAS. No more than one-third of approved program credits may be transferred from other accredited institutions outside the UA system. Transferred credits may not be used from a previously earned degree. A minimum B grade (3.0) is required in all graduate courses presented for transfer.
- Credits Earned While Non-Degree Seeking
A student who earned post-baccalaureate degree credits while studying as a non-degree student at UAF may, with approval of the graduate advisory committee, apply those credits toward a graduate degree. However, no more than one-half of all credits used to meet the requirements of a graduate degree may be credits earned as a non-degree student.
- Course Restrictions
You may not use credit by examination, audited courses, F100-, F200-, F300-, and F500-level courses, or courses taken under the credit/no credit option to fulfill the basic course requirements of any degree program. No more than 12 credits of special topics courses (F693 or F695) or individual study (F697) may be used toward a graduate degree. The dean of the Graduate School must approve requests for exceptions to the limit.
Your advisory committee may require that you remedy certain deficiencies in your program. Your committee will determine early in the program both how to remedy the deficiencies and the minimum level of performance required of you. Graded undergraduate courses taken to remedy a deficiency must receive a grade of B (3.0) or better. Deficiency courses are not listed on the Advancement to Candidacy form.
- English Proficiency
You must be proficient in written and oral English. Your advisory committee will determine requirements to remove any such deficiencies. These requirements may not be used to fulfill the language/research tool requirement of some departments.
- Cooperative Programs
Some students may develop cooperative programs using specific courses from other universities before being admitted to graduate study at UAF. As part of the application process, the cooperative program must be included in an approved Graduate Study Plan. The student must complete a minimum of 12 semester credits in residence at UAF, in addition to thesis and research.
The following guidelines are for collaborative PhD graduate studies across all UA academic units. Some individual degree programs have different requirements which are included in specific program descriptions in the graduate degree program section of the catalog. The guidelines described here apply only to programs that have not established different requirements.
- At least four faculty members shall serve on the graduate advisory committee for each PhD student. At least two committee members shall be UAF faculty. One of the UAF committee members must be on a tenure-track appointment in a PhD-granting department. The committee shall be chaired or co-chaired by a UAF faculty member.
- The graduate advisory committee and its chair and/or co-chairs must be approved by the program director and the dean of the Graduate School.
- UAF rules and regulations on graduate studies shall apply to all UAF graduate students, including those concurrently enrolled at UAA and UAS.
- The graduate advisory committee must meet at least once a year to update the Graduate Study Plan and to review the student’s progress toward the degree. The annual progress report must be signed by all committee members and submitted to the dean of the UAF Graduate School.
- A comprehensive exam committee composed of the student’s advisory committee will administer the PhD comprehensive exam for each student.
- The PhD thesis defense is to be conducted on the UAF campus.
A graduate advisory committee is normally appointed within the first semester of study to guide students in developing and completing their degree programs. Committee members for graduate degrees are approved by the appropriate dean, usually upon recommendation of the department head, and by the dean of the Graduate School. Advisory committees for interdisciplinary students are approved by the dean of the Graduate School. Each interdisciplinary student follows procedures through the department of his or her advisory committee chair. The committee chair’s department will be the “home” of the interdisciplinary student for academic purposes.
The graduate advisory committee’s major responsibilities are to formulate a Graduate Study Plan, in consultation with the student, by the end of the student’s second semester in the graduate program; to develop a tentative timetable for completion of all requirements for the degree program; to monitor the student’s progress in course work and research; to provide advice and feedback to the student on that progress; to file an Annual Report of Graduate Student Advisory Committee with the Graduate School; to approve, where appropriate, a research topic; to supervise the preparation of the research thesis or project when one is required; to uphold the standards of the college/school and the university; to inform the dean, in writing, if a student’s performance is inadequate and provide relevant recommendations; and to formulate and conduct the comprehensive examination and other exams as required by the department. The student’s advisor (major professor, advisory committee chair) acts as head of the graduate advisory committee and takes the lead in fulfilling these responsibilities.
- Master’s Degree
The core advisory committee of master’s degree students must consist of three approved UAF faculty members. Participating faculty above this number are considered additional committee members. Committee membership must be approved by the home department, unit dean and the dean of the Graduate School.
Retired or emeritus UAF faculty who have an association with the home department may serve on master’s advisory committees, upon expressed approval by the home department.
Faculty from other universities and other professionals who are not employed by UAF may serve as either core or additional committee members on master’s advisory committees, upon expressed approval by the home department. They may not serve as the chair of an advisory committee, but may serve as co-chair.
- Doctoral Degree
The core advisory committee of doctoral degree students must consist of four approved UAF faculty members (all must have a PhD or equivalent). For interdisciplinary students, one advisory committee member must be from a PhD-granting department or be approved as the graduate school representative by the graduate school dean, based on prior experience advising PhD students. Participating faculty above this number are considered additional committee members. Committee membership must be approved by the home department, unit dean and the dean of the Graduate School.
