Graduate program handbooks

The purpose of the graduate handbook is to provide guidance to both students and faculty for facilitating the progression of students to degree completion. The handbook should provide the necessary information for students to understand the requirements, expectations, and opportunities associated with both their specific graduate program and the Graduate School. 

Outlined below is the template for the minimum required information for handbooks from all graduate programs. However, the handbook should also include any additional information deemed helpful or necessary by each graduate program. Information in boxes outline Graduate School policies that should be included in the handbook.

Required components of the graduate program handbook

Program description

In this section, please include the following information:

  • A brief description of the program
  • Program/student learning outcomes (SLOs)
  • The different tracks offered by the program (including non-thesis, if applicable)
  • Contact information for the program director and other relevant personnel

Degree requirements

In this section, please include information on all requirements for degree completion, including:

  • Total number of credits needed
  • Course work (this should match the course listings in the most recent version of the University General Catalog. If the Catalog is out-of-date or otherwise inaccurate, you will need to make revisions using Curriculog) Hint: In searching the Catalog, choose “Program” in upper search box and type the program name or program abbreviation in lower search box.
    • List of required courses
    • List of elective courses
  • Any internships and/or clinical experiences that are part of the program (if applicable)
  • Comprehensive exam, including exam format, when students are required to take the exam, and the policy for what happens if the student fails the exam
  • Thesis (if applicable)
  • Graduate School academic requirements
    • Please refer to Nevada System of Higher Education CODE on Student Program Dismissal Procedures (SPDP) and review conference policies: (NSHE CODE, Chapter 11, Sections 1-3). If program dismissal is based upon failure to maintain required grades or a required GPA as described above, SPDP does not apply and the student may be summarily dismissed from the graduate program.

Transfer credits

These are credits transferred from another institution. Credits completed at UNR in another program or as a graduate special do not need to be transferred. Transfer credit can be requested on the Graduate Credit Transfer Evaluation Request form available on Graduate School website, and must be signed by the student, major advisor, and graduate director. Transfer credits applied to a master’s program must comply with the time limitation on master’s work (6 years). Thus, if a student took a course five years prior to admission, they would have to complete the degree within one year for the course to apply to the degree. Credits from a completed master’s degree will be exempt from the 8-year time limitation for those students pursuing a doctoral degree.

Timeline for degree completion

In this section, it would be helpful for students to have an “ideal” degree completion timeline. This section will likely vary considerably depending on the program. A good example is the timeline from the Social Psychology Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (see “Standard Schedule” sections).

Please also include information on how to access forms that are required to be submitted to the graduate school, along with deadlines for submission.

  • Declaration of Advisor/Major Advisor/Committee Chair form
    • For master’s students, the completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student’s second semester
    • For doctoral and MFA students, the completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student’s third semester
  • Program of Study form
    • For master’s students, the completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student’s third semester
    • For doctoral students, the completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student’s fourth semester

Committee selection guideline

In this section, please include:

  • What is the role of the committee
  • When students should form their committees (must meet Graduate School requirements of no later than end of 3rd semester for Master’s students and end of 4th semester for doctoral students)
    • Master’s Programs: All master’s programs (with a few exceptions for course-only degrees) require at least three advisory committee members. All must be graduate faculty members. At least one (the graduate school representative or “outside” member) must be from a department or program different from the department or program from which the student is graduating.

      Doctoral Programs: Consist of a minimum of five graduate faculty members; the chair, at least two faculty members from the student’s major department/program, at least one faculty member from a department in a field related to the student’s major, and at least one Graduate School representative. 

      In case of interdisciplinary graduate programs, the Graduate School Representative cannot have a primary appointment in the same department (or other appropriate major unit) as the student's committee chair. 

      Formal approval of all student advisory committees is made by the Graduate Dean.

Comprehensive exams

Describe the format of the comprehensive exam, and when it should be taken. Restate here the policy if a student fails the exam. Explicitly state if student is dismissed, or, if the student is allowed to retake the exam, and, if so, how many times they are allowed to retake the exam. The Political Science PhD program has a clear description of their comprehensive exam logistics, as well as their dismissal policy, see the Political Science PhD Handbook as an example [1] (see “comprehensive exam”).

Thesis requirements (and/or non-thesis option)

Describe here the format for the thesis, and other program specific requirements. Include relevant non-thesis option information here as well.

Graduate School forms and resources related to thesis and dissertations:

Please also include that once all requirements have been met, students need to submit a Final Review Approval and Notice of Completion form in order to graduate.

Graduate assistantship

Include information on availability and policy for graduate teaching and research assistantships, along with requirements.

All graduate students holding an assistantship (teaching GTA or GRA) are considered Nevada residents for tuition purposes. Non-resident tuition is only waived for the duration of the assistantship. To be eligible for an assistantship, students must be admitted to a degree-granting program and be in good academic standing. The student must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and must be continuously enrolled in at least 6 graduate level credits (600-700) throughout the duration of the assistantship. 

State-funded assistantships (GTA/GRA) may be held for a maximum of: three (3) years for master’s degree students and five (5) years for doctoral degree students.

Please also include links to the most updated information on graduate assistantships from the Graduate School: General information and the Graduate Assistantship handbook.

Health insurance

All domestic degree seeking graduate students, who are enrolled in six or more credits (regardless of the course level) in a semester, will be automatically enrolled and billed for the University sponsored health insurance for each term they are eligible (fall & spring/summer). If a student has other comparable coverage and would like to waive out of the student health insurance, it is the student’s responsibility to complete the University online waiver form prior to the deadline. If approved, a health insurance waiver is good for the current academic year only. A new waiver must be submitted each academic year. All international graduate students are required to carry student health insurance, and the cost will be automatically added to your student account. Any international graduate students with insurance questions must contact the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) directly.

View information on graduate health insurance.

Leave of absence

Continuous Enrollment: To maintain “good standing” all graduate students are required to enroll in a minimum of three (3) graduate credits each fall and spring semester until they graduate. International students may be required to enroll in nine graduate credits each fall and spring semester depending on the requirements of their visa. All students holding assistantships (whether teaching or research assistantships) are required to enroll in a minimum of six (6) graduate credits each semester they hold the assistantship.

Leave of Absence: Students in good standing may request a leave of absence by completing a Leave of Absence form during which time they are not required to maintain continuous registration. Usually, a leave of absence is approved for one or two semesters. The leave of absence request may be extended by the student filing an additional leave of absence form. Students applying for a leave of absence should not have any “incomplete” grades which could be changed to “F” and have a detrimental impact on their cumulative GPA. Requests for leave of absences must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the leave is to begin.

Reinstatement: When a student has been absent for one semester or more without an approved leave of absence, he or she may request reinstatement via the Reinstatement form. This form allows the program the option to recommend the student be re-admitted to their graduate program based on their previous admission OR require the student to re-apply for admission which would require students to submit a new application for admission and pay the application fee. The Notice of Reinstatement to Gradate Standing must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the reinstatement is to begin.

Graduate Student Association

The Graduate Student Association represents all graduate students and promotes the welfare and interests of the graduate students at the University of Nevada, Reno. The GSA works closely with appropriate university administrative offices, including the Graduate School and Student Services and reports to the President of the University. The GSA government functions through the Council of Representatives, Executive Council and established committees.

 Graduate School forms

View all forms available at The Graduate School.