Section X. Master's Degrees

A. Kinds of Degrees. The University of Iowa offers programs leading to the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree, Master of Science (M.S.) degree, and several professional master's degrees.

M.A. and M.S. degrees require mastery of methodologies and practices of research and scholarship of the discipline. A thesis describing original scholarship or research may be required. M.A./M.S. degrees may be designed either as preparation for entry into Doctoral degree programs or to provide advanced study and accomplishment that serves a variety of career and other purposes. Degrees are awarded in many fields of study, or majors, consistent with conventions of the discipline (e.g., M.A. in Art, English, Psychology; M.S. in Chemistry, Mathematics, Physiology). (For complete list, see Section VIII.) M.A. and M.S. degrees require a minimum of 30 semester hours, a final examination, and, in some fields, a thesis.

Professional Master's degrees provide knowledge, perspectives, and skills required for professional practice. Some programs may include introduction to research or scholarship sufficient to allow application of current literature to practice. Professional master's degrees generally are indicated by a three- or four-letter designation; examples include the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.), Master of Social Work (M.S.W.), Master of Public Health (M.P.H.), Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.), Master of Accountancy (M.Ac.). (For complete list, see Section VIII.) Professional Master's degrees require a minimum of 30 semester hours. Some may require a final examination as well as a thesis, papers, projects, colloquia, internships, or other experiential-based activity typical of preparation for practice in the field.

A student may prepare a proposal for an interdisciplinary course of study, including the plan of study defining course work, examination requirements, a research plan, and a committee of at least three faculty members, with either the department most directly concerned or the Graduate College designated as the sponsor. Final approval of such individual programs is granted by the Graduate College dean, who may add members to the student's supervising committee from other closely related departmental faculties or from the Graduate Council. The degree will be awarded in interdisciplinary studies (master's) stipulated in the approved graduate program and, parenthetically, the name of the sponsoring department.

B. Plan of Study. The applicant for a master's degree must file a Plan of Study approved by the adviser and the departmental executive with the Graduate College within the session in which the degree is to be granted and by the deadline date printed in the Graduate College academic calendar. If the session in which a student takes his/her final exam is earlier than the session in which the degree is to be granted, the Plan of Study must be filed prior to the administration of the student's final examination. The plan shall meet the requirements for the degree approved by the graduate faculty. (See also Section IV. D. Departmental Regulations and Dissemination of Information.)

C. Major and Related Fields. The Plan of Study should provide for reasonable concentration in the major field of interest and, subject to the approval of the major department, may include related subjects from other departments.

D. Academic Registration Requirement. Of the minimum of 30 semester hours required for the degree, at least 24 semester hours must be completed under the auspices of The University of Iowa after admission to a graduate department/program. Various forms of extramural registration may qualify toward fulfillment of the aforementioned 24 semester hours residence requirement (see Section II. G. Extramural Registration) in addition to regular on-campus registration.

A student must be registered in the semester in which (s)he earns her/his degree.

E. Reduction of Old Credits. Courses taken ten or more years, prior to the session in which the master's degree is to be conferred, must be evaluated by the major department in order to determine the possible use of these credit hours within a student's plan of study. The department, in turn, must send a letter of petition to the Graduate College, requesting the use of any or all of these credits toward the fulfillment of degree requirements.

F. Limit on Professional Courses. Work taken by a student in the colleges of Dentistry, Law or Medicine while enrolled for a professional degree may be credited to a graduate program leading to a master's degree if it is taken after the student has earned a bachelor's degree, or has completed work equivalent to that required for a bachelor's degree at The University of Iowa. The work accepted from the professional college must be directly related to the student's major field of study in the Graduate College and be approved as part of the Plan of Study by the student's adviser and the major department. Work completed while the student is registered for a professional degree in Law, Medicine, or Dentistry will be counted as part of the residence requirement for nondoctoral degrees in the Graduate College only when the student is registered in an appropriate joint degree program.

