San Francisco State University has four doctoral degree options, one CSU degree and three joint doctoral degrees with the University of California.

Students accepted into the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership must work closely with the program advisors. They should also obtain the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Handbook for a comprehensive view of all requirements for the degree. Ed.D. students should apply to SFSU via CSU Mentor and apply directly to the program. Access for required program application forms.

Students accepted into joint UC/SFSU doctoral degrees in special education or students accepted into joint UCSF/SFSU doctoral degrees in physical therapy should work very closely with their advisers at both campus sites to ensure that all policies and procedures required by both universities are being followed. Students in joint doctoral degrees should apply first through the joint UC program. Procedures for continuing student performance in doctoral programs are different from those required for students in master’s programs. See department/program information in this Bulletin or contact the department office or website for specific requirements and program information.


See detailed section on the GAP below. To award the master’s degree, SFSU requires that all graduate students must:


Each graduate student must demonstrate the ability to write English correctly and effectively. To assure that each graduate student has the required proficiency in written English, two distinct assessments are made by the major department: Level I and Level II. The Level I requirement may be a passing grade on the Graduate Essay Test (GET), the Analytical Writing section of the GRE or the GMAT or a placement exam or portfolio of work as determined by the department. Requirements for each program area can be obtained from the major department. If a writing deficiency exists, the student will be advised to take specific courses to develop writing skills in English at a level acceptable to the major department. Some students, especially those with low TOEFL scores or poor writing performance on examinations or portfolios will be admitted with the condition to complete additional writing courses. The Level II writing requirement is determined by the department/program and is usually associated with completion of the Culminating Experience or may be related to a designated course.


The plan of study that must be completed prior to award of the degree is documented on the Graduate Approved Program (GAP) form. The GAP can be submitted to Graduate Studies after completing at least nine semester units and no later than the semester prior to enrollment for the final six units of graduate work. The GAP must be approved by the graduate major adviser and the graduate coordinator of the student’s department or program, and then be submitted to the dean of Graduate Studies for evaluation and approval. Once the GAP is accepted and approved, the student is advanced to classified status. Any change in the GAP requires the filing of a Petition for GAP Course or Committee Substitution, including all required signatures, with Graduate Studies. GAP forms are available at the Graduate Studies website and are specific to each degree program. Forms must be completed online and downloaded for signature and submission. Students who have submitted their GAPs can check on their status by accessing the MySFSU link from the SFSU main page website.

A GAP will be valid as long as the student maintains continuous enrollment status with the university as defined in the Bulletin. Any time a student is required to reapply for admission to the university, he/she must also reapply for admission to the major department. If readmitted, a new GAP must be completed that meets current curricular requirements. For students admitted conditionally classified, submission of a signed and approved GAP will signify that all conditions have been met. The following minimum standards apply to all Graduate Approved Programs.

Units included on GAP

Requests for substitutions, adding or removing courses on the GAP must be approved prior to submission of the GAP. The Petition for GAP Substitution form is available on the Graduate Studies web page. Reasons for waivers or substitutions to the program must be included on the form. Students who do not complete all required course work, the written English requirement, and the Culminating Experience within the seven-year time limit as required by the California Code of Regulations, Title 5 should refer to the section on Time Limit to Complete Requirements for Graduate Degrees.

GAP Grading Standards

Units in Residence

English Proficiency

Culminating Experience


In accordance with Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, the Culminating Experience must be met by the satisfactory completion of a thesis, special project, comprehensive examination, or a combination of more than one of these. An oral defense of the work is normally required. Students must file a Proposal for Culminating Experience that has been approved by program faculty. This form must be submitted subsequent to or simultaneous with the GAP form. Students are not permitted to enroll in a Culminating Experience course until both of these forms have been approved by Graduate Studies. The types of Culminating Experiences are:

Comprehensive Examination (Check Department Requirements)

The comprehensive examination is a written and/or oral examination that is prepared and administered by the major department so students can demonstrate their ability to integrate the content knowledge, independent thinking, and critical analysis, and, as may be appropriate, accuracy of documentation. The results of the examination (pass or fail) are reported to Graduate Studies on a Report of Completion form by the deadline date indicated in the university calendar.

