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Graduate Degrees

The General Announcements (GA) is the official Rice curriculum. In the event that there is a discrepancy between the GA and any other websites or publications, the GA shall prevail as the authoritative source.

Jump to:
        Research Degrees
        PhD ProgramsApplicable Academic Graduation Requirements
        Professional Degrees 
        Graduate Program Major Concentrations
        Graduate Certificates
        Applicable Academic Graduation Requirements  
        Rice Undergraduates Entering Graduate Professional Degree Program 
        Transferring from Research/Thesis Program to Professional Program 

Research Degrees

Research degrees are offered in seven of the eight schools at Rice, with some degrees combining studies in more than one school. Specific requirements for advanced research degrees in each field of study appear in the appropriate departmental pages (see Departments and Programs). Students seeking additional material should contact the appropriate department (see Graduate Degree Chart).

PhD Programs

The PhD degree is awarded for original studies in the departments listed in the Graduate Degree Chart; in architecture, the equivalent degree is the DArch. Candidates receive a PhD degree after successfully completing at least 90 semester hours of graduate study and concluding an original investigation that is formalized in an approved thesis. As final evidence of preparation for this degree, the candidate must pass a public oral examination and submit the approved thesis to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. (See also Candidacy, Oral Examinations and Thesis.) The residency requirement for the doctorate is four semesters of full-time study at the university.

Thesis Master’s Programs

The MA degree is available in the departments listed in the Graduate Degree Chart, including certain scientific fields of study. The MS degree is offered in the engineering and science fields also listed in the chart. Candidates may undertake the MArch, MArch in Urban Design, and MMus degrees as research degrees by adopting the thesis option. Candidates receive a master’s degree after completing at least 30 graduate semester hours of study at the 500 level and above (including thesis hours), 24 hours of which must be taken at Rice. Thesis Master’s programs require original work reported in a thesis and a public oral examination. Most students take three or four semesters to complete a master’s degree (some programs may require more time). Students receiving a master’s degree must be enrolled in a graduate program at Rice University for at least one fall or spring semester of full-time study.

Nonthesis Master's Programs

Students also may pursue a nonthesis degree in certain departments. This degree would be based on alternative departmental requirements and would include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • At least 30 graduate semester hours of study
  • At least 24 semester hours must be at Rice University
  • Minimum residency is one fall or spring semester of full-time graduate study, with the exceptions of professional master's programs in the schools of engineering, natural sciences, and social sciences, as well as the Master's of Liberal Studies.  For these programs, minimum residency is one fall or spring semester in full-time or part-time graduate study.
  • At least 30 hours of course work must be at or above the 500 level
  • All courses must be in the relevant field

In certain departments, students may receive a master’s degree when they achieve candidacy for the doctoral degree. Students seeking a master’s degree in this manner must submit a petition for the degree, signed by their department chair, to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies by the deadline specified in the official academic calendar External Link for degree conferral in the year in which the degree is to be awarded. (See also Candidacy, Oral Examinations and Thesis and Course Numbering System.)

Professional Degrees

Rice University offers advanced degree programs to prepare students for positions in a number of professional fields. The professional degrees offered appear in the Graduate Degree Chart. In some departments, the professional degree also prepares the student for a doctoral-level program. All professional degrees are master’s degrees with two exceptions: candidates earn the Artist Diploma or Doctorate of Musical Arts after concluding a program of advanced music study.

Requirements for professional degrees include the successful completion of 30 graduate semester hours or more of courses at the 500 level or higher with at least 24 hours taken at Rice. Minimum residency for professional master’s degrees in the schools of natural sciences and engineering, as well as the Master's of Liberal Studies, is one fall or spring semester of either full-time or part-time study. For all other professional master's degrees, minimum residency is one fall or spring semester of full-time study. All courses must be in the relevant field. Specific information and requirements for individual degrees appear in the Graduate Degree Chart. Program information and application materials also are available from the departments. (See also Course Numbering System.) 

Institutional financial aid and tuition waivers are not available to professional master’s students. This should be stated in the department’s offer letter.

Graduate Program Major Concentrations

A graduate program concentration, otherwise known as a major concentration, is a formally recognized subfield of study within a discipline offered in a graduate program (masters or doctorate-level), and it represents a coordinated set of courses which emphasize a subfield within the graduate program. The major concentration indicates the student’s focus according to research interests and/or professional goals. Students must apply for and obtain the approval of their Director of Graduate Studies or Department Chair to declare a major concentration, and students may, with departmental permission, apply for more than one major concentration for each graduate degree earned, assuming the program has multiple concentrations. A major concentration is available only to students in the graduate program within which the concentration is administered.

Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificate programs are formally recognized programs of study attesting to a level of competence or to the development of skills in a particular area or field. They are intended only for students already enrolled in graduate degree-granting programs at Rice, and are awarded when the student's degree is conferred. Graduate certificates are offered both to recognize students who have achieved the defined level of competence or skill, as well as to encourage students to pursue additional areas of interest. A certificate comprises a specific grouping of courses and related activities (such as internships) that either:

  1. form a coherent yet distinctive complement to a degree program, or 
  2. leads to the acquisition of specific skills or professional expertise 

The certificate would include, but not be limited to the following requirements:

1. Minimum standards: twelve graduate (12) credits, or nine such (9) credits plus a graduate-level internship or other experiential learning opportunity. Each department or program is responsible for determining the number of credits and the courses that are acceptable for satisfaction of the certificate requirements.

  • All departments are eligible to submit proposals for the granting of certificates. Programs eligible to submit applications for certificates are restricted to faculty-based centers, institutes or other consortia reporting directly to one or more of the deans of the university or the vice provost of research.
  • All courses counting toward the certificate must be taken on either a letter-grade or S/U basis. Courses taken for a letter grade must be completed with a grade of B- or better.
  • No more than one-third of the credit hours required for the certificate may be taken on an S/U basis.
  • No more than one-third of the credit hours required for the certificate may be transfer credit.
  • Students must obtain the approval of their director of graduate studies to apply for a certificate.

2. A certificate program is not intended to substitute for a graduate degree but may be taken by graduate students to complement their graduate program.

3. Multiple certificates: Students may acquire more than one certificate provided that the credits in each certificate are unique and non-redundant with those of any other certificate.

Additional information on graduate certificates can be found here External Link.

Applicable Academic Graduation Requirements 

Students enrolled in graduate programs at Rice may decide whether to follow the graduation general and degree program requirements in effect when they first matriculated at Rice or those in effect when they graduate.  If a student has been separated from the university due to a voluntary or involuntary withdrawal, students must graduate under the regulations in effect at the time of their last readmission or those in effect when they graduate unless granted an exception by the dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies An archive of General Announcements is available online: http://www.rice.edu/catalog/archive.shtml External Link.

Graduate program degree requirements may vary from year to year during the period between a student’s matriculation and graduation. The graduate program may, at its discretion, make any of these variations available to a student for completion of the degree requirements. If a new academic credential is created during the student’s time at Rice, the new program will be available to the student as if the program appeared in the General Announcements at the time of matriculation.

Rice Undergraduates Entering Graduate Professional Degree Program

Rice undergraduate students who wish to enter a professional master’s degree program should apply for admission through the normal procedures and in accordance with the normal timetables for application to such programs. While the GRE requirement may be waived in these cases, the authority for the waiver rests with the graduate program. Graduate programs may consider counting courses taken by the students while an undergraduate as credit toward the degree, if the credit was not already counted towards the undergraduate degree. With these requirements, the student will complete a combined minimum of 150 semester hours for the baccalaureate and masters degrees, including a minimum of 30 graduate semester hours.

The graduate program has authority to accept or reject a particular graduate level course to meet the degree requirements for the master’s degree. For more information, see "Coursework Taken While an Undergraduate at Rice" in the Registration section.  In addition, the graduate program also must include in the offer letter a list of those courses taken by the student as an undergraduate that the graduate program will accept to meet the degree requirements for the master’s degree. These courses must be verified and approved by the Office of the Registrar and accepted by the graduate program.

Transferring from Research/Thesis Program to Professional Program

Admission into a professional program is granted separately from admission into a research or thesis program. Students who wish to change from a thesis program to a professional degree program must petition their department in writing. Upon recommendation of the department and approval by the dean’s office, the request is sent to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for consideration and final approval. If approved, students who received tuition waivers while enrolled in the thesis program will be expected to repay the tuition before their professional degrees are awarded. Professional degree programs terminate when the degree is awarded. Students who wish to continue graduate study after completing a professional program must apply for admission into a research program.

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Last Revised : August 24, 2016