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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

M.A. and M.S.--Additional Specific Requirements

The Master of Arts and the Master of Science degrees have similar requirements, the general major area determining which degree is conferred. Programs for both degrees are strongly oriented toward research.

A minimum of 30 credits at the 400 level or higher is required, of which at least 20 must be earned at the established graduate campus/center of the University where the program is offered. Some graduate programs require additional credits; the exact number can be determined by consulting the specific program description in the Graduate Programs section of the Graduate Bulletin. A minor is not required of all candidates for the M.A. or M.S. degree. A department or committee in charge of a major program may require a candidate to offer work in a minor field, or the minor may be elected with the permission of the student's committee.

Any member of the Penn State faculty with at least assistant professor rank may participate in the guidance and examination of master's candidates and sign master's thesis signatory pages. Special signatories occasionally are requested and approved for master's thesis. The supervisor of the master's work must be a member of the Graduate Faculty.

At least 18 credits in the 500 and 600 series, combined, must be included in the program. A minimum of 12 credits in course work (400, 500, and 800 series), as contrasted with research, must be completed in the major program, with a minimum number of 800-level credits as appropriate to the degree and as approved by the graduate program to be applied to degree requirements. A culminating experience is required. The options for the culminating experience are: a thesis based upon original research in the field; a scholarly paper or essay that is research-oriented; or a capstone course that includes a work product which demonstrates evidence of analytical thinking and synthesis of knowledge in the field of study. The transcript for all students graduating with an M.S. or M.A. degree will be notated to reflect the applicable culminating experience. Programs may offer one, two, or all three options, subject to approval of the Graduate Council Joint Curricular Committee.

If a student is required to write a thesis, at least 6 credits in thesis research (600 or 610) must be included in the program. If no thesis is required, at least 18 credits must be in 500-level courses.

A thesis is prepared under the direction of the department or program in which the candidate's major work is taken. Under certain conditions a student may complete the thesis off campus. To do so, satisfactory arrangements must be made in advance with the adviser and the head of the major department or program.

When a complete draft of the thesis has been compiled, the student must submit it to the Office of Theses and Dissertations for format review. Submission for format review must be made by the announced deadline for the semester/session in which the degree will be conferred. After a successful defense and after signed approval by the advisers and/or committee members and the head of the graduate program, the final archival copy of the thesis (incorporating any format changes requested by the Office of Theses and Dissertations) must be deposited with the Office of Theses and Dissertations or uploaded to the eTD website by the announced deadline for the semester/session in which the degree will be conferred. It is also expected that the student will provide a final archival copy of the thesis to the office of the head of the program.

The Thesis/Dissertation Guide provides details concerning format and other requirements.

The nature and extent of the scholarly paper or essay shall be determined by the major program. The department head or program chair shall report to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services that the student has met the approved requirement. The department or program is responsible for ensuring that the work is finalized by the published deadline for the semester/session. The program head may require one or more copies of the essay for the program's library or files.

Some graduate programs that emphasize research admit only students interested in pursuing the Ph.D. degree.

Requirements for the M.A. degree at Penn State Harrisburg differ somewhat from the above and are outlined under the major programs in American Studies, Humanities, Community Psychology and Social Change, and Applied Psychology. These programs are available only at Penn State Harrisburg.

Master’s Minors

A master's minor consists of no fewer than 6 credits of integrated or articulated work in one field related to, but different from, that of the major. Programs should consider that a minor at the graduate level should represent curriculum and study that reflect graduate-level concepts and scholarship, with a preponderance of courses at the 500 level; at a minimum, 3 credits must be at the 500 level. A minor program must be in one of the approved graduate degree programs offered at Penn State and must have the approval of the departments or committees responsible for both the major program and the minor field. For more information regarding minors, please see the Graduate Minors section of the Graduate Bulletin.

The major department or the committee in charge of the major program is the judge as to the suitability of a field for the minor and of its relevance to the major. The minor field department has the responsibility of accepting or rejecting students, advising on courses to be taken by the candidate in the field, examining the candidate in the area of studies undertaken in the field, and certifying that the minor requirements have been met.


Updated: 7/17/17; links updated 8/13/14


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