Jul 13, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Bulletin 
    
2024-2025 Graduate Bulletin

General Degree Requirements



General Information 

Student Responsibility

It is the student’s responsibility to be informed about all regulations and procedures required by the course of study being pursued. In no case will a regulation be waived or an exception granted because a student pleads ignorance of the regulation or asserts that information was not presented by advisors or other authorities. Therefore, the student should become familiar with degree requirements and academic policies and procedures published in the Graduate Bulletin.

Graduate Program Coordinator

The Graduate Program Coordinator (GC) serves as a liaison between the school or program and the Graduate School.  The GC is familiar with specific program requirements and policies, along with general Graduate School policies, procedures, and deadlines. The GC is a resource for graduate students and graduate faculty. Schools maintain contact information for Graduate Coordinators.

Graduate School Deadlines and Forms

The Graduate School maintains a schedule of firm deadlines for completion of degree progress milestones and information about required forms. See Graduate School Deadlines

Application for Degree

Students should be aware that applications for degree must be submitted by the published deadline one semester in advance of the semester or term in which they plan to graduate. The application must be completed in full according to instructions. Following receipt of all required documents, the Graduate School degree auditor will perform a preliminary audit of the student’s degree progress and notify the student and their advisor if any problems are evident so they may be corrected if possible. A student who applies for degree but finds that they cannot finish as anticipated must defer and submit a new degree application. There is no fee associated with the first deferment. Any subsequent deferments must be accompanied by a fee payment. Those students whose Degree Progress Report (DPR) includes a thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project should notify the Documents Specialist of a deferment.

Course Load

A full-time load for a graduate student in the fall and spring semesters is generally 9 to 13 semester hours. One hour is full time for a graduate student in the summer. The maximum load for any graduate student in the summer session is 12 hours. In the summer term, an eligible graduate assistant may receive a tuition waiver for up to 3 credit hours.

Academic Performance Regulations and Policies

Academic Integrity

Academic and research integrity are critical to high standards in graduate education. Incidents of academic or research misconduct will incur sanctions. Students are responsible for understanding the policy and sanctions as defined in the Student Academic Integrity Policy.  (PolicyStat ID: 7488242).  

Grading System for Thesis, Dissertation and Doctoral Projects
Enrollment in courses numbered 698, 798, or 898 indicate the student is conducting thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project research. These courses must be graded as satisfactory (S), unsatisfactory (U), or pass (P) according to the parameters detailed below. The grade assigned in these courses documents a student’s progress toward completion of the research project. Therefore, students should enroll in these courses no sooner than the first semester the research or project prospectus/proposal will be written and/or defended. 


Satisfactory (S) - Designates satisfactory research progress. The major professor/committee chair directing the research must develop a set of expectations for research progress in writing, discuss these expectations with the student no later than the first week of the semester, and collect the signature of the student acknowledging that they understand the expectations. These signed documents should be maintained by the faculty member in case of an appeal. The major professor/committee chair will assess student progress throughout the semester or at the end of the semester to determine whether the student made satisfactory progress.

Unsatisfactory (U) - Designates unsatisfactory research progress. If, after assessing the student’s progress, the faculty member determines the student did not meet the minimal expectations of satisfactory performance articulated in the research expectations document, the grade of U should be assigned. A student who earns a U will be placed on probation immediately after receiving the U grade. The student will return to good academic standing if an S in 698, 798, or 898 (as appropriate) is earned during the subsequent probationary semester. One U grade can be removed from the transcript by petition for a grade change by the faculty member if the student earns two consecutive S grades. The petition to remove the “U” grade should occur during the student’s last semester. A second U grade in these courses at any point in the degree program will result in dismissal from the program.

Pass (P) - Indicates the student passed their thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project defense, submitted the final document to the Graduate School, and the document was approved. Typically, a P will be assigned the semester a student passes the thesis or dissertation defense, submits the finalized document, and it is approved. However, in cases where a student passes the defense but defers graduation because the document is not finalized, the student will enroll in 1 hour of 698, 798, or 898, as appropriate, during the next semester, and a P will be assigned if the document is finalized and approved. For students who earn a P grade in 698, 798, or 898 but cannot graduate due to the need to complete internship or practicum hours, a P grade should be assigned and no additional research hours should be taken. Instead, the student should enroll in internship/practicum or other appropriate courses the final semester.

