120 E Cameron Avenue, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3250

MS and MA Requirements

Master’s Degree Requirements

This page sets out the requirements for Master’s degrees in Mathematics.

It is expected that each graduate student who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident should begin the process of establishing North Carolina residency during the first semester of graduate study. Detailed information can be found here.

A candidate for a master’s degree must satisfy each of the following requirements:

Time and Residency Requirements

A Master’s student must earn at least two semesters of residency credit and complete all work for the degree within five years from the date of initial registration. Students who take a full load should be able to complete the Master’s degree at the end of two years.

Course Requirements

A Master’s student must perform satisfactorily in 30 hours of graduate work in a program approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Fifteen of these hours must be in graduate level courses numbered 600 and above in the Department of Mathematics.

  • Candidates for either the M.S. or M.A. are required to complete 30 semester hours of approved course work. Programs of course work must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Two semesters prior to the date that the student expects to receive a Master’s degree the student should submit the remainder of the course list for final approval.
  • When reading for the Master’s thesis or project students should sign up for the section of Math 920 that corresponds to their adviser. When writing the Master’s thesis or project students should sign up for at least three hours of Math 992, Master’s Project, or Math 993, Master’s Thesis. Signing up for Math 992 or 993 is normally done in the semester prior to completing the Master’s degree. Signing up for at least three credits of Math 992 or Math 993 guarantees full time student status, but this is not true for Math 920.
  • Fifteen hours must be in graduate level mathematics courses numbered 640 or above in the Department of Mathematics. These fifteen hours may not include Math 920, 992 or 993; however, these courses may be counted toward the 30 hour requirement.
  • Courses which are acceptable for the 30 semester hours are:
    • Advanced undergraduate mathematics courses approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. These should be at the level of 521, 577 or 578.
    • Graduate level courses in the Department of Statistics and Operations Research.
    • Courses numbered at least 400 in the Department of Computer Science with an approved level of mathematical content.
    • Graduate level courses from other science departments at UNC which have an approved level of mathematical content.
  • An approved computer science course at UNC that is used to satisfy the computer language requirement for the Master’s degree may not be used to satisfy the requirement for 30 semester hours.

Computer Language Requirement

A Master’s student must pass a computer language requirement by demonstrating a certain level of programming ability. Please note the following guidelines:

  • Computer language requirements are the same for Ph.D. and Master’s students.
  • Passing the following courses at UNC will be sufficient to satisfy the computer language requirement:
    MATH 565, MATH 566, MATH 661, MATH 662, MATH 761, MATH 762, COMP 110, COMP 116, COMP 121, COMP 401
  • Any computer science course which lists one of these courses as a prerequisite is also acceptable.
  • A Master’s or Ph.D. student may also satisfy the computer language requirement by passing an approved one semester undergraduate course on computer programming at any university.
  • If the course title title on the transcript is not self-explanatory, then a syllabus, text or other information may be required. In all cases where there is some question about whether a course fulfills the requirement the Graduate Director will decide in consultation with the Faculty Computer Chair and possibly others from the Graduate Committee.

Examinations

Students entering at the Master’s level must pass one of the written Ph.D. qualifying exams. Master’s candidates must also pass an oral exam conducted by the the student’s Master’s Committee after the completion of the thesis or project.

Written Examinations

  • Candidates for either the M.S. or M.A. degree are required to pass at the Master’s level one of the written Ph.D. qualifying examinations. The committee which writes and grades a Ph.D. qualifying exam shall determine what constitutes a Master’s level pass.
  • The written exams will be administered to Master’s and Ph.D. candidates at the same time and place. Exams are offered twice each year, near the beginning of classes in August and January.
  • A Master’s candidate must pass the written qualifying exam by the beginning of the sixth semester to stay in the Master’s program.
  • A Ph.D. candidate who passes one or more of the written Ph.D. qualifying exams will be given credit for passing the written Master’s qualifying exam.

Oral Examination

Candidates for either of the two Master’s degrees are also required to pass an oral examination to be taken near the end of the student’s program of study but after the completion of the Master’s thesis or project. In this examination the student will be expected to discuss with the committee the thesis or project. The student should also be prepared to answer questions on the courses in his or her program.

Master’s Thesis or Project

Difference Between the Master’s Thesis and the Master’s Project

  • Candidates for the Master of Arts degree are required to write a Master’s Thesis while candidates for the Master of Science degree have a choice between either a Master’s Thesis or a Master’s project.
  • The Master’s Project is a substitute for the more formal Master’s Thesis. Both Master’s degrees require a written report of comparable effort and character. The Master’s Thesis is subject to strict composition guidelines enforced by the University while the Master’s Project is subject to the current standards of mathematical presentation.

Guidelines for the for a Master’s Thesis or Project

  • The Master’s Thesis is traditionally a written expository work on some area of mathematics. The Master’s Project can range from a Master’s Thesis to a substantial written report on a research project in some applied area. The nature of the Master’s Thesis or Project is determined in consultation with the student and the Master’s Committee of the student.
  • Students should sign up for at least 3 credits of Math 992 for the Master’s Project or at least 3 credits of Math 993 for the Master’s Thesis. This guarantees full time student status for that semester. Students should normally sign up for 992 or 993 in the semester prior to the date they expect to receive the Master’s degree.
  • Students who are reading for a Master’s Project or Thesis may sign up for the adviser’s section of Math 920. Note that 3 credits of Math 920 does not confer full time student status for that semester.

Composition of the Master’s Committee

The Master’s Committee consists of three people: the adviser of the student, who is also Chair of the Committee, and two readers.

Each Master’s student must either write a Master’s Thesis or complete a Master’s Project. This work may be done in one of the standard areas of specialization in the Mathematics Department, or, when appropriate, may be done under the direction of an approved adviser in an allied discipline.

For Additional Information Contact

Laurie Straub

Laurie Straube

Graduate Student Services Manager

331 A Phillips Hall
919-962-4178
straube@email.unc.edu