The Master of Arts and Master of Science degree programs are for the student who has research interests in education. The candidate often enters these programs with the intent of eventually pursuing a doctoral program leading to the Ed.D. or Ph.D. degree. The major difference between these degrees and the Ed.M. is the requirement that a master's thesis be completed and defended as part of the M.A. or M.S. degree.  The College of Education offers Master degrees in on-campus and online formats.

Program Plan

Upon admission to a Master of Arts or a Master of Science program, each student is assigned an academic advisor in the student's area of specialization. The student and advisor plan a program of study to meet the student’s individual goals and general degree requirements. Departments may require that a copy of the program plan be kept on file.

Time Limits

Graduate students and advisors should be guided by the Graduate College policy on master’s degree time limits. If a time extension is desired, it may be requested by completing a Graduate Student Petition. These petitions are considered and acted upon by the student’s advisor, the department, and the Graduate College. Each individual who has authority to act on the petition may either approve or deny the petition.

Course Requirements for M.A. and M.S. Candidates

All students admitted to a Master of Arts or a Master of Science degree program must fulfill Graduate College requirements for the master’s degree, departmental requirements, and the following College of Education minimum requirements on the Urbana campus or through Urbana off-campus or online courses:

  • Completion of 32 hours:
    • 8 hours of foundations coursework:
      • 4 Hours: Psychological Foundations Courses in Educational Psychology
        EPSY 400, 401, 402, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 430, 485, 490
      • 4 Hours: Philosophical and Social Foundations Courses in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
        EOL 548, EPS 400, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 410, 411, 412, 413, 415, 420, 421, 423, 424, or 426 
    • 12 hours of 500-level courses in education (599 thesis research credit not included).
    • 12 hours of additional 400- or 500-level courses selected by the student in consultation with an academic advisor (599 thesis research credit and 595 independent study can be applied up to a maximum amount of eight hours each)
    • A minimum 2 hours of 599 thesis credit is required.  These 2 hours can be counted towards the 500 level requirement.

In addition to the specific requirements stated above, individual departments in the College of Education may require additional courses to complete the student’s degree program.

Human Subjects Approval

For all theses, approval for use of human subjects or confirmation that human subjects review is not required must be obtained from the Institutional Review Board prior to doing research on the dissertation topic. A letter showing approval from the Campus Institutional Review Board (IRB) must be provided to the department contact in the Graduate Student Services Office prior to the scheduling of the preliminary examination. Students should begin the approval process eight weeks prior to the examination.

Evaluation of Academic Progress

Annual evaluations are required for all degree-seeking graduate students and will occur every spring semester.

The student will complete an electronic self-evaluation detailing academic progress. The advisor (or department designee) will assess the progress report and provide online feedback to the student. An additional authorized faculty member may also be asked to review the progress report.  The evaluation is kept in the student’s permanent file. Failure to complete the academic self-evaluation by the deadline may result in a hold being placed on the student's account.

When a decision is made that a student is not making satisfactory progress, the student, the advisor, and the Director of Graduate Studies will be informed in writing by the department.


The M.A. and M.S. degree candidates must write a master’s thesis and defend it in an oral examination before a committee. The thesis is intended to demonstrate the student’s capacity to conduct independent research. The student’s research should make an original contribution to knowledge. The thesis usually requires a year or more of study.  After the completion of the required 32 hours, registration in thesis research hours for on-campus or in-absentia students is required. This registration typically comes after the course work is completed and before the time limits are reached.


For M.A. and M.S. candidates, the thesis must be prepared using one of the following commonly accepted editorial styles:

  • American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  • Harvard Law Review Association. (2015). The bluebook: A uniform system of citation (20th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Author.
  • Modern Language Association. (2009). MLA handbook for writers of research papers (7th ed.). New York, NY: Author.
  • Turabian, K. L. (2013). A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations (8th ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  • University of Chicago. (2010). The Chicago manual of style (16th ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago.

NOTE: LaTex is not an acceptable editorial style. However, this typesetting system can be used in conjunction with one of the above editorial styles.

The student will consult with the advisor and thesis committee members to choose the style to be used. In exceptional circumstances, style manuals not listed above may be used with prior approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Programs. In addition, the Thesis & Dissertation policies and procedures issued by the Graduate College must be followed. In the case of explicit differences between the Graduate College instructions and the style manual selected, the Graduate College instructions take precedence. For example, students choosing the APA style manual should follow the Graduate College instructions rather than those included in the APA manual for insertion of tables and figures. Every thesis in final manuscript form must be reviewed and approved by the student's thesis director of research and/or chairperson/advisor of the thesis committee to ensure that the student's thesis meets the Graduate College and departmental requirements for deposit.


Abstracts for theses in the College of Education must include a synopsis of the following information to fully describe the completed study:

  1. The problem and its theoretical and educational significance.
  2. The research design and/or approach employed (include where appropriate descriptions of subjects and methods).
  3. An overview of the results.
  4. Conclusions, recommendations, and/or implications.


Thesis examinations are oral. The thesis examination committee chair/advisor is responsible for convening the committee, conducting the examination, and submitting the Master’s Examination Result form to the Graduate Student Services Office.

Thesis Examination Committee

In appointing the committee, the student submits committee member information to the Graduate Student Services Office by completing the Request for Appointment of Committee Form. This form must be submitted at least four weeks before the examination. The Graduate Student Services Office will retrieve the appropriate approvals.

The committee must meet the thesis examination committee requirements of the College of Education including:

  • The committee must include at least three faculty members.
  • The Chair must be tenured or tenure-track and a member of the Graduate Faculty.
  • The student’s advisor must be a member of the Graduate Faculty.

A request for an exception to these rules must be made in writing by the chairperson and approved by the College of Education Associate Dean for Academic Programs. For committee members outside of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a letter of justification and curriculum vitae must be submitted by the chair to the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office who will then submit it to the College of Education Associate Dean for Academic Programs and the Graduate College for approval.

After the committee is appointed, the oral examination takes place. A masters student is not required to be registered to take the oral examination. The chair obtains the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form from the departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office  prior to the examination and returns it immediately after the examination. All appointed committee members’ signatures are required on the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form; signatories must sign for themselves. Committee members have the right to review the final copy of the thesis before signing.

Thesis Deposit

All students who have successfully defended their theses must obtain departmental thesis/dissertation format approval prior to final deposit with the Graduate College Thesis Office. Departmental format approval consists of three parts:

  1. Chair and thesis committee,
  2. Head/Chair of department/program or authorized signatory, and
  3. Departmental thesis/dissertation format reviewer.  

Because revisions requested by the chair and thesis committee may cause a change in pagination or format, students should submit a PDF of the thesis to their departmental contact in the Graduate Student Services Office only after all revisions have been approved by the chair, thesis committee, and the head/chair of department/program or authorized signatory. The departmental thesis review process will not begin until prior approvals have been received. Theses must be received by the Graduate Student Services Office contact two weeks prior to the Graduate College masters thesis deposit deadline to allow an opportunity for revisions. Late submissions may result in a delay of the student's graduation and degree conferral. 

After the departmental format approval, the thesis is deposited in the Graduate College using the ETD process. Students should note the deadline dates for each degree-granting period.

Degree Certification Request

Prior to the date of degree conferral, a student may need verification that he or she has completed all requirements for the degree (e.g., for employment or visa renewal). At any time after degree requirements have been satisfied, the student may request a Degree Certification Letter or use the on-line Degree Verification system.