Transfer Credit

As noted on the Degree Requirements page, GSAS degree requirements consist of a) the academic requirements enumerated by the department or program, and b) the requirement of residence at the University, which students fulfill by completing a stated number of Residence Units.

At GSAS, transfer credit denotes relevant coursework completed before a student’s enrollment in a GSAS degree program that he or she submits in partial fulfillment of specific academic requirements for the degree. This determination is made by the student’s department, approved by GSAS, and entered on the student’s transcript as formal acknowledgement of previously completed, approved work. During the first semester in which they register, students requesting transfer credit should submit the Application for Transfer Credit form as well as any relevant materials to their department’s director of graduate studies or program director. Departments and programs use this chart to determine the number of points of transfer credit to award, and forward their recommendation to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Please note that all courses submitted for transfer credit must be at the graduate level (at Columbia, this means courses at the 4000 level and above) and worth three or more points each.

Students should be aware of the following policies:

  • Transfer credit is granted solely by the faculty and the dean of the Graduate School.
  • Requests for transfer credit must be made by the student and endorsed by the director of graduate studies/program director.
  • Under no circumstances will undergraduate courses (for Columbia courses, those at the 3000 level and below) be accepted as transfer credit toward a master's or doctoral degree.
  • Once granted, transfer credit cannot be revoked.
  • Departments and programs reserve the right to determine the number of points of transfer credit awarded to each student.
  • No amount of transfer credit (whether credits or RUs) will affect PhD students' five-year guaranteed funding package.
  • Students who transfer from one PhD program to another within Columbia University and receive transfer credit from the original course of study do not receive additional guaranteed funding beyond the initial offer letter of five years of funding.

Policies for awarding transfer credit differ depending on the type of degree program (doctoral or master's). Please see the appropriate section below.

Doctoral Students

Doctoral Students Entering with a Master's Degree:

All doctoral students are required to complete a total of six Residence Units. Doctoral students who have completed the requirements either a) for an appropriate MA degree, conferred in another division of Columbia or by another regionally accredited institution (or the international equivalent), or b) (occasionally) for an appropriate professional degree taken at Columbia or elsewhere, may be granted, upon entrance to the Graduate School, two Residence Units toward the required total of six. Departments decide whether the previously completed MA is appropriate: it must meet Columbia departmental standards and contribute directly and substantially to the fulfillment of the requirements for the MPhil and PhD degrees at Columbia.

Students who have been granted two Residence Units toward the total of six Residence Units are not eligible to receive an MA from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Note: Because departments reserve the right to establish degree requirements for all students in their programs, it is important to note that students may not necessarily be exempt from all requirements demanded of MA candidates, even if they are not eligible for the Columbia MA degree.

Graduate students transferring to Columbia as an advisee of a faculty member hired from another institution may be granted a higher number of Residence Units based on special departmental determination.

Doctoral Students Entering without a Master's Degree:

PhD students who have taken graduate-level courses at Columbia before joining their current doctoral program, but have not completed an appropriate MA degree program or the equivalent (or an appropriate professional degree), may receive up to 30 points of transfer credit. On rare occasions, PhD students who have previously taken graduate-level courses at Columbia for an appropriate certificate may receive up to 30 points of transfer credit.

PhD students who have taken graduate-level courses outside Columbia, but have not completed an appropriate MA degree program or the equivalent (or an appropriate professional degree), may receive up to 15 points of transfer credit. In this case, MA coursework requirements may be shortened by the amount of transfer credits, subject to approval by the department. For example, if the MA degree requires 30 credits and the student transfers 10 credits, he or she may need to fulfill only the remaining 20 credits.

Students who registered previously in a graduate program at Columbia without receiving a master’s degree must register in six RUs while matriculated in the PhD program. Note: Depending on the number of RUs in which they were registered prior to entering the PhD program, their student records may show more than six total RUs. 

Students may not register for Extended Residence until they have accumulated a total of six RUs as students in the PhD program in which they are currently registered.

Master's Students

For graduate courses taken previously at Columbia in their post-baccalaureate years, students registered in courses in MA or certificate programs may request up to 15 points of Columbia transfer credit toward fulfillment of the coursework requirement for an MA degree if the graduate credits have not been used to fulfill requirements for any other degree previously awarded. In this case, MA coursework requirements may be shortened by the amount of transfer credits, subject to approval by the department. For example, if the MA degree requires 30 credits and the student transfers 10 credits, he or she may need to fulfill only the remaining 20 credits. Transfer credits for post-baccalaureate coursework may also partially fulfill the Residence Unit requirement for completion of the MA degree (2 RUs), subject to approval by the department.

  • 1-2 classes or 3-6 credits are the equivalent of 0.25 RU
  • 3 classes or 9 credits are the equivalent of 0.5 RU
  • 4 classes or 12 credits are the equivalent of 1 RU

For graduate courses taken previously at Columbia in their post-baccalaureate years, students who have earned a Columbia MA or certificate may use previous Columbia coursework for placement in a program, and to satisfy requirements in the new program, but these previous courses may not count toward the total number of credits or courses required for the degree nor toward the two RUs required for the current master’s degree.

No transfer credit is granted toward the Master of Arts (MA) degree at Columbia for courses taken outside Columbia University.