Course Grade Requirements and GPA

A minimum of 3.0 GPA in coursework is required for graduation. No grade below a C is acceptable in any graduate-level coursework attempted. No more than two grades of C+ or C across six credit hours is allowable in any graduate-level coursework. Some programs require a higher GPA and further restrict the number of allowable C grades for graduation. Students who fail to meet these requirements and remain in good academic standing will be placed on probation.

Course Retake Policy

On the recommendation of a student’s graduate committee or advisor, a student may retake one course throughout the entire degree program to improve the grade point average (GPA). The original grade in the course will remain on the transcript, but it will be excluded from the calculation of the GPA once the retake has been recorded. The Course Retake Form must be submitted to the Graduate School during the semester the course is retaken. If a student intends to retake a course to raise the GPA and/or be removed from probation, the course must be retaken as soon as possible (at the next opportunity).

The course retake policy does not apply to the grade XF, which differs from an F. An XF is a sanction indicating violation of the Academic Integrity Policy, and it cannot be removed from the transcript. A graduate student cannot graduate with an XF on the transcript and must be dismissed from their graduate program. A student receiving an XF has a right to appeal the sanction by following the procedure in the Student Academic Integrity Policy.  (PolicyStat ID: 7488242)

Course Revalidation

Time limits on graduate coursework correspond to time limits on graduate degree programs, and expired coursework will not count toward a degree. A student who exceeds the time limit for a degree but successfully petitions for an extension must demonstrate contemporary knowledge of all coursework in the degree program either by revalidating or repeating courses that have expired prior to graduation. The revalidation plan must be developed by the major professor/committee chair and approved by the school director and Dean of the Graduate School. Methods of revalidation may include but are not limited to, the following: 1) a written comprehensive exam; 2) a scholarly paper or annotated bibliography; 3) a portfolio or project. The following stipulations must be met:

  • Whenever possible, a course revalidation should be conducted by the original instructor; otherwise, another instructor with appropriate expertise may oversee the course revalidation.
  • A maximum of 50% of the credit hours of content coursework in a degree program may be revalidated with approval of the graduate dean (e.g. 21 hours of a 54 hour curriculum). (*excludes thesis/dissertation/project hours)
  • Course revalidations must receive an evaluation of satisfactory on the first attempt. Second attempts are not allowed.
  • Expired content courses in excess of the 50% must be repeated, and at least a B- must be earned.
  • Any expired course for which a grade of C+ or below was earned must be repeated, not revalidated, and at least B- must be earned. The Course Retake Policy is unchanged by course expiration.
  • Expired transfer courses or courses used to meet competencies in a second, higher graduate degree cannot be used to meet degree requirements, and thus, they cannot be revalidated. (See policies).  
  • Research hours are excluded from revalidation. 

The student must remit a $50 revalidation fee for each course, not to exceed a maximum of $400. After completing the course revalidation, the Revalidation Verification of Graduate Course(s) Form must be submitted to the Graduate School by the Graduate Coordinator. All revalidation fees must be paid before approval of a completion plan. 

Probation

A student will be placed on academic probation for the next regular semester of enrollment (fall or spring) for the following reasons: the cumulative grade point average (GPA) or program GPA falls below 3.0; a grade of “C-” or lower is awarded; a seventh hour of C+ or below is awarded; a U is earned in thesis or dissertation research. During the probationary semester(s), a doctoral, specialist, or thesis master’s student may not engage in progress toward degree activities, which include defending a thesis, dissertation, or capstone project, participating in qualifying or comprehensive examinations, and applying for graduation. A non-thesis master’s student is not prohibited from engaging in these activities while on probation. The Graduate School will inform the student in writing that they will be placed on probation for 1 semester or as directed by the program (if full-time) or up to 2 semesters (if part time). The notification will include a set of expectations for the student’s return to good academic standing. Once the terms of the probationary period are met, the student will be removed from probation status and any holds placed will be removed. Failure to return to good academic standing by the end of the probationary period will result in dismissal from the program. A student may not graduate until they return to good academic standing.

