Completion of a Degree

Steps Toward Earning a Master's Degree

  1. Admission to master’s degree program
  2. Selection of faculty advisor
  3. Maintenance of academic good standing
  4. Appointment of graduate study committee— Plan I (Thesis) only
  5. IRB and/or IACUC approvals obtained and renewed annually
  6. Admission to candidacy—at least one semester before graduation is expected— Plan I (Thesis) only
  7. Application for Degree—See www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates  for each semester’s deadline
  8. Production of preliminary version of thesis (Plan I only)
  9. Defense of thesis (for Plan I only) (see www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline- dates)
  10. One PDF of the defended committee- approved thesis (Plan I only) submitted online no later than 2 weeks (10 business days) after the published public defense deadline
  11. Recommendation for degree
  12. Conferring of degree

Faculty Advisor

Immediately after a degree-seeking student enters the UAB Graduate School, a member of the faculty of the graduate program to which the student has been admitted should be assigned to serve as the student’s advisor. The assignment may be a temporary arrangement. The student and the advisor should confer about courses and any special work to be taken on the basis of the student’s previous experience and the requirements of the graduate program.

Plan I or Plan II

The Graduate School recognizes two principal paths, known as Plan I and Plan II, that lead to the master's degree. Where both Plan I and Plan II are available within the same graduate program, an early and meaningful choice should be made by the student, in close consultation with the student’s advisor. A change in choice of plans requires the approval of the program director.

Plan I requires the completion, in good academic standing, of at least 24 semester hours of appropriate graduate work and 6 semester hours of thesis research for a total of at least 30 semester hours, with the presentation of an acceptable thesis embodying the results of original research work.

Plan II may not require research and does not require a formal thesis. A, minimum of 30 semester hours of appropriate graduate work must be completed in good academic standing. Although thesis research is not required as part of a Plan II course of study, the student is often expected to gain insight into the techniques of problem posing and problem solving and to use these insights to prepare a written report. A plan of study/course curriculum outline is required for all Plan II master’s students when submitting the application for degree prior to graduation.

Graduate Study Committee

Traditionally, graduate study is highly flexible and individualized. A specific plan of study should be developed as soon as possible upon matriculation. Graduate study committees, often chaired by the student's advisor, are appointed to guide the student toward their degree. Some graduate programs do not use a graduate study committee for Plan II students, particularly when flexibility in the course of study is limited by accreditation and other external constraints. Graduate study committees should consist of at least three Graduate Faculty members, each of whom must have credentials equal to or exceeding that of the degree that the student is pursuing, must have been approved by the Graduate School Dean for Graduate Faculty status, and should be able to contribute some relevant insight and expertise to guide the student. In addition, one committee member should be from outside the student's graduate specialization.

Recommendations for graduate study committee membership are submitted by the advisor and the student to the graduate program director, who subsequently submits these recommendations to the Graduate School Dean. Changes to a student’s committee must be submitted on the Request to Change Graduate Study Committee form available at www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms. Graduate faculty appointees and instructions for requesting new appointments are available at www.uab.edu/graduate/gradfaclist. New Graduate Faculty appointments should be requested by the department and approved by the Graduate School Dean prior to being listed on the recommendation form to serve as a member of a student’s committee. Graduate Faculty status definitions are available at www.uab.edu/graduate/definitions-of-graduate-faculty-categories.

Additional Program Requirements

In consultation with the faculty, the director of each graduate program will specify any additional requirements, such as a reading knowledge of a foreign language or a working knowledge of statistics, which are considered essential to mastery of the academic discipline. Such requirements become conditions for the completion of the degree. The program may also adopt a system of examinations that the student must pass at various points in the program.

Admission Into Degree Candidacy (Plan I Only)

Admission to candidacy is a formal step acknowledging that the student has been performing well and is likely to complete the degree. Candidacy admission is recommended by the student’s graduate study committee and approved by the graduate program director and the Graduate School Dean. For Plan I students, admission should occur when the student has obtained an adequate background and has provided the committee with an acceptable proposal for thesis research. Students do not have to complete all coursework prior to admission to candidacy if the graduate study committee ascertains that the student has an adequate foundation in the discipline. Students must be in good academic standing to be eligible for admission to candidacy, and admission must take place no later than one semester before the expected graduation. Before being admitted to candidacy, students must complete a Research Compliance Verification form and attach photocopies of the appropriate assurance letters and/or forms. Students must be admitted to candidacy before they can register for thesis research hours (i.e., 699). Applications for Admission to Candidacy are available online at www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms.

