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Part 4: Graduate Degree Requirements

This section describes the minimum requirements for each of the three graduate degrees. Listed first are requirements common to all three programs. Then the M.Ed. degree requirements are described, followed by the requirements of the doctoral programs.

Section 4.1: General Requirements

Additional information on Graduate Degree Requirements is available on the Graduate School website at:
Exceptions: The Adult Education faculty may consider exceptions to the requirements outlined in this handbook as long as those exceptions do not violate Graduate School policy.
Grade-Point Average: A minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at the University is required for graduation and to maintain good academic standing in all three degree programs.
Time Limitation: A doctoral student is required to complete the program, including acceptance of the doctoral thesis, within eight years from the date of successful completion of the candidacy evaluation and within six years of successful completion of the comprehensive examination (both exams are explained below).  On the recommendation of the Professor-in-Charge extensions may be granted by the Director of Graduate Enrollment Services in appropriate circumstances. 

All requirements for a master's degree (including acceptance of a thesis, paper, or project report as may be specified), whether satisfied on the University Park or Harrisburg campuses or elsewhere, must be met within eight years of admission to degree status. On the recommendation of the Professor-in-Charge extensions may be granted by the Director of Graduate Enrollment Services in appropriate circumstances (see Appendix B for the Adult Education Program Reinstatement and Extension of Time-to-Degree policies on this matter).

Advance Standing and Transfer Credits: A maximum of 30 credits beyond the baccalaureate, earned at an accredited institution, may be accepted (as advance standing) in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the D.Ed. Because there is no total-credit requirement for the Ph.D. degree program, advanced standing is not awarded for post-baccalaureate credits.  A maximum of 10 credits of high-quality graduate work done at an accredited institution may be applied (as transfer credits) toward the requirements of the M.Ed. and D.Ed. degrees
Credits may not be transferred into the Ph.D. program.  Credits earned to complete a previous master's degree may not be applied to a second master's degree program at Penn State.

Approval to apply any transferred credits toward a degree program must be granted by the student's academic adviser and the Graduate School. Transferred academic work must have been completed within five years prior to the date of first degree registration at the Graduate School, must be of at least B quality (grades of B- are not transferable), and must appear on an official graduate transcript. Credits earned toward a previously completed post-baccalaureate degree program (law, medicine, etc.) are not transferable. However, up to 10 credits can be transferred from a professional degree program if the degree has not been conferred.

All transfer credit must be substantiated by the former institution as having at least B quality whatever grading system is in place. Pass-Fail grades are not transferable to an advanced degree program unless the "Pass" can be substantiated by the former institution as having at least B quality.

Forms for transfer of credit can be obtained from the Program Staff assistants on either campus.

Academic work to be transferred must meet the following criteria:

a)      It must have been completed within five years prior to the date of first degree registration at the Graduate School of Penn State (see below).

b)      It must appear on an official graduate transcript.

c)      It must be of at least B quality.

d)      It must be deemed applicable to the student's program by the current academic adviser, approved in writing, and submitted to the Graduate School for approval and action.

D.Ed. Residence Requirements:  The D.Ed. is offered in residence at the University Park and Harrisburg campuses.  A minimum of 90 credits, of which at least 30 credits must be earned in residence at University Park campus, or Penn State Harrisburg, is required for the D.Ed. degree. The D.Ed. student may meet the requirements by attending summer sessions. A student may register for a maximum of 30 credits of research in absentia, but none of these may count toward the minimum of 30 credits that must be earned at the University Park campus or Penn State Harrisburg. It is expected that students will register for a minimum of 15 credits of thesis research.

Ph.D. Residence Requirements:  The Ph.D. is offered in residence at University Park only.  Although there is no specified number of credits required for the Ph.D., over some twelve-month period during the interval between admission to the Ph.D. program and completion of the Ph.D. program the candidate must spend at least two semesters as a registered full-time student engaged in academic work at the University Park campus. (The Ph.D. is not currently approved to be offered on the Harrisburg campus). Full-time University employees must be certified by the program as devoting half-time or more to graduate studies and/or thesis research to meet the degree requirements.  Students should note that ADTED 601 (Thesis Preparation) cannot be used to meet the full-time residence requirement.