Shared Credit and Transfer Credit Policies

Transfer Credit Policy
At the discretion of the academic program, up to one-third (33%) of the credit hours required to complete a graduate degree program may be transferred from other accredited institutions. Programs may accept fewer transfer hours.  Any requested transfer credits must meet the following restrictions.

  • The coursework to be transferred is time limited; it must have been taken within the time period allowed for the graduate degree program. 
  • The credit must carry a letter or numeric grade of B or better; courses assigned the grade pass/fail, satisfactory/unsatisfactory, incomplete (I), or other ungraded designation cannot be transferred.
  • Course credit applied toward another earned degree cannot be transferred.
  • Non-content courses, such as thesis or dissertation research, cannot be transferred.
  • Transfer grades will not be calculated in the USM GPA.
  • Transfer credit is not automatic and will be awarded only after course content is evaluated and approved by the graduate committee chair and/or graduate committee, school director, and Dean of the Graduate School. Students will supply syllabi, course descriptions, and other requested materials for review. For doctoral programs, final evaluation and acceptance of transfer credit will be made after the student has been enrolled for one semester. A total sum of no more than one-third (33%) of combined transfer and non-degree coursework may be applied toward a graduate degree.
  • Transfer credits are not allowed in certificate programs. All certificate coursework must be taken at USM. 

Utilizing Coursework from an Awarded Graduate Degree to Meet Competencies in a Second, Higher Graduate Degree

Students who have earned a graduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi or any other regionally-accredited institution of higher learning may earn a second, higher graduate degree from The University of Southern Mississippi. With the approval of the school director and program graduate admissions committee, coursework from an awarded graduate degree may be used to meet up to 33% of coursework of the second graduate degree, reducing the total number of credit hours (e.g., 18 of 54 hours for a doctorate) needed to meet second graduate degree requirements. The coursework will not be transcripted in the second degree, rather it will fulfill competencies in the second degree. The following stipulations must be met: 

  • Coursework used to meet competencies will include graded (A, B) content courses only and exclude such courses as thesis/capstone, untitled variable-content courses, seminars, research courses, and similar non-content courses. Courses assigned grades of “satisfactory” or “pass” may not be used to meet competencies. 
  • A grade of “B” or better was earned in the course.   
  • Coursework that will be beyond the time limit at the time of graduation with the second degree cannot be counted toward competency.  
  • Waivers must be requested for courses taken in the first graduate degree that meet competency requirements for the second graduate degree. Waiver requests must be submitted for evaluation prior to the student’s first semester of study in the second degree program. 
  • The student’s first semester of enrollment in the second degree program will dictate the Graduate Bulletin academic year.  The second degree program will comply with requirements included in that academic year’s Graduate Bulletin.  
  • Students must satisfy both the Graduate School’s academic performance requirements and any additional program-specific requirements of the second degree program. 
  • This policy does not apply to equivalent degrees, e.g., master’s to master’s, but is applicable to higher degrees, e.g., master’s to specialist and master’s or specialist to doctorate. 

Simultaneous and Dual Master’s Degrees 

The University of Southern Mississippi provides opportunities for graduate students to obtain academic credentials at the master’s level in two distinct academic disciplines. The following mechanisms allow graduate students to obtain two master’s-level academic credentials during the same residence period at The University of Southern Mississippi.  

