Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Dean B. Vinson III
Executive Associate Dean T.A. Murphy
Associate Deans C.H. Sterling, E. Arnesen, Y. Rong, E. Chacko

Since its founding in 1821, Columbian College, the original college of liberal arts and sciences of The George Washington University, has been the cornerstone of the campus community. The University awarded its first Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1888, one of the first institutions in the United States to do so. Columbian College of Arts and Sciences today houses all undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts and sciences, offering associate's, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees and graduate certificates.

The rich and diverse arts and sciences curriculum is designed to strengthen the student’s ability to analyze the social, cultural, and physical environment and to communicate findings in an articulate fashion. These purposes are accomplished by means of the study of various disciplines within the humanities, social sciences, and mathematical and natural sciences.

Students may elect one of more than 50 departmental or interdisciplinary majors; they may also elect double majors or individualized degree programs. The College offers its undergraduates opportunities for pre-professional education in many fields and for internships in a stimulating urban environment. Graduate students are offered more than 40 master’s programs, 20 doctoral programs, and 15 certificate programs.

Undergraduate Programs

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences offers undergraduate programs leading to the degrees of Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Fine Arts. In cooperation with the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Columbian College offers a seven-year integrated Bachelor of Arts/Doctor of Medicine.

One hundred twenty hours of academic course work must be passed with a cumulative grade-point average of at least 2.0. Note that some courses outside Columbian College (notably lifestyle, sport, and physical activity courses) do not count toward the 120-credit requirement. General education, major, and other requirements described below must be met.

Each student must declare a major during the sophomore year. A student must declare a major not later than the registration period during the fourth full-time semester or the semester following completion of 45 credit hours, whichever comes first. A student may change the major with the consent of the dean and of the department or committee concerned; the student must meet the requirements for the new major in effect at the time the change is approved. At least 60 hours of course work must be taken outside the major-field department or major program (this does not apply to the Bachelor of Fine Arts curriculum).

General Education Curriculum Requirement 

In addition to the University General Education Requirement, undergraduate students in Columbian College must complete a further, College-specific general education curriculum—Perspective, Analysis, Communication, or G-PAC. Together with the University General Education Requirement, G-PAC engages students in active intellectual inquiry across the liberal arts. Students achieve a set of learning outcomes that enhance their analytical skills, develop their communication competencies, and invite them to participate as responsible citizens who are attentive to issues of culture, diversity, and privilege.

Coursework for the University General Education Requirement is distributed as follows:

  • Writing—one course in university writing and two writing-in-the-disciplines (WID) courses; 
  • Humanities—one approved humanities course that involves critical thinking skills;
  • Mathematics or Statistics—one course in either math or statistics;
  • Natural or Physical Science—one approved laboratory course that employs the process of scientific inquiry; and,
  • Social Sciences—two courses in the social sciences 

Coursework for the Columbian College general education curriculum is distributed as follows:

  • Arts—one approved arts course that involves the study or creation of artwork based on an understanding or interpretation of artistic traditions or knowledge of art in a contemporary context;
  • Global or Cross-Cultural Perspective—one approved course that analyzes the ways in which institutions, practices, and problems transcend national and regional boundaries;
  • Humanities—one approved humanities course that involves critical thinking skills (in addition to the one course in this category required by the University General Education Requirement);
  • Local or Civic Engagement—one course that develops the values, ethics, disciplines, and commitment to pursue responsible public action;
  • Natural or Physical Science—one approved laboratory course that employs the process of scientific inquiry (in addition to the one course in this category required by the University General Education Requirement; and,
  • Oral Communication—one course in oral communication.

Certain courses are approved to fulfill the requirement in more than one of these categories.

Courses taken in fulfillment of the Columbian College general education curriculum may also be counted toward majors or minors. Transfer courses taken prior to, but not after, admission to George Washington University may count toward the University general education requirement and Columbian College general education curriculum, if those transfer courses are equivalent to GW courses that have been approved by the University and the College.

Lists of approved courses in the above categories are included on each undergraduate major's Bulletin page. 

Majors

Typically, students declare a major during their sophomore year. Once students have earned 45 credits, they must declare a major in order to register for further coursework. Students must complete the major requirements in effect at the time of declaration. Students may change their major with the consent of the new department or program.

