Sep 22, 2014
Hi All,

Was wondering if anyone knew how transferring credits from a master's degree worked. I am in a PHD program and will get my masters next year (thesis is defended) but am leaving the program this semester, some credits short of me having the actual masters degree. Does anyone have experience with this? Could I make up the credits elsewhere (i.e., leave the program, pick up extra classes at a different university and finish out the credits)? Thanks!


7+ Year Member
Mar 3, 2011
You're in a PhD program and are close to an in route master's? Is that right? I personally have not heard of any program allowing you to transfer the credits and earn the master's in this scenario. Even undergrad typically requires you complete at least 60 credits at a university before receiving a degree with transfer credits.


Clinical Neuropsychologist
5+ Year Member
Nov 1, 2013
Kansas City, MO
If you are leaving the program can you complete the courses to earn the MS degree first?

I know of students in PhD program who leave early and transfer to other PhD programs or MS programs. Most common reason seems to be uncertainty about doing research so they transfer to a MSW program. Other reasons are failing comps or courses and being on academic probation and being terminated from the program. When this happens some allow for completion of a terminal MS but others don't have this option so you just have 40-60 credit hours but no degree. A number of smaller universities with terminal MS degrees allow for transfer of credits based on review of transcripts and course descriptions.

Some are initially accepted into less desirable PhD programs and apply the next year and gain admissions to more desirable programs and jump ship.

Some PhD programs are set up where you are selected to be a research assistant for a faculty member and that faculty member leaves and their students transfer to the new University to continue as a research assistant for the project they had worked with at the other university.
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Board Certified Neuropsychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2009
It is highly dependent on program. Some programs are less likely to admit credits from terminal programs. I have some friends who had to retake entire sequences once they got to a PhD program. However, transferring programs is not all that uncommon, many students will follow a professor if they get a new job, etc. In these cases, the credits have a tendency to transfer more easily if they were earned in the process of a clinical PhD rather than a terminal masters

Regardless, the new program will have to look at the syllabi of the classes you took and make a staff decision on what will count or not.

As others have indicated, you may be putting yourself in a bind not completing the masters first. In that case, I doubt you'd get much to transfer, if you somehow got around a minimum credits requirement at the degree granting institution.