Graduate Studies  {SF State Bulletin 2012 - 2013}

Image: San Francisco State University seal on a gold background

Introduction to Graduate Studies

There are nearly 5,000 students enrolled in post-baccalaureate study in ninety-one master’s programs, an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, and three joint doctoral degrees with the University of California. In addition, the University offers credential programs in education and specialized certificate programs. Our students, many of whom are working full- or part-time, are fully engaged in scholarly endeavors, including basic and applied research, creative projects, and service to the community. General information about graduate study and how to begin and complete a post-baccalaureate program can be found in the following pages of the Bulletin, by accessing the web at, or by contacting the Division of Graduate Studies. A handbook for graduate students, the GradGuide, is available on the Graduate Studies web site or at the graduate orientation held before the start of each fall and spring semester.


For detailed information about a specific program, the student should view the department website or contact the program graduate coordinator to obtain program specific admission and/or degree requirements. Graduate coordinator information is available on the Graduate Studies website. Department information can be accessed from the Graduate Studies website “Quick Links.”


Faculty Teaching in Graduate Programs

Faculty members teaching in graduate programs hold doctoral or other terminal degrees in their field. These tenured and tenure track faculty members serve as advisers on theses, creative works, field projects, and/or graduate comprehensive examinations committees based on the faculty member’s expertise and area of research or scholarly work. In some cases, non-tenure track faculty members with exceptional backgrounds in specific areas of study may be assigned to teach graduate-level courses. You can review faculty backgrounds in our faculty directory.


CSU Graduate Admission

General Eligibility Requirements

Minimum requirements for admission to graduate study in the California State University are in accordance with Title 5, Division 5, Chapter 1, Subchapter 3, of the California Code of Regulations. The University has the right to require higher standards than the minimum requirements published in Title 5.


To meet the minimum eligibility standards for graduate study at SF State, an applicant must: (1) hold a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, or shall have completed equivalent academic preparation as determined by appropriate campus authorities; (2) be in good academic standing at the last college or university attended; (3) have a 3.0 GPA in their earned undergraduate degree or last 60 semester (90 quarter) units completed, or have earned a post-baccalaureate degree; (4) satisfactorily meet the professional, personal, scholastic, and other standards for graduate study, including qualifying examinations, as appropriate campus authorities may prescribe. In unusual circumstances, a campus may make exceptions to these criteria.


Graduate Admission Processes

Application for admission to a graduate degree, credential or certificate program requires the student to apply to both the University through the CSU Mentor and directly to the academic department/program. Applicants may apply and be considered for admission to only one SF State graduate program per application term. Application materials will not be reviewed by any program other than the one the applicant has designated on their formal university application.


University Right to Select Students

The University reserves the right to select its students and deny admission to the University or any of its programs. The University, in its sole discretion, determines admissions based on an applicant’s suitability for graduate study, which is based on the application materials submitted and the fit with the department’s mission, goals, resources and areas of faculty scholarship. Admission to graduate programs is selective and more people apply than can be accepted. Meeting minimum University or department requirements for admission does not ensure acceptance into a graduate program. The University graduate admissions process is conducted in compliance with its Nondiscrimination Policy (see the Regulations and Procedures section of this Bulletin for the complete policy).


Importance of Filing Complete, Accurate, and Authentic Application Documents

The University and its programs have the right to verify all information and documents submitted in and with the application. Applicants must supply complete and accurate information on all application materials for admission, residence questionnaire, and financial aid forms. Failure to file complete, accurate, and authentic application documents may result in denial of admission, cancellation of academic credit, suspension, or expulsion (Section 41301, Article 1.1, Title 5, California Code of Regulations).



All graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants must furnish the Division of Graduate Studies with one official transcript from each college or university attended, including community college and study abroad coursework. Separate transcripts from each college or university are required even though one transcript may show course work taken at another institution. Transcripts for coursework completed at SF State are not required. Applicants must check the academic department/program information to determine if official transcripts must also be sent directly to the department. Official transcripts must be submitted in envelopes sealed by the issuing college or university. Copies of transcripts or opened official transcripts will not be accepted.


Transcripts which have been submitted for admission or evaluation become the property of the University and are not returned or copied for distribution outside of the University.


