Graduate Studies


Graduate Studies

Description and Policies

Tulane University offers research-oriented graduate programs leading to the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Master of Arts (M.A.), and Master of Science (M.S.) through the Schools of Architecture, Business, Law, Liberal Arts, Medicine, Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Science and Engineering, and Social Work. The Master of Fine Arts degree (M.F.A.) is offered by the School of Liberal Arts. The Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.) and the Master of Professional Studies (M.P.R.) programs are offered by the School of Continuing Studies.

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is offered in the fields of aging studies, anthropology, biomedical engineering, biomedical sciences (biochemistry, human genetics, microbiology and immunology, pharmacology, physiology, and structural and cell biology), business administration (finance and management), cell and molecular biology, chemical and biomolecular engineering, chemistry; city, culture and community; earth and environmental sciences, ecology and evolutionary biology, economic analysis and policy, French studies, history, international development, Latin American studies, Latin American studies and art history, linguistics, mathematics, neuroscience, philosophy, physics, psychology, public health (biostatistics and bioinformatics, epidemiology, global community health and behavioral sciences, global environmental health sciences, global health systems and development, and tropical medicine), and Spanish and Portuguese. A Ph.D. may also be earned in an interdisciplinary field.

The Master of Arts degree is offered in the fields of anthropology, art history, classical studies, French, history, Latin American studies, music (musicology and composition), philosophy, policy economics, political science, and Spanish and Portuguese.

The Master of Science degree is available in the fields of anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, bioinformatics, biomedical engineering, biomedical sciences (human genetics, microbiology and immunology, and pharmacology), biostatistics, cell and molecular biology, chemical and biomolecular engineering, chemistry, clinical research, clinical research methods, computational science, disaster resilience leadership studies, earth and environmental sciences, ecology and evolutionary biology, environmental science, epidemiology,  international development, mathematics, neuroscience, physics, psychology, and statistics.

The Master of Fine Arts degree is offered in the fields of art (studio), music (performance), and theatre (design and production).

For information on professional degrees, consult the catalogs of the Schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Law,  Medicine, Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and Social Work.

Rules and Regulations

Upon admission, students are held responsible for compliance with the regulations Tulane University has set forth in this catalog and in other current or subsequent official statements. They should familiarize themselves with these regulations.

The university reserves the right to change any of its courses and charges without advance notice and to make such changes applicable to students already registered as well as to new students.

The Graduate Council

The Graduate Council establishes and maintains university-wide procedures, rules and standards for the Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.), Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.), Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree programs. The council approves new degree programs and major curriculum changes in existing programs, performs periodic program reviews, and advises the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost on graduate education issues. The voting membership of Graduate Council consists of the Provost, who serves as its chair, and twelve elected faculty members each elected by a vote of the graduate faculty of their respective schools. More details on the council's membership and functions are available at:

Graduate and Professional Student Association

The Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA)  is responsible for addressing issues which affect graduate and professional students university-wide, and for allocating budgets for all graduate and professional organizations.  GAPSA's parent body is the Associated Student Body (ASB).

Admission to Degree Programs

Admission to all graduate programs at Tulane is on the basis of academic accomplishments and potential, regardless of race, sex, color, religion, national/ethnic origin, citizenship, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status.

Specific admission standards are set by the individual schools, but in general, only applicants who have earned an undergraduate degree from a recognized institution may be admitted if their academic records and personal attributes indicate the ability to pursue advanced study successfully. Applicants must present evidence, to the satisfaction of the department or the program committee concerned, of adequate preparation for the subjects in which they seek to specialize. All students must hold the undergraduate degree before enrolling. Only students with undergraduate averages of B or better, or with undergraduate study of otherwise certifiable equivalent quality, ordinarily are admitted.

A master’s degree is not prerequisite to the beginning of study for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, but a student may be required to qualify for the master’s degree while working toward the doctorate.

Prospective students should consult the graduate admissions offices of their program of interest for additional admission requirements, application deadlines, and degree requirements.

Continuous Registration Requirement

A student admitted in a degree program must be continuously registered in a degree-granting division of the university during the academic year (exclusive of summer session) in either full-time or part-time status (indicated below) from the date of first registration until the awarding of the degree, unless the registration is terminated by resignation or by dismissal for academic or disciplinary reasons.