Scholarship Performance in the Major

Major fields are defined by a set of required courses. The required curricula for majors are outlined under each department’s heading in this Bulletin. A minimum grade of C− must be attained in all courses numbered 2000 or above that are required for the major. If a student receives a grade of D+, D, or D− the student may either repeat the course until a satisfactory grade (C− or better) is attained, or with the permission of the department, substitute another course numbered 2000 or above.  

Minors

Students who wish to familiarize themselves with a field outside their major may graduate with a minor in addition to the major. Not all Columbian College departments offer undergraduate minors; the requirements prescribed by those that do are listed under the applicable department. Columbian College students may pursue minors in other schools of the University, as well as those in naval science and in sustainability. Students interested in a minor should consult a faculty mentor in the applicable department and declare through the Office of Undergraduate Studies. Students may pursue at most two minors.

Scholarship Performance in the Minor

Courses numbered 2000 or above passed with a grade below C− may be used to fulfill a minor field curricular requirement but may not be counted toward the total number of credits required for the minor.

Advising

Students entering Columbian College are assigned an advising team, or “POD” that advises them from first arrival on campus through graduation. Students engage with advisors to successfully navigate their academic experience, through conversations about understanding university and college requirements, exploring major options, overcoming academic challenges, and setting goals. Students are empowered to take ownership of, and responsibility for, their educational experiences. Specialized advising is provided to students interested in health professions or law.

Students who have not declared a major should consult with their advising POD before registering for classes. Once students declare their major, they also are advised by a faculty mentor in their major department.

Students need to build a support system that ensures academic success. Professors, faculty mentors, professional advisors, tutors, and/or counselors should be part of that support system. Assistance is available through the Division of Student Affairs, Mental Health Services, Multicultural Student Services Center, International Services Office, and Writing Center.

Preparation for Medical School

Students who plan to apply to medical school fulfill both the general education requirement of the University and the Columbian College general education curriculum. They may select any major at GW. Advice about academic preparation for medical school is provided by the health professions advisors in the Office of Undergraduate Studies. For admission to most medical schools, students must earn a bachelor’s degree that includes the following coursework:

  • Biology—8 credits of introductory biology, including laboratory. Students who receive credit for AP biology must complete 8 credits of upper-level biology coursework, including laboratory.
  • Chemistry—8 credits of general inorganic chemistry, including laboratory.
  • Organic Chemistry—8 credits, including laboratory.
  • Biochemistry—3 credits.
  • Physics—8 credits, including laboratory.
  • English—6 credits in introductory English composition courses (fulfilled by the University Writing Program).
  • General Psychology—3 credits.
  • Introduction to Sociology—3 credits.

Many medical schools have additional entrance requirements, which might include courses in genetics, statistics, and mathematics; even when such courses are not required, they are strongly recommended. Beyond the specified requirements, applicants are urged to follow their personal interests in developing their course of study.

Preparation for Law School

A broad liberal education is the best undergraduate preparation for law school. Advice about academic preparation for law school is provided by the pre-law advisor in the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

Seven-Year Integrated Bachelor of Arts/Doctor of Medicine

In addition to the early selection program described under the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, there is a seven-year integrated B.A./M.D. program for students of high ability and maturity who have decided, before applying to college, that they wish to become physicians and want to accomplish that goal in a shorter period of time. Detailed information on this program is available through the Office of Admissions.

General CCAS Policies

Pass/No Pass Option — A junior or senior student in Columbian College who is in good academic standing may, with the approval of the instructor and the Office of Undergraduate Studies, take one course per semester that is graded on a letter-grade basis for a grade of P, Pass, or NP, No Pass. Students may not elect to take more than four P/NP courses under this regulation. Students may, however, also receive grades of P/NP in courses that are graded on a P/NP basis only. No course taken under the P/NP option will be counted toward the College's general curriculum requirement or the requirements for any major or minor field. Transfer students may not elect this option until the second semester of enrollment in the University. Under no circumstances may a student change from P/NP status to graded status, or vice versa, after the end of the eighth week of class.

