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Graduate Status

A graduate student is one who has applied and received formal admission to a specific course of study that will lead to a Master’s or Doctorate degree in one of the many disciplines available at CSUN. Graduate status is subdivided into Classified and Conditionally Classified standing, depending on whether or not certain University and Departmental requirements have been met. These requirements are discussed later in this section of the Catalog. Graduate students in either category may enroll in 500- and 600-level courses, although in some programs enrollment is limited to the Classified student. Graduate students must follow a specific course of instruction identified to them by the Department Graduate Coordinator and described for the individual Department in the Courses of Study section of this Catalog.

Admission to the University

To be admitted to CSUN as a graduate student, students must meet the following requirements:

  1. Have a four-year baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution;
  2. Be in good academic standing at the last college or university attended;
  3. Have satisfied one of the following conditions:
    1. Attained a GPA of at least 2.5 in a baccalaureate degree Program,
    2. Attained a GPA of at least 2.5 in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units attempted, or
    3. Hold a post-baccalaureate degree earned at a regionally accredited institution and 2.5 GPA in either the undergraduate cumulative GPA or the last 60 units;
  4. Meet the professional, personal, scholastic and other standards for graduate study, including qualifying examinations or other screening processes as appropriate campus authorities may prescribe. In unusual circumstances, a program may make exceptions to these criteria. Some programs require higher standards for admission.
  • Students seeking a second Masters in the same degree program is not allowed.
  • Second baccalaureate candidates must use the graduate CSUN application.
  • Second baccalaureate candidates must meet general post-baccalaureate requirements.
  • Some programs do not admit second baccalaureate candidates.

Graduate English Language Requirements

All graduate applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and who have not attended academic institutions for at least three years full-time where English is the principal language of instruction must present a score of 79 or above on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or a score of 6.0 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Applicants taking the computer-based TOEFL must present a score of 213 or above. Some graduate programs require a higher score for admission and it is advisable to check the Department website. The minimum required English language test scores for graduate applicants are shown in the table below.

Exam Internet Computer Paper
TOEFL 79/80 213 550
IELTS - - 6.0

Admission to the Department

The applications of students meeting University requirements for admission will be reviewed in the appropriate Department. The Department will determine whether the student meets requirements for admission to its Program. Some Departments require a separate Departmental application. Students who meet Departmental and University requirements will be admitted as either Conditionally Classified or Classified graduate students.

Conditionally Classified Status

Students who do not meet all requirements may be accepted as Conditionally Classified students, subject to meeting various University and Departmental requirements for Classified status. It is important to achieve full Classified standing prior to completing more than 12 units of graduate coursework on the program of study. No more than 12 units of work taken prior to attaining fully Classified status will be applied to a Master’s degree Program.

Classified Status

To be granted Classified status, students must have a 3.0 GPA for all work taken as a Conditionally Classified student and in any courses required by the Department for admission to its Program. Once the requirements for Classified status have been met, it is the responsibility of the student to notify the Department and then of the Department to notify Graduate Evaluation Services, Research and Graduate Studies by filing the “Request for Classification” Form. To meet the minimum requirements for Classified Status, the student must fulfill the following (individual Departments may have more stringent standards):

  1. A 3.0 GPA or higher in all work taken after completion of a Bachelor’s degree;
  2. Hold a Graduate degree from a regionally accredited institution;
  3. Score at or above the 50th percentile on one of the three subject areas of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Some Departments may waive the GRE requirement if student’s undergraduate cumulative GPA is 3.0 or higher*; and
  4. Pass the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam (UDWPE). Students who have fulfilled the Upper Division Writing Exam at another CSU campus may submit official notification of a passing score. Some Departments may fulfill this requirement with an alternate examination.

*Normally, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) should be taken prior to registration for graduate work at CSUN. Undergraduates should take the examination during the last semester of their senior year. Applications for the GRE may be obtained from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) at www.ets.org. Applications for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), which is required of Business degree majors, are available at www.mba.com.

Graduate Studies Policies and Procedures

The Culminating Experience

A culminating experience is required for completion of a Master’s or Doctorate degree Program. The University recognizes the following types of culminating experiences: Theses, Dissertations, Graduate Projects/Artistic Performances and Comprehensive Examinations. Each graduate program permits one or more of the culminating experiences as described below. Where more than one option is offered, the specific type of culminating experience is identified on the student’s formal program.

A Thesis/Dissertation is an original scholarly contribution to the student’s field based on a systematic study of a significant problem or issue. Although it may be part of a larger research program, each Thesis is unique and written by a single student. The Thesis typically explains the problem; sets forth the methodology used to address the problem and the limitations of the methodology; reports the results, whether those are an analysis of data or a presentation of theory; and explains the significance of the findings in the context of previous work on the topic.