A student who has not completed the minimum coursework requirements for the degree must either enroll for a minimum of three hours per semester (exclusive of summer session) or register for Master's Research or Dissertation Research in order to maintain continuous registration. A student who has completed the minimum hours of coursework required for the degree must register for Master's Research (no credit hours) or Dissertation Research (no credit hours) in order to maintain continuous registration. Some schools may require registration for a higher number of credit hours or may charge a continuous regisration fee.

Failure to be continuously registered is a de facto withdrawal and the school reserves the right not to readmit.  A student who is readmitted is obligated to pay any applicable fee required to maintain continuous registration. Under exceptional circumstances a student may be granted leave by the dean, and during such period of leave, a student will be considered in continuous registration without payment of fee.

Full-Time Registration Status

Full-time registration status consists of registration for at least nine hours of graduate credit per semester, or a combination of coursework and equivalent academic activities such as teaching or research. Students must be in full-time status for at least one academic year (exclusive of summer session), though some schools and programs may require full-time status for a longer period. To hold a Tulane-sponsored fellowship, scholarship or assistantship, a student must be in full-time status. Off-campus employment may disqualify a student from receiving a Tulane-sponsored fellowship, scholarship, or assistantship.

A student who has completed the minimum hours of coursework required for the degree and is registered for Master's Research (no credit hours) or Dissertation Research (no credit hours) may be classified as a full-time student with full student privileges. Schools, however, may require the department or program committee to certify that the student is engaged in academic activities equivalent to a full-time commitment.

Part-Time Registration Status

Part-time registration status consists of registration for less than nine hours of graduate credit without certification by the department or program committee that the student is engaged in a full-time academic program.

Tenure for Degree Students

Tenure is the maximum period of time normally permitted for the completion of all requirements for a degree, and it is determined on the basis of consecutive academic years from the date of registration for graduate study at Tulane or at another institution. Tenure is not affected by residence status. Under certain circumstances, upon the recommendation of the chairperson of a student’s department or program committee, the dean may extend tenure, but a student whose period of graduate study is unduly prolonged or interrupted may be required to perform additional work. Tenure regulations are applicable to all degree students, regardless of date of first registration. A registration block will be imposed by the school dean for those students who are beyond their time of tenure. The block can only be removed with permission from the dean.

Master’s Degrees

Tenure is five years, although some departments stipulate much earlier completion of all requirements for the degree in their master’s programs.

Ph.D. Degree

Tenure for the Ph.D. degree is seven years.

Registration Policies and Procedures

Registration information for graduate students is the same as that for undergraduate students.

Change of Courses

Students wishing to add or drop courses should consult the Schedule of Classes for deadlines and instructions. Failure to make schedule adjustments promptly and accurately may result in financial or academic penalties.

Change of Departmental Program

A student who has been admitted to a degree program in one department and wishes to transfer to a program in another department must obtain the approval of the chair of both departments concerned and the approval of the dean of the school before the change is official. The necessary form for such changes is available in the dean’s office.


Grades are reported as follows:

C+ A course in which a grade of C+ or less is earned cannot be counted toward a graduate degree.
I Incomplete – This grade will automatically become F unless the work is made up within 30 days after the beginning of the following semester, excluding Summer School. This grade is not to be used as an automatic extension but only for unavoidable delays caused by illness or other emergencies.
 R Research – In those cases where research or experimentation, or both, cannot be completed within the 30-day limit following the end of the semester, this grade will be given to indicate this circumstance. This grade carries a different meaning from that of IP which is given at the end of the first semester of a two-semester course.
IP  In Progress – Satisfactory progress at the end of the first semester of a year-long course; grades are assigned upon completion of the course.
W Courses may be dropped without record within six weeks of the first day of classes. Refer to Academic Calendar for exact dates each semester. Withdrawals with the grade of W after these dates may be accomplished only if the instructor notifies the dean that the student is passing and recommends permission to withdraw. WF (withdrawn failing) will be assigned if the student’s work in a course is unsatisfactory at the time of withdrawal.
 In some departments grades for certain courses are reported as follows:
S Satisfactory
U Unsatisfactory

In some departments, grades for certain other designated courses may also be reported simply as S or U at the student’s option, provided that the option is declared by the student no later than the end of the second week of class.

Transfer Credit 

Acceptance of graduate credit for work done at other graduate institutions or in another division of Tulane University must be approved by the department concerned and by the dean of the appropriate school. In general, a maximum of 12 semester hours of transfer credit may be accepted toward a master’s degree, and a maximum of 24 semester hours of transfer credit may be accepted toward the Ph.D. Some schools may allow fewer transfer credits.