Simultaneous Enrollment Master’s Degrees: 

Graduate students may simultaneously enroll in two master’s level programs with the following stipulations: 

  • The student must submit separate applications to each program, pay associated fees, and be accepted into both master’s programs during the same academic year. 
  • At least one of the master’s programs must be a non-thesis program. 
  • The student must complete all program requirements of each master’s program to be awarded each degree. 
  • No more than six hours of coursework can be shared between the two programs. Shared credit hours may be required or elective courses of each program.  
  • The student must remain in good academic standing with both programs to remain enrolled in both either programs. Academic performance policies will be applied as if the student were enrolled in a single program (e.g. one retake, no more than 6 hours of C+ or C, no grades of C- or below). Therefore, a student who has used the retake then earns a 7th hour of C+ or C or earns an unacceptable grade (C- or below or U) will be dismissed from both programs.
  • Concurrent graduation in both programs is not required. Students must apply for graduation from each program separately and pay associated fees.

Dual Master’s Degrees: 

Graduate students may enroll in a prescribed and structured dual master’s pathway at The University of Southern Mississippi. Dual master’s pathways are cross-disciplinary combinations intentionally designed to allow the student to acquire two master’s degrees with fewer overall credits. The following apply to develop and to implement dual master’s pathways: 

  • The student must submit separate applications to each program, pay associated fees, and be accepted into both master’s programs during the same academic year.
  • Both degrees must be stand-alone master’s programs that have identified a coherent course of study for both degrees. 
  • Both degrees in the dual master’s pathway can share up to 15 credit hours. 
  • The dual master’s pathway must provide strong justification for all shared coursework and describe how such coursework contributes to a coherent course of study for each degree. 
  • A single comprehensive examination will be used to satisfy the comprehensive exam requirements of both degrees.  
  • The student must remain in good academic standing with both programs to remain enrolled in either program. Academic performance policies will be applied as if the student were enrolled in a single program (e.g. one retake, no more than 6 hours of C+ or C, no grades of C- or below). Therefore, a student who has used the retake then earns a 7th hour of C+ or C or earns an unacceptable grade (C- or below or U) will be dismissed from both programs.
  • Thesis-producing dual master’s pathways will require the submission of a single, cross-disciplinary thesis to satisfy the thesis requirement of both degrees. 
  • Collaborating programs will submit approval for a dual master’s pathway through the traditional graduate council process. Once approved, the pathway will be tracked internally, and the number of graduates will be shared between both programs.
  • Student committees will be composed of members from each collaborating program. 

Requirements for Micro-credentials (Digital Credentialing Badges)

A digital badge is a micro-credential that students can receive during their studies. Badges provide students an opportunity to digitally showcase the skill sets they have acquired during their participation in university activities and coursework to potential employers and others by displaying badges on social media, email signature lines, etc.

Students can select from foundational badges or proficiency badges. The foundational badges allow students to earn a digital micro-credential upon successful completion of various professional development activities that are experienced outside of the traditional classroom environment. Foundational badges may have an expiration date and do not appear on the student’s academic transcript. Proficiency badges allow students to earn a micro-credential upon successful completion of a combination of specific coursework and demonstration of proficiency in one or more skill sets. Proficiency badges require no more than 9 credit hours of specified coursework. Proficiency badges appear on the student’s academic transcript and have no expiration date.

Badge requirements and definitions:

Foundational Badges (Level 1): Indicates successful completion of non-discipline-specific professional development activities designed to cultivate transferable skills through non-credit activities. Foundational badges bear the imprimatur of the University, and as such, students must demonstrate an appropriate level of achievement through a set of significant activities. Foundational badges do not appear on the student transcript.

Requirements: Foundational badges require students to develop and demonstrate a minimal level of competency in one or more transferable skills acquired outside the traditional classroom environment. Students will spend a sufficient quantity of time developing transferable skills and demonstrating an acceptable level of competency. A foundational badge requires a minimum activity time commitment of 20 hours over the course of the activities and the demonstration of competency in those skill sets through the use of specified assessment instruments.

Proficiency Badges (Level 2): Indicates the completion of specific coursework aimed at developing a skill set competency. Proficiency badges require less credit hours for completion than a minor or certificate and appear on the student transcript upon graduation. Students will receive the digital badge upon completion of the proficiency badge requirements.

Requirements: Proficiency badges require 6-9 credit hours and a demonstration of skill set competency in order to complete the micro-credential. Students need not complete all proficiency badge requirements within the same semester.

