Approved by: Provost
History: Issued -- August 2006
Revised -- March 12, 2012
Last Reviewed -- May 8, 2019
Related Policies: Transfer of Credit Policy
Additional References:
Responsible Official: Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies tel. (202) 319-5247

I. Introduction

The University offers a wide range of master's and licentiate degree programs. These programs are listed under the graduate programs section at the Graduate Admissions site (

This policy provides the general requirements for the master's and licentiate degrees.

II. Definitions

Courses carrying master's degree credit will normally be scheduled for three credit hours per semester. The semester is considered to be comprised of fifteen weeks which includes one week for examinations.

A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than either:

1. One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or

2. At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

III. Admission

A student who intends to work toward the master's degree is expected to have earned the bachelor's degree or have achieved its equivalent in satisfactory course work. The master's degree is conferred upon students who have satisfactorily completed at least one year of graduate study and have met the other conditions prescribed for the degree as described by the program.

IV. Coursework

The program of study to be pursued by the candidate for the master's degree shall include a minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate work, of which six hours may be in research guidance. At least 12 to 18 credit hours usually are taken in one department of study. The 30 credit hours may be applied to the doctoral degree. Individual schools or departments may prescribe additional requirements.

Section II above should be consulted for definitions regarding credit hours. The student should also consult the appropriate sections of the Graduate Announcements for information on coursework that is specific for the degree program for which the student is a candidate.
Continuing education courses will not be acceptable in meeting the requirements for graduate degree programs.

V. Transfer of Credit

Six credit hours of graduate work earned at another accredited institution, in which a student received grades of B or above may be applied toward course requirements for the master's degree, upon recommendation of the appropriate department and with the approval of the academic dean.

Students in master's degree programs, which require a minimum of two years of full-time residence may be permitted to transfer up to the maximum number of credits earned during one year of residence in an accredited program at another university. Credits earned at The Catholic University of America are transferrable to other institutions at the sole discretion of the receiving institution. In addition to the foregoing provisions, see the University's Transfer of Credit Policy for general transfer requirements.

VI. Language

Language requirements, if any, are determined by the various departments and schools. Students should consult the school or the chair of the department for information on the language requirements applicable to their degree program. All language requirements must be satisfied before a student will be permitted to take the comprehensive examination.

Although additional requirements may be specified by individual departments or schools, the generally accepted methods of satisfying modern language requirements are the following:

1. Present a minimum score of 450 on the Graduate School Foreign Language Test. See Bulletin of Information issued by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J. Information is also available at the Counseling Center, 127 O'Boyle Hall.

2. Pass the noncredit intensive language course offered by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

3. A student whose native language is not English, but a language recognized as a medium for scholarly work relevant to the student's career, shall be considered to have fulfilled the language requirement without examination. Satisfying the language requirement through this method is permissible provided the student's adviser states, in writing, to the academic dean that the language is a language of scholarship for the student's discipline.

Any registered student is eligible for language examinations.

In some cases, it may be possible to substitute a research skill or computer proficiency for the language requirement. The student should consult the individual program for information. Research skill or computer courses will not be counted as part of the 30 credits required for the M.A. degree.

VII. Thesis

The candidate for a master's degree with a thesis requirement must submit the thesis topic to the dean of the school and the chair of the department for their approval. The student must register for a total of six credit hours of research guidance. Information on requirements for the preparation and submission of the thesis are available in the individual departments and schools, and formatting requirements for the final deposit, explained in the Thesis Handbook, are available in the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies.

The master's thesis should give evidence of training in research by means of a contribution to knowledge involving a modest problem of investigation. It must prove the candidate's familiarity with the basic methods and techniques of research and also the ability to apply them. Candidates are required to conform to the norms of The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press) with whatever adaptations are appropriate in the various disciplines (e.g., MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing of the Modern Language Association of America, APA Style Guide).

After the thesis has been approved and signed by the director and the reader, one unbound copy must be deposited, by appointment, with the University not later than the date designated in the academic calendar and in accordance with the Thesis Handbook, available from the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. A fee (see Fees and Expenses) is charged to cover the cost of the binding of the typescript. A check or money order for the fee must accompany the thesis when it is presented.

On deposit of the approved thesis, the six credit hours of guidance will be posted to the student's academic record.

A graduate who wishes to publish the thesis must include in the publication a statement of acknowledgement that the thesis was written in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master's degree from The Catholic University of America. For copyright information, please see the section entitled The Copyright in the Master's/Licentiate Degree Handbook

Candidates for the master's degree in certain fields such as drama and architecture may satisfy the thesis requirement by a production of a creative type. Consult school and departmental regulations.

VIII. Option of Degree Without Thesis

The master's degree without thesis is available in many departments and schools. The student should consult the listings of the department or school concerning such an option. Such degrees require at least 30 credit hours of graduate work, of which no less than six will be in courses that require significant written reports of a research or professional nature.

Students admitted by their schools to proceed directly to the doctorate may be awarded a master's degree. An application for this degree must be filed in the dean's office indicating that:

(a) a minimum number of credits for degree have been completed,

(b) two research papers have been completed, and

(c) the comprehensive examinations for the doctorate have been passed.

The transcripts of students in all master's programs carry the appropriate notation of "thesis" or "no thesis."

IX. Comprehensive Examination

A student in most master's programs must pass a comprehensive written examination in the major field. The dates for this examination are listed in the academic calendar. This examination may be taken in the semester during which the student will essentially complete the major course work. Language/research tool requirements as specified for the program of studies must be completed prior to the examination.

Candidates for comprehensive examinations are required to register for this examination. A review of completed and pending degree requirements is conducted in the department and school at the beginning of the semester in order to secure the dean's permission to take the examination.

A comprehensive examination is marked pass or fail. The transcript will note if the student has passed the examination with honors. A student who did not pass may retake the entire examination or the failed portion once, according to school (or department in the case of departmentalized schools) policy. A student who incurs two failures in a comprehensive examination is no longer considered eligible to receive the master's degree. The second failure is recorded on the student's permanent record.

X. Completion Requirements

Students who do not complete all the requirements for a master's degree within three years (or six summer sessions) from the date of completion of course work must submit requests in writing to the dean of their school for an extension of time. An extension of time will normally be granted for one year or one summer session.

Students in the master's program who wish to pursue a doctorate must submit an application for admission to the Ph.D. program. The completed application should be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions. Interested students should contact the office of their department or dean for more information.