Master’s Degree

The Master's degree provides a grounding in the core areas of linguistic theory, supplemented by courses chosen according to the student's specific interests. The Graduate Group in Linguistics does not provide fellowships for pursuit of a master's degree, so students must bring funding from another source. We do not offer conditional admission.

See the general page on applications to learn more about the required components, including tips about writing an effective personal statement and rules about TOEFL and other exams. The admission committee looks for applicants to demonstrate an appropriate academic background to pursue specialized research in formal linguistics, as well as showing interests that match the research pursued at Penn. The best way to become familiar with research conducted here is to take a look at current work of the faculty and students. Note that work on applied and educational linguistics at Penn is centered in the Graduate School of Education, and not in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Once you have done this, and before submitting an application, please consult with the graduate chair to discuss your background and interests, and how they would fit into the department. Like the Ph.D. applications, those for the M.A. should normally be submitted between October 1 and December 1.

The requirements for the M.A. degree are the following; at least three semesters in residence are necessary to complete them, but a full two years is the normal length of time, with the final semester spent focused on the thesis.

  1. Satisfactory completion of eleven approved course units (one semester each), including one year each of phonology -- Ling 5310-5320 (Ling 530-531) and syntax -- Ling 5510-5520 (Ling 550-551). All courses must be at the 5000 (400) level or above to receive graduate credit.
  2. A thesis written under the supervision of a faculty committee. The thesis can be based on previous coursework. The committee consists of at least two faculty members, the adviser and a reader, who both must also be members of the graduate group.
  3. An oral examination based on the thesis. This consists of a private meeting with the committee, during which the student answers questions on the content of the thesis.

The written thesis on which the exam is based should be provided to the committee members in time for them to read it carefully before the exam; normally this will be at least a week, but the committee should be consulted for more specific deadlines.

Students who are already in the Ph.D. program at Penn have the option of receiving an M.A. on the way to the final degree, or if leaving the program without receiving a Ph.D. The requirements for this M.A. are the same as those outlined above.

Tuition and Fees

The current tuition rates and fees for students in either the PhD or MA program are available from the graduate division


Undergraduates who submatriculate are subject to the same requirements for the M.A. as are regular graduate students. A student interested in this program should meet with the undergraduate chair and then the graduate chair to discuss the requirements and the curriculum. Students must submit an on-line application no later than the spring semester of the junior year; the December deadline for graduate applications is not relevant in this case. The components of the application are the same as for the M.A. except that submatriculants should arrange only two letters of recommendation. As with our other graduate programs, submatriculants do not need to include GRE scores; TOEFL scores are also not required. Please contact Amy Forsyth for specific instructions before making the application.

Be aware that, due to University rules, students cannot earn graduate credit until they are actually enrolled in a graduate program. Any graduate-level course taken before that time can be counted toward an undergraduate degree, but not toward a graduate degree. For this reason, students intending to submatriculate must submit an application early enough that they can be admitted before the end of the first semester in which they take a graduate course that is intended to be counted toward the M.A. Beginning Spring 2023, applicants aiming to count a graduate course they are already enrolled in are strongly recommended to apply by the last day of the Drop Period in the semester in which they are taking that course, in order to ensure that the application can be evaluated in time for the course to count.