Preliminary Placement Examinations — All foreign language departments require students to take placement tests to determine their level of proficiency in languages studied prior to enrollment at the University. The student is placed in an appropriate course on the basis of these tests. Students may not register for a course other than that determined by the placement test without written permission of the language department. There is no charge to the student for placement tests, and no credit (advanced standing) is awarded for courses waived as a result of these tests. Students who wish to register for MATH 1051, MATH 1220, MATH 1231, or MATH 1252 are required to take the placement test administered by the Department of Mathematics to determine eligibility based on their achieved score. In some cases, AP test scores or SAT II scores may be substituted for the placement test. See Interpreting Your Placement Score for more information.

Courses Outside of Columbian College — No more than 3 credits of Health and Wellness (HLWL) courses may count toward the 120 credits required for the bachelor’s degree in Columbian College. No credit toward the degree is allowed for lifestyle, sport, and physical activity (LSPA) courses.

Earning an Additional Credit — In exceptional circumstances and with the prior approval of the instructor and Office of Undergraduate Advising, a student may register for and earn an additional credit in upper-division courses within the College by doing a significant amount of extra work as assigned and supervised by the instructor.


Graduate Programs

CCAS Regulations

CCAS provides an on-line Graduate Student Handbook that contains additional updated information on policies, regulations, and other matters of concern to enrolled and admitted students. It is the responsibility of the student to be aware of the information contained in both this Bulletin and the Handbook. Students should also consult departmental/program handbooks and guidelines.

Admission Requirements

A detailed description of the policies that follow is available at the Columbian College website. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. Applicants should have a strong academic background, usually with a major, or equivalent, in the field in which they intend to study for an advanced degree. Normally, a B average or equivalent from an accredited college is required. With evidence of special promise, such as high Graduate Record Examination scores, an applicant whose academic record falls short of a B average may be accepted on a conditional basis. Meeting the minimum requirements does not assure acceptance. The departments/programs may, and often do, set higher admission standards. Students who apply in their senior year must provide evidence of the completion of their baccalaureate work before registration is permitted. 

Most programs require applicants to submit scores on the GRE general test. In addition, some programs require scores on a GRE subject test. The applicant must have the Educational Testing Service send the required score reports directly to George Washington University. GRE scores are valid for five years.

Some programs require students to take prerequisite or deficiency courses within the first year of starting the degree.  These courses will not count towards the requirements of the degree program and will not count towards the degree GPA.

English Language Requirements for International Students

Applicants who are not citizens of countries where English is the official language or who do not hold a degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution of higher learning are required to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Pearson Test of English–Academic (PTE). English language scores are valid for two years.  The most recent test scores will be used for applicants who submit multiple scores.  Specified possible exemptions from this policy can be found on the Graduate Admissions website. The required minimum score for admission is 80 on the Internet-based or 550 on the paper-based TOEFL, or , an overall band score of 6.0 on the IELTS with no individual band score below 5.0, or a score of 53 on the PTE. Some programs have higher minimum scores.

Applicants for graduate assistantships or fellowships must have a minimum score of 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL or 600 on the paper-based TOEFL, or an overall band score of 7.0 on the IELTS with no individual band score below 6.0, or a score of 68 on the PTE.

Students with the following English language test scores are exempt from taking English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses: TOEFL, 600 paper-based or 100 Internet-based; IELTS, overall band score of 7.0 with no individual band score below 6.0; PTE, 68. Students with test scores below these minimums must register for an EAP course during their first semester. Students assigned EAP courses should anticipate additional tuition expenses as well as a possible extended period of time required to complete their degree program. EAP courses do not count toward degree requirements.

Readmission

A student who wishes to resume a graduate program that had been interrupted for a period of two years or more must file a new application for admission and provide supporting documentation to be considered for readmission. Readmission is not guaranteed, and the application is subject to review by the department concerned and/or the dean. The student may be required to take additional course work and qualifying examinations on the course work completed.  A student who wishes to resume a graduate program that has been interrupted for a period of less than two years must petition the Department and Associate Dean.  Readmission is not guaranteed.

Grades

Information on grades and computing the grade-point average is found under University Regulations.