Medical Excuses

Students are expected to attend all classes unless they are ill or prevented from attending by exceptional circumstances. Instructors may establish policies for attendance of their classes, which are announced at the beginning of the semester. Students who find it necessary to miss class must assume responsibility for making up the work covered during that session, including quizzes, examinations, and other exercises; they also are responsible for obtaining notes on material covered in lectures or other class sessions.

Students are responsible for notifying professors about absences that result from serious illnesses, injuries, or critical personal problems. However, medical excuses are not issued by the University Health Service, except in instances of illnesses or injuries that involve hospitalization.

Unified Code of Graduate Student Academic Conduct

Tulane University expects students to conduct their academic endeavors with honesty and integrity. As part of the University community, graduate students have certain responsibilities regarding work that forms the basis for the evaluation of their academic achievement. Any student behavior that has the effect of interfering with the education, pursuit of knowledge, and/or a fair evaluation of the student's performance is considered a violation of the proscribed academic conduct, as set forth in the Unified Code of Graduate Student Academic Conduct. The Code also outlines procedures to be followed if there is a suspected violation. Students are expected to be familiar with the Code.   Principles and activities not covered by the Code may fall under the purview of university or departmental research and/or ethics committees. Questions concerning jurisdiction should be addressed to the dean of the respective school. 

Code of Student Conduct

The university requires of all of its students behavior compatible with its high standards of scholarship and conduct. By accepting admission to Tulane University, a student accepts its regulations, including the Code of Student Conduct, and acknowledges the right of the university to take conduct action, including suspension or expulsion, for conduct judged unsatisfactory or disruptive. The Vice President for Student Affairs is responsible for formulating appropriate procedures and, as set forth in the Code of Student Conduct, regulations concerning student behavior and for the resolution of conduct cases.  

Required Withdrawal and Denial of Enrollment

A student may be required to withdraw from any course or from the university, temporarily or permanently, for any of the following reasons:

  1. Work below the standard specified by the college in which the student is enrolled.
  2. Violation of the honor system or other misconduct.
  3. Possibility of danger to the health of the student or to other students if enrollment is continued.

The university reserves the right to forbid any student’s continued enrollment without assignment of reason. The school, however, will provide a student with a statement of reason in writing from the department. An appellate procedure has been established in cases involving academic performance or possible infringement of academic freedom. Schools also have appellate procedures in cases involving non-reappointment of fellowships or scholarships when the formal terms of the first award have given reasonable expectation of renewal. Such procedures may also apply to cases in which a graduate, teaching, or research assistant, is relieved of a position before the end of the term of the appointment or is not reappointed when the formal terms of the first appointment have given reasonable expectation of reappointment. Copies of these procedures are available in the dean’s office.

Resignation from a graduate program must be made in writing to the dean. The student who finds it necessary to withdraw or to resign should report to the dean’s office to complete a withdrawal or resignation form.

Conferring of Degrees

All degrees are conferred by Tulane University. Degrees earned at the graduate level are awarded three times a year in December, May, and August. There is one commencement program each year in May. Candidates for degrees are required to complete an application for degree form on or before deadline dates, as stipulated by each school.

Financial Information

Except as noted below, information regarding tuition and fees, residence halls and meals, financial obligations, financial aid, academic management services, short-term charitable remainder trust, and veteran’s benefits is the same as for undergraduate students. See “Financial Information” for more information.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and fees rate schedules are established at the university level; however, some fees, such as dissertator fees, are established by the individual schools or programs. Students who have assistantships are often granted tuition waivers, but fees are the responsibility of the student. Consult the graduate adviser of the appropriate school for more information on tuition and fees.

Financial Obligation to the University

No diploma or certificate of credit is given to a student who is in default of any payment due to a division of the university.

Financial Assistance

Tulane's graduate programs award their own scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships. Contact the graduate programs for information on the availability of funds and how to apply. Tulane's Financial Aid Office calculates a student's eligibility for federal aid to supplement awards made by the graduate programs. Note that federal aid decisions for students seeking law degrees are made at the Law Financial Aid Office and those for medical and public health students are made at the Health Sciences Center Financial Aid Office.

Programs of Study

The general characteristics of the graduate programs of study are outlined below; but as with admissions, specific requirements for all graduate degrees, including concurrent and dual or joint degrees, may be obtained from the schools in which the programs are to be carried out.  For maximum periods of time to complete requirements for these degrees, see Tenure for Degree Students.