IRB and IACUC Approval

If a student’s research involves human or animal subjects, approval from the IRB or IACUC must be documented before admission to candidacy can be approved. IRB/IACUC approvals must be kept current until the research is completed. For ways in which students can be added to a protocol, refer to the Tip Sheet for Students Involved in Research Involving Human or Animal Subjects. The IACUC form must display the appropriate research protocol number.

Application for Degree

Each candidate for a master’s degree must signify their intention to complete the requirements by a particular graduation date by submitting a completed Application for Degree Form, available online at www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms. Because this form is used to document completion of requirements, order the diploma, and to include the student’s information in the commencement program, the form must be received in the Graduate School Office by the posted deadline on the Graduate School’s website at www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates. Because each graduate program may have an earlier deadline, students are also responsible for knowing and abiding by  their program deadlines.

A plan of study/course curriculum outline is required for all Plan II master’s students when submitting the application for degree (prior to graduation). All Students must be registered during the semester in which degree requirements are completed. Plan I students must be registered for at least one (1) hour of 699 research credit during their term of graduation. If degree candidates are covered by the student health insurance policy, hold an assistantship, or have student loans, it may be necessary to register for a prescribed minimum number of credit hours to retain these benefits. Students should check with the appropriate office(s) if retention of these benefits is a concern. 

Thesis

The thesis required under Plan I should present the results of the candidate’s original research and the interpretation of those results. The document should also demonstrate the candidate’s acquaintance with the literature of the field and the proper selection and execution of research methodology.

The final approved version of the thesis must be submitted as a single PDF for final review no later than 2 weeks (10 business days) following the public defense. Master’s students must submit the Approval Form, signed by each committee member and the program director. Signatures of committee members and program directors on the approval form indicate their assurance that they have examined the document and have found that it is of professional quality from all standpoints, including writing quality, technical correctness, and professional competency, and that the document conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation. The Graduate School is then responsible for ensuring that the final version of the thesis meets the physical standards required of a permanent, published document and for adherence to the requirements stated in the UAB Format Manual (available online at www.uab.edu/graduate/images/acrobat/forms/t heses/FormatManual.pdf).

The UAB Publication Agreement form is submitted online. Additional information concerning completing the final steps of the publication process is available online at www.uab.edu/graduate/submitting-your-thesis- or-dissertation-to-the-graduate-school.

If, in the opinion of more than one member of the thesis committee, the student has failed the thesis defense, there is no consensus to pass. The chair of the committee shall notify the student in writing that the thesis fails to meet the requirements of the program and will share the reason(s) for failure. If the student resubmits or submits a new thesis for consideration by their graduate program, at least two members of the new examining committee shall be drawn from the original committee. If the modified or new thesis also fails to meet the requirements of the program, the student shall be dismissed from the graduate program.

If only one of the three committee members dissent, that individual must submit a letter outlining the reasons for their dissent to the student’s advisor.  The advisor and student may then prepare a rebuttal statement that is submitted, along with the letter of dissent, to the advisory or executive committee of the program for review. The advisory committee can then decide to accept or reject the rebuttal statement. If the rebuttal is accepted, the student is passed on their thesis defense. If the rebuttal is rejected, the advisory committee can recommend to the student or advisor potential steps necessary to remediate the thesis and potentially also the work therein, or the committee can recommend that the student be dismissed from the program.

Thesis Defense

Under Plan I, the final examination should take the form of a presentation and public defense of the thesis, followed by an examination of the candidate’s comprehensive knowledge of the field. The time, date, and location of this examination is reported to the Graduate School via the online Request for Thesis or Dissertation Approval forms and must be (submitted at least 10 days before the public defense). The meeting must be appropriately announced on campus, must be open to all interested parties, and must take place before the posted semester Thesis or Dissertation defense deadline.

The final examination for Plan II students should take the form of a comprehensive survey of the candidate’s activities in the graduate program. A Plan II final examination is not required in some graduate programs.

Recommendation for Degree

Master’s candidates must be recommended for degree to the Graduate School Dean by the graduate study committee or by the student’s advisor and the graduate program director. This recommendation must be received by the published submission dates, available at www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates. Recommendations for degree are based on evaluation of all work performed, the final examination, and the thesis if Plan I was followed. The recommendation will automatically be nullified if the remaining courses needed for the degree are not passed, the candidate fails to maintain good academic standing, the candidate fails to remove all temporary grades from their transcript, or the a Plan I candidate fails to complete their thesis.