The symbol I (Incomplete) indicates that only a small portion of the required course work remains to be completed and that a satisfactory explanation has been given to the instructor for the student’s failure to complete the required work for a course.  The conditions of the Incomplete must be detailed in a formal contract signed by the student and instructor and submitted to the department prior to recording the I. Failure to follow the conditions of the incomplete contract will result in a grade of F. All other policies governing Incompletes are indicated under University Regulations.

The symbol IPG (In Progress) is given for all thesis and dissertation research courses until the thesis or dissertation is completed. Upon the satisfactory completion of the thesis or dissertation, the symbol IPG is automatically changed to CR (Credit). CR may be indicated for Advanced Reading and Research courses and independent research courses.

Scholarship Requirements

Graduate students are required to maintain a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 (B) in all course work taken following admission to a graduate program in the College. This includes credit taken for combined, dual, and joint degrees but excludes prerequisite and deficiency course work. A GPA below 3.0 results in termination from the program unless the department successfully petitions the dean’s office for academic probation rather than termination. Individual departments/programs may require a higher average. Once a student has matriculated at GW, graduate course work that is taken at the University or through the Consortium and forms part of the student’s departmentally approved program of studies may be included in the grade-point average. When a grade of F is received for a course, the grade is included in the student’s grade-point average whether or not the course is repeated. Receiving a grade of F in a graduate course may be ground for probationary status or termination of degree candidacy.

A student may repeat a course in which a grade of C or above was received only when permitted to do so by the dean and the department concerned, unless the course description states that the course may be repeated for credit. A written statement of permission must be submitted for approval to the CCAS Graduate Office by the director of graduate studies. If such a course is repeated, both grades received remain on the student’s record and are included in the student’s grade-point average. The second taking of the course does not count toward degree requirements.

A graduate student may take an advanced undergraduate course for graduate credit only upon the approval of the department at the time of registration. Such approval is granted only with the provision that the student complete additional work in order to receive graduate credit.

Program of Studies

The program of studies is a formal agreement between a student and a department/program of the requirements to be met in completing a specific degree program as well as the dates by which each requirement must be completed. Students should consult their department’s director of graduate studies to outline their program of studies as soon as they begin graduate work.

Students must make sure that they are fully informed of the requirements of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences as well as the requirements of their department or program. Students who must complete additional requirements as specified in their letter of admission must consult the Director of Graduate Studies early in their first semester.

Academic Work Load

All degree candidates must be registered for a minimum of 3 credits in the Spring and Fall semesters unless they are eligible for continuing research. Students finishing in the Summer may register for 0 credits of Continuous Enrollment. Full-time students register for 9 to 12 credits each fall and spring semester, half-time students for 5 to 8 credits, and part-time students for 3 or 4 credits. In the summer, full-time status requires 6 credits, half-time status, 3 credits. These credit amounts do not apply to students who have fewer than the stated number of credits remaining to complete their programs. No more than 15 credits may be taken during any one semester without permission of the department and the dean. Students who are employed more than 20 hours per week should not register for more than 6 credits in any semester.

Continuous Registration

All students must be continuously enrolled while working toward a degree, except during the summer sessions (unless required by the program or if the student intends to graduate in the summer). Students who have completed all course work and thesis or dissertation research requirements and are within CCAS deadlines must register for 1 credit of CCAS 0920 (master’s students), or CCAS 0940 (doctoral students), Continuing Research, each semester until completion of the program; the course reference numbers are found in the Schedule of Classes under Columbian College. If continuous enrollment is not maintained, the student is dropped from the degree program unless the student is registered for an approved leave of absence by the CCAS Graduate Office.

Leave of Absence

A student who is temporarily unable to continue the program of studies may request leave of absence for a specific period of time, not to exceed two semesters during the total period of degree candidacy.  If the request is approved by the program and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, CCAS will register the student for a leave of absence for each semester.  Leaves of absence are normally granted for medical or family reasons and may be granted for other reasons at the discretion of the department and Associate Dean.

Special Program Requirements

Certain programs require their degree candidates to demonstrate a reading knowledge of an appropriate foreign language or languages, a competence in quantitative methods, or some other special subject requirement. Courses taken at the undergraduate level to fulfill these requirements may not be counted in the number of graduate credit hours required for these programs.

