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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Criminology (CRIM)

Program Home Page

JOHN ICELAND, Head of the Department of Sociology
211 Oswald Tower

Degrees Conferred:

Ph.D., M.A.


The Graduate Faculty


The Program

The graduate program in Criminology is for students seeking the Ph.D. degree. Students may either enter the program with an M.A. degree or earn that degree en route to the PhD program. The program offers an advanced education on various aspects of criminology to persons interested in research careers in academia and public service.

The graduate program emphasizes theory and research on crime and justice, research and statistical methodology, and substantive knowledge about crime and its control. 

Admission Requirements

Applications from students with either the B.A. or M.A. degree will be accepted through early January for admission in the fall of the following academic year. Selection is based on transcripts, three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant's academic performance, a statement of goals, a sample of written work such as a term paper, and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) verbal, quantitative, and writing scores.

Applicants must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

 The language of instruction at Penn State is English. All international applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), with the exceptions noted below. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the Internet-based test (iBT). Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, which requires completion of specified remedial English courses ESL 114G (American Oral English for Academic Purposes) and/or ESL 116G (ESL/Composition for Academic Disciplines) and attainment of a grade of B or higher. The minimum acceptable composite score for the IELTS is 6.5.

 International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

M.A. Degree Requirements

Students entering the program with the B.A. degree will first earn the M.A. degree. Thirty-seven credits of course work at the 400 level or higher, with a minimum of 18 credits at the 500 or 800 level, and a master's thesis, including 6 credits of thesis research, are required for the M.A. The course work includes a proseminar, an introduction to graduate studies seminar, a sequence of methods and statistics courses; a criminological theory course; a course in the organization and criminal justice system; and additional 500-level substantive criminology courses selected in consultation with a student's faculty committee.

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

For the Ph.D. 30 credits beyond the M.A. are required, no more than three of which may be for Individual Studies. All Ph.D. candidates also must have completed all courses required for the M.A. degree or their equivalent. The 30 credits beyond the M.A. must include 6 hours of Criminology seminars and 12 hours of elective seminars, all of which should be selected in consultation with the Ph.D. committee. Seminar requirements are not fulfilled by Individual Studies credits.

Candidacy Examination

A candidacy exam is required of all students seeking the Ph.D., after a master's degree has been earned. Students admitted with a master's degree will stand for this exam in the second semester of full-time study.

Language Requirement

The program in Criminology has no formal foreign language or communication requirement

Doctoral Committee Composition

The candidate's Ph.D. studies are conducted under the supervision of a doctoral committee, composed of at least four members of the Graduate Faculty, at least two of whom must be Criminology tenure-line faculty and one of whom must be from outside the Criminology Program and Sociology Department and must represent a field outside the candidate’s major field of study. One Criminology tenure-line faculty member is designated chair of the Ph.D. committee; ordinarily this person also serves as general adviser and director of the dissertation.

Comprehensive Examination

After completing all course work, doctoral candidates must pass a comprehensive examination that will be administered by the student's doctoral committee. At the discretion of the committee, examination content will include material on: (1) general criminological theory, (2) criminal justice/law, (3) research methods/statistics, and (4) the student’s area of specialization.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

In order to earn the Ph.D., students are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education.

Student Aid

All students admitted to the program are supported with stipends and tuition waivers for either four years (students entering with a master's degree) or five years (students entering with a bachelor's degree). Support may be in the form of research assistantships or teaching assistantships, with most students receiving a combination of types of support across their graduate careers.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. 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.

CRIME, LAW, AND JUSTICE (C L J) course list

Last Revised by the Department: Summe rSession 2014

Blue Sheet Item #: 42-07-000

Review Date: 0610/2014

Faculty linked: 6/5/14


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