Enrolling at WKU
Graduate Records provides student services including: matriculation document processing; academic standing audits; thesis and dissertation review and publication; administration of Joint Undergraduate Master's Programs (JUMP); graduate catalog publication; and final degree audits. Graduate Records works closely with individual academic advisors, program coordinators, the University Registrar, Graduate Council, and other university personnel to advocate for and support graduate students.
The minimum semester credit requirement for master’s degrees is thirty (30) credits. Individual programs may require more credits. Only those courses listed on a graduate Program of Study are applicable toward meeting graduate degree credit requirements. Six (6) to fifteen (15) thesis credits may be applied to meet the 30 credit minimum required for the degree. However, additional thesis hours may be taken to complete the thesis and will appear on the student’s transcript.
Specialist in Education Degree
The minimum semester credit requirement for the Specialist in Education degree is thirty (30) credits beyond the master’s degree or sixty (60) credits for programs that do not require a master’s degree for admission. Individual programs may require more credits. Only those courses listed on a graduate Program of Study are applicable toward meeting the Specialist in Education degree credit requirement. Six (6) to fifteen (15) thesis credits may be applied to meet the 30 credit minimum required for the degree. However, additional thesis hours may be taken to complete the thesis and will appear on the student’s transcript.
The minimum semester credit requirement for the doctoral degree is sixty (60) credits post-baccalaureate or thirty (30) credits post-master's in a related field. Individual programs may require more credits. Only those courses listed on a graduate Program of Study are applicable toward meeting graduate degree credit requirements. Twelve (12) to thirty (30) dissertation credits may be applied to the 60 credit minimum required for the post-baccalaureate to doctoral degree. Six (6) to fifteen (15) dissertation credits may be applied to the 30 credit minimum required for the post-masters to doctoral degree. Additional dissertation hours may be taken to complete the dissertation and will appear on the student’s transcript.
Degree and Certificate Completion
All degree and certificate requirements must be completed by the student by the last day of the term. The Graduate School begins auditing degrees and certificates for completion the week following the final day of the term. The degree audit confirms that the student has:
- applied for graduation;
- completed all coursework on the approved Program of Study within the time limit;
- completed a comprehensive exam/capstone (degrees only);
- submitted a thesis, specialist project, or dissertation approved by the Graduate School (if required);
- earned a minimum cumulative and program GPA of 3.0;
- no incomplete grades on the transcript; and,
- met all financial requirements.
Degree audits are completed within four to six weeks after the term concludes. Upon recommendation of the audit, the University Registrar confers the degree and/or certificate. Degrees are conferred in May, August, and December. Students may check their transcript for completion on TopNet (under Student Services/Student Records/Unofficial Academic Transcript). Degrees and certificates will be mailed within 3-6 weeks after the conclusion of the term. The Graduate School does not confirm degree or certificate completion prior to award; however, enrollment verification may be requested.
Upon admission to a graduate program, each student is assigned a major advisor in the respective department. Students pursuing a thesis, specialist project or dissertation will select a graduate faculty member to chair his or her research project at which time the student’s primary advisor will be updated to reflect the committee chair.
Although student advising at Western Kentucky University is specifically designed to assist students as they progress through degree programs, it is the responsibility of all students to know all rules, regulations, and requirements pertaining to graduate study. Students may request an advisor change via the Graduate School website.
Program of Study
All graduate degree seeking students must submit a planned program of study to the Graduate School for final approval. The program of study serves as a contract between the student and the university and defines the minimum requirements for the degree. The program of study is developed jointly by the graduate advisor and the student. Programs of study must adhere to the approved degree program curriculum as published in the Graduate Catalog in the academic year in which the student was admitted or may follow the program curriculum in the current academic year. Certificate seeking students do not need to submit a program of study form and will follow the curriculum as published in the Graduate Catalog at the time of admission.
Students in graduate education programs which lead to teacher certification must have their programs of study approved by the WKU Educator Certification Officer prior to submission to the Graduate School.
A maximum of 12 hours of graduate coursework may be duplicated on one additional graduate degree.
Students must submit programs of study to the Graduate School as follows: Master's & Specialist - within first 12 hours; Doctoral - within first 30 hours.
All graduate programs must ensure student engagement in research and/or appropriate professional practice and training experience. This requirement is defined by the individual academic programs and may include but is not limited to completion of a research tool course, successful completion a foreign language examination, or professional practice experience.
*See Transfer Credit
Program of Study Change
Programs of study may be amended. Final approval should be obtained prior to enrollment in the course(s) affected by the requested change.
Admission to Candidacy
(Doctor of Education and Doctor of Psychology Only)
Admission to Candidacy is required for Doctor of Education and Doctor of Psychology students which includes passing a qualifying exam or equivalent assessment. Admission to Candidacy is administered by the respective programs and successful completion is reported to the Graduate School.
