Graduate Degree Requirements

Each advanced degree awarded by the University requires as a minimum the successful completion of a specified number of approved credits of graduate study at the University and the passing of prescribed examinations.

Credit hours for a master’s or doctoral degree may include formal course work, independent study, research, preparation of a thesis or dissertation and other scholarly activities as are approved by the student’s program committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Students should review the calendar and the regulations and procedures of the Graduate School found in the Graduate School Manual. These documents govern both master’s and doctoral degree programs. The Graduate Manual provides detailed information on many topics including

  • Responsibilities of major professors and program committees
  • Examination procedures
  • Preparation of theses and dissertations
  • Academic standards
  • Graduate Student Academic Appeals System

General requirements and information

The Program of Study 

Students in degree programs are required to prepare a Program of Study with the guidance of their major professors (for master’s degree programs) or their plan committees (for doctoral programs) in accordance with Graduate School Manual guidelines. The Program of Study ensures that students, early in their graduate study, organize coherent, individualized plans for their course work and research.

The successful completion of students’ Programs of Study along with collateral readings, research, etc., demonstrates that they have achieved the high level of competence required of graduate students in their respective fields.

The Program of Study is submitted for final approval to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Course numbering system

All regular graduate courses are numbered at the 500 and 600 levels. All 900-level courses are special graduate courses for which no graduate program credit is given. Courses numbered at the 400 level are for advanced undergraduates, but may, with approval and to a limited extent, be accepted toward meeting degree requirements at the master’s level. For doctoral students who have completed the master’s degree in the same field or one closely related, all program work must be at the 500 or 600 level.

Maintaining scholastic standing

Graduate work is evaluated in letter grades. All grades remain on the student’s record, and, unless the courses were approved for no program credit before registration, all unacceptable grades will be included in calculating the student’s scholastic average. A grade of C+ (2.33) or lower in courses numbered at the 400 level is considered a failing grade. In such cases, the course must either be repeated, if it is a required course, or else replaced by another course approved by the student’s program committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.

When students receive more than one grade of C+ (2.33) or lower in courses at the 400 level, their graduate status is subject to review by the Dean of the Graduate School. Grades of C- or lower are failing grades in courses at the 500 and 600 levels and require an immediate review of the student’s status. Students failing these courses must repeat them if they are required courses, or else they must replace them with courses approved by the student’s program committee and the Dean of the Graduate School. The grades S (satisfactory) and U (unsatisfactory) are used for courses of study involving research undertaken for the thesis or dissertation and for certain courses and seminars so designated. The letter I (incomplete) is used for excused unfinished work. Incomplete grades assigned to graduate students may be removed within one calendar year. If the grade of I (incomplete) is not removed within one calendar year, it will remain on the transcript but may not be used for program credit.

Grades of S, U, I, and all grades in courses below the 400 level are not included in the academic average. A cumulative average of B (3.00 on a 4.00 scale) in all work is required to qualify for continuation in the degree program and graduation, except for courses meeting entrance deficiencies or approved for no program credit before registration in the course. At any time when the academic record indicates unsatisfactory performance, the student’s status is subject to review. A student who fails to maintain a satisfactory quality point average or to make acceptable progress toward the degree may be dismissed.

Degree-specific Requirements

Review requirements specific to your desired degree:

URI also offers certificate programs, which have specific requirements. For information on your program, visit Academics.

Master’s Degree Requirements

There are no major or minor area requirements for the master’s degree. However, no degree can be awarded for the accumulation of credits without a planned and approved Program of Study. Courses for the degree are expected to be concentrated in the student’s field of interest and related areas to produce a well-developed and coherent program. Requirements for the master’s degree must be completed within five calendar years. Students must take at least four-fifths of the credits required for the degree at the University of Rhode Island. Some departments offer both a thesis and a nonthesis option, while others offer only one plan. The general requirements are as follows:

Thesis Option:. The minimum requirements for a master’s degree are

  • Completion of 30 credits, including six thesis research credits at the discretion of the department
  • Written comprehensive examinations (if required by program)
  • Submission of an acceptable thesis and the passing of an oral examination in defense of the thesis. Four copies of the thesis prepared in accordance with Graduate School requirements must be submitted to the Graduate School.

Nonthesis Option: Some master’s degrees may be earned without a thesis. The minimum requirements for a nonthesis master’s degree are

  • Completion of a minimum of 30 credits
  • Completion of practicums, internships, or other experiences useful to the student’s future professional career
  • Completion of a culminating experience set by the graduate program

Professional Degree Requirements

Students should refer to the specific program requirements for professional degrees and consult with the appropriate dean or director.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy degree must be completed within seven years of the date when the student first enrolled in their doctoral program. The requirements for the doctoral degree are as follows:

  • Completion of a minimum of 72 credits of graduate study beyond the baccalaureate degree, of which a minimum of 42 credits must be taken at the University of Rhode Island
  • Qualifying examination
  • Comprehensive examination
  • Dissertation
  • Oral examination in defense of the dissertation
  • Fulfillment of the residence requirement as defined in the Graduate Manual

About the exams

  • The qualifying examination assesses a student’s potential to perform at the doctoral level. A student without a master’s degree who is accepted into a doctoral program is expected to take a qualifying examination, usually after 24-30 credits have been completed. A student who holds a master’s degree in the same or a closely related field is normally not required to take the examination. If an examination is required, it will be stipulated at the time of admission.
  • The comprehensive examination will be taken no later than 12 months after completion of the formal courses stipulated in the Program of Study. The examination is designed to assess the student’s intellectual capacity and adequacy of training for scholarly research. The comprehensive examination has written and oral components. The student, with the approval of his or her program committee, applies to the Graduate School to take the examination. The oral examination committee includes the student’s committee and one additional graduate faculty member nominated by the major professor in consultation with the student and formally appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. The student’s major professor arranges for and chairs the examination. Unanimous approval by the examining committee is required for the passing of the comprehensive examination. A student whose performance fails to receive unanimous approval of either examining committee may, with the committee’s recommendation and the approval of the dean of the Graduate School, be permitted one re- examination in the part or parts failed, to be taken no sooner than 10 weeks and no later than one year after the initial examinations.
  • The final oral examination is a defense of the dissertation and is open to all members of the faculty and, generally, to all students. The examination, usually two hours long, is conducted by an examining committee comprised of the student’s program committee and two additional graduate faculty members appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. One of the appointed members will be designated by the dean to chair the examination. Unanimous approval of the examining committee is required for passing. If the student does not perform satisfactorily, the committee may recommend to the dean of the Graduate School that the student take one re-examination.

Theses and Dissertations Guidelines

To review guidelines, refer to Thesis/Dissertation Process: From Proposal to Defense.