English Competence: All students are assessed for deficiencies in reading, writing and speaking of English during the core adult education courses. For M.Ed. students this assessment occurs after they have taken 9 and before taking 18 credits of course work. For Ph.D. and D.Ed. students this assessment occurs prior to the candidacy evaluation. When remedial work is necessary the student is directed to the appropriate sources.  International students are advised that the passage of the minimal TOEFL requirement does not demonstrate the level of competence expected of a Ph.D. in Adult Education.
Communication and Foreign Language Competence: All students are required to be computer literate as determined by their academic advisor (in the case of M.Ed. students) and by their doctoral committee (in the case of Ph.D. and D.Ed. students). Students are assessed for communication skills during core adult education courses. Students with knowledge of a second language (as demonstrated by having lived in a foreign country for at least one year, speaking a native language other than English, or having studied another language in post-secondary education for at least two years) are given preference in admission to the Ph.D. program.

Internships (ADTED 595): Internships are an important form of academic support. Internships for students lacking experience in the field of adult education or desiring to gain experiences in a new area of practice within the field are an important part of the Adult Education Program at Penn State.  The internship is intended not only to provide direct experience in the field of Adult Education practice, but also to provide an opportunity for integration of theoretical concepts with practical applications.  Written work submitted for evaluation should reflect such integration and analysis of experience.

Internships are currently restricted to resident students and not available for on-line students. A student interested in serving an internship notifies an Adult Education Program faculty member of the kind of internship experience desired. The faculty member and student cooperatively identify suitable organizations in which the desired internship may be served and prospective contact persons in those organizations with whom an internship may be arranged.  The faculty member contacts the most appropriate person in the organization to serve as the on-site supervisor of the internship. A three-way meeting, in person or by telephone, is conducted by the student, on-site supervisor, and faculty member to discuss the terms of an internship contract which delineates the duties of the intern, the responsibilities of the host organization, the learning objectives to be accomplished, the timetable (of approximately 160 hours for 3 credits) for their completion, the evidence of their completion, and the criteria for their evaluation.  If the internship is to be a paid experience, the financial compensation to the student for services rendered as part of the internship should also be specified. The student registers in ADTED 595, "Internship in Adult Education" for 3 or more credits.

The internship is served according to the agreed upon terms in the internship contract. Upon completion of the terms of the contract, the student and on-site supervisor each send a written report of the experience to the faculty members.  These reports are placed in the student's file.  The faculty member submits a grade for ADTED 595.

Research Apprenticeship (ADTED 594): Research apprenticeships are required for Ph.D. students. The instrument used to conduct these apprenticeships is the Research Topic course (ADTED 594).  ADTED 594 is for “supervised student activities on research projects identified on an individual or small-group basis. A specific title may be used in each instance and will be entered on the student’s transcript. Multiple offerings may be accommodated by the use of suffixes A, B, etc” (PSU Graduate Bulletin).  Ph.D. students enroll in ADTED 594 to gain broad research skills and to explore broad research topics, not directly related to their thesis/dissertation work. Activities conducted under this course heading are supervised by the student’s academic advisor; or by a faculty member approved by the student’s advisor. It is advisable that these apprenticeship activities begin the first or second semester and continue throughout the student’s program of study. ADTED 600/610 (Thesis Research) is for research activity that relates or contributes directly to the thesis/dissertation, and should not be confused with research apprenticeship activities (ADTED 594).

In addition to the activities just listed, students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to work with faculty on a variety of organized research and outreach endeavors related to the four program emphasis areas. Examples of such opportunities include:

Assisting faculty with their research at:

  • The Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, and
  • The Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy
  • Assisting in teaching Adult Education courses online and in residence

These projects afford students the opportunity to live and work for extended periods in communities around Pennsylvania, other parts of the United States, and overseas.  

Students may also become co-authors with faculty on books, book chapters, journal articles, conference papers and presentations.