Nov 13, 2019  
University Catalog 2018-2019(ARCHIVED CATALOG) 
University Catalog 2018-2019(ARCHIVED CATALOG) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

University Requirements for Master’s Degree

Minimum University Requirements

All candidates for master’s degrees at Cal State L.A. must fulfill the following minimum requirements:

Unit Requirement

Completion of at least 30 semester units in approved courses, of which at least half (15) must be graduate (5000-level) courses. Master’s degree programs whose minimum total units are established at more than 30 semester units must include at least half of those units in courses at the graduate (5000) level.

Grade Point Average Requirement

Achievement of a minimum B (3.0) grade point average in all courses on the approved Study Plan. A grade of C is allowed on the Study Plan; however, any grade below C, including C-, requires that the course be repeated with both grades computed in the grade point average.

Residence Requirement

At least 21 semester units for the master’s degree completed in residence at Cal State L.A.

Graduate Writing Requirement

Fulfillment of the Graduate Writing Requirment Requirement, as described later in this chapter.

Culminating Experience Requirement

A comprehensive examination or a thesis or project as described later in this chapter.

Completion of Program

Completion of a master’s degree requires:

  1. completion of the final approved study plan and any special department/division/school requirements and
  2. passing of a comprehensive examination within the number of attempts allowed by the department/division/school and college, or filing of a thesis or project report approved by the candidate’s thesis/project committee and cleared by the Office of Graduate Studies.

Time Limitation

No subject, unit, or grade credit will be granted for any course completed more than seven years before the date of completion of the master’s degree. In extraordinary circumstances, students may petition for, and the college may grant, permission to validate such an expired course by an examination given by, and with the concurrence of, the department/division/school that offers the course. An expired course taken at another institution may not be validated by examination.

Faculty Recommendation

Recommendation for the degree by the faculty.


As the first step of registration, all students must obtain department/division/school approval of the courses selected for their study plan for each semester.

Prior to or early in their first semester, students should make an appointment with a graduate faculty adviser to develop a complete study plan for the degree. The approved master’s degree study plan becomes the basis for evaluating the student’s eligibility for receiving the degree. Changes in the study plan may be made only with the approval of the student’s academic adviser and college graduate dean.

Graduate Writing Requirement

(Senate: 4/3/84, 8/5/86, 8/23/88, 9/23/92[EA], 5/4/99, 6/2/15, 4/4/17; President: 4/19/84, 5/9/87, 10/7/88, 11/18/92, 8/17/99, 10/13/15, 4/19/17; Editorial Amendment: 9/00, 8/01)

All CSU students are required by Trustee policy to demonstrate competence in writing as a requirement for all advanced degrees. All post-baccalaureate students at Cal State L.A. who are subject to requirements of the 1984-85 or any later Catalog and who are pursuing a graduate degree are required to satisfy the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement. Graduate students are considered to have met the GWAR requirement upon admission to the university if they (1) earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university where English is the medium of instruction; or (2) attained a score of 41 or better on the writing portion of the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) or a score of 4 on the analytic writing portion of the GRE or the GMAT.

Graduate students must satisfy this requirement before completing 12 semester units. Graduate students may take the writing proficiency exam once. Students who do not pass are required to pass the designated GWAR course. Students who do not satisfy the GWAR requirement within their first 12 units may be subject to a registration hold. Students must satisfy this Graduate Writing Requirement in order to be Advanced to Candidacy.

Departments/divisions/schools may require of their majors additional discipline-based coursework in writing.

A student who has satisfied the Graduate Writing Requirement shall continue to be certified with no time limit on such certification. A Post-baccalaureate unclassified student is not required to satisfy this Graduate Writing Requirement.

Credit for Transfer Work

To receive credit toward a master’s degree for acceptable postbaccalaureate work taken at other colleges and universities, students must have official transcripts forwarded to the Office of Graduate Studies and must file a “Request for Records” (Form GS-1A) with their major department/division/school. Cal State L.A. will allow credit for work taken at another college or university only when it appears on the student’s official transcript from that institution, is acceptable for master’s degree credit at the offering institution, and is deemed appropriate to the student’s master’s degree program by the major department/division/school at Cal State L.A. The following limitations and exclusions apply:

  • For master’s degrees that require 30 total semester units, no more than 9 semester units of acceptable transfer, extension and/or special session courses may be included on a master’s degree study plan. For master’s degrees that require more than 30 semester units, up to 30% of the total required units may consist of acceptable transfer, extension, and/or special session courses, if approved by the appropriate graduate/departmental adviser.
  • No master’s degree credit is allowed for directed teaching, 7000- or 8000-level courses, courses numbered below 4000, and courses taken at another accredited institution that would not be accepted toward a master’s degree at that institution.
  • Six semester units of 5000-level or other graduate courses taken through extension are eligible for master’s degree credit.