Requirements for a Graduate Certificate Program

Coursework

  • A minimum of 12 semester hour credits of prescribed coursework is required for a graduate certificate. Many certificate programs require more than 12 hours of coursework. To determine specific program requirements, consult individual school policies.
  • A student enrolled in a degree program may earn a certificate while pursuing the degree, and all certificate coursework credit earned as a degree-seeking student may apply to the degree if approved by the graduate committee. A separate application with associated application fee is required as follows: 1) a student enrolled in a degree program also decides to pursue a certificate; 2) a student enrolled in a certificate program also decides to pursue a degree.
  • Credits earned while a student is a certificate-seeking, non-degree student, may be applied to a degree program if approved by the graduate committee whether the certificate is awarded or not. 
  • Courses used to complete a degree cannot be used toward a certificate after the degree is awarded.
  • Transfer credits are not allowed in certificate programs.  All certificate courses must be taken at USM.

Time Limit
The student must complete the graduate certificate within 5 years from the date of initial enrollment in a graduate certificate program. Five years is the maximum age allowed for graduate coursework used toward a graduate certificate.

Requirements for a Master’s Degree

Credit Hours
A minimum of 30 graduate credit hours are required for any master’s degree. Many schools require more than 30 hours. A minimum of 18 credit hours must be taken in courses numbered 600 or above. No more than 6 hours of thesis (698) can be counted toward the degree. Students should consult specific program requirements for additional information. Graduate students must be enrolled in at least one credit hour during their graduating semester. 

Time Limit
A master’s degree must be completed within five years from the semester of initial enrollment in a master’s program. Five years is the maximum age allowed for graduate coursework toward a master’s degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the fifth year in the program. If a student’s degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, they may petition the school for a limited extension, which must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. Course revalidation will be required.

The Master’s Committee
The student’s work toward the master’s degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 2-3 additional graduate faculty members for thesis or project programs. For some non-thesis or non-project programs, an experienced faculty advisor may supervise the student’s work. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request Form must be completed in SOAR early in the student’s degree program, prior to defense of proposal or the comprehensive exam, whichever comes first, and updated if changes are made. When voting on a student’s performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, thesis proposal, or defense of theses/projects, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.

Foreign Language
Some master’s degree programs include a foreign language requirement. Students should refer to the section of the Graduate Bulletin describing individual schools to determine whether a program has a foreign language requirement.

The Minor Field
If a minor field is required in the Master’s program, it shall consist of at least nine semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than nine semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.

Examinations

The Comprehensive Examination
A comprehensive examination is required of all master’s students to assess students’ knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exam must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It is prepared, administered, and assessed by the student’s graduate committee or qualified faculty as determined by the school director. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake it no sooner than three months after the first attempt. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least three months have passed since the first attempt. A student may repeat the comprehensive examination only once; failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Students must register for a minimum of one credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam form must be completed in SOAR by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam.

Oral Defense of Thesis
A defense of the thesis cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The thesis must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty member(s) designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will  determine a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense Form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, they have one additional attempt to defend the thesis successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense, any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner, and the finalized thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School.

The Master’s Thesis

  • A student in a thesis-option master’s program must submit a thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree.
  • A thesis proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended before the graduate committee early in the degree program and no later than one semester before the thesis defense. The Proposal Approval Form must be completed in SOAR by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve the thesis methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of the thesis, available on the Graduate School website, must be followed. 
  • The Documents Specialist ensures that theses meet the University requirements, including formatting and originality. The Documents Specialist will assist students with formatting questions. Students must allow ample time to make revisions.
  • Students are responsible for meeting thesis deadlines listed on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the thesis in accordance with the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, requiring the student to defer graduation, submit a new application for graduation, and enroll in one hour of 698 during the final semester. Prior to the submission of the thesis to the  Documents Specialist, the committee chair must submit a Thesis/Dissertation/Doctoral Project Document Approval Form to the Documents Specialist to verify that the thesis has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  • Students must meet the credit hour requirement for thesis (698) during the degree program. No more than six hours of credit for this course may be included in the degree progress report, although additional hours may be taken. Students must be enrolled in at least one hour of 698 the semester they defend and remain enrolled in one hour of 698 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School.  Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for one credit hour of 698 or other approved course during their graduating semester.

