Steps to Complete Graduate Degree


All students should meet with the graduate coordinator to get advice on which courses to take. Graduate advising is also available in a group session at the beginning of the year. There are a few steps to completing your degree that are not obvious at first. This page is not a substitute for meeting with the graduate coordinator, but it is intended to assist you so that missing paperwork, or being unaware of requirements, does not slow your progress. 

Steps to Complete Graduate Degree

1. Complete Coursework

Graduate students should take classes in the following sequence.

1st semester (Fall)

  • JS 201
  • JS 202
  • JS 207

2nd semester (Spring)

  • JS 203
  • JS 223
  • 1 elective

3rd semester (Fall)

  • 2 electives
  • Plan A: JS 299 (3 credits) or 
    Plan B: 1 elective

4th semester (Spring)

  • JS 211
  • Plan A: JS 299 (3 credits) or
    Plan B: JS 297 (3 credits)

2. Pre-Candidacy

Declaring candidacy establishes a contract between the student, the Department of Justice Studies, and Graduate Studies, which says that if the student follows a particular academic plan, the desired degree will be conferred. Canadacy is declared after the student has been around long enough to make informed choices about their academic plan, and after they have met certain conditions establishing the likehood of sucess in the degree program.

All graduate students take courses while determining their academic focus. Most apply for candidacy near the end of their first year as a graduate student. Before a student can apply for candidacy, the following requirements must already be met.

Classified Standing

Students are admitted to the program in either "conditionally classified" or "classified" standing. Those admitted as conditionally classified are given a list of prerequisites in their admission letter that they must take before they can move into classified standing and advance to graduate candidacy. Contact the Graduate Coordinator if you have any questions about any prerequisites listed on your admissions letter. The graduate coordinator's signature on the candidacy form indicates confirmation that all conditions have been fulfilled, allowing the conditional status to be lifted, and establishing the classified status.

Transfer Credit

In rare circumstances, a student may be eligible to transfer credit from another university (a maximum of 30% of courses may be from transfer credit work). In this case, the student should meet with the graduate coordinator as early as possible. This is important becasue all transfer credit must be approved prior to advancing to candidacy. Any transfer of credit for required courses must be requested using a special petition [pdf]. It should be noted that all courses used to earn the M.S. degree must be fewer than seven years old at the time the degree is awarded. Therefore, coursework from several years ago may not be of benefit.

Competency in Written English

All master's students must show their competency in written English. This requirement must be completed before a student can be admitted to candidacy. Satisfatory completion of JS 201 meets this requirement. 

Minimum Course Standards

Students must complete 9 units of core or required courses with a grade point average of 3.0 ("B") or better. They must also have a grade point average of 3.0 ("B") or better in all other graduate coursework.

3. Candidacy

Meet with the Graduate Coordinator once you have met pre-candidacy requirements to start the advancement-to-candidacy process. This meeting will also be when you state whether you plan on completing a Thesis or Project. The Graduate Coordinator (and thesis advisor if applicable) will work with you to create an academic plan. That plan is submitted via the Petition for Advancement to Graduate Candidacy [pdf]. This form requires the approval of the Graduate Coordinator and GAPE. Any deviation from the academic plan requires the approval of the graduate coordinator and GAPE using a subsitution form [pdf].

Candidacy Deadlines

Petition for Advancement to Candidacy [pdf] applications are due October 1 for degrees to be granted the following spring semester (e.g., October 1, 2019 for May 2020 degrees), February 1 for summer degrees, and April 1 for fall semester degrees. Review current deadlines

Please submit this petition only after you meet the Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) and have completed at least 9 letter graded units in your program.

GAPE will take at minimum two months to evaluate your candidacy petition and notify you of its findings. If your candidacy is denied you will receive a letter in the mail detailing the exact steps you need to take to clear any deficiencies. If you have been approved for candidacy, keep following the academic plan. About two weeks after candidacy is granted, an eligibility to apply for graduation message appears in your MySJSU account. Fill in the required information and submit the graduation application through MySJSU before the announced deadline for the semester or session targeted for graduating (spring, summer, or fall).

Academic Standing

After being admitted to candidacy, students must complete all courses in the academic plan with CR or C or better grades (C- does not count). They must also maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of a 3.0 ("B") in completing the requirements for the master's degree listed on the candidacy form.

