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University Bulletin

Graduate Degree Programs

Adult Education (ADTED)

Program Home Page

ROY CLARIANA, Director of Graduate Studies
314F Keller Building


ELIZABETH J. TISDELL, Coordinator of Doctoral Program in Adult Education, Penn State Harrisburg

Program Home Page


Degrees Conferred:

Ph.D., D.Ed., M.Ed., M.D./M.Ed.


The Graduate Faculty, University Park

The Graduate Faculty, Harrisburg

The Graduate Faculty, World Campus



The Programs

Adult Education extends through the life span from late adolescence to advanced age and takes place in a rich diversity of organizational as well as informal settings. The purpose of the Adult Education program is to increase the knowledge and competence of those who work with adult learners. Course work, reading assignments, research projects, internships, informal discussions, and the dissertation all provide opportunities for in-depth and challenging learning experiences. The programs are interdisciplinary, and students are advised to seek learning in supporting fields within the University.

The Ph.D., D.Ed., and M.Ed. degrees are offered only at University Park. The M.Ed. is also offered through the World Campus, and through the joint M.D./M.Ed. program. Harrisburg offers the D.Ed. degree.

Admission Requirements (for M.Ed., D.Ed., and Ph.D.)

Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), or from the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), are required for admission. At the discretion of a graduate program, a student may be admitted provisionally for graduate study in the program without these scores. Requirements listed here are in addition to general Graduate School requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.

The best-qualified applicants will be accepted up to the number of spaces that are available for new students. Applicants with a total Verbal and Quantitative score above 1100 on the GRE, a junior/senior average of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale), and a graduate average of 3.50 are usually admitted to the Ph.D. or D.Ed. program. Applicants with a junior/senior average of 2.70, a graduate average of 3.20, and a GRE total score of 1000 but with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests also may be admitted to the doctoral programs with only the baccalaureate degree, but they will earn the master's degree en route. The Miller Analogies Test may be accepted in place of the GRE for admission to the graduate program in Adult Education. A sample of student writing and a "career letter" in which applicants explain how the proposed studies in adult education relate to their careers are required for each degree. A proctored writing sample is required of doctoral students. Three letters of reference (at least two from faculty members for Ph.D. applicants) that evaluate the candidate's aptitude for graduate study are required.

Applicants who exhibit exceptional qualities without meeting all of the stated requirements for admission may be considered for provisional admission while removing identified deficiencies. Deficiencies must be rectified within the first two semesters in the program; courses taken to remove deficiencies are considered to be prerequisites and do not earn credit toward the doctoral degree.

Admission Requirements for Joint M.D./M.Ed.

Those who wish to apply for admission to the joint M.D./M.Ed. degree program would have to meet the admission requirements for the degrees in each program. Prospective students interested in simultaneously pursuing an M.D. and M.Ed. must first apply to the Penn State College of Medicine M.D. program using the national American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application system and indicate their intent to pursue the MD degree at Penn State. They are encouraged to identify themselves as candidates for the joint-degree program at this time. However, medical students who realize after accepting admission into Penn State's College of Medicine that they are interested in the joint M.D./M.Ed. can apply for admission to the joint degree during their first three years in the College of Medicine. Given that students will already be enrolled in the College of Medicine it will be possible for faculty to observe their academic record and counsel them on the advisability of the joint-degree.

General Master's Degree Requirements

The M.Ed. program in Adult Education consists of a required core of 24 credits in ADTED courses and 9 elective credits. The 24 core ADTED credits include the following six specified courses: ADTED 460, ADTED 505, ADTED 506, ADTED 507, ADTED 510, ADTED 588. Students then choose an additional six credits (2 courses) from the following ADTED courses: ADTED 470, ADTED 501, ADTED 531, ADTED 532, ADTED 542, ADTED 575.

M.Ed. students are required to write a master's paper, in lieu of a thesis, as part of the required 33 credits of course work. A minimum of 18 credits out of the 33 must be taken at the 500 level or above and a minimum of 24 credits must be in ADTED prefix courses.

Ph.D. and D.Ed. Doctoral Degree Requirements

Ph.D. students are required to take 12 core credits in Adult Education, 12 credits in an emphasis area that is composed of Adult Education and supporting courses outside Adult Education, and 18 research credits, in addition to the residency requirement, candidacy and comprehensive examinations, and continuous registration during the dissertation research. All students are required to be computer literate as determined by their doctoral committee and will be assessed for communication skills during core adult education courses. Students with a 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) will be given preference in admission to the Ph.D. program.

D.Ed. students who do not have previous experience in adult education are expected to acquire the equivalent of one year of experience in one or more fields of adult education practice prior to receiving their D.Ed. degree. A candidacy examination is administered after students complete 9-15 credits. During the comprehensive examination, in addition to being examined in their area of specialization, all D.Ed. students will be examined in the core adult education areas. A minimum of 24 credits in coursework must be taken in Adult Education. A minimum of 15 credits must be taken outside Adult Education as a minor or General Studies option. A minimum of 6 research credits is required.

Students in the Ph.D. program focus on research in Globalization and Lifelong Learning selecting one emphasis area (Distance Education, Literacy for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations, Comparative Lifelong Learning, or Learning in Work and Communities). Research credits develop the background knowledge and tools to enable them to engage in original research. D.Ed. students conduct applied research with the goal of improving practice in the general adult education field.

Prerequisites for the Ph.D. Program: ADTED 460, Introduction to Adult Education, and ADTED 507, Research and Evaluation in Adult Education, or their equivalents, are prerequisites to admission to the Ph.D. program. Another prerequisite is a basic statistics course, such as EDPSY 400 or AEE 521, required as part of the Penn State master's degree program in Adult Education. As prerequisites they do not count toward the requirements of the Ph.D. program although they may be completed while taking required Ph.D. courses.

Joint M.D./M.Ed. Degree Requirements

As noted in Section D of the Guidelines for Joint Degrees document approved by Graduate Council on January 17, 2007, at least 20% and no more than 40% of the total credits required for the graduate program are met by substitution of courses from the professional program, in this case, the M.D. program. As such, nine credits from the M.D. program will meet the substitution requirement into the M.Ed., and nine credits from the M.Ed. will be accepted into the M.D. program, from among the courses that reflect the interdisciplinary common ground between the two programs. It is to be noted that the course requirements for the joint degree are the same for students admitted to the M.Ed. in Adult Education, with the exception that ADTED 501: Foundations of Medical Education is required for the Joint M.D./M.Ed., and will substitute for ADTED 470: Intro to Distance Education (which is required for the stand-alone M.Ed. degree.) The requirements for the M.Ed. overall include General Adult Education Core (15 credits), Research Requirement (9 credits), and Electives (9 credits). A master's paper is required that carries no course credit, but the course work facilitates the development of the master's paper. Other than the nine credits that will be accepted into the M.D. as part of the joint degree program, the remainder of the M.D. requirements are the same as for those students pursuing the M.D. only.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships and other forms of student aid are described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 599. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.



Last Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2012

Blue Sheet Item #: 40-07-012

Review Date: 06/12/2012

Faculty linked: 8/18/14; UP director updated: 9/18/15