Understanding graduate studies
Build on your previous education under the mentorship of some of the top minds in your field.
Choose your path: specialized expertise or professional development
There are two types of master’s degrees: those that focus on research (thesis-based) and those that are intended to prepare you for advanced professional practice (course-based). Your choice will depend on your own study preferences and professional goals.
If you are self-motivated and interested in developing your knowledge in a specialized area of research, thesis-based study is ideal. With this option, you can pursue research at the PhD level, work closely with a leader in your field and undertake a substantial research project. *
The course-based path may appeal to you if you are more interested in advancing your professional skillset. Some course-based master’s degrees are intended for students who have recently completed a bachelor’s degree, while others may require prior work experience for admission.
After completing a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree is normally the next step, though it’s sometimes possible to move directly into a PhD.
*Note: Some course-based research degrees allow you to pursue a PhD.
In a course-based program, all degree requirements are fulfilled by completing courses. These may include courses that involve a project, such as a major research paper or group project.
A full course load consists of three to six courses per term, or six to 12 three-unit courses per year. Part-time enrollment is possible in some programs.
Most course-based master's programs are designed to be completed in one to two years full-time, and up to a maximum of six years part-time.
Thesis-based programs require that you pursue independent and original research culminating in a thesis. You will work under the supervision of a faculty member whose expertise matches your research area.
Students must prepare a substantial research document that makes an original scholarly contribution to their field. A PhD thesis is often called a dissertation. Doctoral and master's students must also defend their thesis in front of an examination committee.
A thesis-based master's programs typically takes two years to complete, with a maximum of four years. A doctoral program will take four years, up to a maximum of six years.
What is a supervisor?
A supervisor is a faculty member who oversees your research and the development of your thesis.
When do I need one?
Some graduate programs require students obtain a supervisor prior to application, whereas other programs will assign a supervisor upon admission.
The student/supervisor relationship
Your supervisor’s research interests should be similar to your own, and they should be prepared to provide mentorship throughout your time in grad school.
Applicants must hold or obtain the following minimum qualifications to be admitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies:
- Minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 point system
- A four-year baccalaureate degree or its equivalent is required for a master’s program
- A master’s degree in most cases is required for admission to a doctoral program
If your first language is not English, you may fulfill the language proficiency requirement in one of the following ways:
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of 86 with no section less than 20 (Internet-based) or 560 (paper-based).
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of 6.5 with no section less than 6.0 (Academic version).
- Michigan English Language Battery (MELAB) score of 80, or higher.
- Pearson Test of English (PTE) score of 59, or higher (Academic version).
- By successfully completing Tier 3 of the University of Calgary's International Foundations Program.
Faculty of Graduate Studies vs. your program
The Faculty of Graduate Studies sets out the minimum qualifications for admission. However, graduate program requirements may call for higher scores, additional documentation and testing.
Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee entry into a graduate program as admission is competitive.
Find your program of interest to view its admission requirements.
- Choose a graduate program of interest and check its admission requirements
- Find a potential graduate supervisor, if required by the graduate program
- Prepare your documentation
- Calculate your tuition and fees
- Create a eID and start your application online
Documents you will need
- Study proposal
- Curriculum vitae
- Reference letters
- Standardized test score
Note: If you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, there may be other documents required, as well as document translation.