Entrance Examination/Standardized Test Scores

The University does not require applicants to complete an entrance examination as a condition for graduate admission; however, many departments or programs do require that graduate degree applicants submit results of the general or area tests of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) prior to admission. Check the department website for test requirements. Applicants are responsible for having the required examination results forwarded directly to the university or department.


Pre-admission Writing Assessment

The University requires that all applicants meet a pre-admission (Level One) writing standard prior to entering a graduate program. Departments or programs stipulate the pre-admission writing standards appropriate to their discipline. Departments may require a specific score range on the analytical writing section of the GRE or GMAT or will assess graduate-level writing with a department/program administered writing exam or essay. Students who do not meet Level One writing standards, but meet other admissions requirements, may be admitted with specific conditions stipulated by the department. Conditions for meeting Level I writing standards must be met by the end of the first semester after admission and no later than the second consecutive semester after admission.


Program Application Materials

Letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, writing samples and /or résumé materials required by the department or program must be submitted directly to the department or program. Check department/program website for requirements. For information on credential programs, contact the Credential Services Teacher Preparation Center


All application materials submitted to the University, academic department, or graduate program become the property of the University and will not be returned. In selected cases in which an applicant has submitted a portfolio of original work for review by a program admission committee, the original works may be returned if the applicant makes the necessary arrangements with the department and provides a stamped, self-addressed envelope or package for mailing.


Application Filing Periods

The CSU Mentor online application filing periods open on the dates listed below. All applications must be submitted by the academic department deadline. Applicants should consult the website:, or contact the department/program directly for additional department/program information.


Domestic and International Applications

Applications for fall are accepted beginning October 1.


Applications for spring are accepted beginning August 1. Not all programs accept spring applications. See or the department/program website for information on spring admissions.


Applicants from Institutions without Regional Accreditation

A domestic applicant who is a graduate of an institution without regional accreditation, or from an institution whose degree is not considered equivalent to a baccalaureate degree from this university in terms of quality and/or content (e.g., specialized, professional, or certain international institutions), may not be admitted directly to graduate or credential status at SF State. The prospective applicant may be able to make up deficiencies through the Open University program in the College of Extended Leaning (CEL). Up to six units taken through CEL may be used for a graduate degree. Applicants from non-accredited institutions should speak with a Graduate Adviser before beginning any coursework in CEL. Information about regionally accredited universities can be found at the Council for Higher Education website ( International students should review the International Student Admission Requirements section below.


SF State Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate Application Procedures

Application to a graduate degree, credential, or certificate program is a two-part process. Students must apply to the University via the online CSU Mentor application AND apply to the specific department/program offering the degree, credential or certificate. San Francisco State University accepts applications for admission for the fall and spring semesters only.


The following processes must be followed to be considered for admission to a graduate degree, credential, or certificate program at SF State, including applicants to degree programs offered through Special Sessions in the College of Extended Learning.


PART ONE: Apply to the University online via CSU Mentor at, pay the required application fee and submit to the Division of Graduate Studies official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. Applicants with multiple transcripts should remember that it may take the college or university issuing the transcripts several weeks to send the documents. To ensure more rapid processing, applicants should gather official University-sealed transcripts from each institution previously attended, place them together in the same large envelope and submit them by mail or in person to Graduate Admissions, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue (ADM 250), San Francisco, CA 94132-4013. Evaluation of a student application will not be initiated until all University application materials have been received.


Applicants to graduate degree, credential, or certificate programs should apply early in the application period so that documents can be processed and forwarded to the department/programs by the department deadlines.


Applicants applying for one of the three joint doctoral programs, (Ph.D. in Education: Special Education offered with the University of California, Berkeley and the Doctor of Physical Therapy (clinical doctorate) and Doctor of Physical Therapy Science (research doctorate) offered with the University of California San Francisco) should check the Graduate Studies website for links to the department for specific application deadlines and requirements.


PART TWO: All graduate degree programs and most credential and certificate programs have additional application requirements. Department/program specific application materials may include (but are not limited to): copies of transcripts, test scores, astatement of purpose, letters of recommendation, résumé, etc. These must be submitted directly to the department or program by the department deadline. Please consult directly with the department or program for information about additional required materials or check online at (Prospective Students) to link to department-specific requirements. Departments will stipulate how you must meet the pre-admission (Level I) writing assessment. Check the department website for expectations. See Pre-admission Writing Assessment above for information.


International Applicant Admission Requirements

SF State has separate application requirements for international applicants (individuals holding or requiring an F1 or J1 visa and all applicants who have earned degrees outside of the United States). International applicants applying to a graduate program may have earlier application deadlines than those listed for domestic students. Applicants holding or requiring F1 or J1 visas must also submit the Financial Statement/Medical Insurance Form and evidence of financial resources for study in the U.S. for the issuance of an SF State I-20 Certificate of Eligibility. International students should access the Graduate Studies web site for information on admission criteria, English language requirements, and I-20 issuance:


All international applicants requiring an F-1/J-1 visa must be formally admitted and enrolled in conditionally classified or classified status as matriculated students in a degree program offered through the University. International applicants will be given full consideration for admission based on the SF State’s commitment to internationalizing the student body.


Academic Eligibility. Applicants educated outside of the United States must have earned a degree or diploma that SF State considers to be the equivalent of a 4-year U.S. bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. An official determination of eligibility will be made during the application process. Applicants graduating from international institutions with three year degrees preceded by thirteen years of pre-collegiate work and “A-level” passes are admissible to SF State graduate programs if they meet all other University and program requirements. Applicants who hold a Bologna degree comprised of 180 ECTS may be eligible for admission following comprehensive evaluation of documents.


International applicants with twelve years of pre-collegiate education, a three-year bachelor’s degree followed by a post-graduate diploma may be admissible to graduate programs at SF State.


Required Educational Documents. Applicants educated outside of the U.S. must submit official or University-attested and sealed copies of all original academic documents in the original language of issue. Copies must be certified by the appropriate university official. Required documents include: the complete official academic record showing all courses or subjects, dates of enrollment and grades/marks received; official degree(s), diploma(s), or certificate(s) awarded. Official word-for-word English translations must be submitted in addition to the original language documents.


English Language Proficiency Requirement (TOEFL/IELTS/PTE). All graduate, credential and certificate applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English must demonstrate competence in English. According to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations (Section 41040), to be admitted to a campus as a post-baccalaureate or graduate student, applicants whose native language is not English must receive a minimum score of 550 on the paper-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or 80 on the internet-based test – iBT. Students who have taken the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) as an alternative must obtain a score of 7.0 overall band score. Students taking the Pierson Test of English (PTE) must post a minimum score of 65. Note that many graduate departments have higher English language proficiency requirements. Applicants who have earned degrees outside of the U.S., even if they have completed course work in English, should contact Graduate Studies to determine if they are required to take TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. TOEFL score reports should be sent to SF State Division of Graduate Studies, Institution Code: 4683.


Applicants who do not meet SF State TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE standards are encouraged to apply to the American Language Institute at SF State to prepare for full admission to SF State graduate programs. Contact the American Language Institute for information,


Admission Decisions

The University reserves the right to select its students and deny admission to the University or any of its programs. See University Right to Select Students above.


Notice of Admission or Denial

After review of all application materials, department or program admission committees notify the SF State Graduate Admissions office of their admission recommendations. Applicants are then formally notified of their admission status on receipt of the official SF State Graduate Admission Notification Letter issued by the SF State Division of Graduate Studies. Letters of admission from the department or program received prior to the official SF State Admission Notification Letter are not valid. Applicants who are denied by either the University or the academic department or program will receive notification of denial from the Division of Graduate Studies. Applicants can monitor admission status online on the SF State Gateway which can be accessed 24/7 from the Graduate Studies or University main web pages.


Admission Contingent on Award of Degree

If a student is admitted to the University before the final award of the baccalaureate degree or if a student has post-baccalaureate work in progress at the time of admission, an official transcript showing completion of all coursework and/or the degree awarded must be submitted before the end of the fourth week of the first semester of enrollment. Students who are admitted to a graduate program contingent on award of the undergraduate degree must maintain a 3.0 GPA in all work completed before the degree is earned or admission status may be rescinded. Any student who does not submit documentation of completion of an undergraduate degree by the end of the fourth week is subject to one or more of the following actions: cancellation of admission and registration, automatic reversion to undergraduate status, loss of all units taken for post-baccalaureate credit, disciplinary action if appropriate.


Expiration of Admission Offer

Admission will be cancelled automatically if an applicant is accepted by San Francisco State University for a given semester and does not enroll in that semester. Applicants who let their admission offer expire must file a new CSU Mentor application, pay a new application fee, and meet the requirements for admission in effect for the new term to which they are applying. An offer of admission may also be withdrawn by the graduate program if the applicant has not indicated their intent to enroll by the program deadline or has failed to meet a condition of admission set by the program.


