Lifelong Education

What is Lifelong Education?

Lifelong Education is for students wanting to take an MSU course for credit, without entering into a degree-granting program.

Can I start courses as a Lifelong student before applying to the Master's Degree?

Yes.  Many students choose to begin their degree with Lifelong Education.  Three of the most common reasons are:

  1. …the opportunity to try the program before making a full commitment to the Master’s Degree. 
    A Lifelong student has the chance to preview the MS in Food Safety curriculum, as well as experience online learning first hand.
  2. …an applicant is concerned that their credentials may not meet the application requirements for the Online Master of Science in Food Safety program.
    Taking classes through Lifelong Education gives the applicant a chance to prove their success before applying to the degree program.  While there are no guarantees, successful completion of MS in Food Safety courses (with a grade of 3.0 or better) can strengthen an application for candidates who do not meet all application requirements (such as a GPA of less than 3.0/4.0).
  3. …the quick and easy application procedure. 
    The MSU Lifelong application can be submitted and processed within a few days, allowing students to start the Master's courses any given semester, even when the graduate application deadline has passed.  This allows more time to gather official transcripts and letters of recommendation for application to the Master’s program.

Can I transfer my Lifelong credits into the Master's program?

  • If a Lifelong student later decides to apply to our graduate degree program and is accepted, MSU will allow transfer of up to 9 credits (with a grade of 3.0 or better in each course) earned through any combination of courses taken through lifelong education, graduate certification, or in transfer from another institution. 
  • The time limit for completing the master's degree is 5 calendar years from the date of enrollment in the first course included for degree certification, inclusive of transfer credits. 

For course details, visit the Curriculum page.

Are there disadvantages to Lifelong Education I should be aware of?

Yes.  If you are planning to start the Master's degree as a Lifelong student first, you should be aware of the following:

  1. …program orientation is not open to Lifelong students.
    Master's degree students are required to take VM 810 Introduction to Food Safety Management as their first course.  This award-winning course serves as an orientation to the program, the university, and the online environment. It is a valuable introduction to the program's curriculum, instructors, resources and expectations. Only those accepted to the graduate degree program are eligible for this course, which means Lifelong students must start the coursework without this advantage. 
  2. …tuition rates for non-degree students can be higher.
    Another disadvantage is that, unless you are a Michigan resident, the tuition rate for Lifelong education is higher than that for the graduate degree (see Tuition chart).
  3. …Federal Financial Aid is not available. 
    Lifelong students should be aware that they are not eligible to receive most financial aid, including Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Who can become a Graduate Level Lifelong Student?

Anyone with at least a Bachelor's degree can apply to MSU as a graduate level Lifelong student and take many of our online courses individually and separate from the degree program. 

Acceptance to Courses as a Lifelong Student

Requests for overrides into our courses will be reviewed individually and acceptance will be made based on seat availability following enrollment of admitted MSFS students.  The following factors will be considered at the discretion of the program management team:

  1. MSFS Program alumni status
  2. Other online MSU graduate students
  3. Other on-campus MSU graduate students
  4. Readiness and suitability for graduate studies (can be based on prior MSFS Program coursework and instructor feedback)
  5. Likelihood to make timely progress and successfully complete the course.

State Exclusions and Disclaimers

The U.S. Department of Education requires an institution offering distance education programs to acquire authorization from the states in which it operates. Specific regulations vary from state to state. The most current details on State Exclusions and Disclaimers can be found at

What classes can I take as a Lifelong Student?

Lifelong students can enroll in the same graduate level courses available to those pursuing the Food Safety Certificate.  Click here for course descriptions.

How do I apply for Lifelong Education:

The lifelong application can be found on the MSU admissions website under "Guest Student."  The application can be completed and processed within 24-48 hours. 

How do I earn a Certificate in Food Safety?

As an alternative to the Master of Science in Food Safety, our program offers a four-course (12 credit-hour) online Certificate in Food Safety which is achieved through Lifelong (non-degree) Education. 
To satisfy the requirements for the Certificate in Food Safety, a Lifelong student must complete any four approved 3-credit courses within the MS in Food Safety curriculum.  These courses can be taken in any sequence.   Lifelong students are required to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0.  For course options, visit the Food Safety Certificate page.

What should I know about enrollment as a Lifelong Student at MSU?

Lifelong students at MSU are not assigned a major.  Therefore, before enrolling, they must contact the graduate secretary for the department offering the course to arrange an override.  You will need to provide your PID number, your choice of course, and the semester you wish to enroll.

To request an override: 

  • For VM (Veterinary Medicine) courses, contact Heather Ricks, Academic Advisor for the Food Safety Program, at
  • For FSC courses, contact Mary Anne Verleger from the Institute for Food Law and Regulations at

You will enroll using Schedule Builder.

For more information on Lifelong Education at Michigan State University, visit the Office of the Registrar.