Jun 19, 2024  
2024-2025, 2nd ed. General Catalog 
2024-2025, 2nd ed. General Catalog

Graduate Studies

Graduate Degrees

Graduate education at Sonoma State University provides opportunities for students to develop the ability to conduct independent study and research and to enhance their professional competence in their field of interest. In order to accommodate students who are unable to pursue graduate work on a full-time basis, many master’s programs at the University are scheduled to allow completion of degree requirements on a part-time basis over several semesters.

Descriptions of the following graduate programs are contained in academic department listings:

Residents Master’s Degree Programs



  • Wine Business Concentration
  • Executive Concentration


  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling Concentration
  • School Counseling Concentration

Cultural Resources Management, MA     








  (Not currently accepting applications)


Special Sessions Master’s Degree Program 

  (Not currently accepting applications)

  (Not currently accepting applications)


Graduate Admission Requirements

Admission requirements and procedures for graduate students are described in the Admissions section in this catalog. Admission to the University with unclassified post-baccalaureate standing does not in any way constitute admission to, or assurance of consideration for admission to, a graduate degree or credential program. Two admissions procedures are involved in pursuing graduate work at the University: 1) admission to the University; and 2) admission to the department offering the degree or credential program in which the student is interested. Students should, therefore, contact both the relevant department and the Admissions Office, (707) 664-2778. 

Change in Graduate Standing

Many students are admitted to the University in conditionally classified standing with contingencies to remove prior to becoming a classified student. This admission does not guarantee a space in the graduate program. Such a guarantee is obtained by a change in graduate standing to classified status verified by the program in question. Each department has its own procedures for evaluating the appropriateness of granting the student a place in their program. At the time this status is confirmed, a form is filed with the Admissions and Records Office and the Graduate Studies Office confirming the department’s approval of this change in status.

Advancement to Candidacy

Master’s degree students are advanced to candidacy when the department has assessed the academic and professional capacities of the student and is convinced that the student has the competence to complete all requirements for the degree, including the culminating project. Advancement to candidacy is done by filing the Advancement to Candidacy form (GSO1), which describes the culminating project, is approved by all of the members of the student’s advisory committee, and is reviewed by the Graduate Studies Office. Culminating projects, including theses, investigative projects, creative projects, and curriculum projects, are approved by the department and theses are reviewed by the Graduate Studies Office prior to clearance for the degree. Theses and projects are published by the Sonoma State Library and become part of its permanent digital collection.

General Requirements for the Master’s Degree

The following are university-wide requirements for the master’s degree. These should be considered to be minimum requirements. Degree programs may have their own requirements that are more restrictive or in addition to the requirements below. Please consult with the Graduate Program Coordinator for the degree program for the specific requirements.

  1. Master’s programs require a minimum of 30 semester units of approved coherent coursework.
  2. All courses applied to the program must be completed with an overall GPA of 3.00, and no course for which a final grade below C (2.00) is assigned may be used to satisfy this requirement.
  3. Coursework for a graduate program must be completed within 7 years of the graduation term, which is computed as 14 semesters. A maximum of one third (1/3) of all courses used to satisfy program degree requirements are eligible for validation (e.g. for a program requiring 36 units, 12 units are eligible for validation).
  4. A classified student must demonstrate, throughout enrollment in the graduate program, the level of competence required to be successful in the completion of the requirements. This evaluation of competence is primarily the responsibility of faculty actively teaching in the program.
  5. Advancement to candidacy is required and should be done before the student begins their culminating experience. Departments vary in the way they evaluate student competency and in what is required to advance the student to candidacy for the degree.  Advancement to candidacy requires completion of the GSO1 form.
  6. No fewer than one-half of the total units required shall be in graduate (500-level) coursework (e.g. degree requires 34 units, 17 must be at 500 level).
  7. A minimum of 21 units done in residence with a maximum of 30% of post baccalaureate coursework can be transferred in all methods (e.g. for a program requiring 60 units no more than 18 units can be transfer units).
  8. No more than 6 semester units shall be allowed for a thesis or project.
  9. No credit toward a master’s degree will be given for student teaching in a credential program.
  10. Up to one-third of the total program units may be in a nontraditional grading mode (credit/no credit).
  11. No classes completed as an undergraduate may be used except those granted provisional graduate credit prior to award of the baccalaureate degree.
  12. The candidate must complete a thesis, project, or comprehensive exam as required by the department. Culminating projects that are published by the library require review by the Graduate Studies Office, as well as final approval by the student’s faculty committee.
  13. A public defense of the thesis is required and may be required for a project.
  14. The student has four semesters to complete the thesis/project, including the first semester of enrollment for thesis units. The RP (Report in Progress) grade will remain until the student submits the culminating project. Projects taking more than four semesters to complete will require re-enrollment in the culminating experience units or an approval for extension by the Graduate Studies Office and/or may require reapplication to the program. Extensions shall be administered only in exceptional circumstances, when the program deems that serious and compelling reasons have kept the student from completing the culminating experience.

