Can I finish my M.S. degree early?

Date: July 2018


Hello Deans,

I have completed two semesters of my M.S. and have been working over the summer towards my thesis. My research so far has been going pretty well, and I believe I will be able to finish my experimentation before the fall semester starts. In this situation, I was hoping to graduate by December. (Generally, M.S. students take four semesters or two years to graduate as far as I know.) 

I asked my GFA, and she says the thesis is the only requirement of my degree. There are no course requirements. Hence, as long as I take my M exam on time, submit my thesis by the deadline, and my advisor is fine with the progress, I can graduate in December. I asked the same question to the Graduate School Student Services Office; they said their requirement of M.S. students is minimum one year or two semesters. However, before I take the major decision and pace up for this work, I had few questions:

  1. Although my GFA told me I can graduate in three semesters, I just want to make sure if this works well with the Graduate School or not? Any official problems that may come in my way? Is it okay if an M.S. student finishes the thesis in three semesters and graduates?
  2. There is no course requirement for my degree, but I still wish to take one course along with thesis credits in the fall semester. Can I do that?
  3. I have been appointed a TA for a course, which I am excited about. However, my TA letter says the appointment dates are 15th August to 30th December, 2018. The December Graduation Ceremony happens on 15th December. Although the course will be finished before 15th December, is there any technical problem that can arise here later?

I need to be sure of all the above questions before I finally decide to wrap up my work, focus on writing, and graduate by December.

Waiting for your answers eagerly.


Graduating Early


Dear Graduating Early,

While your graduate field or special committee may set specific requirements for the completion of your M.S. degree, the basic degree requirements of the Graduate School are pretty simple. A M.S. or M.A. student must be registered for a minimum two semesters, must schedule and pass a thesis defense exam (M exam), and must submit an approved thesis. The Graduate School does not impose any course requirements so the only courses that you need to take are those that your special committee members require. As the folks in the Graduate Student Service Office told you, there are no barriers to completing your M.S. in three semesters, so you should be good to go!

If you are registered for the fall semester you may certainly enroll in courses. It’s great that you have an offer to receive funding as a TA as well. As long as you pass your defense and submit your thesis by the December 1st deadline your degree will be officially conferred on December 31st. The December recognition ceremony is on 12/15/2018, but you’ll remain a student through the end of the month when your degree is conferred so there’s no problem with dates of your TA appointment.

I wish you all the best!


Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration