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Policy 1.7: Graduate Degree Types

The Graduate School adheres to the spirit of standards for graduate education set by the University of Washington’s accrediting body, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and is responsible for supervising the content and level of programs leading to graduate degrees (Executive Order VII). Graduate education overseen by the Graduate School consists of post-baccalaureate programs of study and research leading to all master’s degrees, all doctoral degrees except for the MD, JD, PharmD, and DDS (see Executive Order VII), all graduate certificates, and intermediate certified status such as advancement to candidacy.

A graduate degree program may be designed to prepare students for scholarship that leads to new knowledge, or it may be a practice-oriented program that prepares students to apply newly-developing or existing knowledge towards specific career or individual goals. See Policy 1.1 for minimum requirements for specific degree types, and see Policy 1.3 for the structure of graduate programs and credentials. For graduate certificate programs, see Policy 1.2.

1.7.1     Master’s

Master’s degrees vary widely in their content and outcomes, but generally focus on advanced disciplinary training and the acquisition of specialized knowledge or high-level skills when compared to the bachelor’s degree. Master’s degree programs support various educational, personal, and career goals. They may have an applied focus, be practice oriented, research oriented, or combine these and other elements depending on the nature of the field.

1.7.2     Educational Specialist

Educational specialist degrees are advanced practice-oriented degrees targeted towards educators that provide specialized education above the master’s level.

1.7.3     Practice Doctorate

Practice doctorates provide preparation for professional practice at the frontiers of existing knowledge. They place a strong emphasis on the practical application of knowledge in a specific field and equip students with advanced skills for professional practice. They are distinguished from the research doctorate in that they do not focus on the creation of new knowledge and do not require a dissertation. The culminating experience is focused on meeting the demands of highly technical professional and clinical environments. Graduates of practice doctorate programs, for example the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Doctor Physical Therapy, and Doctor of Global Health, are prepared for leadership roles in their professional fields.

1.7.4     Research Doctorate

Research doctorates are advanced research-oriented degrees awarded to those who have demonstrated the greatest level of mastery of the intellectual principles in a specific field of study and who have produced a significant contribution to new knowledge in that field. These degrees include the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) as well as other doctorates that provide preparation for professional practice or artistic craft at the frontiers of existing knowledge in addition to requiring a significant contribution to new knowledge in the form of a dissertation.

For all research doctorates, the dissertation includes research conducted under the guidance of an appropriate faculty advisor and other university faculty in the field. Prior to receiving the degree, the doctoral candidate conducts original research as part of the dissertation and defends that research as part of the dissertation defense.

The research doctorate is distinguished from doctoral programs designed for professional training or focus on applied research related to professional practice such as the practice doctorate and the doctoral degrees not overseen by the Graduate School (M.D., J.D., D.D.S, and PharmD). Graduates of a research doctorate are prepared for careers where they can lead groundbreaking research initiatives and mentor the next generation of scholars and practitioners.


Policy 1.7 revised: February, 1985; June 2010; December 2022

Policy 1.7 revised March 2024

Policy 1.6: Sequential Combined Undergraduate/Graduate (CUG) Degrees

Graduate programs may create a sequential combined undergraduate/graduate (CUG) degree program according to the following guidelines. The program must submit a proposal to the Office of Academic Affairs and Planning in the Graduate School for each degree combination.

View the guidelines for proposals →

The intent of a CUG program is to allow exceptional University of Washington undergraduate students a seamless transition from undergraduate education into graduate education at the University of Washington. The CUG allows students to identify and plan a graduate course of study during junior year as an undergraduate, in consultation with the student’s program advisor(s). In addition, CUG programs may allow a defined amount of graduate-level coursework that was completed as an undergraduate to count toward the graduate degree, as detailed below.

1.6.1     Admissions

The CUG program is responsible for creating a CUG program admissions process. Admission will occur no earlier than when a student has junior standing. The admission processes for students applying to the CUG while still in their undergraduate course of study is managed by the CUG program and does not include a Graduate School application until students are ready to transition into the graduate program. The specific timeline and CUG admissions criteria will be outlined by the specific program the student is applying to, and application to the CUG program will be open to all students meeting the published CUG program admissions criteria. The qualifications for admission to the CUG program must assure that students have the appropriate background to successfully complete the program. The student is responsible for applying to the Graduate School and meeting the minimum Graduate School admissions requirements before being allowed to enroll as a graduate student.

Students will not be registered simultaneously as both an undergraduate and a graduate student. Until the undergraduate degree is awarded, students are considered undergraduates with regard to all policy and tuition considerations. Undergraduate degree and credit requirements must be fully satisfied, at which point the bachelor’s degree will be awarded and the student will officially enter the graduate program. The program will create clear set of minimum requirements for CUG continuation.

The graduate program may design different admissions criteria to the graduate program for CUG students, for example waiving the GRE requirement. No more than one year may elapse between undergraduate degree completion and enrolling in the graduate program. The program may set a shorter limit.

1.6.2     Credit Applied toward the Graduate Degree

The graduate program will define a policy regarding the amount and type of previously approved, 400-level and 500-level coursework taken as an undergraduate that can be applied toward the graduate degree, with a maximum of 12 credits allowed. These credits must be taken as an undergraduate student, but after admission to the CUG program, and must fulfill the specified graduate degree requirements. Courses numbered 600 (Independent Study or Research), 601 (Internship), or 700 (Master’s Thesis) may not be taken before the student is registered as a graduate student.

1.6.3     Time Limits

Students must comply with the regular time limits for completion of the graduate degree, beginning from the time of entry to the Graduate School (6 years for a master’s program; 10 years for a doctoral program).

1.6.4     Graduate Student Appointments

Students may be appointed as an Academic Student Employee (ASE) in a graduate student service appointment as soon as enrolled as a graduate student. The student may hold an undergraduate ASE appointment until that time.

1.6.5     Advising

Upon the student’s acceptance to the CUG program, the unit is responsible for providing coordinated advising and for creating clear documentation about the plan of study. Both student and advisor must sign off on a written plan, to be included in the student’s record (kept on file by the program).


Policy 1.6 created March 2008. Revised: January 2015; October 2021

Policy 1.6.1 revised February 2024

Policy 1.5: Concurrent Degree Programs

Concurrent programs are defined as a pair of programs that may be pursued at the UW by a post baccalaureate student resulting in completion of the requirements for either two graduate degrees or a graduate and a professional degree as defined in Executive Order VII. Rather than sequentially completing first one degree and then the other, the student’s time and the University’s resources may be conserved by arrangements that permit the student to proceed in a coordinated way toward completion of the degree programs. Graduate School policy allows for both formal and informal concurrent degree programs, as described below. A student may also pursue other options to combine study in two or more fields.

Concurrent enrollment in two or more degree programs may have significant impact on student tuition and fees. See Student Fiscal Services for more information on tuition and fees when students are concurrently enrolled.

1.5.1     Formal Concurrent Degree Programs

Graduate School policy defines a formal concurrent degree program as a curriculum established by two participating academic units resulting in completion of two graduate degrees or a graduate and a professional degree. Formal concurrent degree programs must be reviewed and approved by the Graduate School, and students in formal concurrent degree programs are designated by unique program codes.

There are two types of formal concurrent degree programs: Graduate/Graduate Concurrent Degrees and Graduate/Professional Concurrent Degrees.

1.5.1.1     Graduate/Graduate Concurrent Degrees

The Graduate School allows formal concurrent degree programs which lead to the awarding of two graduate degrees. The Graduate Program Coordinators in the two programs involved are the primary representatives and are responsible for providing information and assistance to students engaged in concurrent programs.

1.5.1.1.1      Admission

An applicant who is not currently a student at the University of Washington must submit an application and fee for each program. Both programs must offer admission before admission into the concurrent degree program is granted.

Students who are currently enrolled must submit an application and fee for the second program, indicating on the application that the intent is to complete both degrees rather than to transfer to the second program.

1.5.1.1.2      Registration

After initial registration, a student must maintain continuous enrollment by (1) registering as a full-time or part-time student each quarter or (2) applying for on-leave status.

1.5.1.1.3      Requirements

To earn two master’s degrees in a formal concurrent degree program, a student must complete the equivalent of two Graduate School minimum degree requirements of 36 credits each for a minimum total of 72 credits. If one or both of the participating programs require more than the minimum of 36 credits, those additional credits may be “shared” and applied to both degrees. Further, a maximum of 12 credits from one master’s program, earned beyond the 36 credit minimum, may be applied in the second master’s program towards the Graduate School minimum of 36 credits required. In this case, the minimum number of additional credits for the second degree, with the 12 approved credits, is 24. In all cases the total minimum required credits remains 72. For formal concurrent degree programs, both programs must approve the shared credits counting toward both degrees. A formal concurrent degree program may allow a shared thesis as described within the formal concurrent degree proposal. The proposing programs should follow the best practices guidelines developed by the Graduate School Council (Concurrent Degrees Shared Thesis Best Practices) and articulate these in the proposal sent to the Graduate School.

For formal Ph.D./master’s degree concurrent programs, up to 12 credits earned toward a Ph.D. degree may be counted toward a master’s degree in another program with the approval of both degree offering units.

It is the responsibility of the student to submit a written list of courses which apply toward each respective degree at the time the student files an application for the master’s degree or schedules the general examination. This list must be approved by both programs.

1.5.1.2     Graduate/Professional Concurrent Degrees

The Graduate School allows formal concurrent degree programs which lead to the awarding of a professional degree and a graduate degree. The professional degrees referred to in this section are those defined in Executive Order VII: the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.); Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S); Juris Doctor (J.D.); and Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.).

The Graduate Program Coordinators are the primary representatives of the professional schools and the graduate-degree offering units. The Graduate Program Coordinator is responsible for providing information and assistance to the student engaged in a concurrent program. Another source of information may be the Graduate Enrollment Management Services Division of the Graduate School.

1.5.1.2.1      Admission

An applicant who is not currently a student at the University must apply for admission to both the professional school and the Graduate School.

A student currently in a professional program at the University of Washington must submit a Graduate School Application and fee.

A current graduate student must submit an application and fee for the professional program as required by that program.

1.5.1.2.2      Registration

After initial registration, a student must maintain continuous enrollment by (1) registering as a full-time or part-time student each quarter or (2) by applying for on-leave status.

1.5.1.2.3      Requirements

All graduate program and Graduate School minimum requirements must be met by appropriate graduate courses. It is the responsibility of the student to submit a written list of courses which apply toward the graduate degree at the time the student applies for the graduate degree. This list must be approved by both programs.

1.5.2     Informal Concurrent Degree Programs

Students may pursue two degrees from different departments simultaneously in an informal concurrent degree program. These programs have not been approved as formal concurrent programs and do not have unique program codes, but students have flexibility to ‘share’ coursework, given the approval of both programs.

1.5.2.1     Admission

Current graduate students wishing to pursue an informal concurrent degree program must go to the Graduate School online application and submit an application and fee for the second program.

1.5.2.2     Registration

After initial registration, a student must maintain continuous enrollment by registering as a full-time or part-time student each quarter, OR applying for on-leave status.

1.5.2.3     Requirements for students first enrolling prior to Autumn Quarter 2023 and maintaining continuous enrollment

To earn two master’s degrees, a student must fulfill Graduate School degree requirements for each degree for a minimum of 72 credits. If one or both of the individual programs require more than the minimum of 36 credits, those additional credits may be ‘shared’ and applied to both degrees. However, the total number of credits must be at least 72 and both programs must approve the shared credits counting toward both degrees. Theses and thesis credits may not be shared.

With the approval of both degree-offering units, up to 12 credits earned toward a PhD degree may be counted toward a master’s degree in another program.

It is the responsibility of the student to submit a written list of courses which apply toward each respective degree at the time the student files an application for the master’s degree or schedules the general examination. This list must be approved by both programs.

1.5.2.4     Requirements for students first enrolling Autumn Quarter 2023 or later

To earn two master’s degrees, a student must fulfill the existing degree requirements for each degree. If one or both of the individual programs require more than 36 credits, up to 12 of the credits beyond 36 may be ‘shared’ and applied to both sets of degree requirements. The total number of credits must be at least 72 and both programs must approve the shared credits counting toward both degrees. Theses and thesis credits may not be shared.

With the approval of both degree-offering units, up to 12 credits earned toward a PhD degree may be counted toward a master’s degree in another program.

It is the responsibility of the student to submit a written list of courses which apply toward each respective degree at the time the student files an application for the master’s degree or schedules the general examination. This list must be approved by both programs.


Policy 1.5 revised: June 1996; April 2022; January 2023

Policy 1.5.1.1 revised January 2023

Policy 1.5.1.2 revised January 2023

Policy 1.4: The Stacked Graduate Degree

A “stacked degree” is a graduate program that includes as part of its degree requirements one or more earned graduate certificates. The intent of a stacked degree should be to provide for flexible entry to graduate education for students who would benefit from a graduate certificate credential and who may or may not ultimately pursue a graduate degree. Stackable graduate certificates may be earned independently from a degree or may be combined to apply towards degree requirements as described in the following policy. Master’s degree programs and practice doctorate degree programs may incorporate stackable graduate certificates. 

Review and approval of a stacked  degree is managed as part of the degree program approval or program change process overseen by the Graduate School and must adhere to the following: 

  • All graduate certificates must follow the policies outlined in Policy 1.2.
  • There are no restrictions on credit sharing between a graduate certificate and a graduate degree program for a stacked degree. See Policy 1.2.1 for credit sharing policies between a graduate degree and graduate certificate or between two graduate certificates.
  • Students who are admitted to the University of Washington through a graduate certificate are matriculated graduate students and must meet the admission standards described in Policy 3.1.
  • Stacked degrees and the graduate certificates they are comprised of will appear as credentials on the student transcript.
  • A stacked graduate degree program must include a capstone or culminating experience.
  • The title of a stacked graduate degree must clearly reflect the academic focus of the degree program.
  • Stacked degrees and the graduate certificates they are comprised of must have clear academic oversight by the graduate faculty of the proposing unit, as well as clear administrative support. This must be articulated as part of the program proposal process.
  • The Graduate School does not mandate continuous enrollment for stacked credentials. However, the total time period to complete the degree must fall within the limits described in Policy 1.1. Exceptions to time to degree will be made at the program level. Program policy around time limits must be described in the program proposal, including:
    • How students are protected from starting one or more certificates when the students may not be able to complete the stacked degree within a reasonable time.
    • Whether there should be a time-limit for specific coursework to apply towards degree requirements, considering that some content may become outdated. 

Policy 1.4 created: July 2022; revised: December 2022

Policy 1.4 revised April 2024

Policy 1.3: Graduate Programs and Credentials

Policy 1.3 defines the relationship between a graduate degree program or graduate certificate program and the transcripted credentials associated with it. This policy applies only to new and significantly revised graduate programs after June 2019. 

The Graduate Programs and Credentials Companion Document provides additional information on policy implementation, including review and approval roles of the Graduate School and the Graduate School Council.

1.3.1     Definitions

For the purposes of Policy 1.3, the following definitions apply:

Academic unit. The administrative entity such as a department, school, college, or interdisciplinary group that is ‘qualified’ (Executive Order No. VII) to offer a graduate degree program or graduate certificate program.

Graduate Degree Program. A set of defined activities and outcomes under the authority of the graduate faculty of an academic unit that results in completion of a graduate degree as defined in Policy 1.1. The graduate degree program title generally indicates the type of degree (Master of Arts; Master of Science; Doctor of Philosophy; etc.) plus a the general area of study (Classics; Chemistry; Immunology); or graduate degree program title may indicate a designated degree title only (Master of Business Administration; Master of Supply Chain Management; Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies; etc.). Upon creation, a graduate degree program is reviewed by the Graduate School Council and approved by the Board of Regents.

Graduate Certificate Program. A set of defined activities and outcomes delivered by the graduate faculty of an academic unit that results in completion of a graduate certificate, as defined in Policy 1.2. The graduate certificate program title normally indicates the certificate title only (Graduate Certificate in Real Estate; Graduate Certificate in Textual and Digital Studies; etc.). Upon creation, a graduate certificate program is reviewed by the Graduate School Council and approved by the Board of Regents.

Graduate Program. Collective term that encompasses both graduate degree programs and graduate certificate programs.

Diploma Title. Upon completion of a graduate degree program, the degree title without the general area of study appears on the diploma (e.g., Master of Arts, Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Business Administration, Doctor of Nursing Practice). Graduate Certificates do not appear on the diploma.

Credential. The credential is the outcome of a specific program of study and is what is noted on the student transcript. The credential title will include indication of the overarching graduate program designation (e.g., Master of Arts (Classics); Master of Science (Chemistry); Master of Business Administration; Doctor of Philosophy (Immunology); Graduate Certificate in…), and may include an additional area of specialization. The program of study leading to each unique credential must be distinct, but it must also share substantial curricular components with all other credentials associated with the overarching graduate program as described below. The transcript may reflect an abbreviated credential title.

Program of Study. A program of study encompasses the academic requirements leading to a specific transcripted credential.

1.3.2     General

A graduate degree program or graduate certificate program as described above must have at least one, but may have multiple, transcripted credentials associated with it. Each unique credential must correspond to a program of study with distinct academic outcomes. The overarching graduate program title will be assigned to any curriculum or credential associated with that program. 

For example, a unit with multiple graduate programs and the associated credentials:

  • Academic Unit  [e.g., Foster School of Business]
    • Graduate Program A      [e.g., Doctor of Philosophy]
      •  Credential A1   [e.g., Doctor of Philosophy (Business Administration)]
  • Graduate Program B      [e.g., Master of Science in Information Systems] 
    • Credential B1   [e.g., Master of Science in Information Systems]
  • Graduate Program C     [e.g., Master of Business Administration]
    • Credential C1 [e.g., Master of Business Administration]
    • Credential C2 [e.g., Master of Business Administration (Information Systems)]
    • Credential C3 [e.g., Master of Business Administration (Environmental Management)]
  • Graduate program D    [e.g., Graduate Certificate in…]
    • Credential D1   [e.g., Graduate Certificate in…]
  • etc.

1.3.3     Common Elements: Minimum Similarity of Programs of Study Associated with a Graduate Program

All programs of study under an approved graduate degree program or graduate certificate program must share a set of common elements which define core components of the overarching graduate program. The graduate faculty of the academic unit authorized to offer the graduate program must define these common elements and how these common elements relate to program outcomes when creating or when significantly changing a graduate program or the program of study leading to a distinct credential under that program.

1.3.3.1     Common Elements for a Graduate Certificate Program

For a graduate certificate program, the common elements included in each credential associated with the certificate must constitute a minimum of 9 course credits.

1.3.3.2     Common Elements for a Master’s Degree Program

For a master’s degree program, the common elements included in each credential associated with the graduate degree program must constitute a minimum of 50% of the program of study, as evidenced by one or more of the following:

  • shared course or credit requirements; 
  • shared learning outcomes; 
  • shared competencies. 

The common elements may be defined by any portion of the program of study with the exception of: 600 Independent Study or Research; 700 Master’s Thesis. The common elements need not contain the coursework used to fulfill the Graduate School minimum requirements (graded coursework; 500-level coursework; transfer credit; etc.). Likewise, transfer or other credit may be applied to any portion of the degree requirements, independent of their inclusion as part of the common elements, if otherwise deemed acceptable by the program and the Graduate School.

1.3.3.3     Common Elements for a Doctoral Degree Program

For a doctoral degree program, the common elements included in each credential associated with the graduate degree program must constitute at least 50% of the program of study, as evidenced by one or more of the following:

  • shared course or credit requirements; 
  • shared learning outcomes; 
  • shared competencies. 

For doctoral programs with a dissertation, the dissertation must significantly overlap with the overall goals of the doctoral program as well as reflect the distinct academic focus of the specific credential. The common elements may be defined by any portion of the program of study with the exception of: 600 Independent Study or Research; 700 Master’s Thesis; 800 Doctoral Dissertation; 801 Practice Doctorate Project/Capstone. The common elements need not contain the coursework used to fulfill the Graduate School minimum requirements (graded coursework; 500-level coursework; transfer credit; etc.). Likewise, transfer or other credit may be applied to any portion of the degree requirements, independent of their inclusion as part of the common elements, if otherwise deemed acceptable by the program and the Graduate School.

1.3.4     Minimum Distinction of a Graduate Certificate Credential

A unique credential associated with a graduate certificate program must include a coherent curricular focus that constitutes a minimum of 6 credits. This curricular focus and the associated credits (1) must lead to a defined set of distinct learning outcomes or competencies; (2) must not be part of the defined common elements for that graduate program; and (3) a minimum of 6 credits must not be a required component of the course of study leading to any other credential under that graduate program.

1.3.5     Minimum Distinction of a Graduate Degree Credential 

A unique credential associated with a graduate degree program must include a coherent curricular focus that constitutes a minimum of 9 credits, or the equivalent of 9 credits measured by learning outcomes or competencies. This curricular focus and the associated credits (1) must lead to a defined set of distinct learning outcomes or competencies; (2) must not be part of the defined common elements for that graduate program; and (3) a minimum of 9 of the credits that define the credential must not be a required component of the course of study leading to any other credential under that graduate program. 

1.3.6     Credit Requirements and Relationship between Credentials under a Single Graduate Program

Requirements for different credentials under a graduate program may lead to the same total credit requirements (e.g., if specific requirements for one credential replace elective requirements for another credential). Alternately, requirements for one credential may lead to a larger number of required credits than for another credential. 

1.3.7     Multiple Credentials under a Graduate Program

Note: There is currently a moratorium on dual transcripting of multiple credentials under a single degree program for an individual student, as described in this Policy 1.3.7, beyond those already approved as of Spring Quarter 2016.

When multiple credentials exist under a graduate degree program, these may be structured by the graduate program to allow for completion and transcripting of multiple programs of study that are normally each associated with a single credential. In this case, the multiple areas of academic content will be reflected on the student transcript as part of a single graduate degree. This requires review and approval by the Graduate School at the graduate program level, such that multiple credentials will not be awarded to individual students unless the program has been previously approved to offer this.[5]


Policy 1.3 created: June 2019

Policy 1.2: Graduate Certificates

A graduate certificate program is a linked series of credit bearing graduate courses that constitutes a coherent body of study and culminates in a capstone or equivalent unifying experience. Graduate certificates are intended to enhance the education of matriculated graduate or professional students beyond their regular course of study, or to provide students access to graduate education as a standalone credential or as a stacked credential that can lead to a graduate degree. Graduate certificates are not open to undergraduate students. See Policy 1.4 for policies on stackable graduate certificates and the stacked graduate degree program.

Completed graduate certificates are recorded on the student’s UW transcript. Note, however, that matriculated graduate and graduate non-matriculated (GNM) students may also pursue approved UW certificates that are not recorded on the UW transcript, for example certificates offered by UW Continuum College. These non-transcripted certificates are distinct from graduate certificates and are not under purview of the Graduate School.

1.2.1     Requirements

Requirements for the certificate must include a minimum of 15 credits, nine of which must be earned in courses numbered 500 and above, and nine of which must be from graded courses. The curriculum must constitute a coherent body of study that culminates in a capstone or equivalent unifying experience.

Graduate certificate requirements normally consist primarily of graduate-level coursework at the 500 level. Courses at the 300 level and 400 level may be part of a student’s course of study and applied toward graduate certificate requirements when acceptable to the student’s graduate program and the Graduate School.

A minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 is required for courses applied to a graduate certificate, and a minimum of 2.7 is required in each course that is counted toward a graduate certificate.  Courses at the 300 level are not included in the calculation of grade-point average (GPA).

There are no restrictions on credit sharing between a graduate certificate and a graduate degree program. This is intended to support the structure of stacked degrees (Policy 1.4). For graduate certificates that are not part of a stacked degree, credit sharing is not intended as a mechanism for students enrolled in a graduate degree program to incidentally receive a certificate in addition to the earned degree as part of their regular course of study towards the degree. Thus, a student may earn a graduate certificate that shares coursework with a non-stacked graduate degree only when the student completes a distinct graduate certificate capstone or equivalent unifying experience. Units are responsible for ensuring that each credential earned is representative of a distinct body of academic work.

No credit sharing is allowed between multiple graduate certificates.

1.2.2     Review and Approval of Graduate Certificate Programs

The review of graduate certificate program proposals is similar to that of new graduate program proposals and is coordinated by the Office of Academic Affairs in the Graduate School. This process includes review by Academic Affairs and by the Graduate School Council. The approval of proposed graduate certificates resides with the Board of Regents. For details, see the Graduate School’s Graduate Certificate proposal page. In a proposal for a new graduate certificate, program faculty must clearly define and describe the program’s governance, budget, curriculum, admission standards, admission process, and minimum completion standards.

Similar to new graduate degree programs, new graduate certificate programs are initially authorized by the Board of Regents with provisional status. Such programs are to be reviewed at least every five years until the programs are granted continuing status. Continuing programs are reviewed at least every ten years.


Policy 1.2 created: March 2008. Revised: June 2012, July 2022

Policy 1.2.1 revised November 2023

Policy 1.1: Graduate Degree Requirements

Policy 1.1 describes general policies on minimum degree requirements and allowable credits for graduate degrees. Degree requirements for specific graduate programs are managed by that program and may be in excess of the minimum requirements described here.

A graduate degree program consists of a coherent body of study beyond the baccalaureate degree that includes a meaningful progression of coursework and, for most programs, includes a final culminating experience or an integrated experience across the curriculum. Examples of culminating experiences include a thesis, dissertation or other creative work, capstone project, comprehensive examination, or supervised field experience. Integrated learning experiences connect concepts and experiences across the curriculum to form a meaningful whole. If included as part of the degree requirements, a program may offer multiple culminating experience options, provided that the overall level of achievement for the degree remains the same. See Policies 1.1.2, 1.1.3, 1.1.4, and 1.1.5 for requirements specific to each degree type.

The Graduate School defines minimum degree requirements for all University of Washington graduate programs. Individual graduate programs may have degree requirements that exceed the Graduate School minimum requirements.

The Graduate Faculty with oversight of a graduate program have primary responsibility for assuring that students recommended for graduation have satisfactorily fulfilled the degree requirements for the program in which they are enrolled.

A student must satisfy the requirements for the degree that are in force at the time the degree is to be awarded. Exceptions may be made for programs that have undergone changes to degree requirements.

1.1.1     Requirements Applying to All Graduate Degree Programs

  • Credits applied towards graduate degree requirements must include University of Washington coursework of (1) at least 18 credits at the 500 level and above; and (2) at least 18 numerically graded credits of 400- and 500-level coursework, excluding 499 and transfer credit.
  • For CR/NC courses, submission of a CR grade indicates that the student has met course expectations at a level such that the course may be applied towards graduate degree requirements.
  • For S/NS courses, an S grade indicates that the student has met course expectations at a level such that the course may be applied towards graduate degree requirements. A graduate program may restrict S courses from counting towards program requirements.
  • Graduate degree requirements normally consist primarily of graduate-level coursework at the 500 level. Courses at the 300 level and 400 level may be part of a student’s course of study and applied toward graduate degree requirements when acceptable to the student’s graduate program and the Graduate School. Coursework at the 300 level may not be applied towards the minimum 18 graded credits and may not be applied towards more than one-third of total degree requirements, except as previously approved by the Graduate School.
  • A student must be registered for credit the quarter in which any required exam or presentation occurs. A student must maintain registration as a full-time or part-time graduate student for the quarter the degree or certificate is conferred.
  • A minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 is required to earn a graduate degree, and a minimum of 2.7 is required in each course that is counted toward graduate degree requirements.  Courses at the 300 level are not included in the calculation of grade-point average (GPA).
  • With the approval of a student’s graduate program and the Graduate School, up to 6 credits of 400-level or 500-level coursework, taken as a senior while an undergraduate at the University of Washington, may be applied towards graduate degree requirements.
  • With the approval of a student’s graduate program, a restricted amount of Graduate Non-Matriculated (GNM) credit may be applied towards degree requirements, as described in Policy 3.3.
  • Credit taken while enrolled as a non-matriculated (NM) student or while matriculated as a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Washington may not be applied towards graduate degree requirements. Credit by independent study or advanced credit examination is not transferable.

1.1.2     The Master’s Degree

In addition to the requirements listed under Policy 1.1.1 that apply to all graduate degree programs:

  • Master’s degree requirements must include a minimum of 36 credits. A master’s program may require more than this minimum.
  • A student must complete all work for the master’s degree within six years from the time of first enrollment. Periods spent on leave or out of status are included in these limits. Exceptions to time to degree will be made at the program level.
  • A master’s program generally should require a final culminating or integrated experience, with the exception of applied professional programs where a coursework-only program can be thoroughly justified in the program proposal (e.g., a coursework-only program is the standard in the field).