Work Taken before Approval of Program

No more than 9 semester units of acceptable course work completed before approval by the principal graduate adviser, major department/division/school, and college graduate dean may be included on a master’s degree study plan. This includes acceptable transfer work. Credit for thesis (i.e., 5990), research (i.e., 5970), and comprehensive examinations (i.e., 5960) is not transferable. All other course work included on the master’s degree study plan must be completed after approval by the principal graduate adviser, major department/division/school, and college graduate dean. This policy shall not apply to students admitted to a master’s or doctorate degree program offered jointly with other educational institutions.

Credit for Extension Courses

No graduate credit will be allowed for extension courses that would not be accepted toward a master’s degree at the offering institution (e.g., University of California extension courses in the X300 or X400 series) unless specifically approved in advance by the major department/division/school and college concerned.

Classified Graduate Standing

Requirements for Classified Graduate Standing

Once an applicant has been admitted to a graduate degree program the minimum University requirements for admission to classified graduate standing are as follows:

  • Certification by the major department/division/school to the college graduate dean that all department/division/school admission requirements, procedures, and prerequisites have been completed.
  • Filing of a master’s degree study plan with the college graduate dean during the student’s first semester of graduate enrollment at Cal State L.A. The study plan must be approved by the principal graduate adviser and the major department/division/school. Any change in the study plan must be approved by the principal graduate adviser, the major department/division/school, and the college graduate dean before the completed courses are affected by the change. This includes courses in which a grade of Incomplete is received. Courses in which a grade of C- or lower was earned may not be removed from a Study Plan and these courses must be repeated with both grades contributing to the graduate grade point average.

Special Action Admission Students

Except for those who hold an advanced degree from an accredited institution, all students admitted by special action must complete a minimum of 10 semester units of upper division qualifying courses on a formally approved master’s degree study plan with a minimum B (3.0) grade point average with the following conditions:

  • The principal graduate adviser, major department/division/school, and college graduate dean must approve qualifying courses before the student completes them. Courses graded CR/NC may not be used on the qualifying study plan.
  • Upon recommendation of the principal graduate adviser and the major department/division/school, and with the approval of the college graduate dean, qualifying courses may be waived for students whose postbaccalaureate work demonstrates promise of the scholarly ability required for graduate study. To be eligible for recommendation of such a waiver, a student must have completed, with a minimum B (3.0) overall grade point average, 10 or more semester units of upper division or graduate level postbaccalaureate work at an accredited institution that is acceptable toward a master’s degree at that institution.
  • Failure to achieve a B (3.0) grade point average in qualifying courses will result in the student’s termination from the degree program.

Other Graduate and Postbaccalaureate Regulations

Admission to 5000-Level Courses

Students admitted with postbaccalaureate classified, graduate classified, or graduate conditionally classified standing may enroll in 5000-level courses. The following exceptions and restrictions apply:

  • Postbaccalaureate unclassified students may register for 5000-level courses if the department/division/school chair or director determines that space is available. These students must satisfy all prerequisites for the course and obtain the approval of the instructor, the principal graduate adviser, and the chair of the department/division/school that offers the course.
  • Undergraduate students may, with prior approval and subject to policies governing graduate credit for undergraduate students, enroll in up to 9 semester units of 4000 and 5000-level coursework. See section on Graduate Credit for Undergraduate Students in this Catalog.
  • Matriculated Cal State L.A. students may not enroll in Open University courses. Students who are not matriculated at Cal State L.A. may enroll in 5000-level courses through the Open University (concurrent enrollment) Program administered by the College of Extended Studies and International Programs. These students must satisfy all prerequisites for the course and obtain the approval of the instructor and the chair of the department/division/school that offers the course.
  • Colleges and departments/divisions may impose additional restrictions. For all programs, students may complete no more than 20% of their total units at the 5000 level before their principal graduate adviser, major department/division/school, and college graduate dean have formally approved their official master’s degree study plan. In addition, all such students must either have completed the prerequisites for the course or demonstrated equivalent competency.

