Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
Graduate Degree and Certificate Requirements
General Degree Requirements for Graduate Students

For a graduate student, the university degree requirements are those identified in the Graduate Catalog (Policies and Procedures) effective for the academic year in which the student files the Plan of Study. If the requirements will change in the coming academic year (cases where the governance system has set new policy to be effective at the beginning of the next academic year), the graduate student may choose, but is not required, to abide by the "new" requirements. For graduate students not enrolled for more than one calendar year, requirements will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis at the time of Readmission.

Scholarly Ethics and Integrity

All graduate students are expected to uphold the Virginia Tech Principles of Community and the Graduate School’s Expectations for Graduate Education as well as the scholarly integrity and research ethics standards of their disciplines. Graduate students must complete degree program requirements for learning about 4 required scholarly ethics and integrity topics plus additional topics relevant to the discipline as follows.


Required topics  :

1. Plagiarism and other violations of the Graduate Honor Code

2. Proper use of professional conventions in citation of existing research and scholarship, accurate reporting and ownership of

     findings, and acknowledgement of contributions to the work

3. Ethical standards in teaching, mentoring, and professional activities

4. Available avenues for reporting alleged misconduct


Additional topics, as relevant to the discipline  :

1. Appropriate lab procedures and maintenance of lab notebooks and other research documentation

2. Fair use of publications, software, and equipment

3. Appropriate research protocols involving human and animal subjects; Institutional Review Board and/or Institutional Animal Care

    and Use Committee certification

4. Guidelines for maintenance of confidentiality (and, where relevant, anonymity) in research

5. Guidelines for determination of authorship

6. Appropriate grant and contract management, including appropriately asserting personal or program capacities and

    competencies when applying for grants and contracts

7. Discipline‐ or field‐specific professional ethics

Plan of Study

Submission and Approval

Submission and Approval. All graduate students must submit a Plan of Study that meets at least the minimum Graduate School requirements for the designated degree. The Plan of Study must be approved by the student’s Advisor and Advisory Committee, the Graduate Program Director or Department Head, and the Graduate School. All courses on the Plan of Study, including supporting courses, must be taken on a letter grade (A/F) basis except for those courses approved to be graded on a pass-fail (P/F) basis only. Audit courses cannot be included on the Plan of Study. After approval by the student's Advisory Committee and the Graduate Program Director or Department Head, the Plan of Study should be entered and sent electronically to the Graduate School for approval, according to the following schedule.


Master’s: The Plan of Study is due by the end of the second academic semester for all Master's degree students (based on full time enrollment of 12 credits per semester). For the Master of Architecture or Master of Urban and Regional Planning degrees, the Plan of Study is due before 30 credit hours are completed. For Bachelors/Masters students, the Plan of Study is due by the end of the first full semester of graduate study.


Ph.D.: The Plan of Study is due by the end of the third academic semester for all doctoral students (based on full time enrollment).


Ed.D.: The Plan of Study is due no later than 30 days after the successful completion of the required qualifying examination. The qualifying exam is an Ed.D. requirement, not a Graduate School requirement.

Transfer Courses on the Plan of Study

Transfer Courses on the Plan of Study. No more than 50% of the graded credit hours needed to satisfy the requirements for a Virginia Tech graduate degree may be transferred in from a regionally accredited university. All such credits must have earned grades of "B" or better, have been earned while in good standing in graduate status, and must have been graduate courses (numbered 5000 or higher) at the institution where the student took the courses. Grades of "S" or "P" are not acceptable for transfer credit. All transfer courses must be acceptable to the student’s Advisory Committee and the Graduate Program Director or Department Head. For transfer course work more than five years old, a Justification of 'Old' Course Work form must be filed with the Plan of Study (see below).

Credits from other universities are transferred to a Virginia Tech graduate degree at the time the Plan of Study that includes those courses is approved by the Graduate School. Transferred courses count only as credit hours and are not included in the calculation of the Virginia Tech GPA. Official transcripts are required before transfer course work can be approved for the Plan of Study.

Research, Project and Report, Practicum or Internship credit hours may not be transferred in from another university to meet Virginia Tech graduate degree requirements (i.e., they cannot be included on the Plan of Study). Credits taken while in undergraduate status or for an undergraduate degree cannot be used as transfer credit for a graduate degree.

Justification of ’Old’ Course Work

Justification of ’Old’ Course Work. Academic work, including transfer credit more than five years old at the time the Plan of Study is submitted, requires Justification for inclusion on the plan. The Justification form requires an Advisory Committee explanation of how the committee will insure that the student will update their knowledge for out-of-date courses. The Course Justification Request form is at and some procedural guidelines are at Justifications remain valid throughout the degree unless the student is out of enrollment for a period exceeding one calendar year. Justification of “old” course work and review of the Plan of Study occurs at the time of re-admission.

Supporting Courses

Supporting Courses. Supporting courses are those the student's Advisory Committee considers necessary to provide missing background for taking the key courses required for the student's degree program. Courses numbered lower than 4000 can only be used on the Plan of Study as Supporting Courses. All courses listed on the Plan of Study, including Supporting Courses are requirements for the degree and must be completed with a grade of "C" or better. However, supporting courses do not count toward the minimum number of credit hours required for the degree.

Plan of Study Changes

Plan of Study Changes. A Plan of Study Change Form     is necessary whenever changes are made to the course work on the Plan of Study. Changes to the Plan of Study must be approved by the student's Advisory Committee, the Department Head or Graduate Program Director and the Graduate School. Once a course on the Plan of Study has been taken for a grade, it must remain on the Plan of Study.

Change of Thesis Option

Change of Thesis Option. A master's degree candidate is allowed to change from the thesis to the non-thesis option (or vice versa) only once. These changes require approval of the Department Head/Graduate Program Director and the Chair of the student's Advisory Committee. Use this form: Such changes often require changes in the coursework and Plan of Study.

Grades on Plan of Study Courses

Grades on Plan of Study Courses. All graded courses on the Plan of Study must be taken for a letter grade (A/F) except for those courses offered on a pass/fail (P/F) basis only (for example, Independent Study courses and many seminars are only P/F). Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA or better on the Plan of Study course work. Once a course on the Plan of Study is taken for a grade, it must remain on the Plan of Study.

Repeating Courses on the Plan of Study

Repeating Courses on the Plan of Study. Students are required to repeat any courses on the Plan of Study in which a grade below "C-" has been earned. Courses may not be repeated if a "P" grade is earned or without permission of the Graduate School if a grade of "C-" or better is earned. After a course has been repeated, the grade for the first enrollment will be Repeat Graduate (RG, defined as a "C-" or lower; RP, defined as a grade of "C" or higher when the course was first taken). Only the most recent enrollment in the course will receive a letter grade and be calculated in the GPA.

Graduate Advisory Committees

Committee Functions

Committee Functions: The student's Advisory Committee works with the student to design a Plan of Study, approves the Plan of Study, provides advice, conducts required examinations and regularly assesses the student's progress and accomplishments. Advisory Committee members are appointed by the Graduate School on recommendation of the Department Head or Graduate Program Director by submission of a Plan of Study listing the proposed committee members.

Committee Size and Composition

Committee Size: Master's students must have an advisory committee of at least three faculty members with a Master's degree or higher. In some instances, it is appropriate to have fewer (minimum of 1) faculty members serving on the advisory committee for students earning a coursework-only degree (e.g., MBA). Departments offering coursework-only degrees can petition the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies for approval to reduce the size of the committee.

Doctoral candidates must have an Advisory Committee of at least four faculty members with a doctoral degree. Requests to expand an Advisory Committee by one member lacking these qualifications may be made to the Dean's office of the Graduate School.