A candidate who fails a comprehensive examination will be provided an opportunity to retake the examination at least one more time. The conditions for repeating an examination (e.g., number of times, elapse of time required), the faculty review and grading processes are stated in the departmental description of the graduate program.


Course 890, Special Courses for Education and Gerontology only (see department handbooks)

Course 892, Supervised Field Internship: A supervised field internship involves the placement of the student in a work experience situation. The student is expected to establish the written goals to be addressed. A written report addressing the significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion is required. An oral defense of the report may be required by the department. A Report of Completion form must be filed in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the university calendar.

Course 893, Written Creative Work: This Culminating Experience requirement is restricted to graduate students in the creative writing program and may consist of a short story, novel, series of poems, and/or play in which students demonstrate a unique style of writing. An annotation page must be completed and filed as a part of the final work. Students completing a written creative work should review and follow the Guidelines for the Preparation and Submission of Theses and Written Creative Works (available at or from the Rapid Copy Center in the Library).

Course 894, Creative Work Project: This Culminating Experience is a musical composition, a series or group of paintings, a performance, a film, or other creative endeavor, as specified by the program. This option is only available in selected degree programs. A Report of Completion form must be filed in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the university calendar. These projects must be described in a written document that summarizes the project’s significance, objectives, creative methodology, and a conclusion. An oral defense of the project may be required. Note: MUS 894 for students with composition emphasis requires that a bound copy of the music manuscript be filed with the library, so both a Report of Completion and a Receipt for Thesis or Written Creative Work are required.

Course 895, Field Study or Applied Research Project: This Culminating Experience is a field study or research project. It must incorporate the application of knowledge and techniques acquired in the student’s program of study. The field study or research project must be described in a written document which includes the project’s significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion. An oral defense of the project may be required. A Report of Completion form must be filed in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the university calendar. Students usually complete the project in the format of an appropriate journal or disciplinary publication.

Course 898, Thesis: A thesis is the written product of an original study. It demonstrates clarity of purpose, critical and independent thinking, and accurate and thorough documentation. Normally an oral defense of the thesis will be required. Students completing a thesis should review and follow the Guidelines for the Preparation and Submission of Theses and Written Creative Works found through the Graduate Studies web site or from the Rapid Copy Center in the Library.


The Culminating Experience is usually the expression of a single student’s work; however, the university recognizes that there are some circumstances that warrant joint/group projects. At no time will more than three students be able to submit a group project. In such instances, an attachment signed by each student and by the Culminating Experience committee chair must be appended to the Proposal for Culminating Experience form that identifies the names of other authors and describes the project and the specific responsibilities of each author. The division of responsibilities specified must be reviewed, endorsed, and subsequently evaluated by the students’ Culminating Experience committee members. Each student must complete an identifiable written component of the work.


Regardless of the Culminating Experience being completed, a committee must be established to evaluate whether the student has satisfactorily completed the final requirement for the degree.

To officially change the composition of his/her committee, a student must submit a Petition for GAP Substitution or Committee Revision form to Graduate Studies.


Any research conducted by a student that involves human and/or animal subjects requires the approval of the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) and/or the University Animal Care and Use Committee (UACUC). Such approval must be obtained prior to the initiation of any research activity involving these subjects. There are no exceptions. No student whose work uses human or animal subjects is permitted to enroll in the Culminating Experience course until the research activity has been approved by CPHS and/or UACUC. Students should check with the Office for the Protection of Human and Animal Subjects web site for specific information (


To register for a Culminating Experience course, a student must have a 3.0 GPA in all post-baccalaureate course work completed as well as an approved Graduate Approved Program (GAP) and Proposal for Culminating Experience on file in Graduate Studies.

