Chapter 4: Graduate Degree and Graduation Requirements

Students are bound by the program and degree requirements in effect at their term of admission and are expected to be aware of these requirements. Students are not obligated to follow any subsequent changes to degree requirements unless the student has been Absent without Leave from the program (see Leave of Absence policy. for details). Additional specific information on master’s and post master's degree requirements (see chapter 5.), and doctoral degree requirements (see chapter 6) can be found in this handbook.  

A. Graduate Degree Requirements

1. Departmental Expectations 8. Graduate Majors
2. Registration Requirements 9. Graduate Minors
3. Changing Departments or Programs 10. Graduate Concentrations
4. Residence Credit 11. Joint Degree Programs
5. Proficiency Examinations 12. Dual Degree Programs
6. Research Credit and 599 13. Annual Academic Progress Reviews
7. Second Degree in a Similar Area  

  1. Departmental Expectations:
    Requirements for specific graduate degrees are listed in the appropriate sections of the Academic Catalog, and in departmental handbooks. All departments should distribute a handbook or statement to their graduate students listing the requirements for the graduate degree programs to which they are admitted.

  2. Registration Requirements:
    In order to receive a graduate degree a student must be admitted to the degree program and enrolled in the program for at least one term after admission, which could be spring, summer or fall. To be counted toward the graduate degree, hours must be at the 400-level or greater and approved for graduate credit. 

  3. Changing Departments or Programs:
    Graduate College policy allows students to transfer from one academic program to another, provided that both departments agree to the transfer. The mechanism to complete the transfer process depends on the program. Some programs allow students to transfer using the Graduate Student Request form. When transferring using this form, students are not required to complete a new application or pay an application fee. Some programs require a full application with all required materials, including an application fee. Please contact your new proposed program of study for instruction.

    Students should note that tuition assessment and tuition and fee benefits are tied to the program in which they are enrolled.  An approved change in curriculum during the term that occurs after tuition has been assessed and payments credited may result in recalculation of tuition assessments that result in the student incurring additional expenses.

    International students with F-1 or J-1 visas who transfer from one program to another are required to obtain new immigration documents from International Student and Scholar Services.

  4. Residence Credit:
    University of Illinois rules prescribe that a certain amount of credit hours for each degree received from this campus be taken as residence credit. Residence credit includes:
    • graduate credit earned through an on-campus course at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
    • graduate credit earned through an Urbana-Champaign off-campus course or program,
    • graduate credit transferred from the University of Illinois at Chicago or from the University of Illinois at Springfield,
    • graduate credit earned through the BTAA Traveling Scholar Program, and
    • credit earned in the College of Medicine that is approved for application to the student’s graduate program for students in the Medical Scholars Program.

    Students should also be aware of the transfer policies related to this type of credit used toward a degree.

    Residence requirements are outlined in Rule 3-801 of the Student Code and in this handbook as related to specific degrees.

  5. Proficiency Examinations:
    Graduate students may satisfy specific requirements through proficiency examinations; however, in such cases, credit cannot be earned toward the required hours for the graduate degree. Students should check with their department for details about proficiency examinations.

  6. Research Credit and 599:
    A student cannot deposit a thesis without record of registration in research credit courses. Likewise, students with a record of registration in research credit will be required to deposit a thesis to complete their degree. Most departments use the course designation “599” to indicate research registration for both master’s and doctoral students. Graduate students should register for research credit during semesters when they are working on the thesis.
    Departments may set criteria that determine at what point in the program students may begin registering for research credit (599). Registration in research credit must always be done with the approval of the student’s adviser.

    The grade of DFR (deferred) is reported for research credit until the thesis has been completed, successfully defended if required, and deposited in the Graduate College. When a thesis is successfully defended and deposited, the DFR grades will be changed to S (satisfactory). If the student fails the final defense, the grade becomes U (unsatisfactory), and the thesis cannot be deposited.

    If research credit is taken but thesis work is not completed, the 599 registration cannot be removed from the record. If the work will not be completed, the student must successfully petition for grades to permanently remain as deferred (DFR) in order to receive a degree. Students will not be certified for a degree with any grades of DFR in their academic record unless a petition has been approved.

  7. Second Degree in a Similar Area:
    An individual should not receive another degree for work that is substantially similar to the work used to complete a previous degree. Therefore, the Graduate College will generally not allow the awarding of a second graduate degree in an area in which a graduate degree at an equivalent level (master's, doctoral) has already been earned. This rule applies to cases where the first degree is from the University or from another domestic or international institution.  Requests for exceptions may be allowed in cases where it is clear that the student's degree programs differ significantly. These decisions are made during the process of admission to the Graduate College or when a change of curriculum is requested.
  8. Graduate Majors:
    A graduate major is an official degree program designation for the academic record. The approved graduate majors are listed in the Academic Catalog.

  9. Graduate Minors:
    A graduate minor is an approved program in a secondary area of study that relates to but is outside of a student’s chosen major and may be included on an academic transcript. A list of campus-approved graduate minors is available in the Academic Catalog. As noted in the Policy for Graduate Minors, students majoring in an area of study may not pursue a minor in the same area.

    Each program has its own procedures for applying to and completing the minor, and students should contact the minor department for details. Students who wish to add or drop a graduate minor from their academic record must submit the appropriate form to make the change to their academic program. An academic program change alters the requirements needed for graduation, and therefore changes should be made carefully and in consultation with the graduate program adviser. It is at the discretion of the major degree department to determine which, if any, of the courses used to fulfill the minor will also be used to fulfill the requirements for the graduate major degree.

    Minor(s) will not be added retroactively to a student record after the major degree is conferred. Even though a minor may be included in a student’s academic record, it will not show on a transcript until the degree has been conferred. A student's approved enrollment period will not be extended for the purpose of completing a minor.

    If a student has requested to receive a minor, and then wishes to change to a new program before receiving a degree, the new program must note on the Graduate Student Request form  that they will accept the minor in their degree program and note if any of the courses used to fulfill the minor will also be used to fulfill the new major graduate degree. If the new program does not accept the minor, the minor will be removed from the record when the request is processed.

  10. Graduate Concentrations:
    A graduate concentration constitutes a coherent program of study which gives a student more breadth or depth in their major. As indicated in the Policy for Graduate Concentrations, approved concentrations may be included on academic transcripts. Some concentrations (major-based) are only open to a student majoring in the offering department. Other concentrations (floating) are open to students in a broad range of majors. A few majors require a concentration, but most do not. Approved Graduate Concentrations and their related majors are listed in the Academic Catalog. Prior to pursuing a graduate concentration, it is important for students to verify that the graduate concentration they wish to pursue is available to their major degree program. 

    Students who wish to add or drop a graduate concentration from their academic record must submit a Graduate Student Request form to request the change to their academic program and to what appears on the transcript. A change in concentration is a program change, and will alter the requirements needed for graduation, and therefore changes should be made carefully and in consultation with the graduate program adviser. Approvals are required from the major department and adviser and the unit overseeing the concentration.

  11. Because a concentration is intended to be within the major area of study, the hours required to fulfill the concentration should likewise apply toward completion of the degree.  However that is not to say that completion of a concentration within a degree couldn’t require more hours than the degree itself, in that the student is earning an additional credential.

    Concentration(s) will not be added retroactively to a student record after the major degree is conferred. A student's approved enrollment period will not be extended for the purpose of completing a concentration.

    If a student successfully requests to receive a concentration, and then wishes to change to a new program before receiving the degree, the new program must note on the request whether they will accept the concentration in their degree program and note which of the courses used to fulfill the concentration will also be used to fulfill the new major graduate degree. If the new program does not accept the concentration or the new program does not offer the concentration, the concentration will be removed from the student record when the request to change programs is processed. 