Admission Categories

Graduate Conditionally Classified: Most students who are admitted to the University are admitted to conditionally classified standing. Departments admit students in this category to evaluate progress toward degree completion. Students admitted in this category will be moved to classified status after submission and approval of the Advancement to Candidacy Form (ATC).


Graduate Classified: Students advance to this status after submitting an approved Advancement to Candidacy Form (ATC). Very few students are admitted directly to this category.


Post-baccalaureate Classified: Students admitted to a credential program will be admitted as post-baccalaureate classified. Admission in this status does not constitute admission to, or assurance of consideration for admission to, any graduate degree program. Contact the Credential Services/Teacher Preparation Center for further information on credential programs. Students seeking admission for administrative or special education credentials should contact the departments directly.


Post-baccalaureate Unclassified: Students who have earned an undergraduate degree and are admitted to a graduate or undergraduate certificate program are admitted to this category. Certificate students should contact the department offering the certificate program for information about the application expectations.


Transfer Credit from Other Institutions

Graduate courses taken at another university are not automatically transferable to a SF State program. At the discretion of the department faculty, with support of the Dean of Graduate Studies, a maximum of 6 semester units, which may include any combination of transfer units or academic extension work, may be used in meeting the requirements of a 30 unit program, or proportionally more for a program requiring 45 or more units. Students requesting transfer of units should confer with the department chair or graduate coordinator and the Division of Graduate Studies during the admission process or immediately after notification of admission.


Departments/programs have the authority to determine which transfer courses will be accepted for admission and be used on an Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form. (See section on Advancement to Candidacy for more complete information.) Courses accepted for transfer credit by the department must meet the following minimum requirements, but higher requirements may be stipulated by the department:

  • The course content clearly meets the program’s curricular requirements stipulated in the SF State Bulletin.
  • The course was taken at a regionally accredited institution of higher education.
  • The course was not used to meet the requirements for an undergraduate or graduate degree awarded at SF State or at another institution.
  • The course was completed after earning the baccalaureate degree.
  • The course was either an upper division or a graduate course at the institution at which it was taken and must be acceptable to that institution’s advanced degree program.
  • The course(s), if taken through an extension program, must be acceptable as a degree course at that university. Some extension courses are not acceptable. Check with Graduate Studies for transfer assessment.
  • The course was not taken any earlier than seven years from the date the student is planning to graduate. Transfer courses become invalid when they no longer meet the seven year condition.
  • The student earned an acceptable grade (C or better) in the course. A grade of “C” will be calculated into the student’s ATC GPA which cannot be lower than a 3.0.
  • Credits earned at foreign universities are seldom transferable unless a formal agreement is on file between SF State and the foreign university.


It is the obligation of the student, the student’s adviser and the graduate coordinator to determine that the proposed transfer course meets all of the conditions for eligibility. A student wishing to have a course taken at another institution included as part of his/her graduate program should do the following:

  • Obtain the approval of his/her graduate adviser and graduate coordinator on the Request for Graduate Program Transfer Unit Evaluation form available online from the Division of Graduate Studies Department approval should be based on review of transfer course syllabus. Departments may deny transfer courses.
  • Submit the official transcript from the transfer institution with the Request for Graduate Program Transfer Unit Evaluation form to the Graduate Studies office for signature by the Dean or designee. The graduate office will forward the approved document to the registrar.
  • If approved, the course may be included on the ATC.

Transcripts which have been submitted for admission or evaluation become the property of the University and are not returned or copied for distribution.


Credit by Examination

Credit by examination is seldom granted because a student must show a high level of prior competence in the content area of the course being challenged and pass all course requirements through formal examination. Highly qualified students with special skills and expertise may be allowed to earn credit by examination. An example of a student granted credit by examination is a highly skilled nurse who is able to pass the didactic and practical sections of a nursing course final examination.


To earn credit by examination, a student must obtain approval from the department chair and graduate coordinator. Grading options will be the same as that available for the course being challenged. The examination is to be comprehensive and include whatever activity, test, or demonstration is deemed appropriate for evaluating the skills, understanding, or knowledge required by the objectives of the course. Students must be regularly enrolled during the semester they earn credit by examination. Units earned via credit by examination are counted as part of the total units registered for a given semester and appropriate fees must be paid. Grades received as a result of the examination will be recorded on the student’s permanent record and appropriate grade points assigned.


