Graduate Catalog
2019-2020
 
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
Credit Hour Requirements for Degrees and Certificates
Master's Degree

Virginia Tech allows for both thesis and non-thesis master's degrees. For each degree type, the student's Plan of Study must meet the semester credit hours requirements shown below. Departments/programs may have additional requirements and an advisory committee may add specific requirements needed for an individual student's academic development. Graded credits must be taken for an A/F grade unless the course is only offered P/F (see Grading System Requirements). See Transfer Credit for policies about the transfer of graduate credits for use on the Plan of Study. See Undergraduates taking Graduate Courses for policies allowing Bachelor/Master's students at Virginia Tech to transfer some courses from the bachelor's degree to the master's degree (also referred to as double counting courses toward both degrees).

Thesis Master's

Minimum total credits: 30 credit hours

Minimum graded credits: 20 credit hours

  • May include a maximum of 6 credits of Virginia Tech 4000-level undergraduate course work
    • The 6 credits of Virginia Tech 4000-level course work may include Special Study (4984) courses but may not include Undergraduate Independent Study (4974) or Undergraduate Research (4994) courses.
  • All other graded course work must be 5000 level or higher (i.e., graduate course work)
  • The 5000-level course work may include a maximum of 6 credits total in 5974, 5984, and 6984 courses and 3 credits of seminar.

Minimum research credits: 6 credit hours of Master's Research (5994) taken at Virginia Tech.

Non-thesis Master's

Minimum total credits: 30 credit hours

Minimum graded credits: 24 credit hours

  • May include a maximum of 6 credits of Virginia Tech 4000-level undergraduate course work
    • The 6 credits of Virginia Tech 4000-level course work may include Special Study (4984) courses but may not include Undergraduate Independent Study (4974) or Undergraduate Research (4994) courses.
  • All other graded course work must be 5000 level or higher (i.e., graduate course work)
  • The 5000-level course work may include a maximum of 9 credits total in 5974, 5984, and 6984 courses and 3 credits of seminar.

Maximum project and report or research credits:

  • May include a maximum of 6 credits of Project and Report (5904) credits taken at Virginia Tech

Second Master's Degree

Second Master's Degree (both degrees at Virginia Tech). The requirements for a second master's degree (after the first master's has been completed) are the same as for the first master's degree: an additional 30-54 hours, depending on the degree sought. No more than 50% of appropriate graded course work, to meet the requirements for a master's degree, may be common to both degrees. For example, if one master's degree requires 20 credits of graded coursework and the other requires 30 credits of graded coursework, no more than 10 credits (50% of the graded work on the degree with lower graded credit requirements) can be used toward both degrees. No Research or Project and Report credits from the first master's degree can be used for the second master's degree. No credits can be triple-counted. If the first master's degree is from another university, see Transfer Credits.

Simultaneous Degrees

If a student wishes to pursue two graduate degrees in different departments simultaneously, an Application for Simultaneous Degree must be submitted http://graduateschool.vt.edu/content/dam/graduateschool_vt_edu/GAAPforms/simultaneous_degree.pdf . No more than 50% of appropriate graded course work requirements for a master's degree may be common to both degrees. For example, if one master's degree requires 20 credits of graded coursework and the other degree requires 30 credits of graded coursework, no more than 10 credits (50% of the graded work on the degree with lower credit requirements) can be used toward both degrees. No Research or Project and Report credits from one degree may be counted toward the other degree. No credits can be triple-counted.

Education Specialist Degree (Ed. S.)

The Education Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) is a post-master's program requiring 60 credit hours. The program consists of 30 credit hours (minimum) from Virginia Tech and up to 30 credit hours of transfer credit from the master's degree. At least 21 credit hours must be completed at Virginia Tech after acceptance into the Ed.S. degree program. In this program, candidates are expected to attain a broad and systematic understanding of professional education, a definitive knowledge of a particular field of specialization and the ability to integrate and apply theoretical concepts of education in an actual educational context. This graduate program is designed for the accomplished, experienced practitioner with special professional aspirations beyond the masters, but who generally does not wish to pursue a doctorate. The Ed.S. is designed to meet this need and is offered in several specialty areas.

Doctoral Degrees

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Doctoral degrees at Virginia Tech must meet the semester credit hour requirements listed below and include a dissertation that involves original research/scholarship. Departments/programs may have additional requirements and an advisory committee may add specific requirements needed for an individual student's academic development. Graded course work on the Plan of Study must be taken for an A/F grade unless the course is only offered P/F (see Grading System Requirements). Students can apply graded coursework credits taken at Virginia Tech for a master's degree at Virginia Tech to a doctoral plan of study in the same program area if the Advisory Committee considers the courses appropriate for the doctoral degree. No Research and Thesis or Project and Report credits from a master's degree can be used for a doctoral plan of study. See Transfer Credit for policies about the transfer of graduate credits for use on the Plan of Study.