Retired or emeritus UAF faculty who have an association with the home department may serve on doctoral advisory committees, upon expressed approval by the home department.
Faculty from other universities and other professionals who are not employed by UAF may serve as either core or additional committee members on doctoral advisory committees (all must have a PhD or equivalent), upon expressed approval by the home department. They may not serve as the chair of an advisory committee, but may serve as co-chair.
Graduate students must file a Graduate Study Plan with the Graduate School before the end of their second semester in a UAF graduate degree program. The GSP outlines the curriculum of study and a timetable the student must follow in meeting graduate degree requirements. The GSP is prepared by the advisory committee in consultation with the student. It is an agreement of mutual expectations between the student and the faculty committee. The GSP not only contains the specific degree requirements but also indicates the mechanism for fulfilling these requirements (e.g., via course work, examinations, readings, internships or other supervised experience) and a projected timetable.
Graduate students may change their program only when the areas of emphasis or the degree are within the same department (e.g., from an MA in anthropology to a PhD in anthropology, or from a PhD in Biochemistry and molecular biology to a PhD in environmental chemistry). If the change meets those requirements, you may change programs by completing a change of major form, available from the Graduate School’s website. Regardless of when you submit the form, a change of program doesn’t become effective until the beginning of the upcoming fall or spring semester. If, however, you want to change to a program in a different department, school or college (e.g., from an MS in civil engineering to an MS in biology), you must submit a new application for admission so faculty in the new degree program may fully review your credentials. For more information, contact the Graduate School at 907-474-7464.
Advancement to candidacy formally establishes your specific degree requirements and should be done as soon as possible after qualifying. You are required to submit your application for advancement to candidacy one semester before you are awarded your degree.
The finalized Graduate Study Plan should be the basis for completing the Advancement to Candidacy form. Students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in the courses identified on the Advancement to Candidacy form. For the purpose of satisfying degree requirements students must earn a B (3.0) or better (no P grades) in each F400-level course and a C grade (2.0) or better in each 600 level course. A B- is less than a 3.0 and, if obtained in a F400 course, will not count for meeting degree requirements; likewise a C- is less than a 2.0, and if obtained in a F600-level course, will not count for meeting degree requirements.
Admission to graduate study does not imply advancement to candidacy for a degree. The graduate advisory committee has the option of refusing to recommend a student to candidacy.
- Master’s Degree
You may apply for advancement to candidacy for a specific master’s degree if you are in good standing and you have:
- Satisfactorily completed at least 9 semester credits of graduate study at UAF (study after admission to a specific degree program).
- Received approval of a provisional thesis or project topic.
- Received approval of the finalized Graduate Study Plan, including specific course work to be completed and any other requirements.
- Doctoral Degree
You may apply for advancement to candidacy for the PhD degree if you are in good standing and you have:
- Completed the full time equivalent of two academic years of graduate study.
- Completed at least 9 UAF credits.
- Received approval of the Graduate Study Plan.
- Obtained approval of the advisory committee for the title and synopsis of the thesis.
- Passed a written comprehensive examination.
Examinations are given in both written and oral form, depending upon the policy of the program unit, the decision of the advisory committee and the specific examination being taken.
- Placement Examinations
Some programs have formalized placement exams designed to pinpoint a student’s strengths and weaknesses as an aid in developing the Graduate Study Plan. This evaluation is carried out during the student’s first semester at the university, preferably in the first month, and may be written, oral or both.
- Qualifying Examinations
A few master’s degree programs require the student to complete a written and/or oral qualifying examination before advancement to candidacy. This examination is an interim evaluation of academic progress; the student may pass unconditionally or conditionally. A conditional pass indicates specific weaknesses that the student must remedy before degree requirements are completed. The Graduate Study Plan and later the Advancement to Candidacy form should include mechanisms for addressing these weaknesses.
- Comprehensive Examination
The comprehensive examination is given to determine whether the student has integrated knowledge and understanding of the principles and concepts underlying major and related fields. It may be oral or written or a combination of both. PhD degree students normally take a written comprehensive examination within two academic years of entering the program, but no later than two academic years before the expected completion of the degree (whichever is earliest). The PhD student’s advisory committee may choose to give an oral examination to supplement the written comprehensive examination. Each PhD student must pass the comprehensive examination prior to advancement to candidacy.
- Defense of Project
Graduate Students who are required to complete a project in partial fulfillment of degree requirements must pass an oral defense of project examination. The defense will consist of a presentation followed by questions on the research, analysis and written presentation. All committee members must be present at the project defense.
