Steps for Completing Your Master's Degree

While this page summarizes most of the policies and steps that a graduate student must follow to get their degree, it does not replace our university catalog which covers them in greater detail. For further information on any of our policies please visit our online catalog which has our SJSU Graduate Policies and Procedures.


First Semester Obligations

As a newly admitted SJSU graduate student there are several things to consider and complete during your first semester at San Jose State University. Please take the time to read your admission letter from SJSU as it contains important information regarding your admission status.

Official Matriculation

You will not be considered an officially matriculated graduate student until you register for courses in the first semester of your admission. SJSU does not defer admission, so if for any reason you can not attend your first semester you will need to re-apply to the university for the next semester you want to attend. On a related note, your enrollment in classes is your official notification to SJSU of your intent to attend. Registration for summer courses does not count as an official matriculation.

Provisional Admission (University)

Some graduate students may receive a provisional admission. Your admission letter from SJSU as well as your "To Do" list on My SJSU will state what specific documents or tasks you need to complete in order to have these provisions cleared. If you do not have these provisions cleared by the deadlines listed on your MySJSU account, a hold will be placed on your record and you will not be able to register for subsequent semesters. Provisional admission is a status that is placed by Graduation Admissions and Program Evaluations so it can not be removed by your graduate department.

Graduate Classification (Department)

Your graduate department will also admit you either as conditionally classified or classified standing. If you are admitted conditionally classified, you will have certain prerequisites that you will need to complete and they will be outlined in your admission letter from SJSU. These prerequisites must be met before you can be changed to classified standing. If you have any questions on the prerequisites listed on your admissions letter please contact your assigned program advisor. All graduate students must be in classified standing before they can apply for candidacy.

Department Advising or Orientation

Determine if your graduate department will hold a student orientation at the beginning of your first semester. This can either be a group event for all first year students or it can be a one-on-one meeting with your assigned program advisor. In both cases, you will receive information about department requirements and what courses you are expected to enroll in.

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Transfer Credit

Before applying for candidacy, students can petition for transfer credit work that they are interested in receiving. Transfer credit work can be courses taken at another university (in graduate standing only) or courses that were taken during the last semester as an SJSU senior. Transfer work must be from institutions that were listed on your initial application to SJSU and must be from an accredited institution. Other restrictions are indicated in the university catalog. Petitions must be signed by your graduate advisor before submitting them to our office for approval. 

Related Forms

Request for Validation of Graduate Transfer Credit (pdf) (Graduate courses taken outside of SJSU; to be used only in those rare circumstances where transfer course credit needs to be validated prior to filing of a candidacy form)

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Competency in Written English

All master's students must show their competency in written English. This requirement must be completed before a student can be admitted to candidacy. This can be accomplished in several ways:

  • Received a bachelor's degree from SJSU or another CSU campus after 1981.
  • Completing and passing the SJSU 100W course. In order to enroll in this course the Writing Skills Test (WST) must be taken and passed. For more information about registering for the WST visit the SJSU Testing and Evaluation Department. Most Engineering students complete the competency requirement in this manner.
  • Completion of a pre-approved SJSU graduate GWAR course, which has been approved by Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations, is at least three units, and in which a major report is required that is at least 30% of the course grade. Most graduate departments have a number of pre-approved courses that students can take that will complete this requirement. Most of our graduate students complete the competency requirement in this manner.*
  • Approval by our office of a professional publication in which the student was the sole author.*
  • Completion of an upper division writing course at another university that is approved by our office and is deemed to be equivalent in content and writing requirement to the SJSU 100W.*

*Completion of these requirements (except for the pre-approved courses in bullet three) must be done through a petition that is initiated by your graduate advisor. Your graduate advisor must submit to the Graduate Admissions & Program Evaluations Office or the Graduate Studies & Research Office a memo supporting your petition along with supporting material so we can properly make a determination (e.g., course descriptions, copies of published work). Note that the English-writing proficiency of a professional publication may be deemed inadequate by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies & Research to constitute completion of the competency requirement. Furthermore, departments maintain the option to require students to take their GWAR course even if one of the alternative criteria above has been fulfilled.

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Pre-Candidacy Requirements

Most graduate students apply for candidacy after their first year as a graduate student. Before a student can apply for candidacy the following requirements must already be met. Please be sure that you have met the following pre-requisites or your candidacy application will be denied.

  • Have any planned transfer units already approved (See Transfer Credit).
  • Completed a minimum of 9 graded units (100 or 200 level courses) for the program.
  • Have completed the Competency in Written English (see Competency in Written English).
  • Be in graduate classified standing. Students who are still in conditionally classified standing must submit a change of classification form that is signed by your graduate advisor. This form can be submitted at the same time as your candidacy petition.
  • Have a cumulative grade point average of a "B" in all courses taken as a graduate student. Lower division courses are not included in this calculation.