  12. Joint Degree Programs:
    A joint degree program is a campus approved program in which a student concurrently pursues two specifically identified degrees, and those degrees are conferred simultaneously. For graduate students this is a combination of a graduate degree with one of the following: another graduate degree, an undergraduate degree or a professional degree. The total time for the two degrees can be decreased by a predetermined maximum through the acceptance of required courses in one program as electives in the other, if so approved. A list of approved joint degree programs and individual program requirements can be found in the Academic Catalog, including any exceptions to the simultaneous conferral rule.

    A student interested in pursuing joint degrees should consult both departments, as they must be admitted separately to each program as a joint degree candidate. A student in a joint degree program must be admitted to each degree program and be enrolled in each program for at least one term after admission, which could be spring, summer or fall (see chapter 4.A.3 for information about changing programs), and must complete the minimum requirements for each degree. Doctoral students pursuing joint degrees may be enrolled in either program when they take their preliminary exams or defend their dissertation. For details regarding joint programs, see the Graduate College Policy for the Approval of New and Revised Graduate Degree Programs.

    Joint Bachelor’s/Master’s Programs

    Approved joint programs include programs that combine a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in the same field. Like other joint degree programs, both the bachelor’s and the master’s degrees are generally awarded at the end of the program. Because of this, these students are admitted to the Graduate College before they have earned a bachelor’s degree. In some cases, students must fulfill the minimum total hours required for the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and in others, students may double count some course work. In either situation, the time to completion for both degrees is reduced by efficiencies of scheduling and the ability to take both graduate and undergraduate work in the senior year. See the undergraduate college’s Program of Study for details about a specific program.

                       List of approved bachelor/master joint degree programs:
    Accountancy B.S./M.A.S.
    Aerospace Engineering B.S./M.S.
    Bioengineering B.S./M.Eng
    Community Health B.S./M.P.H.
    Computer Science B.S./M.C.S.
    Computer Science B.S./M.S.
    Engineering B.S./M.Eng Concentration Energy Systems
    Electrical & Computer Eng B.S./MENG
    German B.A./M.A.
    Health B.S./M.P.H.
    Industrial Engineering B.S./M.S.
    Kinesiology B.S./M.P.H.
    LAS (any major) B.S. or B.A./M.B.A.

    LAS (select majors)  BA/MA in European Union Studies

    Materials Science & Engineering B.S./M.Eng.
    Materials Science & Engineering B.S./M.S.
    Mechanical Engineering B.S./M.S.
    Urban Planning B.A./M.U.P.


  13. Dual Degree Programs:
    A dual degree program is defined as one in which a student pursues two post-baccalaureate degrees simultaneously. In dual degree programs, students must complete all requirements for each degree, without overlap. With the approval of both departments, students would have the opportunity to integrate their studies rather than completing the degrees in series. A student pursuing two post-baccalaureate degrees simultaneously must be admitted to each degree program and enrolled in each program for at least one term after admission (see chapter 4.A.3 for information about changing programs), in order to obtain both degrees. Dual degree students earning a doctoral degree may be enrolled in either program when they defend their dissertation. 
  14. Annual Academic Progress Reviews:
    Graduate units must conduct annual academic progress reviews for all graduate students enrolled in degree-seeking programs at least once every academic year. A written copy of the review must be given to the student and be placed in the student’s academic file.

    Ideally, academic progress reviews should include the following elements:
    • A student self-report and assessment of academic progress.
    • A review prepared by the adviser and at least one other faculty member to focus on an assessment of degree progress and student strengths and weaknesses. A copy of this written review is given to the student.
    • An opportunity for the student to discuss this review in person.