Thesis, Specialist Project, or Dissertation
Students pursuing the master's degree (thesis option) or specialist degree must complete at least 6 hours of credit in 599-Thesis Research and Writing or 699-Specialist Project, respectively. Students pursuing a doctoral degree requiring a dissertation must earn a minimum of 9 hours of credit in 799-Dissertation Research. All thesis, specialist project, and dissertation hours will use a pass/fail grading system. Thesis & Dissertation Guidelines are published by the Graduate School.
Students pursuing graduate programs requiring a thesis, specialist project or dissertation are mentored by a research committee of three to four members including a chair. A member of WKU’s graduate faculty must serve as the chair. An individual who is not a member of WKU’s graduate faculty may serve on a committee. Students may assist in the formation of the committee, but final approval of the composition of the thesis, specialist project, or dissertation committee lies with the Dean of the Graduate School. Once the committee is identified, then a completed Committee and Topic Selection form must be submitted for approval to the Dean of the Graduate School.
If the thesis, specialist, or dissertation project is not completed during the initial period of registration for this credit, the student must maintain matriculation by enrolling in a minimum of (1) credit hour of a 600 (thesis), 700 (project), or 800 (dissertation) course until the thesis or project is submitted and approved by the Graduate School. Further, students must be enrolled in a minimum of one (1) credit hour of maintaining matriculation during the term in which the defense is held. Enrollment in matriculation courses does not result in a grade or credit toward any degree or non-degree program.
A defense covering the thesis, specialist project, or dissertation must be completed if required by the degree program. The defense usually consists of a public presentation and an oral examination of the candidate’s research and academic preparation. The defense is arranged by the committee chair and the student, and is given before the final draft is completed. Each member of the committee should be given a minimum of two (2) weeks notification before the defense to read and review the research. Following the approval of defense by the student’s committee, the thesis, specialist project, or dissertation is submitted to the Graduate School for final approval and publication. Submission Deadlines are posted annually.
Students will pass the defense if no more than one member casts a dissenting vote. If a student does not pass this culminating assessment, the committee may grant a student permission to attempt a second defense which will be administered under conditions stipulated by the committee. A student who has failed the defense may be re-examined once more by the committee. Failure to pass the second defense may result in dismissal from the program. Students who are dismissed from the program due to a failed defense are ineligible to reapply for the same graduate degree program at any time in the future.
All graduate degree programs require satisfactory completion of either a written or oral examination or an approved capstone course. The comprehensive exam and thesis/specialist project/dissertation defense may be combined in those degree programs that require a defense. Examinations for professional licensure or certification cannot be used for, or in place of, the comprehensive examination/capstone. Students must meet the following guidelines before they are permitted to attempt the comprehensive examination:
File an approved program of study with the Graduate School;
Complete at least one half of the course work hours in an approved program;
Have no more than 9 hours remaining in the approved program;
Complete additional requirements as specified in writing by faculty in the program department.
For thesis/specialist project/dissertation students, the oral examination committee will be the approved research committee. For non-thesis students, the major advisor, in consultation with the student, appoints the oral examination committee consisting of at least two graduate faculty members. If the student's program includes a concentration, or a significant amount of course work in an area outside the major program, one of the committee members must represent that area. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all committee members are available when scheduling an examination.
The comprehensive exam is graded pass/fail determined by a majority committee vote. The research committee chair is responsible for submitting the results of the comprehensive examination/capstone to the Graduate School. For non-thesis students, the primary advisor is responsible for submission.
A student must be registered for a minimum of one (1) credit during the term in which the comprehensive exam/capstone is completed.
A student who has failed the comprehensive examination may be re-examined once more by the committee. Failure to pass the second comprehensive examination may result in dismissal from the program. Students who are dismissed from the program due to a failed comprehensive examination are ineligible to reapply for the same graduate degree program at any time in the future.
Joint Undergraduate-Master’s Degree Programs (JUMP)
JUMP programs provide academically outstanding students the opportunity to complete both an undergraduate and graduate degree in approximately five years. Qualified students who have been admitted to a JUMP program may complete a maximum of 18 graduate hours as an undergraduate student and count a maximum of 12 hours on both the undergraduate and graduate transcript as prescribed by the program. Students will apply to Graduate School upon or before earning more than 18 graduate hours. Each JUMP program has individualized admission criteria. Search "JUMP" in this catalog for a complete list of programs and contact the academic department for additional information.
Undergraduate Student Enrollment in Graduate Courses
Undergraduate students at Western Kentucky University may request to enroll in graduate courses by submitting an "Undergraduate Taking Graduate Courses" form to the Graduate School. Conditions for approval include:
- at least 75 undergraduate credit hours earned; and
- a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.
Undergraduate students may accumulate a maximum of 12 graduate credits. In addition, undergraduate students are restricted to a maximum of 15 hours enrollment per term, including graduate and undergraduate credits. All graduate coursework will be on the graduate transcript. To move the coursework to the undergraduate transcript students should contact the Office of the Registrar.