Graduation Requirements

All students must submit an online Application for Graduation early in the semester or summer session in which they intend to graduate. Students must be registered in active status in the College during the semester or summer session in which they plan to graduate. Degrees are conferred in January, May, and August. Students who have completed the requirements for a degree but have not yet been awarded the degree will be issued a letter to this effect upon request to the CCAS Graduate Office. A commencement ceremony is held annually in May.

Fellowships and Financial Aid

Many departments offer graduate assistantships and fellowships; students should check with their department/program concerning funding opportunities. Graduate assistants and University Fellows are appointed by the associate dean for graduate studies, based on department recommendations. Other kinds of sponsored and University awards are also available. Awards are based on academic excellence, and only full-time graduate degree candidates in Columbian College are eligible to be considered. Doctoral candidates may be funded for a maximum of five years, M.A. and M.S. candidates for a maximum of two years, and M.F.A. candidates for a maximum of three years.

Students applying for admission who also wish to apply for an assistantship/fellowship should submit a completed application for admission before the funding admission deadline. Currently enrolled students who wish to apply for graduate student support should consult their departmental requirements. 

International students applying for graduate assistantships/fellowships should refer to the International Student Financial Aid section of this Bulletin for regulations governing the appointment of international graduate assistants.

Students who wish to apply for loans should indicate their intent to do so on the Application for Admission. An overview of funding opportunities is available from the University’s Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships.

Partnerships

CCAS graduate programs have long-term partnerships with important Washington-area institutions that include the Smithsonian Institution; NIH, NIST, and other federal agencies; the Folger Shakespeare Library; the Shakespeare Theatre; and the Corcoran Gallery, Phillips Collection, and Textile Museum.

Undergraduate Majors

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences offers the bachelors degrees listed below.

All fields listed below (except biological anthropology, biophysics, and statistics) may lead to the Bachelor of Arts degree. In addition to the fields listed here, students may pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in interior architecture and design.

Scholarship Performance in the Major

Major programs are defined by a set of required courses that can be internal to the home department or external to that department but still required in the major program. The prescribed curricula and minimum specific requirements for majors are outlined under each department’s heading in this Bulletin. For all majors in all departments, a minimum grade of C− must be attained in all upper-level courses numbered in the 2000s through 4000s that are required for the major, regardless of whether those courses are internal or external to the home department.

If a student receives a grade of D+, D, or D− in such a course, the major department may permit that course to satisfy a curricular requirement (such as a prerequisite), but it will not count toward the minimum number of credits required for the major until the course is repeated and a satisfactory grade (C− or better) is attained. Once the student has completed the course with a satisfactory grade, credit hours earned the first time the course was taken will count toward the minimum number of credits required in the major program. Credit earned for the repetition will not count toward the degree.

This condition of C− or better does not apply to introductory-level courses (numbered in the 1000s) that may apply to the major, although a department may choose to implement such a restriction based on its own discretion.

Double Majors

Students who complete the requirements of two majors in Columbian College (such as mathematics and physics or history and economics) may graduate with a double major. Consult with advisors in the two departments concerned before officially declaring both majors with the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

A Columbian College student may pursue a second major in the School of Business, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, or the Elliott School of International Affairs provided that permission to do so has been obtained from the appropriate administrative office. Students in other schools may also take a second major in Columbian College. Students wishing to pursue one of these options must request approval through the appropriate department and Columbian College’s Office of Undergraduate Studies. In all cases, students must complete the general education requirements and a major in their home school in order to graduate.

Double majors do not result in two degrees. See Double Majors and Double Degrees under University Regulations.

Special Interdisciplinary Majors

A student may propose a special interdisciplinary major, in consultation with appropriate academic advisors. The proposed major must have valid and clearly defined academic goals to be considered for approval. Only students with a 3.0 or better cumulative grade-point average are eligible to propose a special interdisciplinary major. The proposal must be submitted for approval by the end of the fourth semester or the semester following completion of 45 credit hours, whichever comes first.

Approval of the proposed major rests with the Committee on Undergraduate Studies, which must also approve the proposed name of the major and the composition of the committee that will oversee it. At least 45 credit hours of the major must be completed in Columbian College. Because of the broad scope of an interdisciplinary program, it may not be part of a double major although students are allowed to declare a minor with approval of the Committee on Undergraduate Studies.