Minimum total credits: 90 credit hours

Minimum graded credits: 27 credit hours

  • The Plan of Study may include a maximum of 6 credits of Virginia Tech graded 4000-level undergraduate course work.
    • The 6 credits of Virginia Tech 4000 level course work may include Special Study (4984) courses but may not include Undergraduate Independent Study (4974) or Undergraduate Research (4994) courses.
  • All other graded credits must be at the 5000 level or higher (i.e., graduate course work). Some departments have approval from the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies to reduce the minimum number of graded course work credits required for a specific degree program. See departmental degree requirements to determine if a department has approval for such changes in requirements.
    • The 5000-level course work may include a maximum 18 credits total in 5974, 5984, and 6984 courses and 4 credits of seminar.

Minimum research credits: 30 credit hours of Doctoral Research (7994).

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

The Graduate School course work requirements for the Ed.D. are the same as those listed above for the Ph.D. with the exception that the minimum number of Research and Dissertation 7994 credits is 24.The dissertation for the Ed.D. typically demonstrates the candidate's ability to investigate phenomena in educational institutions or service agencies to increase practitioners' understanding of practical problems and issues.

Residency Requirements for Doctoral Degrees
Doctoral Degrees

Virginia Tech offers three doctoral degrees:  the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), the Doctor of Education (EdD) and the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).  The PhD and EdD degrees are offered through the Graduate School and the DVM is offered through the College of Veterinary Medicine.  The PhD is a research degree that focuses on “basic research that expands the knowledge base of the field” while the EdD is focused more on “applied research related to professional practice” (Council of Graduate Schools, CGS, 2005).  The nature and purpose of the PhD is described as the following (CGS, 2005):

      “The Doctor of Philosophy program is designed to prepare a student become a scholar:  that is, to discover, integrate, and apply knowledge, as well as to communicate and disseminate it.  Such skills may lead to careers in social, governmental, educational, biomedical, business, and industrial organizations as well as in university and college teaching, research and administration.  The PhD. Program emphasizes the development of the student’s capacity to make significant original contributions to knowledge in a context of freedom of inquiry and expression.  A well-prepared doctoral student will have the ability to understand and critically evaluate the literature of the field and to apply appropriate principles and procedures to the recognition, evaluation, interpretation and understanding of issues and problems at the frontiers of knowledge.  The student also will have an appropriate awareness of and commitment to the ethical practices appropriate to the field.” (p. 1)

In accordance with the definition of doctoral degrees as involving mastery of intellectual principles, development of original scholarly contributions to the chosen field or fields, and critical evaluation of issues and problems in relevant disciplines, residency is required for all doctoral students at Virginia Tech. 

Doctoral Residency Guidelines

Residency allows students to concentrate focused time on their degree, acquire the necessary “habits, attitudes, skills, and insights” (CGS, 2005) required for contributions to scholarship, and have opportunities to work closely with other scholars including faculty and other graduate students.  These scholarly skills, attitudes, and experiences go beyond acquiring knowledge in classes and beyond experience in professional practice.

The Graduate School expects all graduate programs to encourage and provide opportunities for immersion of doctoral students in scholarship.  Residency goals can be achieved by multiple means, including but not limited to individual and group research training; providing access to resources such as libraries, research equipment, scholarly materials, and laboratories; providing networking opportunities with Virginia Tech and external scholars and graduate students; participation in scholarly seminars presented by scholars from Virginia Tech or elsewhere; assisting with developing applications for external funding of scholarly endeavors; participation at scholarly conferences; and publications or other forms of scholarly dissemination.

Residency for doctoral degree programs (PhD, EdD) can be accomplished through one of three mechanisms.

  • Two consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment:  Programs will be expected to provide opportunities during those two semesters to cultivate immersion in scholarship and achieve the goals of residency.   Students completing residency via full-time enrollment should understand residency goals and plan not only to complete required courses, but also to sustain scholarly engagement and immersion in research, scholarship and professional development.
  • Program-specific alternative residency plan:  Academic degree programs may propose alternative methods by which enrolled students will achieve residency goals to be approved by the Graduate School.  Program-specific alternatives may be proposed for doctoral degree programs offered outside Blacksburg or on the Blacksburg campus.
  • Individual alternative residency plan:  Proposals for alternative residency from individual students can be submitted for approval by the Graduate School.