1.1.2.1     Coursework that may be applied towards master’s degree requirements

A maximum of 6 quarter credits of graduate-level coursework taken at another recognized academic institution may be transferred and apply to UW master’s degree requirements, when acceptable to the graduate program and the Graduate School.

No more than 12 credits derived from any combination of GNM credits and transfer credits may be applied towards the total degree requirements. Transfer credits may not be applied towards the thesis or culminating experience requirement.

1.1.2.2     Thesis Programs

The master’s thesis provides evidence of the graduate student’s ability to carry out independent investigation and to present the results in clear and systemic form.

The thesis must be written in the English language. If there are circumstances that warrant a dissertation in another language, the program may petition the Graduate School.

A thesis program must include a minimum of 9 thesis credits (700).

Thesis credits (700) will not apply to requirements for a non-thesis master’s degree.

See Policy 4.2.1 for any thesis that will include human or animal subjects.

1.1.2.3     Final Examination

If a master’s program requires a final examination, it may be either oral or written. A majority of the supervisory committee must approve for satisfactory completion, and all members of the supervisory committee must certify examination results. If the examination is not satisfactory, the committee may recommend to the Dean of the Graduate School that the student be allowed to take another examination after a period of further study.

1.1.3     The Educational Specialist Degree

In addition to the requirements listed under Policy 1.1.1 that apply to all graduate degree programs:

  • Educational specialist degree requirements must include a minimum of 54 credits. An educational specialist program may require more than this minimum.
  • Degree requirements must include at least 6 credits of capstone experience (course number 750).
  • A student must complete all work for the educational specialist degree within six years from the time of first enrollment. Periods spent on leave or out of status are included in these limits. Exceptions to time to degree will be made at the program level.

1.1.3.1     Coursework that may be applied towards educational specialist degree requirements

A maximum of 6 quarter credits of graduate-level coursework taken at another recognized academic institution may be transferred and apply to UW degree requirements, when acceptable to the graduate program and the Graduate School.

No more than 12 credits derived from any combination of GNM credits and transfer credits may be applied towards the total degree requirements. Transfer credits may not be applied towards the capstone experience requirement.

1.1.4     The Doctoral Degree other than Practice Doctorates

In addition to the requirements listed under Policy 1.1.1 that apply to all graduate degree programs, the following requirements apply to all doctoral degrees other than practice doctorates. For practice doctorate requirements, see Policy 1.1.5. For the composition and responsibility of the doctoral supervisory committee, see Policy 4.2.

  • Doctoral degree requirements must include a minimum of 90 credits beyond the baccalaureate. A doctoral degree program may require more than this minimum.
  • Doctoral programs require a culminating experience, with PhD programs requiring original research reflected in the dissertation.
  • All work applied to the doctoral degree must be completed within ten years, including credits counted from a master’s degree at UW. Periods spent on leave or out of status are included in these limits. Exceptions to time to degree will be made at the program level.

1.1.4.1     General Examination

The student must successfully pass a general examination.

Prior to the General Examination:

  • At least 18 credits of coursework at the 500 level and above must be completed prior to scheduling the general examination.
  • At least 18 graded credits of 400- and 500-level coursework, excluding 499, must be completed prior to scheduling the general examination.
  • At least 60 credits must be completed before taking the general exam. Some of these credits may be taken the same quarter of the exam.
  • All members of the supervisory committee must approve that the student’s background of study and preparation is sufficient to schedule the General Examination.

The General Examination:

  • Registration as a graduate student is required the quarter that the General Examination is taken.
  • At least four members of the committee (including the Chair(s), GSR, and one additional Graduate Faculty member) must be physically or virtually present at the General Examination.
  • If the General Examination is satisfactory, the supervisory committee members who participate at the examination sign the committee signature form.
  • If an examination is unsatisfactory, a supervisory committee may recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School permit up to a maximum of two additional reexaminations after a period of additional study.
  • Any members of a supervisory committee who do not agree with the majority opinion are encouraged to submit a minority report to the Dean of the Graduate School.

1.1.4.2     Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to Candidacy indicates successful completion of the general examination and all other requirements for the doctoral degree except satisfactory completion of the dissertation and the final examination. This is recognized for the Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Musical Arts, and Doctor of Education degrees that are not practice doctorates. See also Scholastic Regulations Chapter 114.7.

1.1.4.3     Dissertation

Requirements must include preparation of and acceptance by the Dean of the Graduate School of a dissertation that is a significant contribution to knowledge and clearly indicates training in research.

The dissertation must be written in the English language. If there are circumstances that warrant a dissertation in another language, the program may petition the Graduate School.

The student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 27 credits of dissertation (800) over a period of at least three quarters, with at least one quarter occurring after the general examination.

With the exception of summer quarter, students are limited to a maximum of 10 credits per quarter of dissertation (800).

See Policy 4.2.3 for any dissertation that will include human or animal subjects.

1.1.4.4     Final Examination

The student must pass a final examination usually devoted to the dissertation and the field with which it is concerned.

