Best Practices for Degrees with Shared Thesis

Current Graduate School policy, as outlined in Graduate School Policy 1.5, allows concurrent master’s degree programs to share credits between the degree programs, thus allowing students to earn two degrees with fewer credits than if the degrees were pursued consecutively.  For questions, contact the Office of Academic Affairs & Planning at


  • Thesis master’s degree: requires a minimum of 9 thesis credits (numbered 700) and submission of a thesis.
  • Non-thesis master’s degree: does not require thesis credits or thesis submission
  • Formal concurrent degree: The program is formally approved by the Graduate School and given a unique program code. Some credits may be shared within the Graduate School 36 credit minimum requirements, including the thesis, as described in Policy 1.5 and below.
  • Informal concurrent degree: Students negotiate an ad hoc agreement with two degree programs to “share” credits between the two. No credits may be shared within the Graduate School 36 credit minimum requirements and no shared thesis is allowed, as described in Policy 1.5.

Statement of the Graduate Council on Concurrent Master’s Degree Programs

The Graduate Council recognizes and endorses the value of concurrent Master’s Degree programs. The Council also understands that there are circumstances in which faculty deem it appropriate to develop a shared thesis arrangement for formal concurrent master’s degrees.

The Graduate School Council endorses the following guidelines for best practices in the design and execution of concurrent master’s programs:

  1. Each partner program should articulate clear expectations of one another for the sharing of resources, faculty involvement, support of students, and assessment of student learning. This includes a consideration of course requirements, the degree to which course material in either program articulates with those in the other program, and the number and distribution of thesis credits between the two programs.
  2. Each partner unit should, when designing a concurrent master’s degree, explicitly articulate the impact on students’ time to degree for completion of both programs.
  3. Units sharing a concurrent degree shall agree upon administrative oversight and support for the program. This includes the resources required to oversee the program, advise students on the program and course offerings, and assure students’ access to required courses.
  4. The faculty in each program should define what constitutes minimal progress toward, and achievement of the standards for conferral of, both degrees.
  5. Each partner program should define clear expectations and standards for admission into, and completion of, a concurrent master’s degree program. These expectations should be published in a student handbook or other readily accessible resource.
  6. If a shared thesis is part of the concurrent degree program structure, then one faculty member from each unit shall co-chair the thesis committee for each student.
  7. Intellectual components from both degree programs should be present in the shared thesis, and the thesis credits should be distributed between the two programs as articulated in the memorandum of agreement.
  8. The shared thesis option, if available, should be broadly communicated to students.
  9. The partnering units shall outline their arrangements with one another in a formal memorandum of agreement.
  10. Concurrent programs should be explicitly considered in each unit’s academic program review.