Continuity of Operations planning information for the College of Education: Click here


Expectations, Credit Load and Residency


Our Ph.D. policies and procedures are intended to assure high academic performance while permitting flexibility in what is required of each student to achieve that standard. Advisers and Ph.D. Committee members are expected to use their professional judgment in setting specific requirements for each doctoral student based upon their understanding of the student's individual goals and needs. Consequently, seldom do any two students complete their programs in the same way—even those who choose the same emphasis area. All students are admitted to the Graduate School, College of Education, and Department of Curriculum and Instruction (C I) through standard procedures. Each student is assigned an adviser from the selected emphasis area. Each student must complete a Qualifying Examination and then within an eight year period complete the residency requirement, English competence requirement, a written and oral Comprehensive Examination, and a dissertation and Final Oral Examination. 

Credit Load

Full-time enrollment is defined as 9 graduate course credits of academic work during a semester. In C I, we recommend that doctoral students exceed the 9 credit minimum when possible. The Graduate School considers 15 credits to be the maximum load for full-time academic work in a graduate program (see Policy GCAC-501). 

Note that there are additional credit load policies for graduate assistants (see Policy GSAD-501) and international students (see Policy GSAD-502).


Doctoral students at Penn State must meet a residency requirement. Residency for the C I Ph.D. program is defined as spending at least two consecutive semesters as a registered full-time student engaged in academic work at the University Park campus. The year of residency can begin during the semester in which a student passes the Qualifying Examination or after that semester. Summer sessions do not count towards residency, and C I 601 and C I 611 cannot be used to meet the residency requirement. The residency requirement must be met prior to graduation from the doctoral program. 

Note that the residency requirement is different for full-time University employees enrolled in a Ph.D. program (see Policy GCAC-601).

Ph.D. Manual
Expectations, Credit Load, and Residency ○ Emphasis Areas, Dual-Title Degrees, and Minors ○ Roles of an Adviser ○ The Qualifying Examination ○ English Competence ○ Doctoral Committee Membership ○ Responsibilities of the Doctoral Committee ○ Plan of Study ○ Comprehensive Examination ○ Dissertation and Final Oral Examination ○ Procedures Concerning Graduation