Home Education Options Demystifying the Final Program Requirement for Graduate Students
Demystifying the Final Program Requirement for Graduate Students

Demystifying the Final Program Requirement for Graduate Students

Learn more about degree programs at American Public University.

By Kelsey Hotaling
Academic Advisor, School of Business and STEM at American Public University

The final program requirement is the culminating experience at the graduate level of study, and the “last hurdle” to getting your graduate degree.

Registration for your final program requirement is a little different than what you have experienced with all your other courses.

The first thing you should do is complete the Graduation Application, which is available in the Student Services menu of your ecampus. The application lets us know that you’re preparing to graduate, and our Graduations team can begin reviewing your record.

Registration through your ecampus for the last class is available when all of your other course grades have posted. There are some exceptions to this, so don’t hesitate to contact your Advising team to discuss your eligibility to register for the course as early as you can. Planning ahead is a valuable step toward completing this part of the program.

It’s important to discuss the various options with your Academic Advising team so that you know which options are available to you.

Capstone Course

The capstone course is typically a 16-week course in which students explore an original research topic that contributes to their discipline. Students present an original argument for their planned research, which is a substantial component of the course.

Preparing for this capstone actually starts at the beginning of the program and is the culmination of the research skills you have acquired throughout your courses. It is usually in students’ best interest to send their topic ideas to their Program Director, who can provide adequate feedback. This is often the best final program requirement to pursue for students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. or Doctorate.


The practicum course is also typically a 16-week course, but not always. It is best to discuss the length with the Academic Advising Team.

Students who choose the practicum options select an organization or site where they will spend 160 to 180 hours working with a mentor on the organization’s projects or goals. Should a student choose to work at an organization, the practicum must be at a different company (rather than inside the organization where the student is currently employed) and involve work different from the student’s existing job.

These sites and projects must be approved by the Program Director before enrolling in the course. Once in the class the student submits a formal proposal for review by the faculty. A paper involving critical reflection is the final component of this course.

Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive exam class is an eight-week course during which students spend time preparing for their final exam, which is usually taken in the last week of the class. Depending on the program, the exam may be timed or involve case studies to complete. While some exams may be proctored, most comprehensive exams allow students to use their books, the library and other research resources.

Capstone Portfolio

This course will vary in length depending on the program. The course involves students reflecting upon their graduate experience by compiling components and research from previous courses to organize into an e-portfolio.

This e-portfolio will reflect the growth the student has experienced throughout the program. Presentations and submissions are typically toward the end of the course.

Capstone Project

The capstone project is generally 16 weeks long and gives students the opportunity to address real-world issues within their profession. Projects could include making a business plan for an organization, designing training manuals or other such projects that serve industry needs.

The format is to propose the project to the instructor who must approve it. So it is certainly a good idea to get feedback from the Program Director on any project ideas.

The key to a successful final program is preparation and confidence. Do not hesitate to contact faculty and staff to discuss project ideas. We have plenty of resources available to help make this an incredible academic experience.

Learn more about degree programs at American Public University.

About the Author

Kelsey Hotaling has been a graduate academic advisor for the schools of Business and STEM for three years. She has a master of business administration and a bachelor of arts in art history. Kelsey enjoys working with graduate students in attaining their professional and educational goals.



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