Making Academic Progress

Cornell University offers graduate students pursuing research degrees a lot of flexibility, freedom, and independence in their academic programs. With few exceptions (generally limited to certain professional degree programs), there are minimal requirements imposed by the Graduate School for either total credit hours or required courses. Graduate programs may impose additional requirements. 

Time-to-Degree Limits

The maximum elapsed time from first registration to completion of all requirements is:

  • Full-time Master’s: four years
  • Part-time Master’s: six years
  • Ph.D. Candidates: seven years

Extensions may be granted by submitting a General Petition form, which can be found on our Forms page. Please include a detailed plan for completing all remaining degree requirements.

*Students enrolled in the Employee Degree Program are exempt from these time requirements.

Research Degree Requirements

The Graduate School’s degree requirements are kept to a minimum in order to give the special committee and the student freedom to determine appropriate degree requirements and to define a program of study best suited to the student’s particular goals.

For the Ph.D., M.A., and M.S. degree programs there are several requirements imposed by the Graduate School, including: