Students prepare cultures in a food science lab

Thesis vs Non-Thesis

Illinois Tech offers more than 200 graduate degree programs that require either a thesis or a non-thesis track. Both options have benefits.

What Is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Non-Thesis Graduate Degree?

Thesis programs involve more research than non-thesis programs. It is important to keep in mind that nearly all master’s degrees require some form of research as part of their course of study. 

Thesis degree programs typically take longer to complete than non-thesis programs, as students are required to dedicate multiple semesters to focus on research and data collection. Upon completion of their research, each student is required to write a large-formatted paper sharing their methods, data, and discovery to be published. Students who desire to have a career in research typically take the thesis route in preparation for Ph.D. study.

Non-thesis programs traditionally require each student to submit a large project, also known as a capstone, upon completion of the program. Students in non-thesis degree programs may be required to write papers explaining their projects; however, there are no expectations that these papers will be published. The non-thesis option is best for working professionals who do not have the time and resources to conduct multi-semester research.