Continuous Enrollment Policy

Graduate students maintain Continuing Student Status in accordance with the Continuing Student Status Policy under the SSU Academic Regulations. Students who enroll in the Culminating Experience course as the final step toward completing their degree are expected to follow the Graduate Study Degree Completion Guidelines.

 If the student will not complete the culminating experience by the end of the semester they enrolled in the culminating experience course, they will receive a grade of RP (report in progress).

The student will retain Continuing Student Status for one semester after the semester in which they enrolled in their final course and may use this “grace period” to complete the culminating experience and graduate in that semester.  Programs may have additional enrollment requirements (e.g., to meet licensing/accreditation or summer-only requirements). Please check with your program coordinator.

Should the student require additional time beyond the one semester grace period to complete the culminating experience, to avoid being disenrolled from the university, the student must use one of the following mechanisms:

  • Enroll part time in coursework in the program (e.g. special topics)
  • Enroll in project continuation through extended education - note this course will not count towards the degree, but will maintain continuing student status
  • Take a leave of absence by submitting the Leave of Absence form by the deadline for the semester in question. This petition process would not extend the seven-year limitation on coursework applied to the degree. 

The student will have up to two additional semesters (four semesters total) to complete the course associated with the culminating experience.  The student must be enrolled in an appropriate graduate program course or in Project Continuation in order to graduate more than two semesters after taking the culminating experience course.

If, under extraordinary circumstances, after four semesters (this includes the semester in which the course was taken) the culminating experience is not complete, the student must re-enroll (with the approval of the program’s graduate coordinator) in the culminating experience course for at least one semester to re-establish matriculation and continuing student status.

Students who allow their enrollment to lapse for two semesters without taking a leave of absence will be considered to have withdrawn from the University and from their degree program. Should such students decide to return, they will be required to apply for readmission.

Updated March 2023

Validation of Expired Graduate Courses

As specified in Title V, coursework must be completed within seven years of award of degree. Courses taken within the program in residence more than seven years prior to the date of award of the degree may be validated through passing an assessment (oral or written) covering the subject matter involved or through repeating the course. Revalidation shall be administered only in exceptional circumstances, when the program deems that serious and compelling reasons have kept the student from completing the degree in the seven years. The nature of the assessment will be determined by the department in which the degree is to be granted, administered by a faculty subject expert, and approved by the Graduate Program Coordinator and the Associate Vice President of Academic Programs. A maximum of one third of all courses used to satisfy program degree requirements are eligible for validation.

Provisional Unclassified Graduate Status for Senior Students

Students who plan to complete upper-division or graduate-level courses in their final semester may petition for provisional unclassified graduate credit for such courses. Courses required for the baccalaureate will not be granted this provisional status. The petition must be filed at the same time as the application for award of the degree. Teaching credential candidates should consult the Department of Education about the advisability of such a petition.

Provisional unclassified post baccalaureate credit can be granted only for upper-division and graduate-level courses and will be recorded in the student’s academic record as earned prior to the award of the baccalaureate. Such credit is applicable to graduate objectives at the discretion of the relevant academic department. Should requirements for the baccalaureate not be completed by the date specified on the application, the petition for post baccalaureate credit becomes null and void.

Courses that may be included in a Master’s Program

300-499 Upper-division courses may be acceptable for graduate credit. See Provisional Unclassified Graduate Status for Senior Students, above.

500-599 Graduate courses degree. Teaching credential candidates should consult the Department of Education about the advisability of such a petition.

Stacking Undergraduate & Graduate Courses 

A course may be stacked1 between undergraduate & graduate levels if the course meets the following criteria:

  • The undergraduate course must be at the upper-division (300-400) level. Lower-division (100-200) level courses may not be used to fulfill post baccalaureate requirements and may not be stacked with graduate (500) level coursework.
  • Separate syllabi are required (per WSCUC) for the undergraduate and graduate components of the stacked course.
  • Topics (special topics) courses may not be stacked. Each undergraduate & graduate stacked course must be permanent and have appropriate approved course titles, descriptions, unit values, and CS codes.
  • Student enrollment in a stacked course is determined by specific programmatic policy for each course as approved through the governance review process. An antirequisite may be used by the program on 500-level courses cross-listed with 300/400-level courses to prevent enrollment in the 500 level course if the student already earned credit in the 300/400 level course.
  • It is recommended that the courses being stacked utilize matching course numbers and titles whenever possible. For example POLS 487 & POLS 587. 
  • When creating new undergraduate courses to be stacked with graduate courses, it is recommended that the undergraduate course be at the 400 level.

1   An undergraduate course and a graduate course offered together, meeting at the same time and place, with a shared class experience and instructor(s), but with more advanced learning outcomes, readings/assignments, grading rubric, and syllabi at the graduate level.