A student who does not complete the course by the end of the semester of registration will be issued a grade of RP (Report in Progress) and should not register for the course again. For internships, field studies, or creative work projects, the student is required to file the completed project in the department. All committee members must sign the Report of Completion and submit it to Graduate Studies. Students completing a thesis must submit a thesis receipt. When the course is completed, a grade change to CR (Credit) must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office by the committee chair.


Content requirements and oversight of theses and written creative works are the purview of the department/program faculty. Detailed instructions of formatting the thesis/written creative work are contained in the document, Guidelines for the Preparation and Submission of Theses and Written Creative Works which can be downloaded from the Graduate Studies web site at or purchased at the Rapid Copy Center of the Library.

Review of Theses/Written Creative Works Format. Theses or written creative works received in Graduate Studies by the published deadline will be reviewed to determine if the requirements set forth in the guidelines have been met. It is highly recommended that students submit a draft copy well ahead of the deadline so that any adjustments in formatting can be made before the deadline. If corrections in formatting or text are necessary, it is the student’s responsibility to resubmit the corrected copy to Graduate Studies by the published deadline.

Submission of the Document.The original document with signatures of the faculty committee members must be filed in the Library. Students must pay a fee to cover the costs of preparing the Library copy. After the format is approved, the Graduate Studies office issues a receipt to be certified at the Rapid Copy Center at the Library upon submission of the document and payment of the binding fee. The Rapid Copy Center forwards the certified receipt to Graduate Studies to certify completion of the process.


Candidates for degrees must file an application for graduation in accordance with the university calendar. The Application for Graduate Degree, which is available at GradStop, ADM 250, is only provided to students with an approved Graduate Approved Program (GAP). The student must pay the graduation fee, complete the application form, and submit it to Graduate Studies.

Students may graduate at the end of any semester fall, spring, or summer. The Commencement (graduation) ceremony occurs once a year at the end of May. Students who wish to participate in Commencement (graduation) must rent a cap and gown from the SFSU Bookstore. Students can link to the Commencement website at for additional information.

Applications will not be approved for a specified term unless all requirements have been met as of the final day of the semester. If a candidate does not complete the requirements as planned in a particular semester, he/she must submit a new application for graduation and pay an additional fee to be considered in a subsequent semester.

If the student is required to be enrolled the semester of graduation, this requirement must be noted on the GAP. Students should consult with their department to determine whether or not enrollment in an additional course is required once the student has enrolled in the Culminating Experience course. Students who have not registered for the class at the time they apply for graduation will be required to enroll in the following semester and graduation will be delayed.


The California Code of Regulations, Title 5, requires that all the requirements for a master’s degree be completed within a seven-year period. No more than seven years may elapse between the start of the term of the earliest dated course on the Graduate Approved Program and the date the last course is actually completed and the application for graduation is filed.

Most graduate students attending part-time, complete their degrees in 2-3 years. For example, in a 30 unit degree program, taking one three-unit course per semester would lead to degree completion in 5 years. Many students in professional programs must maintain continuous enrollment to complete courses in sequence as required for licensure.

Extension of the Seven-year Limit.In unusual circumstances, a candidate may file a Petition for Waiver of the Seven-Year Limit for a one-time extension to complete the requirements for the degree. The petition is filed with the dean of Graduate Studies. The outdated course work must be validated by examination or other demonstration of competency in the relevant course or subject field as determined by the major department.

The department must submit a statement of support to Graduate Studies with the seven-year extension petition attaching proof of competency in the subject matter as stated above, or establishing requirements for additional course work as appropriate. The department must also complete page 2 of the form detailing the timeline for completion of course work and for submitting sections of the Culminating Experience. This statement must also set a final deadline for completion of the degree not to include summer when faculty may not be present.

Note: Transfer credit that exceeds seven years may not be used to meet degree requirements.

Substitution or Updating of Outdated Course Work. If any course work on the student’s Graduate Approved Program becomes outdated, the student may submit a Petition for GAP Substitution to Graduate Studies, with department approval, to substitute another course (one already completed or which will be completed in the future) for the one which is outdated. Alternatively, the department may require the student to update the course work by repeating the outdated course without credit.