G. Two Master's Degrees. The granting by this University of two master's degrees, simultaneously or in succession, requires that all of the requirements for each degree be satisfied separately. That is, the student must pass two final examinations, write two theses (if each program requires a thesis), and satisfy the Graduate College residency requirement for each degree separately. A minimum combined total of 60 semester hours of graduate credit must be achieved at the time that the second degree is conferred.

Some credits can be shared when one master’s degree requires, or both master’s degrees require, more than 30 semester hours of graduate credit. No more than ¼ of the credits necessary for one degree may be composed of coursework taken for the other degree, and there must still be a minimum combined total of 60 semester hours of graduate credit.

The directors of graduate study for the two programs, or the department heads of the departments housing the programs, must exchange letters in which they convey each program’s approval of the student pursuing the two degrees. Copies of these letters must be sent to the Graduate College.

H. Master's Degree with Thesis. Not more than 9 semester hours of credit for thesis research and writing shall be counted in satisfying the 30-hour minimum requirement. The thesis may be a scholarly study or an artistic production.

Beginning with the Fall 2009 Semester all master's theses, excluding MFA theses, must be submitted to the Graduate College in electronic format. MFA students will have the option of submitting hard-copy or electronic theses.

The first deposit of a thesis (an ETD or one hard copy of the MFA thesis), complete and in final typed form, must be presented to the Graduate College for a check of formal characteristics by the first-deposit deadline date in the session in which the degree is to be conferred. After approval by the Graduate College and by the thesis committee, the final deposit of the thesis (an ETD or two, identical hard copies of the MFA thesis) must be deposited with the Graduate College by the final deposit deadline date in the student's graduation session. Failure to submit the first and final deposits of the thesis by the deadline dates established by the Graduate College will result in the postponement of graduation to a future session. [Please review the Graduate College web site for detailed submission and formatting requirements.]

Nonrefundable fees are charged each thesis candidate to cover processing and publication costs of the thesis.

The thesis committee shall consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty and may or may not be identical to the final examination committee. (The final examination committee for the master's degree shall consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty, at least two of whom are from the major department or program, and are members of The University of Iowa tenure-track faculty. See Section X. K. following.)

I. Master's Degree without Thesis. A master's degree without thesis, consisting of at least 30 semester hours of graduate work, may be awarded upon the completion of a curriculum prescribed by a department and approved by the Graduate Council.

J. Final Examination. The requirements for master's degrees may include a final examination which, at the discretion of the major department, may be written or oral or both. Such an examination will not duplicate course examinations. It will be evaluated by the examining committee as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, with two unsatisfactory votes making the committee report unsatisfactory. The report of the final examination is due in the Graduate College not later than 48 hours after the examination, and by the deadline date established by the Graduate College.

If the department so recommends, a candidate who fails the examination may present himself or herself for reexamination, but not sooner than the next regularly scheduled examination period in the following session.

The examination may be repeated only once.

A student must graduate within one calendar year after passing the final examination for a master's degree; failure to meet this deadline will require reexamination of the student.

Upon recommendation of a department, the comprehensive examination for a doctoral degree may be substituted for the master's examination.

Some master's programs do not require a final exam. Students are responsible for checking the specific requirements of their individual degree programs.

K. Examining Committee. The examining committee for the master's degree consists of at least three members of the Graduate Faculty appointed by the dean upon recommendation of the major department or program. These committees are composed as follows:

  • At least two of the faculty members must be members of the University of Iowa tenure-track faculty.

  • At least two of the faculty members are from the major department or program (defined as faculty members who hold any appointment in the major department or program), and are members of the University of Iowa tenure-track faculty.

A department or program may impose additional structure on the composition of its examining committees.

Departments and programs may request the dean's permission to replace one of the three members of the Graduate Faculty by a recognized scholar of professorial rank from another academic institution. Also, a voting member may be added at the discretion of the Graduate College Dean.

Quick Links