Related Form

Change of Classification in Master's Program (pdf) (From Conditional to Classified Standing)

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Advancement To Candidacy Petition

Once you have met your pre-candidacy requirements, you should meet with your advisor to start the advancement to candidacy process. Your advancement to candidacy serves as a contract between Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations, your graduate department, and you indicating that by successfully completing the courses listed on the candidacy petition you will receive a master's degree from San Jose State University. The initial advisor meeting varies among departments. Some departments fill out the candidacy form for the student while other departments allow the student to fill out the form themselves and meet with the graduate advisor at a later time. This will also be when you state whether you plan on completing a Thesis or Project. When filling out the candidacy form the following requirements must be met:

  • At least half the units listed for your graduate program must be from 200 level courses and a minimum of 60% must be letter graded courses.
  • Approximately 20% of the courses listed may be from transfer credit work (courses from other departments at SJSU taken as a graduate student are not considered transfer work). Transfer credit work listed must be already approved. See Transfer Credit for more information.
  • Courses which may not be used on the candidacy petition are basic skills courses (below 100 level), student teaching, 300 level residence, and 400 level extended studies courses taken at SJSU.
  • Only a maximum of 6 semester units of credit for 298 project, 299 thesis (or combination of these courses) may be listed.
  • All courses listed must be less than seven years old.

Deadlines and Notification

The deadline to submit your candidacy will depend on when you plan on graduating. Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations needs at a minimum of two months to properly evaluate your candidacy petition and notify you. Please see our current candidacy deadlines to see when you should submit this petition. You will be notified if your candidacy petition has been approved or denied through the mail, and under "Other Indicators" in your My SJSU account. If you have been approved for candidacy, you will still need to submit a graduation application when you are ready to receive your degree. Please read Applying for Graduation for further details. If your candidacy is denied you will receive a letter in the mail detailing the exact steps you need to do to clear any deficiencies.

Course Substitutions to Candidacy

After receiving your candidacy approval, any future course changes from the original candidacy program must be approved by your graduate advisor and our office. You will need to complete a course substitution form and have your graduate advisor sign it and submit it to our office prior to your expected date of graduation. Please note that completed/graded courses cannot be removed from an approved candidacy petition.

Related Forms

Departmental Request for Candidacy and Graduate Degree Program (pdf) (Advancement to Candidacy Petition)
Request for Course Substitution in Master's Degree Program (pdf)

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Academic Standing

After being admitted to candidacy, students must maintain certain academic requirements to remain in good standing. These include:

  • Completing all courses in your candidacy program with grades of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, or CR. Grades of C-, D+, D, D-, and F remain on the program and will continue to be computed in your grade point average. You must petition through your graduate advisor to add another course to your program with unit value equivalent to that course in which you received the unsatisfactory grade.
  • Maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of a 3.0 ("B") in completing the requirements for the master's degree listed on the candidacy form. If you fail to maintain this GPA, you may be put on academic probation by the university. Failure to raise your GPA to a 3.0 or above after being placed on academic probation may then result in being academically disqualified from SJSU. If you are disqualified from the university please contact your graduate advisor as there will be several procedures you need to complete if you plan on applying for reinstatement.

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Thesis and Project Requirements

One of the major requirements for completing your degree is doing a University thesis, department project or comprehensive examination. Departments vary in what they require or allow their students to complete. Please consult with your graduate advisor to find out what is expected to complete your final requirement. Below is a brief description of the three options that a student must complete.

Plan A: Thesis

This plan requires selection and approval (by the graduate advisor and/or the candidate's committee) of a thesis topic and its successful completion and production in bound form. Students must register for their departmental 299 course. The thesis will not only be reviewed by your department committee for content but will also be reviewed by the Office of Graduate Studies and Research for acceptable university thesis requirements. Because of this, the process for completing and submitting a thesis is an intensive one that requires students to follow strict deadlines and requirements. For a copy of the current University Thesis Guidelines, detailed instructions on how, where, and when to submit the thesis, as well as general contact information regarding thesis related questions, please visit the Office of Graduate Studies and Research website.

Plan B: Department Project or Comprehensive Examination

This plan requires students to undergo a combination of a comprehensive examination, final paper, or project. Students do not have to submit copies or grade results of these papers to the Graduate Office for review. Plan B students do not register for departmental 299, Master's Thesis, but may be required to register for the departmental 298 or an identical final course required by your department.

Plan C: Creative Project

This plan is reserved for cases in which the final requirement is met through a special creative assignment. Such creative assignments may include original paintings, dramatic presentations, motion picture productions, works of sculpture, musical compositions, videotapes and similar items. The student is required to submit a written report on the creative project that follows the same guidelines and formatting as the Plan A Thesis. This written report is to be bound and filed in the library in the same manner as a regular thesis. Plan C requires registration in the departmental 299 course. For a copy of the current University Thesis Guidelines, detailed instructions on how, where, and when to submit the creative project, as well as general contact information regarding thesis/creative project related questions, please visit the Office of Graduate Studies and Research website.