If you fail to maintain a 3.0 GPA, you may be put on academic probation by the university. Failure to raise your GPA to a 3.0 or above after being placed on academic probation may then result in being academically disqualified from SJSU. Justice Studies generally does not readmit those who are disqualified from the program. 

4. Thesis or Project

Students choose either the Thesis (Plan A) or Project (Plan B) option for the culminating experience.

Thesis Option (Plan A)

Students who choose the thesis option are expected to take an active role in meeting the requirements. Prior to candidacy, the student must secure agreement from a professor to serve as thesis advisor. The professor may be an Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor in the Department of Justice Studies. Working with the advisor, a topic is selected, and a committee is formed (the advisor serves as chair). Usually, students work closely with the advisor, while the committee acts as a jury for the project.

The first step in writing the thesis is writing a proposal, that upon approval by the committee, sets the expectations for the final product. Once written, the thesis is defended in front of the committee and others in attendance. Upon approval and revision, the thesis is placed in the library's electronic database. To ensure quality, the thesis will not only be reviewed by the candidate's committee for content, it will also be reviewed by the Office of Graduate Studies to ensure compliance with University thesis requirements.

Students complete the thesis while enrolled in JS 299 (6 units required). Students must submit to the graduate coordinator a prospectus of the thesis on a form [pdf] signed by the advisor to obtain permission to enroll in JS 299. Key steps in completing the thesis must be timed properly to meet graduation objectives. If attempting to finish in two years, consider following this schedule:

  1. By end of 2nd semester:
    1. Select advisor
    2. Decide on topic
    3. File candidacy form [pdf]
    4. File request to enroll in JS 299 [pdf], 3 units, for 3rd semester
  2. By middle of 3rd semester:
    1. Form committee
    2. Defend thesis proposal before the committee
    3. Request to enroll in JS 299 [pdf], 3 units, for 4th semester
  3. By February/September of 4th semester:
    1. Set defense date
    2. Send defense notification information (name, defense date, title, abstract, advisor, committee, location) to Department of Justice Studies Office (
    3. Distribute completed thesis to committee members
  4. By mid-March / October, 4th semester:
    1. Defend the thesis (open to the public)
    2. Revise the thesis post-defense (committee will not approve and sign off until revised)
  5. By early April / November, 4th semester:
    1. Obtain committee signatures [pdf]
    2. Submit approved thesis and thesis information packet [pdf] to Graduate Studies Office before submission deadline
  6. By early June / January, after 4th semester, revise the thesis and submit it to the Graduate Studies Office before the Thesis Publication Deadline

Of course, not all students will be able to follow the schedule above. Therefore, there are thesis submission and publication deadlines each summer and fall as well. Typically, the deadline for submission for committee-approved theses is: for Fall graduation, first week of November; for Spring Graduation, the first week of April; for Summer Graduation, July 1st

A very common scenario is for the student to miss the April thesis submission deadline because of the project taking longer than they expected. Those students may then target the next deadline in the summer, or the one in the following fall. Other students delay taking courses, and plan to graduate in their 5th semester or later. Those students should still be aware of how short a period of time two semesters is for completing a thesis.

JS 299 grades are recorded as 'RP' (assuming NC is not warranted) until the thesis is successfully accepted for publication by the Graduate Studies Office. At that time, the graduate coordinator will submit a change of grade form to convert the grades to CR. The M.S. degree is not awarded until after the student's thesis is accepted for publication by the Graduate Studies Office, and the graduate coordinator has submitted a "Graduate Verification of Culminating Experience Memo" on behalf of the student. 

For a copy of the current University Thesis Guidelines, detailed instructions on how, where, and when to submit the thesis, as well as general contact information regarding thesis related questions, please visit the Office of Graduate Studies[BROKEN LINK] website.

Project Option (Plan B)

Students choosing this option must complete a final paper or project while enrolled in JS 297 (3 units). The work is completed under the supervision of a Justice Studies professor (Assistant, Associate, or Full) or another department faculty member approved by the graduate coordinator in the semester prior to taking JS 297. The project supervisor must agree to work with the student, and a prospectus of the project on a form [pdf] signed by the supervisor must be filed with the graduate coordinator (accompanied by the request to enroll in JS 297).