Graduate Advisors (Chairs of Advisory Committees) must be teaching/research faculty (full time, tenured or tenure track faculty at Virginia Tech, i.e., Graduate Program Faculty). A department may request that qualified non-tenure track faculty (e.g., Research or Clinical Professors, Professors of Practice, or Emeritus faculty who are research active) be approved as members of the Graduate Program Faculty of a department for purposes of having Co-chair privileges. Department heads/chairs or Graduate Program Directors may nominate such persons for Graduate Program Faculty status using the form at . If the Chair of an Advisory Committee leaves the university or retires during the student's degree, the department should consult with the Dean's Office of the Graduate School to determine the most appropriate continuing committee composition for advising of the student to degree completion.

Committee members on Advisory Committees: Full time, tenure track, teaching/research faculty may serve on graduate committees throughout the university. Committee service by other qualified individuals, inside or outside the university may be requested by the department (see section below, Committee Service by Personnel Other Than Tenure Track Teaching/Research Faculty at Virginia Tech).

The student should refer to the departmental policies and procedures document for any specific guidelines for graduate Advisory Committee service within the department/program. It is appropriate, but not required, that the Advisory Committee includes at least one faculty member from outside the student's major department.

Faculty members are not permitted to serve as Advisor or committee member for family members (spouse or dependent immediate family member), nor for individuals with whom they have a close personal relationship such as partner or extended family member, or a close professional relationship such as business associate or supervisor.  

 A faculty member with a significant financial interest may not serve as sole advisor of a dissertation or thesis committee for a student who is funded through a university sponsored project supported by the advisor's company, or for a student who is employed directly by the faculty member's company. The faculty member with the conflict may serve as co-chair or committee member. If another co-chair is appointed, that faculty member must be of equal or greater rank, must not be involved with the sponsoring company, and must not be subject to undue influence by the faculty-owner. See Policy 13010 for a complete description of the disclosures and protections required in such instances. 

See also Eligibility of Faculty/Staff for Graduate Degrees.

Graduate students (including those VT employees who are pursuing graduate degrees) may not serve on a graduate Advisory and/or Examining Committee.

Committee Service by Personnel Other Than Tenure Track Teaching/Research Faculty at Virginia Tech

Committee Service by Personnel Other Than Tenure Track Teaching/Research Faculty at Virginia Tech: Personnel with suitable academic training and research experience who are not Virginia Tech full time, tenure track or tenured, teaching/research faculty, may be recommended for inclusion on a graduate student Advisory and/or Examining Committee. This category includes personnel from outside Virginia Tech, as well as Administrative/Professional Faculty, Instructors, Adjunct Faculty, Retired or Emeritus Faculty, and Staff at Virginia Tech. Such personnel must have a graduate degree at or above the degree being sought. Approval of the inclusion of such personnel is granted at the time the Plan of Study is approved by the Graduate School. If the person is on a temporary appointment there should be assurance that he/she will be available throughout the student's degree. These personnel may make up no more than one-third of the minimum committee membership, may share thesis/dissertation supervision responsibilities, and enjoy voting rights and privileges. Inclusion of committee members in these categories is requested by the student's Advisory Committee Chair and Graduate Program Director using the Graduate Program Faculty form .  A curriculum vitae for the proposed committee member should be included with the form and the particular advantages of including this person on the committee should be cited. Once the registration form has been filed for an individual, a new form is not required for service on additional committees. Before submitting a registration request, check the list of approved Graduate Program Faculty and Additional Committee Members at

Changes in a Student's Advisory Committee

Changes in a Student's Advisory Committee: will be granted only on approval of all committee members, new and old, and on recommendation by the Department Head or Graduate Program   In the case that one or more members does not approve the change in the membership of the Advisory Committee, an appeal may be made by either the student or a faculty member to the Department Head. If the Department Head considers the appeal to have merit, he/she may then ask the Graduate School for an exception to all members signing the form.