Academic Structure

Fields of Study

At Cornell, graduate study is organized using a field structure. Fields are composed of faculty members from a number of departments who come together around a shared intellectual interest and may draw from different campuses or colleges. Graduate students are admitted to fields of study. Within each field, they select major and minor subjects, which are research interests or concentrations.

Majors and Minors

At Cornell, students are accepted into fields of study. Within each field are major subjects and areas of concentration. A major, like its undergraduate cousin, is a focused subject area where a student will conduct his or her research or scholarship. Concentrations are a subset within the major subject. Minor subjects are secondary areas of research. Some fields offer minor subjects only.

Determining Your Major and Minor Subject Requirements

Master’s degree students choose one major and one minor subject. Doctoral candidates choose one major and two minor subjects of study, although some fields have permission from the General Committee to require only one major and one minor subject. Faculty members are picked from these approved subjects to form a “special committee.”

Special Committees

If you are in a research-based degree program, you will select a special committee chair and additional faculty members to create a special committee.

The special committee is responsible for helping you develop your research and academic program. The Graduate School imposes no requirements for courses or grades; your special committee will ensure you make appropriate progress and achievement.

The timeline and process for composing special committees may vary by field. Your DGS and GFA can clarify the process for your field of study.

To choose or change an advisor, you may submit a request online from the “Advisor” section of your Student Center