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CoE Graduate Handbook

Master of Arts and Master of Science Degree

The Master of Arts and Master of Science degree programs are for the student who has research interests in education. The student 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 M.A. and M.S. degrees in on-campus formats only.

Program Plan

Upon admission to a Master of Arts or a Master of Science program, each student is assigned an academic advisor. 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, including an Academic Progress Plan. 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. Students

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 coursework in Educational Psychology
        Any 400-level EPSY course or EPSY 553
      • 4 Hours: Philosophical and Social Foundations coursework in Curriculum and Instruction and/or Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
        CI 446, CI 501, EPOL 401, EPOL 402, EPOL 403, EPOL 405, EPOL 406, EPOL 407, EPOL 408, EPOL 409, EPOL 410, EPOL 412, EPOL 413, EPOL or EPOL 480
    • 12 hours of 500-level coursework in education (599 thesis research credit not included).
    • 12 hours of additional 400- or 500-level coursework selected by the student in consultation with an academic advisor (599 thesis research credit and 595 independent study may be applied up to a maximum of eight hours total.)
    • A minimum 2 hours of 599 thesis research is required.  

In addition to the specific requirements stated above, individual programs 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 thesis 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 master's final examination. Students should begin the approval process eight weeks prior to the examination.


The M.A. and M.S. degree students 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.

Thesis Editorial Style and Format Approval

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

  • American Psychological Association. (2019). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  • Harvard Law Review Association. (2020). The bluebook: A uniform system of citation (21st ed.). Cambridge, MA: Author.
  • Modern Language Association. (2021). MLA handbook for writers of research papers (9th ed.). New York, NY: Author.
  • Turabian, K. L. (2016). A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations (9th ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  • University of Chicago. (2017). The Chicago manual of style (17th 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 Graduate 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.

Thesis Abstract

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 Examination 

Thesis examinations are oral and must occur in person. The thesis examination committee chair/advisor is responsible for convening the committee, conducting the examination, and submitting the Thesis Approval (TDA) form to the Graduate Student Services Office after the exam.

A master's degree student is not required to be registered to take the oral examination.

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 obtain 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 committee chair must be a member of the Graduate Faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 
  • The committee chair must be on the tenure-track at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or have active tenure status awarded by the Graduate College after retirement or resignation that includes graduate faculty membership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • The student’s advisor, if a person other than the chair, must be a member of the Graduate Faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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 Graduate 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 Graduate Student Services Office. Upon approval by the department and College, the request for an outside member is then submitted to the Graduate College for approval.

After the committee is appointed, the oral examination takes place. The student brings the Master's Thesis Approval (TDA) Form to the examination and the chair returns it to the Graduate Student Services Office immediately after the examination. All appointed committee members’ signatures are required on the Master's Thesis Approval (TDA) Form. Signatories must sign for themselves. Committee members have the right to review the final copy of the thesis before signing.

Thesis Deposit

A student who has successfully defended a thesis 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 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 two weeks prior to the Graduate College master's 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.

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