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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Programs and Advanced Degrees


Graduate Major Program--A student’s major program is the field of primary interest and the one in which the greater portion of graduate work is taken. Programs are designed to prepare students to assume positions of informed and responsible authority in their fields and to contribute creatively to them. They promote not only specialization, but also breadth of scholarship, the ability to study and think independently, and familiarity with the principal techniques and important literature in the field. The research undertaken by the candidate should deal with a problem that can yield a significant contribution to knowledge.

In general, departments of the University are identified with specific major programs. Thus, Aerospace Engineering is a graduate major program that is offered by the Department of Aerospace Engineering. In some cases, a single department offers work in more than one degree program. Occasionally, two or more departments within a college or across colleges collaborate in offering an interdisciplinary program.

Intercollege Graduate Degree Programs--When faculty members from departments in two or more colleges collaborate in offering a graduate major, the program is designated as an intercollege graduate degree program. A committee of graduate faculty members approved by the Graduate School is responsible for administering the program under a program chair. The University currently offers more than a dozen such programs, primarily at the doctoral level.


The degrees of Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Musical Arts, Doctor of Nursing Practice, and Doctor of Public Health are conferred by the University. The Ph.D. places a strong emphasis on research. The D.Ed. emphasizes professional competence in a field of education. The D.M.A. recognizes professional-level performance and scholarly knowledge of the instrument and the discipline of music. The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree recognizes the highest level of clinical nursing practice.  The Doctor of Public Health recognizes leadership in the application of translational science and implementation of research findings to practice in the field of Public Health.  All require high attainment and productive scholarship.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) and the Master of Science (M.S.) degrees are academic in nature, the programs placing emphasis on basic knowledge and research. Various professional master's degrees also are conferred.

Graduate degree programs are offered at five campuses of the University: University Park (UP colleges and the School of International Affairs); Penn State Erie (The Behrend College); Penn State Harrisburg (Capital College); Hershey (the College of Medicine); and the Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies in Malvern, PA.  Some graduate programs also are offered online through Penn State's World Campus.


A graduate student who has been admitted for work in one major but who wants to transfer to another should complete an application for a change of degree or major. The student’s credentials will be reviewed and the proposed new graduate program head or committee chair consulted. If the change is approved but the student is inadequately prepared for the new major, the student may be required to make up certain deficiencies.

A graduate student admitted for either an academic/research degree (M.A., M.S., or Ph.D.) or a professional degree who wants to change from one type of degree to another must complete an application for a change of degree. Similarly, a student who has earned a master’s degree at Penn State but who wants to earn a doctoral degree in a different field must complete an application for a change of degree. A student may be required to make up certain deficiencies if inadequately prepared for the new program.


In general, graduate students are best advised to focus on one degree objective at a time. However, a candidate for a master’s degree in one major field who wishes to begin work for either a master’s or a doctoral degree in a second field; or a candidate for a doctoral degree who wishes to begin work on a master’s degree in a second field while concurrently completing the doctoral program can petition to do so (approval will not be granted for any combination of concurrent doctorates, including the Ph.D., D.Ed., or D.M.A. degrees). The department or program heads of both majors and the director of Graduate Enrollment Services must approve any such plan. Guidelines for preparation of a proposal for concurrent graduate degrees have been established by Graduate Council. The guidelines and form are available on the Graduate School website at:


Students may apply for dual-title degrees in one of the dual-title graduate degree programs approved by Graduate Council. Students wishing to follow this course of action must already be enrolled in an existing graduate program; it is this primary program in which the greater portion of the work will be conducted. The primary program will be supplemented by a secondary program in which substantial work is carried out under the supervision of a faculty adviser from the secondary program, and in which a thesis or culminating/capstone experience integrating both fields is completed. Guidelines and information are available from the Dean of the Graduate School.


Programmatic Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Degree Programs--Graduate Council-approved Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) degree programs are available. These programs allow students to work on a baccalaureate and a master's degree at the same time and are intended for exceptional students who can perform their academic studies at an accelerated pace and take on the challenges of graduate courses and research while still enrolled as undergraduates. Typically, up to 12 of the credits required for the master's degree may be applied to both degrees (excluding the graduate thesis or other graduate culminating/capstone experience, including any associated credits and/or deliverables, which may not be double-counted toward any other degree; if the thesis or culminating/capstone experience is recognized as meeting requirements for the undergraduate degree, it will not be recognized and cannot be used to meet requirements for the graduate degree), and the total time for completing both degrees is less than if the degrees were earned separately. These programs include those within a single department and those that are interdepartmental or intercollege programs. Guidelines and information are available at:

Schreyer Honors College Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Degree Programs--The Graduate School, by special exception from the Dean of the Graduate School, offers Schreyer Scholars the opportunity to integrate any existing Penn State baccalaureate degree program with any existing Penn State master’s degree program in a continuous program of study culminating in both a baccalaureate and a master’s degree.

A Schreyer Scholar who is granted IUG status will have dual enrollment in an undergraduate program and in a master’s program. Some credits earned as an undergraduate may be applied to both degree programs; however, the graduate thesis or other graduate culminating/capstone experience (including associated credits and/or deliverables) may not be double-counted toward any other degree. If the thesis or culminating/capstone experience is recognized as meeting requirements for the undergraduate degree, it will not be recognized and cannot be used to meet requirements for the graduate degree. Schreyer Scholars must adhere to the Graduate Council guidelines for establishing IUG programs that may be found at when constructing their individual IUG programs, including those related to timing of admission. In addition, the Schreyer Honors College has established procedures for Schreyer Scholars who wish to explore this opportunity. See:


Updated: 8/28/2017; links updated 6/19/2015


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