Each academic degree unit should determine the mechanism through which the doctoral students can satisfy the residency requirement.  Academic units may utilize any or all of the three options as determined appropriate by the graduate program faculty.  For existing degree programs, the enrollment-based requirement will serve as the mechanism unless a specific request is made for a program-specific alternative residency plan.  For new degree programs, the mechanism for earning doctoral residency should be included in the proposal submitted for approval through the governance process.

Proposals for alternative residency plans (program-specific, individual) should include a description of how the alternative plan will help achieve the purposes and goals of doctoral residency:  Please provide strategies for each of the following goals:

Disciplinary depth and breadth

    • Access to a wide variety of classes and academic experiences in the student’s field and in related disciplines
    • Access to library, information technology, and laboratory resources
    • Quality and rigor of the program through involvement with and scrutiny by peers in other disciplines

Scholarly immersion

  • Development of the student’s capacity to make significant original contributions to knowledge in a context of freedom of inquiry and expression (e.g., individual and group research training, assisting with developing applications for external funding, participation at scholarly conferences, publications or other forms of scholarly dissemination). 
  • Ability to understand and critically evaluate the literature of the field and to apply appropriate principles and procedures to the recognition, evaluation, interpretation and understanding of issues and problems at the frontiers of knowledge.

Professional socialization

  • Substantial interaction with a large pool of faculty to obtain scholarly and disciplinary advice, perspective, and guidance
  • Interaction with fellow graduate students on professional issues
  • Provision of a broad range of professional development experiences to guard against over-specialization
  • Access to a wide spectrum of seminars, professional presentations, and contact with leaders in their own discipline as well as others

Professional practice

  • Awareness of and commitment to the ethical and regulatory principles and practices appropriate to the field.

Program-specific alternative residency proposals should clearly identify the various methods the program will utilize to promote scholarly immersion and achieve the goals of residency as discussed above.  The plan should consider the goals of residency and outline the ways these will be achieved, including specific activities and the timeframe as appropriate during which residency will be completed. Program-specific alternative residency plans should be submitted by the academic unit to the Graduate Dean for review and approval.  Proposals should be submitted at least one semester before the desired effective date for implementation. Proposals will be reviewed and feedback provided within 30 days of submission.  As needed, initial proposals can be revised for final review and approval. In addition, programs can submit revised or updated plans if elements of the degree program change.

Individual alternative residency proposals must be submitted by the student and faculty advisor/committee as appropriate to the Graduate School for review and approval. Students should begin planning with their advisors early in their degree programs.  Individual alternative residency plans must be submitted to the Graduate School as early as possible or at the latest, concurrent with submission of the Plan of Study.  Alternative residency will be approved by the Graduate Dean before approval of the Plan of Study

Recording of residency plans: All doctoral students should indicate the mechanisms by which they plan to earn residency on the Plan of Study form.  Should a change in residency plan be required, students can seek approval of such change via the Plan of Study Change form accompanied by relevant documentation.

 

Second Doctoral Degree

A student who is seeking a second doctoral degree, regardless of whether the first was earned at this university, must earn a minimum of 48 additional semester credits and must satisfy the residency requirements specified for the doctoral degree at Virginia Tech. No credits can be triple-counted.

Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates can be awarded to individuals who do not desire to work toward a degree as well as to students who are working on graduate degrees.  Of the graduate course work (5000-level or higher courses) for the certificate, at least 2/3 must be graded course work taken on the A/F grading option.  Certificates must include a minimum of 9 credit hours of Virginia Tech graduate course work credits.  No transfer credits can be applied to graduate certificates.  No more than 50% of the credits for a graduate certificate can be double-counted across multiple graduate certificates. All credits for a graduate certificate can duplicate credits on a degree plan of study.  All grades for certificate courses must be "C" or higher and the overall certificate GPA must be 3.0 or higher.  The specific requirements for each certificate can be found on the Graduate School Certificate Page: https://secure.graduateschool.vt.edu/graduate_catalog/certificates.htm.  Certificate candidates must be admitted to the Graduate School and formally accepted to the certificate program: http://graduateschool.vt.edu/admissions/how-to-apply.html

Upon successful completion of certificate requirements, an Application For Certificate Conferral
 http://graduateschool.vt.edu/content/dam/graduateschool_vt_edu/GAAPforms/Application_for_Degree_or_Certificate.pdf must be signed by the department and submitted by the Application for Degree deadline in the term in which the certificate will be awarded.  Meeting this deadline is necessary for the student's name to appear in the commencement bulletin. http://graduateschool.vt.edu/academics/commencement_deadlines.