Note: Graduate Courses Taken as an Undergraduate Student at SF State

Courses taken prior to the award of the baccalaureate degree at SF State are considered undergraduate courses. However, students who have completed all courses toward the undergraduate degree and who have applied formally for admission to an SF State graduate program, may request on the Application for Award of Baccalaureate degree that up to 12 units of upper division undergraduate or graduate work taken in the final semester before the award of the undergraduate degree be granted provisional post-baccalaureate status. Units to be applied toward a graduate degree may not be counted toward the undergraduate degree. Inclusion of units on an Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) taken as an undergraduate must have approval of the department/program admission committee or graduate coordinator and the Division of Graduate Studies. The number of upper division undergraduate units must not exceed the total number of undergraduate units permitted on the ATC.


If the baccalaureate degree is not completed at the end of the term expected, the provisional post-baccalaureate status for specified courses may be voided.


Note: Graduate Courses Taken in Second Baccalaureate Degree Status at SF State

Second baccalaureate status has been closed by order of the Chancellor secondary to budget limitations.


Note: Units Taken Through College of Extended Learning

Courses applied to a graduate degree taken through Open University may not exceed 6 units in a 30-unit program or proportionally more for programs that exceed 30 units unless cooperative agreements have been made with the department and Graduate Studies.


Courses taken to improve the GPA prior to admission to a graduate program or following disqualification should be selected to improve academic preparation for graduate coursework. Students may not use non-degree related courses in Open University or lower division courses to improve the GPA. Course work taken to improve the GPA may not be applied toward their graduate degree.


Note: Concurrent Study for Two Different Master’s Degrees

Students seeking admission for concurrent enrollment in a second graduate degree must meet the following criteria: 1) be in good standing in their current master’s degree program, 2) be in the final semester of their current master’s degree program, 3) must formally apply and be admitted to the new master’s degree program (see “SF State Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate Application Procedures” above). Students studying for concurrent masters degrees may not use the same coursework nor complete the same culminating experience for both programs. For concurrent degrees with a common core, faculty of the programs must determine alternative core courses for the second degree.


Note: Concurrent Study for Master’s Degree and Credential

The Single Subject, Multiple Subject, and Special Education credential programs are now conducted as joint master’s degree/credential programs. Contact the College of Education, Credential Services/Teacher Preparation Center for information on current admission policies for entry into a credential program. Students intending to secure both a master’s degree and a California basic teaching credential may in some programs pursue these objectives concurrently, although some departments do not allow the same courses to be used for both objectives. Check with the department and Credential Office (College of Education) for policy. If allowed by the department, no more than 12 units taken in credential status may be applied to a master’s degree.



SF State graduate students must reapply for admission to the University and the department/program if: (1) they have been absent for two consecutive regular (spring/fall) semesters as a matriculated student; and/or (2) they have attended another college in any interval of their absence. In order to be considered “in attendance” for any semester, the student must be enrolled in at least one class through the end of the twentieth day of instruction.


Applications for readmission and all supporting materials must be filed in the Division of Graduate Studies in accordance with current requirements and procedures. To be eligible for readmission, graduate students must have earned a minimum GPA of 3.0 in all course work attempted at SF State in graduate status and, if applicable, all course work attempted at other colleges during their absence. If a student has attended any other educational institutions following attendance as a matriculated student at SF State, transcripts must be submitted for all academic work undertaken since the student last attended SF State. Students applying for readmission must have been in “good standing” at SF State and must have been making continuous progress toward degree before leaving their SF State program.


Readmission to a graduate program is not guaranteed. Reapplications are reviewed with all other applicants during that application period.


Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) status is automatically voided after two consecutive regular semesters of absence have occurred and when no formal Planned Educational Leave of Absence has been granted. Planned Educational Leave can only be taken prior to enrolling in the Culminating Experience. (See Planned Educational Leave of Absence information.) Upon readmission, a new ATC that meets current curricular requirements must be completed and filed (see specific academic program information).


See also sections: Continuous Enrollment Requirements and Progress Toward Degree.


More graduate and post-baccalaureate application information and regulations can be found at Graduate Registration.


Follow this link to read about Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures.



SF State Home