PLEASE NOTE: Graduate students in APS are admitted directly into the Ph.D. program. Master's Degrees can be awarded to students who have completed Comps.

A student must pass Comps at the Master’s level in order to receive a Master’s degree. It is possible to pass Comps at the Master’s level but not advance to candidacy. It is not possible to receive a Master’s by completing the required coursework but not passing the comprehensive exam at the Master’s level.   

Take a look at the APS Comprehensive Examination Guidelines for more detailed information. 


Graduation requirements are governed by policies of both the Department of APS and the University of Colorado Graduate School. The basic requirements for attaining a Master's degree are:

  • Complete within 4 years.
  • Complete 30 hours of course work with at least a B– in each class by the end of a student’s fourth year in the program
  • Retain a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Complete the Comps Exam. 

Prepare for Comps:

The APS department only recognizes Plan II because the Comprehensive Examination presentation is also an oral exam (note that a Comprehensive Exam paper is not a “Master’s Thesis”). The Comprehensive Exam serves as both the exam to advance to doctoral candidacy as well as the final exam to earn a Master's degree.

Plan II - Master's Without Thesis

The minimum requirement for a Master's Degree is 30 non-dissertation credit hours.  The courses must all be at the 5000 level or above.

Paperwork and Deadlines for Graduation

The Department of Astrophysical & Planetary Science works with the University of Colorado Graduate School to ensure our candidates meet all requirements before graduation. As such, the Graduate School has provided a complete list of required documentation and corresponding deadlines for students who are seeking degrees under Plan II (Without Thesis).

Students must apply to graduate online, at the Buff Portal. Please note that the deadlines are strictly adhered to and no exceptions will be made. Deadlines can be found on the Graduate School Web site.

Applying for PhD Candidacy post-comps 

Within two weeks of passing the comprehensive exam, students must submit the candidacy application. When the student’s candidacy application has been approved by the Graduate School, their status is changed to D in CU-SIS for the semester following that in which they passed the comprehensive exam. 

Fall 2023 MS Graduation Deadlines

For December 21, 2023*

  • October 1, 2023
    • Master's students must apply online to graduate through buff portal on the “apply for graduation” card in order to have the degree awarded in December. This is required even though there is no university-wide ceremony.  
  • October 2, 2023
    • ​Master's students must submit to the Graduate School a Candidacy Application for an Advanced Degree.  Applications follow a workflow process and must be approved by the academic department before they are directed to the Graduate School.
  • November 28, 2023
    • Master's students must complete the thesis defense or final examination by this date. Notice of the examination must be provided to the Graduate School using the master's final examination form two weeks before the exam. Certain units do not require an exam for non-thesis students.  Please contact your department with any questions.
  • December 5, 2023
    • Master's thesis plan students must submit the thesis and Thesis Approval Form to ProQuest by this deadline. The thesis must be submitted electronically for review and approval by Gradaute School staff by the end of the business day. The single-page Thesis Approval Form (TAF) must be uploaded as a supplemental file with the dissertation in order for the submission to be complete. Students whose dissertations are received after this deadline, or those not submitted with the TAF, must apply to graduate at the following semester's commencement.
  • December 11, 2023
    • Grade changes must be submitted for incomplete courses taken during previous semesters.

*Note: Although there is no campus-wide ceremony, students may have degrees awarded in August and December.