Award of Degree

Upon approval by the Graduate School Dean and payment of any outstanding financial obligations to the university, the President confers students’ degrees by authority of the Board of Trustees.

 

Steps Toward Earning a Doctoral Degree

  1. Admission to doctoral degree program
  2. Selection of faculty advisor
  3. Maintenance of good academic standing
  4. Appointment of graduate study committee
  5. Passing of comprehensive examination
  6. IRB and/or IACUC approvals obtained and renewed annually
  7. Admission to candidacy— no later than two semesters before expected graduation
  8. Application for degree— by the posted deadline available at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates
  9. Draft of preliminary version of dissertation
  10. Review of the draft by committee members
  11. Revisions made to dissertation in response to committee feedback
  12. Defense of dissertation (see http://www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline- dates)
  13. A PDF of the defended committee-approved dissertation to UAB/ProQuest submission web site --no later than 2 weeks (10 business days) following the published deadline date for the public defense
  14. Recommendation for degree
  15. Conferring of the doctoral degree

Doctoral Degree Overview

The doctoral degree is granted in recognition of scholarly proficiency and distinctive achievement in a specific field of an academic discipline. The first component is demonstrated by successful completion of advanced coursework of both a didactic and an unstructured nature as well as by adequate performance on the comprehensive examination. Traditionally, the student demonstrates the second component by independently performing original research. In certain doctoral programs, performing a major project may be acceptable even though it may not consist of traditional research. However, in all programs, with the exception of DPT and DNP, a dissertation presenting the results of the student’s independent study is required.

The Graduate School also recognizes professional doctorates awarded in preparation for the autonomous practice of a profession. Professional doctorates are accredited programs of study usually designed to prepare students for the delivery of clinical services or to assume specific types of administrative responsibilities. Students in professional doctorate programs must demonstrate competence in clinical practice and/or scholarship but are not required to conduct and defend original independent research. In lieu of a dissertation, students in programs designated as professional doctorate programs are required to demonstrate that they are capable of evaluating existing research, applying it to their professional practice, and expanding the body of knowledge on which their professional practice is based. This requirement is often met by the design and completion of a research or scholarly project submitted in writing and presented formally before the faculty in the program.

Faculty Advisor

Immediately after a degree-seeking student enters the UAB Graduate School, a member of the faculty of the graduate program to which the student has been admitted should be assigned to serve as the student’s advisor. The assignment may be a temporary arrangement. The student and the advisor should confer about courses and any special work to be taken on the basis of the student’s previous experience and the requirements of the graduate program.

Graduate Study Committee

A graduate study committee should be formed as soon as possible upon matriculation to guide the student in a program of courses, seminars, and independent study designed to meet the student’s needs and to satisfy program and Graduate School requirements. Doctoral graduate study committees should consist of at least five graduate faculty members, each of whom should be able to contribute some relevant insight and expertise to guide the student and must have credential equal to or exceeding that of the degree the student is pursuing. In addition, one or two committee member(s) should be from outside the student’s graduate specialization. In all cases, at least three of the committee must be comprised of UAB Graduate Faculty members. Committee members who are not already UAB Graduate Faculty, must  be  granted  Ad  Hoc  Graduate Faculty status. Recommendations for graduate study committee composition are submitted by the advisor and the student to the program director, who subsequently submits these recommendations to the Graduate School Dean. Changes to a student’s committee must be submitted on the Request to Change Graduate Study Committee form available at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms.  Graduate faculty appointments and instructions for requesting new appointments are available at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/gradfaclist. New Graduate Faculty appointments should be requested by the department and approved by the Graduate School Dean prior to any faculty member being recommended for placement on a student’s committee. Graduate Faculty status definitions are available at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/definitions-of-graduate-faculty-categories.

Minimum Course Credit Requirements

The Graduate School has minimum course credit requirements for students in doctoral programs. Program requirements for course work may exceed the Graduate School minimum but may not be less than the Graduate School minimum.