At the discretion of the committee overseeing the major, the student must either write an acceptable senior thesis or pass a comprehensive examination in the last semester of study toward the degree. Students may apply for Special Honors by registering for CCAS 4191 Special Interdisciplinary Major Capstone. To be eligible, students must meet the requirements for Special Honors stated under University Regulations, must have a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.5, and must receive a Pass With Distinction from all members of the major committee on the final project or thesis.

Minors

Students who wish to familiarize themselves with a field outside their major may graduate with a minor in addition to the major. Not all Columbian College departments offer undergraduate minors; the requirements prescribed by those that do are listed under the department concerned. A student interested in a minor should consult a faculty advisor in the applicable department and declare both major and minor programs through the Office of Undergraduate Studies. Students may pursue at most two minors.

At least one-half of the course work required for a minor must be done in residence. Grades of C− or better must be earned in upper-division courses, including such courses transferred as advanced standing from another institution. Courses passed with a grade below C− may be used to fulfill a minor field curricular requirement but may not be counted toward the total number of credit hours required for the minor.

Columbian College students can pursue minors in other schools of the University, as well as those in naval science and in sustainability.  Note that Columbian College students are limited in the number of hours they may take in courses outside the College (“professional credit” courses). Refer to Courses Outside Columbian College.

Columbian College offers minors in the following fields:

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences offers the following Master degrees.

Unless otherwise specified, the requirements listed below are applicable to candidates for all master’s degrees offered by Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

General Requirements

Minimum credit requirements follow, but it should be noted that many departments set credit requirements well above the number of credits stated here. Specific requirements appear under the name of the department or program concerned in the bulletin. For a master’s degree program that includes a thesis, satisfactory completion of a minimum of 30 credit hours of approved graduate work, including 6 credit hours of thesis research, is required. For a master’s degree program that does not include a thesis, the number of credit hours of approved graduate course work is determined by the department. Some departments offer a choice between a thesis option and a non-thesis option. Undergraduate courses taken without additional graduate-level work, deficiency coursework, and EAP courses are not counted toward program requirements or the degree GPA.

Upon approval, up to one-half of the required graduate work may be taken in courses offered by another degree-granting division of this University. With approval, up to one-quarter of work toward a master’s degree may be taken in courses offered by the other affiliated institutions of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. In all cases, at least one-half of the hours counting toward the master’s degree must be taken after entering the program, in graduate courses offered by Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Master’s students have an overall four-year time limit for completion of all degree requirements.  An approved leave of absence is not counted towards the time limit requirement.  Students must apply, and be approved for an extension of time if they wish to study beyond the time limit.

Transfer of Credit

A maximum of one-quarter of the credit hours of graduate course work required for a degree may be approved for transfer to a graduate program in Columbian College from enrollment in non-degree status at GW or from another degree-granting school of this University or another accredited college or university. For a transfer of credit to be approved, all of the following conditions must be met:

  1. the course work must be from an accredited institution and must have been taken within the five years prior to matriculation;
  2. it must be approved by the department as part of the student’s program of studies;
  3. it must not have been applied to the completion of requirements for another degree;
  4. it must be post-baccalaureate graduate-level course work;
  5. the course must have received a grade of B or better.

Requests for transfer credit must be submitted in writing and approved by the department’s director of graduate studies and the dean during the student’s first year in the program. An official transcript of the course work must be on file before the request can be considered. Grades from transfer credit are not part of the graduate GPA, except in the case of approved non-degree GW credits.

Once enrolled in Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, students are not permitted to transfer course work taken outside the University, except under extraordinary circumstances; permission must be sought from the department and Associate Dean in advance.

Master’s Comprehensive Examination

Many programs require degree candidates to pass a Master’s Comprehensive Examination in the major subject. Examinations are held on dates fixed by the departments. The nature and form of the examination are the responsibility of the department or program. A student who fails to pass the Master’s Comprehensive Examination may, with the approval of the department, repeat the examination at the next scheduled examination date. If the student fails a second time, no further opportunity to take the examination is permitted, and the student’s degree candidacy is terminated.