- Defense of Thesis Examination
Graduate students who are required to complete a thesis in partial fulfillment of degree requirements must pass an oral defense of thesis examination. The defense will consist of a presentation followed by questions on the research, analysis and written presentation. The Graduate School will not accept a thesis for final submission until the student has successfully defended it. The PhD thesis defense is to be conducted on the UAF campus. All committee members must be present for the defense of thesis.
- Examination Committee
In most cases, the student’s graduate advisory committee prepares and gives the examinations under guidelines formulated by the faculty of the department in which the degree is being taken. In a few programs, examinations are replaced or supplemented by departmental or school examinations and administered by an established examining committee.
- Outside Examiner
An outside examiner representing and appointed by the dean of the Graduate School is required at all PhD oral examinations (except the placement examination). The examiner must be from a different department than the student and the chair of the advisory committee. The outside examiner is present to determine that a stringent, unbiased examination is fairly administered and evaluated.
- Language/Research Tool Requirement
Proficiency in a second language or a research tool is not a university requirement, but some departments or programs may make this requirement. An advisory committee may specify a language or research tool if its requirements exceed those of the program.
The specific language or research tool is determined by the advisory committee, guided by policies of the administrative unit in which the degree is offered. Generally, competency in a second language is required. However, upon approval of the department or program head, the committee may substitute computer languages, statistics, mathematics, or study in areas such as history or philosophy of science, business, administration, law, or economics. In all instances, topics selected must support the student’s degree program.
You are responsible for meeting all requirements for graduation.
- Application for Graduation
You must be registered for a minimum of 3 graduate credits within your discipline and maintain enrollment in the semester that you successfully defend your thesis, and you must be registered for a minimum of 1 graduate credit within your discipline and maintain enrollment during the semester that you graduate. You must file an application for graduation and a non-refundable fee with the Office of Admissions and the Registrar. We encourage you to work with your advisor/committee chair before applying for graduation to meet any departmental deadlines. Applications for graduation filed after the published deadline will be processed for graduation the following semester. You need not have all requirements met before you apply for graduation. The application is an indication that you are planning to finish all degree requirements during the intended graduation semester. Students who apply for graduation and who do not complete degree requirements by the end of the semester must reapply for graduation and pay the fee again.
- Diplomas and Commencement
UAF issues diplomas to graduates three times each year: in September, January and June. All students who complete degree requirements during the academic year are invited to participate in the annual commencement ceremony at the end of spring semester. Names of students receiving degrees appear in the commencement program and are released to the media unless the student has a confidential hold on file with the Office of the Admissions and the Registrar. Students who do not want their names to be released may so indicate on the application for graduation form. Graduates are responsible for ordering caps and gowns through the UAF bookstore in early spring.
Graduate assistants receive stipends for either a semester or the academic year. Graduate assistants can be paid for a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students with assistantships must be registered for at least 9 credits during both the fall and spring semesters (audited credits are not eligible).
Any exceptions to the 20-hour per week rule must be approved by the student’s committee chair, department head, college dean and dean of the Graduate School. Complete a Student Employee Waiver Form (available at www.alaska.edu/hr/forms/int_personnelforms/) to request approval of more than 20 student work hours per week. Foreign nationals on temporary student visas are not permitted to work more than 20 hours a week while classes are in session and are not eligible for an overload waiver.
Teaching assistantships include a tuition payment by the university for no more than 10 credits each semester if the workload is 15 to 20 hours per week. If the workload is 10 to 14 hours per week, no more than 5 credits will be included. No tuition will be included if the workload is less than 10 hours per week.
Research assistantships include a tuition payment by grants/contracts for no more than 10 credits during each semester if the workload is 15 to 20 hours per week. If the workload is 10 to 14 hours per week, no more than 5 credits will be included. No tuition will be included if the workload is less than 10 hours per week.
Tuition payments must be used for courses directly related to the student’s degree program. All fees are the responsibility of the student unless the department or institute makes other arrangements with the UAF Graduate School prior to registration.
A graduate student with a GPA of less than 3.0 for one semester will be allowed to petition to continue as a graduate assistant for the next semester, but only once. The petition by the student must be approved by the student’s advisory committee chair, department head, college dean and dean of the Graduate School.
Graduate certificate programs are designed to provide education past the baccalaureate level and/or to meet clearly defined educational needs of students who have already completed a master’s degree. Completion of a graduate certificate should prepare students to better accomplish their goals or meet employment criteria.
These programs typically require between 12 and 15 credits and provide the student with formal recognition of mastery of a clearly defined academic topic. The credit hours may be applied to other graduate programs where applicable.
In order to earn a graduate certificate, students must be admitted to the program and complete the requirements listed in the program section of this chapter. Most graduate certificates are between 12–18 credits. You must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in all course work and be registered in the semester you plan to graduate.
Students may elect to complete their program under the requirements of the catalog in effect at the time of formal acceptance to a graduate certificate program or the catalog in effect at the time of graduation. Students may earn more than one graduate certificate by completing all requirements for each additional program.