Master’s Degree Requirements

Course Requirements

The minimum requirement for the master’s degree is the satisfactory completion of total credit hours required by the department which have been submitted as a Graduate Plan of Study and approved by the Assistant Provost of Graduate Education and Research and by the student’s adviser.

Additional Requirements

  1. A minimum of 16 credits must be at the 500 level or higher.
  2. Only graduate-level credits can be applied to a masters' degree.  No course work done in courses less than the 400 level will apply to a master's degree.
  3. Courses at the 400 level must be approved for graduate credit, be taught by an approved graduate faculty member, and be approved by the offering department for inclusion in graduate degree programs.
  4. A maximum of eight credits can be earned in Directed or Independent Study (598) courses including a maximum of four credits earned in workshops.
  5. A maximum of 16 credits earned through a combination of courses of unspecified content (including Thesis 599) credit can be applied to the total minimum number of hours required to complete the master’s degree. Of these 16 credits, a maximum of 12 credits can be earned through courses of unspecified content excluding thesis. Individual programs may have more restrictive requirements. Graduate courses of unspecified content are defined as courses in which the student or department is not restricted by the Graduate Bulletin to a specific area of subject matter. A list of courses covered by this limitation precedes the Course Descriptions.

Graduate Capstone Project

All master’s students must complete a graduate capstone project that is defined by the program of study. The project may be (1) a thesis, (2) a graduate research project report, portfolio, or exhibit, or (3) two file papers.

Certification that the graduate project requirement has been met must be filed at the Office of Graduate Education 30 calendar days prior to graduation. Forms for this purpose are available from the Office of Graduate Education. It is the student’s responsibility to see that the documentation is filed through the department.

1. Thesis: A graduate student who has 12 or more graduate credit hours and who has been accepted as a candidate for the master’s degree is eligible to undertake a thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree. A student desiring to present a thesis should outline such plans in writing for approval by his or her adviser. The head of the department in which credit will be received for the thesis will, in consultation with the adviser, appoint a chair and two additional faculty members to serve on the student’s thesis committee. The chair will have active direction on the thesis. A thesis may carry up to eight semester hours of credit in all programs with the exception of the master of fine arts (MFA) in which a thesis carries twelve semester hours of credit. The number of credits permitted in non-MFA programs will be determined by the student’s committee at the time the thesis proposal is approved.

Guidelines Regarding Membership of Graduate Advisory and Theses Committees

  1. With the approval of the department head, non-NMU or adjunct graduate faculty may serve as a member on a student’s advisory or thesis committee as long as they have been approved by the Academic Senate for graduate faculty status.
  2. A faculty member with level three graduate faculty status must be the chair of the committee.
  3. The voting majority of all thesis committees must be NMU faculty with level three graduate faculty status.
  4. With the approval of the department head, a non-faculty expert may serve as a non-voting member of a student’s committee.

Theses at the graduate level at Northern Michigan University must be prepared in accordance with the “Guidelines for The Preparation of Master’s Theses”. The Guidelines can be obtained from the Office of Graduate Education Web site at All theses are submitted to the graduate office in electronic format. Two original signature pages from the thesis must be completely signed and submitted to the Office of Graduate Education. To allow sufficient time for review, the approved document must be electronically submitted no later than 30 calendar days before graduation.

2. Graduate Project Reports and Exhibits: Students completing degree requirements who do not choose to complete a thesis are required to write a graduate research project report according to departmental guidelines.

3. File Papers: Students who do not complete a thesis or research project must write a minimum of two papers according to the following requirements (also check departmental requirements):

  1. These papers shall be filed in the office of the department responsible for the advisement of the student. These papers may be a part of the assigned work of a course provided prior arrangements have been made with the instructor.
  2. At least one of the papers must be from the student’s field of major concentration.
  3. The papers shall be prepared in accordance with recognized manuals of style.
  4. A discipline-related, documented requirement as approved by the department may be substituted for one of the papers, e.g., music recital, exhibit, comprehensive exam, etc.

Continuous Enrollment Credit

All graduate students who are working on their master's project/thesis and have completed all other credit requirements for their degree (not currently enrolled in any other NMU courses) and require access to library and computing resources must remain an "active" student by enrolling in at least one credit each semester of continuous enrollment credit (GD 593, or for those in the Education Specialist program, GD 693) for each consecutive semester until the completion of the project.  Students failing to register for these credits will not have access to library and computing resources. GD 593 (or GD 693) credits may not be used as electives, nor can they be used to replace required courses listed on their plan of study.  Students must be enrolled in GD 593, GD 693 or another graduate credit during the semester of graduation.

Second Master’s Degree

A student holding a master’s degree may earn a second master’s degree in another curriculum or major. Appropriate courses up to a maximum of ten semester hours may be transferred from the first master’s to the second degree program on the recommendation of the adviser for the second degree. These credits must have been earned within the same seven-year time limitation applicable to the first master's degree. Students pursuing a second master’s degree must complete a graduate project depending on the program of study, as noted above. The project may be (1) a thesis, (2) a graduate research project report, portfolio or exhibit, or (3) two file papers.