Requirements for a Specialist Degree

Credit Hours
A minimum of 33 graduate semester credit hours are required for any specialist degree. Certain schools require more than the minimum. Students should consult specific program requirements for additional information. Graduate students must be enrolled in at least one credit hour during their graduating semester. 

Time Limit
A specialist degree must be completed within six years from the date of initial enrollment in a specialist program. Six years is the maximum age allowed for graduate credits toward a specialist degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the sixth year in the program. If a student’s degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, they may petition the school for a short extension, which must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. Course revalidation will be required.

The Specialist Committee
The student’s work toward the specialist degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 2-3 additional graduate faculty members. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request must be completed in SOAR early in the student’s degree program, prior to the qualifying or comprehensive exam, and updated if changes are made. When voting on a student’s performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, or defense of thesis, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.

The Minor Field
If a minor field is required in the specialist program, it shall consist of at least nine semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than nine semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.

Examinations

The Comprehensive Examination
A comprehensive examination is required of all specialist students to assess students’ knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exam must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It will be prepared, administered, and assessed by the student’s graduate committee or qualified faculty as determined by the school director. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake it no sooner than three months after the first attempt. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least three months have passed since the first attempt. A student may repeat the comprehensive examination only once; failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program.  Students must register for a minimum of one credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam Form must be completed in SOAR by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam.

Oral Defense of Thesis
A defense of the thesis cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The thesis must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty member(s) designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will determine a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense Form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, they have one additional attempt to defend the thesis successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense, any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner and the finalized thesis submitted to the Graduate School.

The Specialist Thesis

  • The specialist degree entails the writing of a thesis or completion of a field-based project.
  • A thesis proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended before the graduate committee early in the degree program and no later than one semester before the thesis defense. The Proposal Approval Form must be completed in SOAR by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee must approve the thesis methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of the thesis, available on the Graduate School website, must be followed. The Graduate School Documents Specialist will assist with formatting questions.
  • Prior to the submission of the thesis to the Documents Specialist, the committee chair must submit a Thesis/Dissertation/Doctoral Project Approval Form to the Documents Specialist to verify the thesis has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the thesis deadlines listed on the thesis/dissertation deadline schedule on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the thesis in accordance with the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, requiring the student to defer graduation, submit a new application for graduation, and enroll in one hour of 798 during the final semester.
  • Prior to the submission of the thesis to the  Documents Specialist, the committee chair must submit a Thesis/Dissertation/Doctoral Project Document Approval form to the Documents Specialist to verify that the thesis has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  • Students must meet the credit hour requirement for thesis (798) during the degree program. No more than six hours of credit for this course must be included in the program of study, although additional hours may be taken. Students must be enrolled in at least one hour of 798 the semester they defend and remain enrolled in one hour of 798 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School.  Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for one credit hour of 798 or other approved course during their graduating semester.

Requirements for a Doctoral Degree

Credit Hours
All doctoral degrees entail a minimum of 54 semester hours of coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree. Certain schools may require more than the minimum. Students must enroll in a dissertation course (898) during the degree program. No more than 12 hours of this course may be included in the program of study, according to requirements of the degree program, although additional hours may be taken. Students should consult specific school requirements for additional information.

Time Limits
A doctorate must be completed within eight years from the date of initial enrollment in a doctoral program. Eight years is the maximum age allowed for courses taken toward a doctoral degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the eighth year in the program. If a student’s degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, they may petition the school for a time-limited extension which must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. Course revalidation will be required.

Residency

The purpose of academic residency is to provide doctoral students direct interaction with faculty, professional colleagues, and peers and to provide a period of time for concentrated study and coursework. Students must consult with individual programs regarding residency requirements. This policy differs from Mississippi residency for in-state tuition purposes. 

