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Academic Progress Requirements

In order to receive financial support from Caltech, graduate students must maintain satisfactory academic progress toward the completion of their degree. Continuity of registration (including summer) must be maintained until all requirements for the degree being sought have been completed, with the exception of authorized sabbaticals.

The Master of Science degree requires at least one academic year of residence at the Institute and 135 units of graduate work with a grade-point average of at least 1.9. Under normal circumstances a master’s degree requires a minimum of three academic terms (one year) and cannot take more than two years, which requires the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies.

The engineer’s degree requires advanced studies and research in the field appropriate to the degree desired. At least eight terms (two years including summer) of graduate residence are required with a minimum 1.9 overall grade-point average. The engineer’s degree cannot take more than 12 terms to complete, without a petition approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

For the Ph.D. degree, at least twelve terms (three years including summer) of residence are required, but the necessary study and research typically requires more than five years. The work for the degree consists of research and the preparation of a thesis describing it, and of systematic studies of an advanced character, primarily in science or engineering.

The requirements for each degree include special regulations established by each option and are detailed in the Institute Catalog for the year of initial registration. Many options require a C grade or better—in particular, courses or groups of courses. Hence, a student may repeat a limited number of courses while still maintaining a status of satisfactory academic progress, and those courses would count toward the 36-unit per term requirement. A full-time graduate student must register for (and complete) 36 units per term. Approval of a petition to the Dean of Graduate Studies is required before dropping any course that brings a student below 36 units. All graduate students are expected to complete 108 units each academic year, and must enroll in at least 36 units of research for the summer term or be on an approved leave. The treatment of incomplete grades and/or the dropping of courses are specified in the Institute Catalog. The Graduate Office checks satisfactory academic progress each academic year.

The special regulations for the options typically include the completion of specific courses, oral and/or written examinations, research requirements, etc., by specific times. Satisfactory academic progress is judged by the options against these regulations, and revocation of permission to register may be recommended by the option to the Dean of Graduate Studies prior to or in response to the students’ petition for admission to candidacy. Further, even after admission to candidacy, the candidacy (and permission to register) may be withdrawn by formal action of an option for a student whose research is not satisfactory, or for other compelling reasons. However, the option must petition through its Division Chair to the Dean of Graduate Studies before taking such action.

A doctoral student who has not been admitted to candidacy by the beginning of the fourth year (12 terms) must petition to the Dean of Graduate Studies for permission to register for further work. In addition, no doctoral student will be allowed to register beyond 24 terms without approval of a petition by the Dean of Graduate Studies. This petition must include a plan and schedule for completion, agreed upon and signed by the student, the research advisor, and the Option Representative.

Petitions approved by the Option Representative and the Dean of Graduate Studies reinstate student eligibility for all financial aid.