If entering with a baccalaureate degree, a student is required to earn a minimum of 72 credit hours comprised of the following:

  1. Completion of 48 credit hours of course work prior to candidacy
    • Up to 16 credits of the 48 can be non-dissertation research credits
    • Up to 10 credits can be lab rotation, seminar, or directed study credits
  2. Completion of 24 credit hours of research-based work which can be designated as either:
    • Completion of at least two semesters in candidacy and accumulation of at least 24 semester credit hours in 799 dissertation research OR
    • Completion of at least two semesters in candidacy and accumulation of at least 12 semester credit hours in 799 dissertation research AND, either during or before candidacy, 12 semester credit hours in other appropriate research-based coursework which has been approved by the graduate student’s program

If entering with a previously earned master’s degree appropriate to the doctoral degree field, a student is required to earn a minimum of 51 credit hours comprised of the following. These requirements also apply to students with previously earned M.S., D.V.M., D.M.D., D.D.S., etc.:

  1. Completion of 27 credit hours of course work prior to candidacy
    • Up to 6 credits of the 27 can be non-dissertation research credits
    • Up to 6 credits can be lab rotation, seminar, or directed study credits
  2. Completion of 24 credit hours of research-based work which can be satisfied by either:
    • Completion of at least two semesters in candidacy and accumulation of at least 24 semester credit hours in 799 dissertation research OR
    • Completion of at least two semesters as a student in candidacy and accumulation of at least 12 semester credit hours in 799 dissertation research AND, either during or before candidacy, 12 semester credit hours in other appropriate research-based coursework which has been approved by the graduate student’s program

Up to 12 credits of course work that have not been applied toward meeting the requirements for an earned degree taken at UAB or other institutions may be used to satisfy these course credit requirements upon approval of the graduate program director and the Graduate School Dean. Courses which have been previously applied toward meeting the requirements of another degree are not eligible to satisfy minimum course credit requirements. The student’s graduate department or program should provide a course planning curriculum worksheet along with the student’s application for degree. This worksheet should detail the courses taken which are intended to be used toward meeting degree requirements.

Residence Requirement

The nature of doctoral study requires close contact between the student and the faculty of the graduate program, and the individual investigation or other special work leading to the dissertation must be performed directly under the guidance and supervision of a full member of the UAB graduate faculty. Therefore, doctoral students must be in residence (enrolled) for three full semesters, including summers, each academic year during a three year period or collectively a minimum of nine semesters if the student has to take a leave of absence or stop out during the course of their doctoral education.

Additional Program Requirements

In consultation with the faculty, the director of each graduate program will specify any additional requirements, such as a reading knowledge of a foreign language or a working knowledge of statistics, that are considered essential to mastery of the academic discipline. Such requirements become conditions for the completion of the degree.

Comprehensive Examination

The scholarly proficiency of a doctoral student in the chosen field of study must be evaluated by comprehensive examination. The conduct of these examinations is the responsibility of the graduate program in which the student is enrolled and may consist of either individual examinations in several appropriate areas or a single combined examination. When both written and oral examinations are given, the written examination should precede the oral so that there is an opportunity for the student to clarify any misunderstanding of the written examination questions. Comprehensive exams should be administered no later than the end of the third year of the student’s program.

Admission Into Degree Candidacy

Admission to candidacy is a formal and important step forward in a student’s pursuit of the doctoral degree. By approving admission to candidacy, the graduate student’s committee indicates its confidence that the student is capable of completing the proposed research project and the doctoral program. When the student has passed their comprehensive examination, satisfied any program requirements for foreign language proficiency or mastered special research tools, and presented to the graduate study committee an acceptable proposal for dissertation research or special study, the committee will recommend to the Graduate School Dean that the student be admitted to degree candidacy. A student must be in good academic standing to be admitted to candidacy and admission to candidacy must take place at least two semesters before the expected completion of the doctoral program.  Students must be admitted to candidacy before they can register for dissertation research hours (i.e., 799).

IRB and IACUC Approval

If the research involves human or animal subjects, approval from IRB or IACUC must be documented before admission to candidacy can be approved and IRB/IACUC approvals must be kept current until the research is completed. For ways in which students can be added to a protocol, refer to the Tip Sheet for Students Involved in Research Involving Human or Animal Subjects.The IACUC form must display the appropriate research protocol number.

Application for Degree

Each candidate for a doctoral degree must signify their intention to complete the degree requirements by a particular graduation date by submitting a completed Application for Degree Form, available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms. Because this form is used to document completion of requirements, order the diploma, and include the student’s information in the commencement program, it must be received in the Graduate School Office by the posted deadline on the Graduate School’s website at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates. Because each graduate program may have an earlier deadline, students are also responsible for knowing and abiding by their program deadlines. 