The following chart provides examples of the dates of expiration of the work specified on the GAP according to the seven-year limitation:

First requirements on GAP begun:

Time limit GAP will expire:

Fall 2000

August 2007

Spring 2001

January 2008

Summer 2001

June 2008

Fall 2001

August 2008

Spring 2002

January 2009

Summer 2002

June 2009

Fall 2002

August 2009

Spring 2003

January 2010

Summer 2003

June 2010

Fall 2003

August 2010

Spring 2004

January 2011

Summer 2004

June 2011

Fall 2004

August 2011

Spring 2005

January 2012

Summer 2005

June 2012

Fall 2005

August 2012

Spring 2006

January 2013

Summer 2006

June 2013

Fall 2006

August 2013

Spring 2007

January 2014

Departments are authorized to disenroll students who do not make consistent progress toward the degree (see Declassification from the Degree Program). Students requesting a seven-year extension are not guaranteed continuance in their program and they must document the reasons for not completing their degree in the maximum allotted time period.


Only students who have a cumulative 3.0 grade point average in all course work taken while in post-baccalaureate standing at San Francisco State University are eligible to change from one degree program to another. The student must reapply to the university through CSU Mentor, Part A only, pay the $55.00 fee, submit a Request for Change in Graduate Program form, along with any required supplementary application materials (e.g., test scores, transcripts from other universities and colleges, letters of recommendation) directly to the major department/program.

The new department/program makes its decision and submits the signed Request for Change in Graduate Program form to Graduate Studies. Graduate Studies verifies the student’s academic standing and returns a copy of the form, indicating approval or denial, to the major department and to the student. The university holds the right to refuse admission to a program based on programmatic, resource and faculty/student academic needs.


Satisfactory Scholarship: Graduate students are expected to develop their full potential as scholars and to maintain a 3.0 grade point average (based on a 4.0) and continuity of effort that indicates high scholastic ability and achievement. All courses completed by a student after award of the baccalaureate degree count in the overall graduate grade point average and are used in determining a student’s academic standing.

Only the grades of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, and CR are acceptable in courses on the Graduate Approved Program (GAP) for the master’s degree. Classified students whose performance, progress, or conduct in a graduate program is judged to be unsatisfactory by appropriate university authorities may be required to withdraw from the program in question. No course grade below a C may be listed on the GAP (see Repeat of Course policy). Graduate students should be aware that the number of courses taken for CR grades listed on the GAP is restricted (see GAP policies).


Students who do not complete required work for a course during the scheduled time period may make a contract with the instructor to complete the work within the next academic year. For example, a course granted an incomplete in a fall semester must be completed and a grade submitted by the end of the next fall whether the student is or is not enrolled in the university. The incomplete is shown on the transcript as an I. If work is not completed during that period, the incomplete is changed to an IC that is charged as an F (zero grade points). Graduate students planning to pursue a doctoral degree should consider that a pattern of incompletes, even if completed within the time period, may be viewed negatively by an admissions committee.


A student in graduate status may not repeat any undergraduate course used to achieve a baccalaureate degree, in which a grade of C or better was earned on the first attempt. Grades of C- or lower are not allowed on the GAP for meeting requirements for a master’s degree. If graduate students repeat a course in which a C- or lower grade was earned, they will be charged for all units attempted and all grade points earned, but units completed will be granted only once on the GAP; hence, the grades earned will represent an average of the grades received on the course. In some programs, students must earn a grade of B or better in specific courses. The repeat policy is the same for these courses.


The instructor may consider regular attendance when assigning grades and the requirement must be stated in writing as part of the course requirements.


Students may add or drop courses by Gator Registration up through the fourth week without a W appearing on the transcript. After the fifth week, a withdrawal will show as a W on the transcript. Graduate students planning to pursue a doctoral degree should consider that a pattern of withdrawals may be viewed negatively by an admissions committee.


Graduate Classified, Graduate Conditionally Classified, and Post-Baccalaureate Students

Good Standing Maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better in any term.

