Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
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.