Enrollment in Degree Credit-Granting Classes through the College of Professional and Global Education

Students who are matriculated at the University in continuing status may enroll in, and earn residence credit for, courses that are offered through the College of Professional and Global Education in self-support special sessions. Any course or program offered in special sessions must, each time that it is offered, have the approval of the appropriate college dean and the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Matriculated students at the University in continuing status may not enroll in degree credit-granting classes offered under state support and made available to students by the College of College of Professional and Global Education through Open University. 

Courses Completed in Undergraduate Standing

Students can include no courses taken as an undergraduate on a master’s degree program except as specifically provided for baccalaureate candidates in their final semester of undergraduate study.

Undergraduate Preparation

No credit toward a master’s degree is allowed for course work taken to meet necessary undergraduate preparation for a master’s degree program.

Course Additions/Deletions

A course may not be added to or deleted from a master’s degree study plan after it has been taken. Any change in the master’s degree study plan must be approved in advance by the principal graduate adviser, major department/division/school, and college graduate dean. When such a change has been approved, it becomes part of the master’s degree study plan.

Program Change Limitation

No more than 6 semester units beyond the total number of units approved at the time a student achieves classified graduate standing may be added to a student’s master’s degree program.

Course Prerequisites and Corequisites

Students are responsible for fulfilling prerequisites and corequisites. The instructor and department/division/school have the authority to waive specific prerequisites and corequisites for students who have completed equivalent courses at another institution, who have had equivalent experience (such as work experience), or who possess the needed skills to proceed with the work of the course. Students should consult the instructor before registering to determine whether the course(s) or experience will justify waiver of the stated prerequisite(s) and/or corequisite(s).

Qualifying Courses

All qualifying courses that are otherwise eligible may be included in a master’s degree study plan if recommended by the principal graduate adviser and major department/division/school and approved by the college graduate dean. Students must obtain approval to include qualifying courses on the master’s degree study plan before they complete the courses.

Student Use of Human Subjects or Animals

Students, like all others in the University community, must follow established University and federal guidelines when using human subjects or animals either in research or as part of a course activity. Prior approval by the relevant campus committee must be obtained when necessary. For further information, contact the Office of Research and Development, or visit the Website at

Graduate Grading System and Scholastic Status

NOTE: For an explanation of the grading system for graduate and postbaccalaureate students, see the charts labeled Explanation of Graduate and Postbaccalaureate Grades in the Grading System section of the Procedures and Regulations chapter of this catalog. For an explanation of the regulations about probation and disqualification, see the Scholastic Status of Graduate and Postbaccalaureate Students section in the same chapter.

Advancement to Candidacy to Undertake Culminating Experience

Advancement to candidacy is a part of the continual review of a student’s progress and is not automatic. It is granted by the college graduate dean upon completion of the requirements listed below and upon the recommendation of the major department/division/school. It is the University prerequisite to enrolling for the thesis, project, and comprehensive examination; individual departments/divisions and colleges may have additional requirements.

Advancement to candidacy requires:

  • Satisfaction of Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement.
  • Classified graduate standing.
  • An approved master’s degree study plan on file in the college graduate studies office.
  • Completion of a minimum of 12 semester units of the master’s degree study plan with an overall B (3.0) grade point average or higher.
  • Recommendation of the major department/division/school.
  • Approval of the college graduate dean.

Only students who are advanced to candidacy are eligible to enroll for comprehensive examinations (i.e. #5960 in their major discipline) or for thesis or project units (i.e. 5990 in their discipline).

Culminating Experience: Exam, Thesis, or Project

Comprehensive Examinations

Each program that offers the comprehensive examination for the master’s degree shall implement and maintain in writing explicit guidelines that address both content and procedures relating to the examination. All comprehensive examinations must conform to the following requirement of Title 5: ”A comprehensive examination is an assessment of the student’s ability to integrate the knowledge of the area, show critical and independent thinking, and demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. The results of the examination provide evidence of independent thinking, appropriate organization, critical analysis, and accuracy of documentation. A record of the examination questions and responses shall be maintained in accordance with the records retention policy of The California State University.”

Students must fulfill all department/division/school requirements for the written and/or oral comprehensive examinations. Such requirements include, but are not limited to, the date and time for the comprehensive examinations, length of testing, topics covered, and number of questions for the comprehensive examinations.

Students whose program requires a comprehensive examination must declare to their major department/division/school, at least one semester in advance, their intent to take it, obtain department/division/school permission, and register for the comprehensive examination that carries the course number 5960 in their major discipline. Students who are not enrolled in any credit-bearing course during the  semester in which they take the comprehensive examination must pay the comprehensive examination fee. Students who elect comprehensive examination options are not permitted to enroll in UNIV 9000. Payment of State University, student services, facilities, and Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) fees, or any tuition charges, is not required.

