Master's Studies (Thesis-Based)

At the University of Alberta, our thesis-based master's programs empower students to conduct methodical, systematic, theory-based and collaborative research alongside esteemed peers and in cutting-edge facilities. 

In today's dynamic job market, a thesis-based master's equips individuals with the expertise to tackle challenges across various sectors, meeting the evolving demands of local and global industries.


As a thesis-based master’s student at the U of A, you have four years to meet program requirements. These include defining your research problem, conducting thesis research and writing and defending your thesis. 

There are other degree requirements and responsibilities, both academic and administrative, that must be completed during your time at the university. 

Program Requirements

Some requirements are defined by the university:

Other requirements are defined by your department, including coursework and comprehensive examinations.

A full list of requirements is defined in your department's section in the University Calendar as well as your department’s graduate handbook.

Your Academic Journey

The Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) is here to support you during your time at the U of A. Curious about what the academic journey of a thesis-based master’s student looks like? Explore each phase below.

Laying the Foundation


Students in thesis-based programs are admitted as full-time students. If a department wishes to admit a thesis-based student on a part-time basis, they must inform GPS at the time of admission by completing this form and attaching it to their application. If you're already admitted into the program but thinking about switching from full-time to part-time status, there are options available. See University of Alberta Calendar 2024-2025 for more information.

Fees + Payments

If you started your thesis-based master’s program in Fall 2011 or later, you'll be charged an annual tuition and fees program fee, which varies based on many factors, including your enrollment status as either a full-time or part-time student. For detailed information on the fee structure, please visit Tuition and Fees.

Financial Support

If you are looking for financial support, there are many options available to you including teaching and research assistantships as well as scholarships. For detailed information, visit Awards and Funding and see the funding guide from the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA).

Pursuing Your Program

Supervisor + Committee

As a thesis-based master’s student, you'll have at least one thesis supervisor who must meet the university's supervisory requirements. If you weren't assigned a supervisor upon admission, please reach out to your department. 

Thesis-based master’s students do not require a supervisory committee, although many programs form such committees. This committee would include all of your supervisors, oversee your research progress, arrange for necessary examinations and verify that your thesis is ready to be defended. You are required to provide the committee with an annual report.

Academic Standing

As a graduate student, you have to maintain good academic standing, requiring satisfactory status in both course grades, as well as progress in your thesis research.

Academic Integrity + Ethics Training

Academic Integrity and Ethics Training is mandatory for all newly admitted U of A graduate students. Each student is expected to complete the equivalent of at least six hours of structured academic activity to meet this requirement.

Ethics + Academic Citizenship Requirement

Professional Development

The U of A, in collaboration with the GSA, has introduced the Professional Development (PD) Requirement, a first among Canadian universities, drawing inspiration from similar initiatives at Ivy League colleges in the United States.

The PD requirement is designed to help you discover your strengths, explore your interests, develop professional skills and build valuable networks to thrive in your career. Although it is mandatory for all incoming graduate students, some departments have professional development already incorporated into their programs. Check with your department to confirm how this requirement is fulfilled in your program.

Professional Development Required Training


At the heart of every thesis-based master’s program is the thesis: a high-quality piece of work that showcases original research and analysis, meets publication standards and makes a significant contribution to the knowledge in your field.

Thesis Preparation, Requirements + Deadlines

Leave of Absence or Part-Time Status

Sometimes, medical issues, parental responsibilities or other emergencies mean that you need to take time off from your studies. As a graduate student, you may apply for an approved leave of absence that keeps your program in good standing.

Approved Leave of Absence 

Application forms:

Under certain circumstances, students who have begun their programs may request a change from full-time status to part-time status. For information on this option, please see University of Alberta Calendar 2024-2025. Apply using the Part-Time Registration Status Thesis-based Programs Form.

Program Extension

Occasionally, you may need more than four years to complete your degree. In such cases, your department may support a program extension. Apply using the Program Extension form.

Completing the Journey


The convocation ceremony represents a crowning achievement of your commitment to research and education. For convocation steps and deadlines, see convocation information.

Letter of Completion

If you need a Letter of Completion at the end of your program, please use the Completion Letter Request Form. Please read the instructions in the form carefully before submitting.