  • When the reading committee has read a draft of the entire dissertation and the members of the doctoral supervisory committee agree that the Candidate is prepared to take the Final Examination, all members of the doctoral supervisory committee must give the student approval to schedule the Final Examination.
  • The General Examination and Final Examination cannot occur during the same quarter.
  • At least four members of the committee (including the Chair(s), GSR, and one additional Graduate Faculty member) must be physically or virtually present at the Final Examination.
  • At the Final Examination the dissertation is evaluated and, if a majority of the supervisory committee members in attendance agree that the evaluation is positive, the recommendation is made to the Dean of the Graduate School (via the committee signature form) that the degree be awarded.
  • If members of the doctoral supervisory committee do not agree with the majority recommendation concerning the examination, the minority report portion of the committee signature form must be used.

1.1.4.5     Coursework that may be applied towards doctoral degree requirements

With the approval of the graduate program and the Graduate School, a master’s degree in a relevant field of study from an accredited institution may substitute for up to 30 of the required 90 credits. No other transfer credits are allowed for doctoral programs. Transfer credits may not be applied towards the dissertation or culminating experience requirement.

With the approval of the graduate program, any number of credits applied to a UW master’s degree in the same program may be counted towards doctoral degree requirements. These credits may not be applied towards the dissertation or culminating experience requirement.

In addition to the other credits indicated in this section, up to 12 GNM credits may be applied towards doctoral degree requirements as indicated in Policy 1.1.1 and Policy 3.3.3.

1.1.5     The Practice Doctoral Degree

A practice doctorate is intended as preparation for professional practice at the frontiers of existing knowledge (see Policy 1.7.2). A practice doctorate involves extensive coursework and a culminating project/capstone that is in lieu of a traditional PhD dissertation. The nature of this project/capstone may be specific to each program (e.g., project, practicum, portfolio, applied dissertation, clinical work, etc.). The project/capstone is not filed with the Graduate School.

In addition to the requirements listed under Policy 1.1.1 that apply to all graduate degree programs, the following requirements apply to all practice doctorates. For the composition and responsibility of the practice doctoral supervisory committee, see Policy 4.2.

  • Practice doctoral degree requirements must include a minimum of 90 credits beyond the baccalaureate.
  • The practice doctorate requires successful completion of 12 credits of project or capstone credit (801 Practice Doctorate Project/Capstone).

It is the responsibility of the program to establish appropriate milestones towards the degree. Two milestones are formally recognized by the Graduate School:

  • admission to the program
  • approval of the final project/capstone (through the committee signature form)

There is no formally recognized candidacy status for practice doctoral students. Requiring a general exam or other milestones is at the discretion of the program and is not reported to the Graduate School.

After the practice doctoral supervisory committee has evaluated the final project/capstone, if a majority of the supervisory committee members agree that the evaluation is positive, the recommendation is made to the Dean of The Graduate School (via the committee signature form) that the degree be awarded. If members of the practice doctoral supervisory committee do not agree with the majority recommendation, the minority report portion of the committee signature form must be used.

1.1.5.1     Coursework that may be applied towards practice doctoral degree requirements

With the approval of the graduate program and the Graduate School, a Ph.D. or a master’s degree in a relevant field of study from an accredited institution may substitute for up to 30 of the required 90 credits.

With the approval of the graduate program, any number of credits applied to a UW master’s degree in the same program may be counted towards doctoral degree requirements.

A maximum of 10 quarter credits of graduate-level coursework taken at another recognized academic institution may be transferred and apply to UW practice doctorate degree requirements, when acceptable to the graduate program and the Graduate School.

No more than 12 credits derived from any combination of GNM credits and transfer credits may be applied towards the total degree requirements.

No more than 30 credits derived from any combination of GNM, transfer, and substituted credits may be applied towards the total degree requirements.

No GNM, transfer, or substituted credits may be applied towards the capstone requirement.

When a Ph.D. and practice doctorate are earned concurrently, departments may petition the Graduate School to count 30 specified credits toward the total minimum credit count of each degree, for a total minimum of 150 credits. Core credits for either degree, as (defined as part of the core curriculum by the graduate program) may not be included in these 30 credits applied to both degrees, and this option may not be used on top of previously waived credits for either degree. It is the responsibility of each unit to assure that the credits applied toward its degree are relevant to that degree. The student must meet Graduate School minimum requirements (18 credits 500 level and above, 18 numerically graded 400/500 level credits) for each degree.


Policy 1.1 revised: October 2021; October 2022; November 2022

Policy 1.1.2.2 and 1.1.4.3 revised March 2023

Policy 1.1.4, 1.1.4.1, and 1.1.4.4 revised March 2023

Policy 1.1.1 revised April 2023

Policy 1.1.1 revised July 2023

Policy 1.1.5 revised October 2023

Policy 1.1.1 revised November 2023

Policy 1.1.4.5 revised March 2024

Policy 1.1.2.2 revised March 2024