Thesis/Dissertation Project Committee Selection: A minimum of three individuals must serve on a student’s thesis committee. Two of the committee members must be tenured or tenure-track CSUN faculty. The chair of the thesis committee must be a tenured or tenure-track CSUN faculty member from the program. Faculty participating in the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) are considered active faculty members and, as such, can function as the thesis chair. Any part-time faculty or off-campus committee member must be a recognized expert in the subject matter of the thesis and must have a masters and/or doctoral degree in a related field. The student may have one part-time faculty or off-campus committee member; however, the part-time faculty or off-campus committee member cannot serve as the committee chair. The part-time faculty or off-campus committee member must meet all of the following minimal qualifications to participate on the committee:

  1. Hold a M.A./ M.S. degree (some programs will require a Ph.D.) in the field or in a related field or equivalent degree;
  2. Have experience in the topic or area of the student’s Thesis/Dissertation/Project, such as employment with an established institution or agency as a staff member or consultant; and
  3. Demonstrate professional recognition through publications, reports, papers or membership in a national professional organization and/or working committees in his or her institution or agency.

Once the student has formed his or her Committee, the student will need to register through the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website at https://etd.csun.edu. A curriculum vitae of a part-time faculty member or off-campus Committee member must be uploaded electronically on the ETD website for approval by the student’s Committee Chair, Department Graduate Coordinator and the Associate Vice President of Graduate Studies.

Graduate Project/Artistic Performances are a significant undertaking of a pursuit appropriate to professional fields and fine arts. It must represent originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization and a rationale. A Project/Artistic Performance may be an individual or group effort. Examples of appropriate projects include the development of curriculum, a market research study for an organization, the testing of a therapy on a particular population or the design of an electronic device. In the arts, examples could include a music recital, a music composition, direction of a theatrical performance or a gallery showing of works of art. The results must be described and summarized in a written document with an abstract.

A Comprehensive Examination will test the range of subject matter covered in the student’s graduate program. The purpose of the examination is to allow students to demonstrate their ability to integrate content, knowledge, independent thinking and critical analysis. At least three Committee members must certify to the success or failure of the student in the examination.

Rules and Procedures Governing Theses, Dissertation, Graduate Projects and Artistic Performances

The following rules apply to Theses, Graduate Projects and Artistic Performances:

  1. The Thesis must be an individual effort. However, the University recognizes that there are circumstances that warrant group graduate projects and artistic performances. In such instances, a signed addendum by each student and by the culminating experience Committee Chair must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies. The addendum must identify the names of other authors and describe the project and responsibilities of each author. The division of responsibilities specified must be reviewed, endorsed and evaluated by the students’ Committee Chair, signed by each student and subsequently approved by the Associate Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies.
  2. Students must contact their Graduate Coordinator to determine the maximum number of required culminating units
  3. Students must be registered during the semester in which they expect to graduate.
  4. If a student fails to successfully complete/defend the Thesis/ Dissertation, Graduate Project or Artistic Performance, or any part of it, the student will be disqualified from the Master’s Program in the Department and normally not allowed to take the Comprehensive Examination option, if that option exists.
  5. Guidelines: The Thesis, Dissertation and Graduate Project or abstract of the Artistic Performance must be prepared according to the guidelines set forth by the Office of Graduate Studies and available online at www.csun.edu/research-graduate-studies/graduate-studies. All Thesis, Dissertations, Graduate Projects or Abstracts must be uploaded through the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation website.
  6. Time Limit: Theses, Projects or Artistic Performances must be completed, filed and approved within two years of the first enrollment in culminating experience. In some situations, a student is given an RP (Report in Progress) grade for work in progress (see Grading System section below). The “RP” will be converted to a “credit” or “letter” grade once the culminating experience has been approved.

Comprehensive Examinations

A Comprehensive Examination will test the range of subject matter covered in the student’s graduate program. The purpose of the examination is to allow students to demonstrate their ability to integrate content, knowledge, independent thinking and critical analysis. Each Master’s Program that offers a Comprehensive Examination option is required to maintain University-approved guidelines for the administration of the examination, and these guidelines are to be available on request. The following regulations apply in all cases:

  1. Students become eligible to attempt the examination during the semester in which all required coursework has been completed.
  2. Ordinarily, the examination is given at least one month before the end of the semester. Arrangements to enroll and take the examination should be made with the student’s Department.
  3. If the examination is not completed in the final semester, students must register again for the examination for the semester in which they plan to complete their degree. These additional units may not be counted as units toward the Master’s/Doctorate degree.
  4. Students may not take the comprehensive examination more than twice.
    1. Students who fail the examination on the first attempt will be required to register for the examination again the next available term.
    2. Students who fail the first attempt will be required to submit a Course Repeat Form to the Office of Graduate Studies with the approval of the Graduate Coordinators once enrolled for the second attempt.
    3. The first attempt is defined as the complete Comprehensive Examination prescribed by the Program. The second attempt is defined as retaking the examination on the entire Program or, at the discretion of the Department, a supplementary examination on any part or parts of the first examination that the student failed.
    4. Failure of the second attempt of the Comprehensive Examination results in the disqualification from the Program in that Department.
    5. Graduate Coordinators will file the result of each examination with the Office of Graduate Studies.
    6. Once students have chosen the option of the Comprehensive Exam and enrolled in and/or attempted the Comprehensive Examination and failed it (or any part), they normally are not eligible to change to any of the Thesis, Dissertation, Graduate Project or Artistic Performance options.
  5. At least three Committee members must certify to the success or failure of the student in the examination.