Probation Will be subject to probation when cumulative grade point average falls below 3.0 (B) in any term.

Disqualification Will be subject to disqualification from the graduate degree and/or advanced credential program and from further enrollment in the university if, during the semester of probation, there is a failure to achieve the minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B).

Teaching Credentials

Good Standing  Maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 (C+) or above each term.

Probation  Will be subject to probation when cumulative grade point average falls below 2.5 (C+) in a particular term.

Disqualification  Will be subject to disqualification if, during the semester of probation, there is a failure to achieve the minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 (C+).

Students concurrently enrolled in a master's degree must maintain a 3.0 gpa.


A graduate student may be placed on administrative/academic probation by the Board of Appeals and Review for any of the following reasons:


A graduate student who has been placed on administrative/academic probation may be disqualified from further attendance if:


Disqualified students may, after at least two semesters have elapsed, apply for readmission to the university, provided they have removed the academic deficiencies, or resolved the problems which may have caused the disqualification. The work taken to eliminate an academic deficiency at this institution must be taken through the College of Extended Learning in order to impact the grade point average at this institution. If disqualification resulted from any other reasons than academic performance, approval must be obtained from the unit of the university which recommended the disqualification action. Students disqualified from another institution, including other CSU campuses, may not be admitted to San Francisco State unless it can be demonstrated that the cause of the disqualification has been eliminated (additional course work with good grades, etc.) and the student is otherwise eligible to return to the institution of disqualification.


A student may be declassified (dropped) from a graduate degree program for a range of reasons including, but not restricted to, unprofessional conduct, behavioral issues that interfere with the learning of others; failure to make progress toward the degree as determined by the department/program; failure to meet grade requirements to maintain good standing in the program and/or university; and/or the department/program faculty determine that the student is incapable of completing degree requirements at the level expected of a graduate student in the discipline.

The declassification request must be initiated by the major department with support from the department/program chair and college dean or designee. Requests are submitted to the dean of Graduate Studies for final action and official notification to the student and the Registrar’s Office. To continue in the university, a declassified student must formally apply to another graduate program or apply as a second baccalaureate student. Such students will not be permitted to enroll through regular university or Open University in any undergraduate or graduate courses in the program or degree from which they were declassified. Unless declassification was related to conduct issues that interfere with campus interactions, declassified students are eligible to apply to a new program though CSU Mentor, pay the application fee, and be accepted as a student by the department/program.


This award is conferred on a few master’s and doctoral students who have a distinguished record of academic performance and service in their degree program which sets them apart in some special way from the norm. Selection for the award is based on the criteria that includes academic performance, scholarly work, and service determined meritorious by the faculty in the respective graduate program areas. Criteria utilized vary from discipline to discipline consistent with standards of excellence. The selection of the awardees for the year is made each spring. Recipients are recognized at the Graduate Recognition Ceremony in May and are issued an award certificate.



A student who feels the grade posted on the transcript is not a fair representation of the work completed may request review by the instructor. However, the request must be made during the semester in attendance immediately following the semester in which the grade was assigned. If the instructor and the student can work out an agreement, a petition for a grade change can be submitted. If agreement is not reached, the student should consult with the department chair or college dean of the program of study for the formal procedures for filing a grade appeal. Students should contact their department or college for a copy of the formal grade appeal process. See Grade Appeal Practices and Procedures Academic Senate Policy #S04-230.


A graduate student who has problems arising from evaluation, degree requirements, or general policies and procedures should discuss them first with a graduate major adviser or graduate coordinator. Graduate coordinators are listed on the Graduate Studies website/Advising. If a student wishes to review a problem or to appeal a decision, he/she should then consult with the department chair, or the college dean, in that order. Should questions arise beyond this point with respect to where or to whom a specific grievance should be directed, the university Dean of Students or Dean of Graduate Studies may be consulted for advice. After all of the informal procedures for grievances and appeals have been exhausted, formal grievance procedures may be initiated. See section: Student Grievance Procedures in this Bulletin.


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Last modified July 06, 2012 by