All students must be registered for at least one (1) hour of 799 dissertation research credit during the semester in which degree requirements are completed.

If degree candidates are covered by the student health insurance policy, hold an assistantship, or have student loans, it may be necessary to register for a prescribed minimum number of credit hours to retain these benefits Students should check with the appropriate office(s) if retention of these benefits is a concern.

Dissertation

The results of a candidate’s individual inquiry must be presented in a written dissertation comprising a genuine contribution to knowledge in the particular academic field. The document should also demonstrate the candidate’s acquaintance with the literature of the field and the proper selection and execution of research methodology.

Signatures of committee members and program directors on a student’s approval forms indicate their assurance that they have examined the document and have found that it is of professional quality from all standpoints, including writing quality, technical correctness, and professional competency, and that the document conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation. The Graduate School is then responsible for ensuring that the final version of the dissertation meets the physical standards required of a permanent, published document and for adherence to the requirements stated in the UAB Format Manual which is available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/images/acrobat/forms/t heses/FormatManual.pdf.

The final committee-approved dissertation must be submitted for final review as a single PDF no later than 2 weeks (10 business days) following the published deadline date for the public defense. One copy of the signed approval form is submitted to the Graduate School office. Additional information concerning completing graduation requirements and the dissertation submission and publication process is available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/theses-and- dissertations-at-uab. The UAB Publication Agreement, Survey of Earned Doctorates, and Graduate School Exit Survey must also be submitted.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense should take the form of a presentation and defense of the dissertation work, which may include an examination of the candidate’s comprehensive knowledge of the field. The time, date, and location of this examination is reported to the Graduate School via the online Request for Thesis or Dissertation Approval forms and must be submitted at least 10 days before the public defense. The meeting must be open to all interested parties, publicized on the UAB campus, and must take place before the posted semester thesis and dissertation defense deadline. In addition, candidates must be registered during the semester in which the final examination is taken.

If, in the opinion of one or two of the five members of the dissertation committee, the student has failed the dissertation defense, there is no consensus to pass. The chair of the committee shall notify the student in writing that the dissertation fails to meet the requirements of the program and will share the reason(s) for failure. If the student resubmits or submits a revised dissertation for consideration by their graduate program, at least three members of the new examining committee shall be drawn from the original committee. If the revised dissertation also fails to meet the requirements of the program, the student shall be dismissed from the graduate program.

In the event that only one of the five committee members dissent, that individual must submit a letter outlining the reason(s) for their dissent to the student’s advisor. The advisor and student may then prepare a rebuttal statement that is submitted, along with the letter of dissent, to the advisory or executive committee of the program for review. The advisory committee can then decide to accept or reject the rebuttal statement. If the rebuttal is accepted, the student is passed on their dissertation defense. If the rebuttal is rejected, the advisory committee can recommend to the student or advisor potential steps necessary to remediate the dissertation and potentially also the work therein, or the committee can recommend that the student be dismissed from the program.

Graduate Student Exit Survey

Doctoral graduates are required to take the Graduate School Exit Survey as part of graduation requirements. Collecting important information and feedback from graduate students will help to improve the quality of graduate program offerings. After submission of the revised version of a student’s final dissertation, they will be contacted via email and provided the secure link to take the electronic survey.

Recommendation for Degree

Doctoral candidates must be recommended for degree to the Graduate School Dean by the graduate study committee and the graduate program director. This recommendation, in the form of a signed approval form, must be received no later than the submission dates published on the Graduate School website at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates.. Candidates must be in good academic standing, with no temporary grades for courses required for the degree on their transcripts, or any outstanding balance on their student account to graduate.

Award of Degree

Upon approval by the Graduate School Dean and payment of any outstanding financial obligations to the university, the President confers students’ degrees by authority of the Board of Trustees.

Graduate Level Postbaccalaureate or Post-Master’s Certificates

Several UAB graduate programs offer Certificates which do not involve conferral of either a Masters or Doctoral degree. Earning a certificate usually involves taking a specific set of graduate level courses which is designed to provide the Certificate holder expertise in a specialty area of a profession or practice. Certificate programs often consist of 12 or more credits of course work. In some cases the nature of the course work is specified by skill requirements, or may be mandated by State level requirements, for example, by the Alabama State Department of Education.

Certificate requirements vary by discipline. Therefore students should determine what the requirements are of the Certificate program in which they are interested by communicating directly with the program director of the program in which the Certificate is offered. In general, financial aid is not available for certificate programs.