Application for the Master’s/ Doctorate Degree and Diploma

Students must apply for graduation one semester prior to completion of requirements. Students may obtain an Application for Master’s/Doctoral degree and diploma for graduation online at www.csun.edu/research-graduate-studies/graduate-studies-forms. In the event that a student changes the completion date to a later time, a Master’s/Doctoral Graduation and Diploma Date Change form needs to be submitted and a processing fee will be assessed.

Time Limit for Completion

Students must complete requirements for the degree within 7 calendar years from the date they were admitted to a Program, unless a lesser time is specified by the Department or Program Committee.

Courses that were completed more than 7 years prior to the date on which all requirements for the degree are completed cannot be counted to meet unit requirements unless the student can show current knowledge in the content of the outdated courses by written examination for each course in question. A maximum of 9 units taken in residency at CSUN may be validated in this manner. The Graduate Coordinator in the student’s Department must certify this competency by way of a memorandum to the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies. Outdated courses taken at another institution may not be validated.

Change of Objective

Enrolled graduate students may change their objective and seek admission to an alternate degree program by filling out a Change of Objective form. The form can be obtained online at www.csun.edu/research-graduate-studies/graduate-studies-forms. Transfer of previously earned units to the alternate program must have the approval of the Department to which the student applies. A request for a change of objective for a student on academic probation also is subject to the approval of the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies.

Students cannot be enrolled in multiple degree programs simultaneously. Upon completion of the first graduate degree, students must reapply to the University to pursue an additional degree.

Academic Performance and Study Load

Numerous requirements exist that specify the grading policies at CSUN and the academic standards and progress expected of students. These regulations are dictated by Title 5 of the California Administrative Code, the California State Universities and College System and the President of CSUN.

Grading System

CSUN uses the traditional A-F grading system and a non-traditional system of Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) as explained in the Regulations section of this Catalog. Note the following provisions:

  1. Normal Grading: Credit (CR) is given for A, A-, B+ or B-level scholastic performance and No Credit (NC) is given for the equivalent of B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D- or F work in graduate-level courses. Graduate program courses may not be taken on a Credit/No Credit basis. Exceptions to this rule are Dissertation/Thesis/Graduate Project or Comprehensive Examination and certain courses in which the evaluation responsibility is shared by agencies in conjunction with faculty (e.g., field study, internship). The student is advised to request Credit/No Credit grading for courses taken for personal interest or enrichment that are unrelated to the degree objective and outside the Department or discipline of the major.
  2. Incomplete (I): The symbol “I” indicates that a portion of required coursework has not been completed. A substantial portion of the course requirement has been completed with a passing grade and that there is still a possibility of earning credit. An Incomplete shall not be assigned when a student would be required to attend a major portion of the class when it is next offered. An incomplete (I) must be changed to a grade within one calendar year immediately following the end of the semester in which it was assigned.  If the assigned work that is required to remove the incomplete is not completed by this time, the incomplete will be computed as an “F” grade in all subsequent GPA determinations. This limitation exists whether or not students maintain continuous enrollment in the University. All incompletes must be completed before a degree can be awarded.
  3. Incomplete Charged (IC): The “IC” symbol may be used when a student who received an authorized incomplete “I” has not completed the required coursework within the allowed time limit. The “IC” replaces the “I” and is counted as a failing grade for GPA and progress point computation.
  4. Report in Progress (RP): A grade of Report in Progress (“RP”) is assigned for Thesis/Graduate Project and similar courses where assigned work frequently remains to be completed at the end of the semester in which the grade is given. The “RP” grade must be converted to a traditional letter grade within two years. Any extension of the time limit must receive prior authorization by submitting a Graduate Petition Form to the Associate Vice President of Graduate Studies.

The Program of Study

The program of study is a statement of the academic requirements that students must meet for the Master’s/Doctorate degree. The following University requirements apply to the program:

  1. It must be composed of a minimum of 30 units of 400-, 500- and 600-level work.
  2. None of the courses on the program may have been used for any other degree earned in the past.
  3. A maximum of 9 units of 400-level coursework may be used on a program of study. Please check with the Department for their specific policy on 400-level coursework, which could be fewer than 9 units.
  4. No more than 9 units in combination of transfer work, extension work or work completed prior to earning a baccalaureate degree can be used toward the degree.
  5. No more than 6 units of independent study may be included in the program and all independent study arrangements must have prior approval of the instructor and of the Department Chair.
  6. The program must terminate with a culminating experience which will consist of a Thesis, Graduate Project, Artistic Performance or Comprehensive Examination.
  7. Enrollment is required in the semester that the degree is awarded.