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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Graduate Credits

Typically, a candidate for an advanced degree is required to earn a certain minimum number of credits at Penn State. Consequently, there is a limit to the number of credits that may be earned at another approved institution to meet the minimum requirements of the degree. Moreover, the department or committee in charge of a major program may require a student to do more of the work at the University than specified by the limitations set by the Graduate Faculty.

Full-time participation in graduate study involves a wide range of activities. The nature of these activities varies because of the diversity of programs throughout the University. The graduate student is responsible for ascertaining, through the adviser and/or program office, the range of total activity of his or her individual program that constitutes normal progress toward the degree.

A self-supported or fellowship student who is registered for at least 9 credits is considered to be engaged in full-time academic work for that semester. If such a student wishes to register for more than 15 credits, an exception to the normal maximum load must be granted through petition (with adviser’s approval) to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services.

Credit limits and full-time status for assistants and University employees are described under Credit Loads and Academic Status.

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Refer to Graduate Course Definitions for the distinction between 500- and 800-level courses.

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. Language courses used to meet foreign language requirements are exceptions, as are the ESL courses for international students.

No student is permitted to count audited credits toward the minimum credit load for full-time or part-time status.

Course-Numbering System--Courses in the series 1–399 are not listed in this bulletin because they are strictly undergraduate courses and yield no graduate credit. 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.

Courses in the series 400–499 are for upperclass students with at least a junior standing and for graduate students. Only a limited number of credits earned in these courses may be counted toward the requirements for an advanced degree. Detailed regulations concerning the restrictions are given under the specific requirements for the various master’s degrees.

Courses in the series 500–599 and 800-899 are restricted to students registered in the Graduate School, senior undergraduate students with an average of at least 3.50, and certain other students with averages of at least 3.00 who have been granted special permission to enroll through the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services. (See the introduction to Graduate Programs, Faculty, and Courses for a more detailed description of these courses.)

The 600 series consists of specified common course numbers restricted to students enrolled in degree programs in the Graduate School having specific foci. The numbers 600 (on campus) and 610 (off campus) are available for credit in thesis research in all graduate major programs. The numbers 601 and 611 do not denote conventional courses but are used for noncredit special registration for thesis preparation by a Ph.D. candidate. (Note that 596 course numbers may not be used for thesis research work.) Registration under these numbers will maintain status as a full-time (601) or part-time (611) student during the interval that begins at the time the student passes the comprehensive examination and meets the two-semester residence requirement and ends at the time the doctoral committee accepts the thesis. The student may register for 601 if engaged full-time in the preparation of a thesis or for 611 if engaged only part-time in thesis preparation. Candidates for the Ph.D. degree do not receive grades for noncredit registrations (601 and 611). [See also Ph.D.—Additional Specific Requirements and the common course descriptions in the introduction to Graduate Programs, Faculty, and Courses.]

Schedule of Courses--The most current information on courses that will be offered in any specific semester is at It gives the number of the class, the hours at which the class will meet, the location of the class, and in some cases the instructor's name.

Visiting and Auditing Classes--A graduate student registered for a given semester who wants to attend classes without receiving credit may secure permission either to visit or to audit courses during that semester.

As a visitor, a student may attend classes with the approval of the instructor but may not claim the usual privileges of class membership, such as participating in discussion, doing practicum work, or taking examinations. Registration is not required for the privilege of visiting, and no record appears on the student’s transcript.

As an auditor, a student may participate in class discussion, do practicum work, take examinations, and generally enjoy the privileges of a class member. Registration procedures and fee payment are the same as for taking the course for credit. Attendance is required. No credit is given, either on completion of the course or at a later time; however, the number of credits assigned to the course appears on the grade report and on the student’s transcript. Thus, when a student receives an audit grade, the number of credits audited is shown. The symbol AU shall be used if attendance has been regular, the symbol W if attendance has been unsatisfactory.

A graduate assistant or Fellow who is required to register for a certain minimum number of credits is not permitted to count audited course credits toward the minimum credits needed. Undergraduate courses taken to meet foreign language or English requirements do count in the total credit load. The student may register for credit or audit beyond the required minimum but may not exceed the normal maximum without special permission.


Updated: 3/17/17


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