Research Tools
Each doctoral degree program has a research tool requirement that is determined by the school. Students should consult the school for the specific requirements. Verification of the research tool requirement occurs on the Degree Progress Report (DPR).

Foreign Language
Some doctoral degree programs include a foreign language requirement. Students should consult specific school requirements to determine whether a program has a foreign language requirement.

The Minor Field
If a minor field is required in the doctoral program, it shall consist of 12 semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than 12 semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.

The Doctoral Committee
The student’s work toward the doctoral degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 3-4 additional graduate faculty members. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee make up and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request must be completed in SOAR early in the student’s degree program, prior to defense of proposal or the comprehensive exam, whichever comes first, and updated if changes are made.  When voting on a student’s performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, proposal/prospectus defense, and defense of dissertation, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.

Continuous Enrollment
Continuous enrollment through the semester of graduation is required for doctoral students following completion of all coursework required for the degree program and passing the comprehensive examination.  Continuous enrollment includes the following parameters:

  • Continuous enrollment includes fall and spring semesters. Summer enrollment is not required. 
  • One credit hour of enrollment is required minimally. 
  • Failure to remain continuously enrolled will result in discontinuation from the University.  
  • A student who was discontinued and seeks readmission must apply for readmission and pay the application fee. In addition, a readmitted student will be charged a fee for each semester of non-compliance with the continuous enrollment policy.  

Students experiencing extreme circumstances (illness, family hardship, military service, etc.) impacting their ability to remain continuously enrolled may be eligible for a leave of absence. Details about the policy and the request form may be accessed via the Graduate School website: https://www.usm.edu/graduate-school/leave-of-absence-policy.php.

Examinations

The Qualifying Examination
At or near the beginning of the student’s work, some schools may require a preliminary (qualifying) examination to determine the student’s qualification to pursue a doctoral degree and to assist the student’s advisory committee in planning the degree program. The expectations for the qualifying examination are determined by the school, and student should contact their advisor or graduate program coordinator for information. The Results of the Comprehensive and/or Qualifying Exams Form should be completed in SOAR by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the exam.

The Comprehensive Examination
A comprehensive examination is required of all doctoral students to assess their knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exam must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It is prepared, administered, and assessed by the student’s graduate committee or qualified faculty as determined by the school director. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake the examination no sooner than three months after the first attempt and may repeat the examination only once. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least three months have passed since the first attempt. Failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam Form must be completed in SOAR by the major professor/committee chair immediately after completion of the exam. Students must register for a minimum of  one credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. Doctoral candidates should complete the comprehensive examination at least one semester prior to the defense of the dissertation or capstone project. After completing the comprehensive exam, a doctoral student must remain continuously enrolled through degree completion as detailed above.

Oral Defense of Dissertation or Doctoral Project
A defense of the dissertation/doctoral project cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The dissertation/doctoral project document must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty members designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will determine a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense Form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, they have one additional attempt to defend the document successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense, any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner and the finalized document submitted to the Graduate School.

The Doctoral Dissertation or Doctoral Project

  • The dissertation/doctoral project committee must be assembled before the proposal can be defended. Any change to the membership of this committee at any time requires that the major professor/committee chair submit a new Graduate Committee Request Form in SOAR.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve the project methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of the dissertation/doctoral project must be followed.  The Graduate School Documents Specialist will assist with formatting questions. Students are responsible for meeting all dissertation deadlines listed on the thesis/dissertation deadline schedule found on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the document prior to the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, requiring the student to defer graduation, submit a new application for graduation, and enroll in one hour of 898 during the final semester.
  • Prior to the submission of the dissertation/doctoral project to the  Documents Specialist, the committee chair must submit a Thesis/Dissertation/Doctoral Project Approval Form to the Documents Specialist to verify the document has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  • Students must meet the credit hour requirement for dissertation (898) during the degree program. Students must be enrolled in at least one hour of 898 the semester they defend and remain enrolled in one hour of 898 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School. Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for one credit hour of 898 or other approved course during their graduating semester.