How to Earn a Graduate Degree

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.

UAF tenured faculty, tenure track faculty and research faculty are not eligible to become candidates for a graduate degree within the discipline in which they teach.

Academics, Policies and Regulations

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.

General University Requirements

  • 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 Ph.D.
  • Grades and Grade Point Average (GPA)
    You must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) in the courses identified on your Advancement to Candidacy form to remain in good standing and in order to graduate. You must earn a 3.0 or better (no P grades) in 400-level courses; a C (2.0) grade will be accepted in 600-level courses for the purposes of satisfying degree requirements, provided you remain in good standing.
  • Registration Requirement
    Graduate students must be registered for at least 6 credits per year (fall, spring, summer), in graduate or 400-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 400-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
    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. 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; they cannot have been used toward a previously earned degree. A minimum B grade is required in all graduate courses presented for transfer.
  • Course Restrictions
    You may not use credit by examination, audited courses, 100-, 200-, 300-, and 500-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 (693 or 695) or individual study (697) may be used toward a graduate degree. The dean of the Graduate School must approve requests for exceptions to the limit.
  • Deficiencies
    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 (GSP). 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 Ph.D. 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.
    1. At least four faculty members shall serve on the graduate advisory committee for each Ph.D. 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 Ph.D.-granting department. The committee shall be chaired or co-chaired by a UAF faculty member.
    2. 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.
    3. UAF rules and regulations on graduate studies shall apply to all UAF graduate students, including those concurrently enrolled at UAA and UAS.
    4. 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.
    5. A comprehensive exam committee composed of the student’s advisory committee will administer the Ph.D. comprehensive exam for each student.
    6. The Ph.D. thesis defense is to be conducted on the UAF campus.

Graduate Advisory Committee

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. For interdisciplinary students, one advisory committee member must be from a Ph.D.-granting department or be approved as the graduate school representative by the graduate school dean, based on prior experience advising Ph.D. 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, 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 Study Plan

Graduate students must file a Graduate Study Plan (GSP) 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.

Changing Programs

Graduate students may change their program only when the areas of emphasis or the degree are within the same department (e.g., from an M.A. in anthropology to a Ph.D. in anthropology, or from a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology to a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry). If the change meets those requirements, you may change programs by completing a change of major form, available from the Registrar’s Office or online at the registrar 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 M.S. in civil engineering to an M.S. 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

Advancement to candidacy formally establishes your specific degree requirements and should be done as soon as possible after qualifying. At the latest, you should submit your application for advancement to candidacy one semester before you are awarded your degree. If you are completing your programs primarily during the summer sessions, you should submit your application the summer session before you are awarded your degree.

The finalized Graduate Study Plan should be the basis for completing the Advancement to Candidacy form. The GPA for all courses listed on the Advancement to Candidacy form must be ≥3.0, and no graduate courses with grades below C (2.0), or undergraduate courses with grades below B (3.0), can be used.

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:
    1. Satisfactorily completed at least 9 semester credits of graduate study at UAF (study after admission to a specific degree program).
    2. Received approval of a provisional thesis or project topic.
    3. 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 Ph.D. degree if you are in good standing and you have:
    1. Completed the full time equivalent of two academic years of graduate study.
    2. Completed at least 9 UAF credits.
    3. Received approval of the Graduate Study Plan.
    4. Obtained approval of the advisory committee for the title and synopsis of the thesis.
    5. Passed a written comprehensive examination.

Examinations

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 (Final) 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. Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. student’s advisory committee may choose to give an oral examination to supplement the written comprehensive examination. Each Ph.D. student must pass the comprehensive examination prior to advancement to candidacy.
  • 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. 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 Ph.D. 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.

Graduation

  • Responsibility
    You are responsible for meeting all requirements for graduation.
  • Application for Graduation
    You must be registered for at least 3 graduate credits in the semester in which you receive your degree. You must file an application for graduation and a non-refundable fee with the Registrar’s Office at the beginning of the semester in which you plan to graduate. Applications for graduation filed after the 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 during that 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 following the summer sessions, in January at the close of the fall semester, and in May at the end of the spring semester. 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 a written request not to do so has been received by the graduation department. 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. Master’s students also must order hoods; the color of the hood is determined by the graduate’s school or college. Doctoral students who attend the commencement ceremony will receive a doctoral hood on stage during the ceremony.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistants generally receive stipends of $8,500 to $10,500 for the academic year. Graduate assistants can be paid for a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session. Rare exceptions to this rule must be approved by the student’s committee chair, department head, dean and the Graduate School dean. Students with assistantships must be registered for at least 9 credits during the fall and spring semesters and 6 credits during the summer (audited credits are not eligible).

Teaching assistantships include a tuition payment by the university for no more than 10 credits to cover three courses 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.

Research assistantships include a tuition payment by grants/contracts for no more than 10 credits to cover three courses 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 supplements may be used for tuition only. All fees are the responsibility of the student unless the department or grant makes other arrangements with the UAF Business Office prior to registration.

Students who have a 10 – 20 hour per week research or teaching assistantship during the summer semester may apply for a summer tuition scholarship. To be eligible for the summer tuition scholarship, students must have been enrolled in a minimum of three UAF credits in fall 2005 and/or spring 2006. Please see the Graduate School for further information or an application.

A graduate student with a GPA less than 3.0 for one semester will be allowed to petition to continue as a graduate assistant for the next semester. A maximum one semester exception will be allowed per student. The petition by the student must be approved by the student’s advisory committee chair, department head and dean.

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