March 30, 2020
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What is a Capstone Project and Why Are They Required By Most Master’s Programs?

Most graduate school programs require students to write a thesis or complete a Capstone Project. Capstone projects vary from program to program and often are a requirement to provide students the opportunity to use what they have learned and apply it to a specific area of professional practice.

What Exactly is a Capstone Project?

A capstone project or capstone experience involves the identification of an existing problem in a real-world setting and the application of learned skills and methods to develop a solution that addresses the problem directly. In some cases, a capstone project will be geared toward research, while others are more oriented toward problem-solving. Solutions are usually interactive, meaning they can be implemented and used.

What Are the Goals of a Capstone Project?

Typically there are several goals for a capstone and they often include:

  • Defining an information problem or opportunity
  • Decide what techniques are required in order to master this information problem or opportunity
  • Include all aspects of the information problem – using people, technology and information
  • Make a positive difference for the community whether it is a business, school, library, hospital, or other organization
  • Choose a topic or focus area the students are enthusiastic about

Who helps me to decide what Capstone is appropriate to select?

Most students will have an advisor who is a faculty member in their program who will help them select a capstone that is most relevant to their career goals.

Are There Specific Types of Master’s Programs That Generally Require Capstone Projects?

Most master’s degree programs in public administration, social services, public administration, mass communications, and liberal arts require graduate students to complete a capstone project. This can vary from program to program and usually will be listed in general requirements to complete their masters’ degree. Capstone projects are geared towards working professionals to give students the ability to take knowledge and theory they have learned and apply in a real-world setting. Here are some examples of what programs might require a capstone project:

  • Master of Public Health programs often require a Capstone because it provides an opportunity for students to work on public health practice projects that areas of Public Health that are of specific interest to them. A capstone allows the student an opportunity to synthesize, integrate and apply the skills and competencies acquired to a public health problem.
  • Master of Science and Master of Arts in Public Health programs often require either a Capstone or a Culminating Experience.
  • Some Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs require student’s completion of a capstone and can be a long-term research project that addresses a specific business problem or opportunity.
  • Many of the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) programs require Capstone projects, which allows students the chance to apply their coursework in organizational settings of their choice that might include hospitals, community health agencies, local, state, and federal public health agencies, non-profit organizations, research and health policy organizations.

Are There Generally Prerequisites Required For a Capstone Project?

Before choosing a capstone project, students (undergraduate or graduate) will be required to take courses providing them with the theory and skills-based knowledge needed to formulate an idea for a capstone proposal. These classes will be in areas such as research statistics, ethics, program theory, and leadership; they will be relevant courses based on the master’s program curriculum.

How Long Does a Capstone Project Usually Take to Complete?

This will vary from program to program and can be as few as 10 weeks to as many as two semesters depending on the requirements of the program. It is most common for graduate programs to require a capstone project course that lasts for one semester.