Students do not have to submit copies or grade results of these papers or projects to the Graduate Studies Office for review. However, students are expected to present their paper or project in a department forum or an approved equivalent event. The final JS 297 product, paper or project, is due to the supervisor by the end of the semester, generally when final exams begin. Satisfaction of the project option is complete when both the project supervisor and the graduate coodinator agree that department standards are met, and a grade of CR is submitted for the course. JS 297 grades not recorded as 'CR' (or 'NC') are recorded as 'RP' until conditions are met. The M.S. degree is not awarded until after the 'CR' grade is posted in JS 297 and the graduate coordinator has submitted a "Graduate Verification of Culminating Experience" memo on behalf of the student. 

5. Applying for Graduation

Completing the academic plan does not result in automatic issuance of the degree. One needs to submit an application for graduation. About two weeks after candidacy is granted, an eligibility to apply for graduation message appears in your MySJSU account. Fill in the required information and submit the graduation application through MySJSU before the announced deadline for the semester or session targeted for graduating (spring, summer, or fall). This application should be submitted only when you are fairly confident that you will meet all requirements for the semester in which you plan to graduate. If degree requirements are not completed by the targeted semester or session, a request to change the graduation date is also required before the degree will be issued.

All graduation applications must be submitted prior to the second week of the semester or session targeted for graduating. Typically the Fall graduation application deadline is September 10th, the Spring graduation application deadline is Feburary 10th and the Summer graduation application deadline is June 10th.

Students who have completed all other requirements, but still have an RP in JS 297 or JS 299, must enroll in JS 1290R (1 unit, about $300) each fall and spring semester until the grade is changed to CR (or until the 7-year limit on courses is exceeded, invalidating the degree plan). Those who fail to enroll in JS 1290R as required must retroactively enroll in it for each semester missed before the University will grant to the M.S. degree. These students must also apply to graduate during the final semester that JS 1290R is required.

6. Final Check and Graduation

Your final semester at San José State University will be very busy because, in addition to taking your final courses, you will be in the process of completing your final thesis or project. Here is a checklist of several items that should be attended to:

  • Make sure the Graduate Coordinator is aware that you are planning your last semester in Justice Studies. They may think of something you have not.
  • Remember to apply to graduate in your intended graduation semester by the proper deadline; you will need to submit a change request form if you must graduate during a later semester.
  • Clear up any incomplete grades that you may have as your degree cannot be granted until you have grades in all courses listed on your candidacy program.
  • If you did not take a course that was listed on your candidacy form, you may need to take it if it is required, or submit a course substitution form to replace it with a course you did take. Discuss this with the Graduate Coordinator.
  • If you received an unsatisfactory grade (below a C) on any course listed on your candidacy, or your GPA is below 3.0, you may not be ready to graduate. You should meet with the graduate coordinator to discuss your options, such as retaking a course or adding other courses to the candidacy form.
  • If you are doing a Plan A Thesis, make sure you have submitted your thesis to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research for review and posting by the correct deadline.
  • Ask whether the Graduate Coordinator will be submitting the Verification of Culminating Experience Memo (available only via the graduate coordinator) required for your degree to be granted.
  • Make sure you have your current mailing address and email listed in your MySJSU account so that Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations can properly send your diploma and email you important graduation notifications.

Department Convocation

The Department of Justice Studies holds a Graduation Convocation each Fall and Spring semester. This event is more intimate than the College Commencement; during Convocation, each graduate walks across the stage and gets recognized by the faculty, their peers, and by those in attendance. Convocation is free for students, and tickets may be purchased for guests. Students are required to sign up by late October (Fall) or early April (Spring) to be listed in the program. Tickets are sold in the middle of the semester.

Visit the Justice Studies Task Force website for more information.

College Commencement

The commencement ceremony is held after final exams. Students who have applied for graduation in the Spring semester or Summer session are eligible to attend the May graduation. Those graduating in Fall may attend the December graduation. All eligible students are mailed a commencement guide that details this event and how to participate in the ceremony.

Visit the commencement website for more information[BROKEN LINK].

Notification of Degree Posting

At the end of each semester, and after grades have been posted, Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations begins clearing graduation files. They will verify that you have met all of the candidacy and graduation requirements. If you clear graduation they will post your degree on your transcript and mail a diploma. They will also notify you via "Other Indicators" in your MySJSU account about this update. If for any reason you do not clear graduation, they will notify you via mail with an explanation of the exact steps you need to take to clear deficiencies. Due to the lengthy process involved, and the large numbers of applications for graduation that GAPE receives, the process for clearing graduation can take up to three months after the graduation semester is over.