Plan A Master's Degree Handbook

What follows is a combined listing of program and Graduate School requirements and a suggested timeline. It is understood that each student's situation is unique and that the actual timeline for each student may vary, but it is important to remember that all master's degrees conferred by the University of Minnesota must be earned within five calendar years of initial enrollment in the program. Additional information about completing a Masters Degree at the University of Minnesota can be found on the Graduate Student Services and Progress (GSSP) website.

Additionally, please see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Prior to Arriving on Campus

  • Your relationship with your advisor(s) is arguably the most important relationship you will have in graduate school. Early on, communicate with your advisor(s) about your role as their student, mutual expectations, your assistantship (if applicable), and courses you plan to take for the first semester.
  • Students may choose to refer to the Advisor-Advisee Agreement (PDF) document to help facilitate conversations, and may choose to discuss completing the document with the advisor. 
  • Consider consulting the Best Advising Practices (PDF) document as well. 
  • Register for classes with the help of your advisor(s). If you're new to the University, you'll need to activate your University e-mail address
  • Be sure to enroll in our required orientation course, NR 8101

Upon Arrival

  • Meet with your advisor(s) and establish a meeting schedule. This can vary a great deal from person to person - some students meet weekly with their advisor; others may meet once or twice a month or less seldom. It is also common for this to change from semester to semester depending upon the student's needs. 
  • Introduce yourself to the NRSM Program Coordinator and Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).
  • Go to your major advisor's departmental office to visit departmental administrator. Here you will likely obtain a mailbox, office assignment, keys, employment forms, and information about your assistantship (if applicable).
    • If you do have an assistantship, you will likely need to provide various documents to a payroll contact to make sure you are eligible to work at the University. 

First Year

  • Work with major advisor(s) to identify thesis topic and develop research prospectus.
  • Prepare and submit your GPAS Degree Plan, ideally during the second or third semester. The NRSM Research Plan form must accompany the submission of the degree plan and will help you shape the write-up of your research prospectus. 
    • Your advisor has the option of submitting their portion directly to the program coordinator or giving it to you for inclusion with the rest of the document. 
    • Please note that approval of the degree and research plans can take up to a month. 
  • Meet with major advisor(s) at the end of each academic year to complete an Annual Student Review and discuss degree progress and goals for the future. This is a mandatory process, and each spring we will share necessary information for completing it. 

Second Year/Final Examination

  • Complete Course Requirements:
    • 10 thesis credits - NR 8777 (may be taken at any time),
    • 1 credit NRSM Seminar - NR 8107 (required), 
    • 19 (or more) additional coursework credits.
    • If you have completed thesis credits and otherwise qualify, complete the advanced Master's status form and register for NR 8333. This special registration status allows you to maintain full-time status, which enables you to maintain an assistantship or fellowship. For international students, it generally allows you to maintain your visa status as well.
  • Submit your examination committee using the Graduate School's online reporting process, Assign/Update Master's Final Committee
    • The Graduate School requires that the approved degree plan be on file before you officially submit your committee.
  • Apply to graduate no later than the first day of the anticipated month of graduation.
    • Review the date ranges and deadlines for monthly graduation at:
    • Schedule the Final Oral Examination with your advisor and committee members. Discuss whether or not you will give a public presentation. Some advisors will expect you to do this. If so, share meeting information (date, time, location, etc.) with the program coordinator, as well as your title and abstract. The final meeting between defending students and their examination committee is always a closed door exam. 
    • Initiate your Reviewers’ Report form at least one week before your final exam.
    • Your committee chair will receive instructions about processing the final exam form.
    • Prior to the last business day of the month, initiate your Thesis/Dissertation Approval & Deposit Agreement.
      • Your advisor must submit their approval no later than the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation, so you will need to plan accordingly. 
    • Submit your thesis to ProQuest no later than the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation. Details about thesis formatting requirements and submission are available at
    • Visit the GSSP Website for more information about MS forms, degree completion, and the final examination. 
    • Return keys to your department, along with any other equipment you may have borrowed.