The Thesis

The main purposes of a master’s thesis are to demonstrate the student’s ability to make independent use of information and training and to furnish objective evidence of constructive powers in a chosen field. The student normally registers for 6 credit hours of thesis research supervised by a director and a reader. Registration for thesis research entitles the student to the advice and direction of the member of the faculty under whom the thesis is to be written. The thesis subject must be approved by the faculty members who will direct the thesis. All theses must be submitted electronically by the stated deadlines and meet the formatting and other requirements set forth on the Electronic Theses and Dissertation webpage.

Doctoral degrees


Doctor of Philosophy program

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences offers the following Doctor of Philosophy degrees

The Doctor of Philosophy program is divided into two parts: precandidacy and candidacy. During precandidacy, a student completes the general requirements and the General Examination. Once admitted to candidacy, the student prepares, submits, and defends the dissertation.

General Requirements

The programs leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy require the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 72 credit hours of approved graduate course work, including at least 12 and at most 24 hours of dissertation research. A minimum of 48 of these hours must be taken in the precandidacy stage, in preparation for the General Examination. A maximum of 12 of these hours may be taken in courses offered by the other affiliated members of the Consortium of Washington Area Universities. The exact number of credit hours required for any part of the total program is assigned by each department and may exceed the minimum required by the Columbian College.
Ph.D. students have an overall eight-year time limit for completion of all degree requirements.  An approved leave of absence is not counted towards the time limit requirement.  Students must apply, and be approved for an extension of time if they wish to study beyond the time limit.

Transfer of Credit

Entering students who hold a master’s degree from an accredited institution and in a field relevant to the proposed doctoral field of study may request transfer of up to 30 hours of credit toward a doctoral degree. For those who do not hold the master’s degree, a maximum of 30 hours of credit may be transferred, provided the conditions below are met:

  1. the course work must be from an accredited institution and must have been taken within the five years prior to matriculation;
  2. it must be approved by the department as part of the student’s program of studies;
  3. it must not have been applied to the completion of requirements for another degree;
  4. it must be post-baccalaureate graduate-level course work;
  5. the course must have received a grade of B or better.

Requests for transfer credit must be submitted in writing and approved by the department and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies during the student’s first year at GW. An official transcript of the course work must be on file before the request can be considered. Grades from transfer credit will not be counted towards the graduate degree GPA, except in the case of approved non-degree GW credits.

The General Examination

The General Examination is composed of an examination in each of the areas of study comprising the student’s program. A student who fails to pass any part of the General Examination may, with the approval of the department, repeat the examination at the next scheduled examination date. If the student fails a second time, no further opportunity to take the examination is permitted, and the student’s degree candidacy is terminated.
Satisfactory performance on the General Examination is required for admission to candidacy but does not guarantee it. A department will recommend advancement to candidacy only if satisfied with the student’s performance in every aspect of the program, only after a dissertation advisor has been selected and a dissertation area determined, and only if the department is confident of the student’s ability to complete the dissertation within the allotted time.

The Degree of Master of Philosophy

Upon departmental recommendation and approval of the dean, the degree of Master of Philosophy may be awarded to students who have been advanced to candidacy and successfully completed all requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree up to and including the General Examination. Not all departments recommend students for this degree. Students requesting the M.Phil. must contact the CCAS Graduate office and submit an online application for graduation. The degree is not automatically conferred upon advancing to candidacy.

The Dissertation and Final Examination

A dissertation directed or co-directed by a member of the GW faculty is required of each doctoral candidate as evidence of ability to perform scholarly research and interpret its results. The student normally enrolls for 12 to 24 hours of dissertation research after admission to candidacy. Dissertation Research must be taken in units of no less than 3 credits per semester.
When the dissertation has been approved by the director and the members of the Dissertation Research Committee, the candidate takes the Final Examination (the defense). A committee of examiners composed of Columbian College faculty and outside scholars conducts the examination. If the candidate passes, he or she is recommended to Columbian College for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The dissertation must be submitted electronically by the stated deadline and meet the formatting and other requirements set forth on the Electronic Theses and Dissertations website.

The Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy Dual Degree Program

A dual degree program is available to qualified students who seek both the Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The requirements that must be fulfilled for both degrees are identical to those currently and separately established in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. A student working toward these degrees may apply a maximum of 24 credit hours of approved course work in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences toward the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The estimated time for the completion of this dual program is six years. In order to enter the dual degree program, a prospective student must apply for and gain admission both to Columbian College and to the School of Medicine and Health Sciences separately through established procedures. Upon admission to both schools, the student may then apply for affiliation with the dual degree program.


The Doctor of Psychology program

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences offers the following Doctor of Psychology degree

General Requirements

The program leading to the degree of Doctor of Psychology requires the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 83 credit hours of approved graduate work. A maximum of 12 credit hours may be taken in courses offered by the other affiliated members of the Consortium of Universities. Doctor of Psychology students have an overall five-year time limit for completion of all degree requirements.  An approved leave of absence is not counted towards the time limit requirement.  Students must apply, and be approved for an extension of time if they wish to study beyond the time limit.

Transfer of Credit

Provisions are the same as those of the Doctor of Philosophy Program, above, except that up to 30 credits may be transferred into the program.

The General Examination

Each student is required to complete the General Examination no later than the beginning of the final semester of the program. A student who fails to pass any part of the General Examination may, in exceptional circumstances, and with the approval of the program, repeat the examination at the next scheduled examination date. If the student fails a second time, no further opportunity to take the examination is permitted, and the student’s degree candidacy is terminated.

The Degree of Master of Psychology

Students who have earned 53 credits toward the Psy.D. may receive the M.Psy. degree. Further information on the requirements of the Doctor of Psychology degree appears under Professional Psychology. Students requesting the MPsy degree must submit an online application for graduation. The degree is not automatically conferred after completion of 53 credits.

Graduate certificate programs

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences offers a range of graduate certificate programs. Departments and programs offering graduate certificates are indicated in italics below.

Admission

Certificate students are not automatically admitted to a master's or doctoral program; they must submit an application for admission, meet the admission requirements, and be admitted to the degree program.

With departmental and Columbian College approval, students may concurrently register for a certificate and another Columbian College degree. If the certificate is conferred by another school, students must secure permission from both schools and apply and be admitted to both schools.

Certificate Completion

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences requires all certificate candidates, both full-time and part-time, to complete all academic requirements within a maximum of three calendar years from admission.  An approved leave of absence is not counted towards the time limit requirement.  Students must apply, and be approved for an extension of time if they wish to study beyond the time limit.

To be eligible for a Graduate Certificate, students must complete all course requirements with a minimum GPA of 3.0, with no grades of F.

Transfer of Credit

Requests for transfer credit must be submitted in writing and approved by the department’s director of graduate studies and the dean during the student’s first year in the program. An official transcript of the course work must be on file before the request can be considered. Grades from transfer credit are not part of the graduate GPA.

Once enrolled in Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, students are not permitted to transfer course work taken outside the University, except under extraordinary circumstances; permission must be sought from the dean in advance.

Transfer of credit to the Certificate

All courses transferred in to a graduate certificate program must meet the following conditions:

  • the course work must be from an accredited institution and must have been taken within the five years prior to matriculation;
  • it must be approved by the department as part of the student’s program of studies;
  • it must be post-baccalaureate graduate-level course work;
  • the course must have received a grade of or better.

In addition, the following restrictions apply:

  • at most one course from outside GW can be transferred in;
  • at most two courses that have been used toward a previously completed CCAS program can be transferred in;
  • no course may count toward more than one certificate.

Transfer of credit from the Certificate to degree programs

Students may transfer up to 100% of coursework (maximum of 18 credits) in a CCAS certificate program to another CCAS degree program if the curriculum for the certificate is wholly a subset of the degree, providing the conditions below are met:

  • the course work must have been taken within the five years prior to matriculation; 
  • the course must have received a grade of B or better.

Explanation of Course Numbers

  • Courses in the 1000s are primarily introductory undergraduate courses
  • Those in the 2000–4000s are upper-division undergraduate courses that can also be taken for graduate credit with permission and additional work
  • Those in the 6000s and 8000s are for master’s, doctoral, and professional-level students
  • The 6000s are open to advanced undergraduate students with approval of the instructor and the dean or advising office