B. Graduation Requirements

  1. Degree Conferral (Graduation Date)
  2. Applying for Graduation (Adding Your Name to the Degree List)
  3. Theses and Dissertations
  4. Request for Certification of Degree Letter
  5. Commencement

  1. Degree Conferral (Graduation Date):
    Graduate degrees are conferred in May, August, and December.
  2. Applying for Graduation (Adding Your Name to the Degree List):
    In order to receive a degree, a student must apply to be on the degree list for the appropriate graduation date. Students should apply for graduation using the UI-Integrate Self-Service system. Deadlines for applying to be on the list for each graduation date are noted on the Graduate College Academic Calendar. Applying for graduation is not the same as applying to participate in departmental or campus commencement ceremonies.

    A student may not receive a degree with a grade of I, NR, or DFR in any course except thesis research, on their graduate record. 

  3. Theses and Dissertations:
    A thesis or dissertation is an original, significant contribution to the scholarly literature of an academic discipline.  In this section, “thesis” refers to both master’s theses and doctoral dissertations.

    All University of Illinois graduate students whose programs require the completion of a thesis must deposit their manuscript electronically in the Graduate College.

    1. Faculty and Departmental Approval. The adviser (for master’s students) and final exam committee (for doctoral students) must approve the thesis. Departmental review and approval is also required before the thesis can be deposited with the Graduate College. (In the case of a doctoral student who passed the final exam with one dissenting vote, the dissenting member may, but is not required to, approve the thesis.)
    2. Deposit. The Graduate College does not require students to be registered at the time of deposit, but some departments may, so students should consult with their department before depositing. A thesis will not be accepted for deposit until all required materials have been submitted and all corrections requested by the Graduate College Thesis Office have been made.  Deposit must be completed by the appropriate master’s or doctoral deposit deadlines set for each term.  Upon deposit, the thesis becomes part of the student’s academic record.  No changes may be made to a thesis after it has been deposited at the Graduate College.
    3. Format. The Graduate College will only accept theses that meet the formatting requirements set forth in the Thesis Requirements.  Many departments have additional, discipline specific format requirements, and the Graduate College requires that all students secure format approval from their department prior to format review in the Graduate College Thesis Office. 
    4. Dissemination. Theses that are deposited as a requirement for the awarding of a degree are considered to be publications. Copyrightable works prepared by students as part of the requirements for a University degree program are deemed to be the property of the student.

      As a condition of degree award, the University has the royalty-free right to retain, use and distribute a limited number of copies of the thesis, together with the right to require its publication for archival use (see Article III Section 4, University of Illinois Board of Trustees’ General Rules).

      In order to best disseminate and archive the significant work of University of Illinois graduates, the Graduate College requires that every thesis and the abstract be published. The Graduate College will determine the method of publication that most effectively secures the existence of the thesis in perpetuity. The theses will be available to the public through the University Library.

    5. Permissions for previously published work included in the thesis. Prior publication of parts of the thesis is increasingly common.  If the copyright to the published work has been transferred to the publisher (or to any other party), the student should secure written permission from the current owner of the copyright to include the previously published material in the thesis to be submitted for deposit. Two copies of these copyright permissions should be included with the student’s deposit materials. 
    6. Patent review. If a student’s thesis contains potentially patentable information, a student may wish to have the thesis held by the Thesis Office while patentability is assessed.  Holding a thesis does not postpone degree conferral or graduation. A student wishing to have a thesis held during the patent review process must contact the Office of Technology Management (OTM) prior to deposit. OTM will review the student’s request and notify the Graduate College if a thesis is to be held. Intellectual property is an important aspect of thesis research. See chapter I.C for more information.
  4. Request for Degree Certification Letter:
    A student who has fulfilled all of the degree requirements before the next conferral date may need certification for employment or to meet visa requirements. To request a degree certification letter, the student should use the Degree Certification Letter Request form. A student who has not deposited the thesis with the Graduate College (when deposit is required), who owes money to the University, or who is enrolled in any course other than research credit is not eligible to receive a degree certification letter. 
  5. Commencement:
    Commencement is a celebratory event, not a degree requirement. For details about participation, see the Commencement Office website.