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Applying for Graduation

When a student is ready to graduate with their Master's degree they must submit an Application for Award of Masters Degree form. Please note that you must have an approved Departmental Request for Candidacy form on file before you apply to graduate using the Application for the Award of Masters Degree or the application will be denied. Advancement to Candidacy is required before you can apply to graduate.

There is no fee for the initial application for graduation but if the student fails to graduate in their intended semester they must file a Graduation Date Change Request for Award of Masters Degree form (also known as the reactivation form) and pay $10 to the Bursar's Office. The deadline to submit the Graduation Date Change Request for Award of Masters Degree form is the same as the dates to submit the initial graduation application.

Graduation degree requirements are reviewed after the semester in which you intend to graduate ends and after the grades for that semester are posted by Registrar Services to the official transcripts.

Deadlines and Notification

Our deadline dates to submit your graduation application are early at the start of your intended graduation semester so be sure to plan accordingly.

You will be notified when your application for graduation has been received by our office  under "Other Indicators" in you My SJSU account.

Related Forms

Application for Award of Master's Degree (pdf) (Graduation Application)
Graduation Date Change Request for Award of Master's Degree (pdf)

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Completing Your Degree (Final Semester)

Your final semester at SJSU will be very busy because, in addition to taking your final courses, you will be in the process of completing your final project or thesis. Moreover there will be several university and department deadlines and requirements that you will also have to be aware of and complete. Here are several steps that you need to be sure that you have completed so that your degree is not delayed:

  • Make sure you have applied to graduate in your intended graduation semester by the proper deadline. See Applying for Graduation for further details. Remember, if you do not complete your graduation requirements, you will need to submit a reactivation form to apply for graduation at a later semester.
  • Clear up any incomplete grades that you may have as your degree can not be granted until you have grades in all courses listed on your candidacy program.
  • If you did not take a course that was listed on your candidacy, you need to submit a course substitution form to replace that course with a course you did take. See Advancement to Candidacy Petition for more information.
  • If you received an unsatisfactory grade (below a C) on any course listed on your candidacy, you need to add another course to your candidacy program. See Academic Standing for more information.
  • If you are doing a Plan A Thesis, make sure you have submitted your thesis to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research for review and binding by the correct deadline.
  • Complete all department requirements (e.g. final projects, exams). After you have completed your final project, thesis, or exam, your department will verify with us that you have completed all of the department requirements by submitting either a Verification of Culminating Experience Memo (available only via the departmental graduate advisor) or by your completion of a pre-determined final course in your department. While students are not responsible for submitting this form, make sure that your advisor has sent this memo or that you have completed this final course to verify your completion of all department degree requirements.
  • Finally, make sure you have your current mailing address and email listed in your My SJSU account so that Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations can properly send your diploma and email you important graduation notifications.

Commencement and Department Ceremony

The SJSU commencement ceremony is held once a year at the end of May. Students who have applied for graduation in the Spring semester or have graduated in the most recent Fall or Summer semesters are eligible to attend. In early spring, all eligible students are mailed a commencement guide that details this event and how to participate in the ceremony. Most departments also hold their own graduation ceremonies. Please contact your department to find out more information on their own celebrations.

Notification of Degree Posting

At the end of each semester and after grades have been posted, Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations begins clearing your graduation. We will verify that you have met all of the candidacy and graduation requirements. If you clear graduation we will then post your degree on your transcript and mail your diploma. We will also notify you via  "Other Indicators" in your My SJSU account. If for any reason you do not clear graduation we will also notify you via mail and detail the exact steps you need to take to clear your deficiencies. Due to the lengthy process involved and the large amounts of applications for graduation that Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations receives, the process for clearing graduation can take up to three months after your graduation semester is over.

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Leave of Absences

San Jose State University allows for several options if you need to take some time off from pursuing your graduate degree. The following are options that some graduate students may use if they plan on being away from SJSU.

Missing One Semester

Students who have attended one semester as a graduate student and are in good standing may leave SJSU for one semester (Fall or Spring) without applying for an official leave of absence. Students must return in the semester following the one semester leave or they will have to re-apply for admission. Summer and Winter registration is not required nor do they count as being in matriculation.

Official Leave of Absence

Students may miss more than one semester by applying for an official leave of absence. Forms for applying for these leaves may be picked up at the Registrar's Office in the Student Services Center or online at the Registrar's website under Forms.

Leave of Absence For International Students

International students may not take a leave of absence and must remain in the United States except for documented medical reasons. International students must be enrolled in a full course of study (9 units) for two semesters annually. Winter and Summer registration is not required. If you have further questions please contact the International Programs and Services Office.

Please contact the Registrar's Office for any questions about leave of absences.

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Seven Year Time Limit For Completing Degree

All coursework on your approved candidacy must be completed within seven years preceding the award of your degree. If courses become outdated a student has the following options:

  • Repeat the outdated course without credit.
  • Revalidate the outdated coursework by examination. This petition must be initiated by your graduate advisor.

More information on the seven-year time limit can be found in the SJSU catalog.

Related Form

Request for Revalidation (pdf) (Seven-Year Time Limit)

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