The general requirements for the master's degree are given below. The student, however, should consult the appropriate sections of this publication and the school dean and department chair for specific information and requirements.

Comprehensive Examination

A student in most master's programs must pass a written comprehensive examination in the major field. This examination is taken in the semester during which the student is completing the course work. Language/research tool requirements as specified for the program of studies must be completed prior to the examination.

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

The comprehensive examination is marked pass or fail. The transcript will note if the student has passed the examination with distinction. A student who did not pass may retake the entire examination or the failed portion once, according to school (or department, where applicable) policy. A student who incurs two (2) failures in the comprehensive examination is no longer considered eligible to receive the master's degree. The second failure is recorded on the student's permanent record.


The candidate for a master's degree with a thesis requirement must submit the thesis topic to the chair of the department and the school dean for their approval. The student must register for a total of six (6) credit hours of thesis 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 are explained in the Master’s/Licentiate Degree Handbook.

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.

After the thesis has been approved and signed off by the director and the reader, the student will upload the thesis to ProQuest and complete the ETD@CUA Submission Copyright Statement, no later than the date designated in the Academic Calendar, and in accordance with the Master’s/Licentiate Degree Handbook. A fee is charged to cover the cost of the maintenance of the Catholic University electronic thesis and dissertation research repository. A check or money order for the fee must accompany the thesis deposit. The amount for such fees and expenses can be found at the Enrollment Services website.

Upon uploading of the approved thesis and final approval by the student's school, the six (6) credit hours of guidance will be posted to the student's academic record.

A graduate who wishes to publish the thesis externally 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 further 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 music, drama, and architecture may satisfy the thesis requirement by a production of a creative type. Students should consult school and departmental regulations for these requirements.

Guidelines on Preparation and Timing of Thesis

Master's degree candidates must complete all degree requirements within three (3) years (or six [6] summer sessions) after the date of completion of course work. An extension of up to one year may be granted upon petition to the dean. An approved academic leave is not counted in determining the calendar deadlines.

The date for submission of the master's thesis is established by the University and indicated in the class schedule for the fall semester, spring semester, or summer session. Schools and departments may have other internal deadlines that are particular to their fields or disciplines. These internal deadlines will give your committee adequate time to read the thesis and make suggestions, and give you time to make any revisions. If the submission deadline is not met, the thesis committee is not obligated to evaluate the thesis that semester. Students should realize that several drafts of the thesis will probably be necessary and thus allow sufficient time for writing. The document must be written in a lucid, concise manner. The completed draft, which is first given to the major professor, should be corrected for misspelling, grammatical errors and inconsistencies. The major professor is not responsible for editing the document.

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 thirty (30) credit hours of graduate work, of which no less than six (6) 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 Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies indicating that:

  1. A minimum number of credits for degree have been completed,
  2. Two (2) research papers have been completed, and
  3. The Comprehensive Examination for the doctorate has been passed.

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

Completion of Requirements

Students who do not complete all the requirements for a master's degree within three (3) years (or six [6] summer sessions) from the date of completion of coursework 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 (1) year or one (1) summer session.

Admission to a Doctoral Program

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 is done online through Cardinal Admissions.