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Students undertaking work for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) should understand that this degree is awarded not for an accumulation of course credits only, but for superior independent research and scholarship in the chosen field, as evidenced in the dissertation.

Residency Requirement

A Ph.D. student must be in residence at Tulane University for at least two semesters.

Minimum Credit Hour Requirement

The minimum credit hour requirement for the Ph.D. is 48 credit hours; however, some programs may require additional hours of coursework.

Dissertation Committee

A Ph.D. dissertation committee must consist of at least three faculty members, the majority of whom are Tulane University faculty. Exceptions to this requirement may be made by the school dean.


A Ph.D. student must write a prospectus in order to graduate. Consult with the department or the director of graduate studies for specific requirements related to when and how a prospectus should be completed.

Admission to Candidacy

Admission to a Ph.D. program does not constitute admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. To be admitted to candidacy, a student must complete certain degree requirements, as specified by each school or graduate program. Consult with the department or the director of graduate studies for specific information.

The Dissertation

The dissertation is the culmination of the Ph.D. degree. It is the necessary demonstration that the candidate is worthy of taking a place among research scholars in the discipline. It must demonstrate not only mastery of the literature of the subject, but also the ability to carry on independent research that results in a genuine contribution to knowledge or an original interpretation of existing knowledge, and it must do so in a literate and lucid fashion. The dissertation committee shall pass on the acceptability of the dissertation before it is submitted in final form. Acceptability, however, is not final approval. The candidate must defend the dissertation successfully before the degree is awarded. Consult the dean of the appropriate school or program for regulations regarding formatting of the dissertation and submission deadlines.

Students are required to submit their completed dissertations to Proquest/UMI where it can be copyrighted for a fee. Schools may require students to submit a paper copy of their dissertations. 

Additional Requirements

Schools and graduate programs may have additional requirements for completion of the Ph.D. degree. Students are advised to consult with their appropriate departmental graduate adviser or dean for this information

Degree of Master of Arts

For the Master of Arts degree with thesis, the minimum course requirement is 24 semester hours plus thesis research. For the Master of Arts without thesis, the minimum course requirement is 30 semester hours. Reading knowledge of one modern foreign language pertinent to research in the discipline may be required by the department.

Degree of Master of Science

The requirements for this degree are generally the same as those stated for the Master of Arts degree, but some programs have variations. See Courses of Instruction for specific information.

Degree of Master of Fine Arts

The Master of Fine Arts degree is given through the Departments of Art, Music, and Theatre. The Department of Music requires a minimum of 30 semester hours; the Department of Art requires a minimum of 48 semester hours; and the Department of Theatre requires a minimum of 48 semester hours. A reading knowledge of a foreign language is not required. It is expected that most students will spend a minimum of two years of graduate study in fulfilling the requirements for the Master of Fine Arts degree. For variations in departmental requirements see Courses of Instruction.

4+1 Master's Programs

In some programs, undergraduate students have the option of obtaining a master’s degree with one additional year of study beyond the bachelor’s degree (4+1). Program requirements vary, but most 4+1 degrees do not require a thesis, in which case 30 credit hours of additional coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree are required. Those programs that offer a thesis-based 4+1 option require 24 credit hours of coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree. In some cases, a modified undergraduate curriculum is required to complete the 4+1 program; e.g., substitution of 600- level courses in the senior year that can be applied to both the bachelor’s and master’s degree, so interested students are advised to consult with their school’s graduate adviser prior to their junior year to obtain specific instructions for participation in the 4+1 program. Tuition for the fifth year of the 4+1 program is set by the appropriate school or program.

Degree of Master of Liberal Arts

The Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) program, offered by the School of Continuing Studies, emphasizes graduate-level reading, thinking, and writing in areas that cross disciplinary lines. The program is designed for full-time students as well as part-time students who are usually already established in their careers.  The degree is awarded following the successful completion of ten MLA courses. Although no thesis is required, students who wish to write a thesis in lieu of the tenth course may petition to do so. For course numbers and descriptions, please consult the School of Continuing Studies section of the catalog and the current Schedule of Classes.

Dual Degree Programs 

Tulane University offers a number of dual or joint degrees that are pursued as single coherent program of study. Up to 12 credit hours may be shared between the two degrees to meet Master's degree requirements and up to 24 credit hours may be shared to meet Ph.D. requirements. For joint Ph.D. programs, the requirements of the Ph.D. must be maintained and satisfied in order to receive the Ph.D. degree.