Students should expect to take their comprehensive examinations during the semester in which they complete all course work on their program or shortly thereafter. Those who do not pass the comprehensive examinations must fulfill any department, division, and/or college requirements for subsequent enrollments in these examinations.

Thesis and Project Requirements

Students who choose to write a thesis or project as their master’s degree culminating experience should consult the “Guide to Preparation of Master’s Theses and Project Reports,” at It provides information about the following: procedures, regulations, and responsibilities governing the master’s thesis or project; general requirements for thesis preparation and acceptance; format requirements for the thesis; and special instructions for projects and project reports. In addition, students must obtain specific department/division/school requirements from their adviser.

Graduate students who complete research units (5970) and thesis or project units (5990) required for master’s degrees must be regularly enrolled during any  semester in which they use University facilities or consult with faculty. Students must also be enrolled during the  semester they submit their thesis or project to the library and graduate.

Students who have exceeded the one calendar year time limitation associated with the SP grading symbol for research units (5970) must petition to register in UNIV 9000. Petition forms and instructions are available in college graduate studies offices.

Students who have previously enrolled in all allowable research units (5970) and are not enrolled in any other credit-bearing courses or thesis or project units (5990) but who will use University facilities or consult with faculty must register in UNIV 9000.

To maintain residence requirements and continuing student registration privileges, graduate students who are not enrolled in credit-bearing course work must register for UNIV 9000.

Once officially accepted and processed, master’s theses are made available to the public through the Library.


Application for Graduation (Degree Check)

Application for graduation (degree check) is made on a form that is available on the Graduation Office website at in academic department/division/school offices and college-based advisement centers, or in Administration 409 beginning five days prior to the application filing period. Candidates must be granted permission to apply for graduation by their major department/division/school or college-based advisement center before they may submit the completed application and required fee to the Cashiers’ Office for fee payment.

Students are required to file an application by the deadline announced in the Schedule of Classes. Students who are enrolled the semester they expect to graduate but do not meet the degree requirements will have their graduation application transferred to the next semester. Students who do not complete requirements for the stated semester must file a new application by the deadline announced in the Schedule of Classes. More information appears in the Undergraduate Study chapter of this catalog.

Students will be granted no subject, unit, or grade credit for any course work they completed more than seven years before the date of issuance of their master’s degree. Refer to Time Limitation under the heading Minimum University Requirements earlier in this chapter.

Commencement Exercises

Commencement Exercises are held annually at the end of the spring semester. Students who have completed degree requirements the previous fall, spring or summer are eligible to participate in the ceremony along with those who will complete their work in the summer. Information bulletins about commencement activities are mailed to the home address of those eligible to participate early in the spring and are available on campus in college, department/division/school offices and Enrollment Services, Administration 409.

During Commencement Exercises, the President of the University confers degrees on the candidates. Although each candidate receives a diploma cover during the program, the actual diploma is sent several months later. Within a few weeks after graduation, eligible candidates receive a letter of congratulations in the mail, and degrees are posted on their permanent academic record.

Requirements for Additional Master’s Degrees or for an Additional Option within a Master’s Degree

Students may work simultaneously on two master’s degrees. Both degrees may be listed on the same diploma if the requirements for both degrees are completed in the same semester. Degrees completed in different  semesters will be listed on separate diplomas.

Students who have earned a master’s degree at Cal State L.A. and wish to obtain a subsequent master’s degree or to add an additional option to a previously-completed master’s degree from this University must complete an approved study plan of at least  30 semester units. At least half of the units must be new work not included on the previous degree or option. The remainder can be from the previous degree provided that the courses have been completed within seven years of the award date of the degree and are otherwise eligible for inclusion.

Students who are currently enrolled in a master’s degree program at Cal State L.A. may concurrently complete an additional option under the same degree if the department/division/school and college concerned verify that the additional option requires significantly different knowledge, skill, and course work. The additional option must include a minimum of 15 semester units of course work that is specific to the option (not included in the previous option) and an appropriate culminating experience (thesis/project or comprehensive examination). An approved study plan for each option is required.

Students who have earned a master’s degree at an institution other than Cal State L.A. may petition to apply for an identical degree at Cal State L.A. Students must provide extraordinary justification and receive approval of the department/division/school and college concerned before they may enter the program.