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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Counselor Education (CN ED)

Program Home Page

RAYNE SPERLING, Director of Graduate Studies
101A CEDAR Building


Degrees Conferred:

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


The Graduate Faculty 


The Program

Professional preparation is offered at the master's level (M.Ed.) with emphasis areas in career counseling, clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, and rehabilitation counseling. The M.Ed. consists of 39 required credit hours plus specialization courses ranging from an additional 12 to 21 credit hours depending on the area of emphasis.  All courses must be taken at the 400 level and above.

The Ph.D. program prepares candidates for positions as counselor education faculty members and consists of a minimum of four academic years of graduate level preparation (including master’s-level preparation), defined as eight semesters, with a minimum of 96 credits at the 400 level and above required of all students in the program. The D.Ed. program helps students prepare to become supervisors of counseling services and a minimum of 91 credits at the 400 level and above is required of all students in the program.

Admission Requirements

Scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are required for admission to the Ph.D. program. GRE scores are not required for the M.Ed. or D.Ed. programs. Requirements listed here are in addition to general Graduate Council requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.

M.Ed. applications with a 3.0 junior/senior average (on a scale of 4.00) and with appropriate course backgrounds will be considered for admission. The best-qualified applicants will be accepted up to the number of spaces that are available for new students. Exceptions to the minimum 3.0 grade-point average may be made for students with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests.

Doctoral applicants must have completed a master's degree in counselor education prior to admission into the Ph.D. or D.Ed. program. A master's degree is required for admission that must be comprised of a minimum of 48 credit hours that align with the standards of the Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). All doctoral applicants should present at least a 3.33 average in all graduate study completed prior to admission. Post-master's counseling experience is required for admission to the D.Ed. program.

For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant 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. Graduate programs may have more stringent requirements.

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.

Degree Requirements

All candidates are expected to exhibit, in addition to academic competence, effectiveness in interpersonal relations and in both written and oral communication. They also must provide evidence in support of professional counseling activities and involvement in professional organizations. All degree options require students to participate in extensive practicum or fieldwork experience under supervision.

The M.Ed. program includes 51 to 60 credit hours depending on the area of emphasis. This includes 39 hours of core requirements plus 12 to 21 credit hours depending on the area of emphasis.  All courses must be taken at the 400 or 500 levels.

CORE COURSES for Counselor Education M.Ed. Program:

Counselor Education (CN ED)

  • 404. Group Procedures in Guidance and Counseling (3)
  • 500. Introduction to Counseling and Development (3)
  • 501. Counseling Theory and Method (3)
  • 503. Guidance Services in Elementary Education (3)
  • 505. Foundations of Career Development and Counseling Information (3)
  • 506. Individual Counseling Procedures (3)
  • 507. Multicultural Counseling: Foundations (3)
  • 525. Applied Testing in Counseling (3)
  • 526. Research in Counselor Education Research (3)
  • 595A. Counseling Practicum (3)
  • 595G. Counseling Internship (6)
  • 596. Individual Studies (Master’s Paper) (3)   

The Ph.D. program consists of a minimum of 96 credit hours including master-level preparation in counselor education. Ph.D. students must satisfy advanced degree requirements in the CACREP counselor education core areas (36 credit hours including a counseling and teaching internship), a specialty area of study (15 credit hours), and empirical foundations (15 credit hours). Students in the Ph.D. program are expected to complete a dissertation involving independent and original research. Students are expected to use theoretical models of counseling to investigate problems of importance to the field. The additional credits in the Ph.D. program incorporate advanced coursework in research design, statistics, and counseling theory to prepare students for their subsequent roles as faculty members in counselor education programs.

CORE COURSES for Counselor Education Ph.D. Program:


  • 502. Advanced Counseling Theory and Method (3)
  • 554. Multi cultural Counseling (3)
  • 555. Career Counseling (3)
  • 580. Foundations: History and Trends in Counselor Education (3)
  • 581. Professional Issues in Counselor Education (3)
  • 582. Advanced Group Psychotherapy (3)
  • 589. Seminar on Counseling Supervision (3)
  • 595D. Supervision of Counselors (3)
  • 595I. Counselor Education Doctoral Teaching Internship (3)                       
  • 595K. Counselor Education Doctoral Counseling Internship (3)
  • 595P. Counselor Education Doctoral Counseling Practicum (3 credits per semester; two semesters [6 credits] are required)

The D.Ed. Program consists of a minimum of 91 credit hours including the master-level preparation in counselor education. Students in the D.Ed. program in Counselor Education must satisfy degree requirements in core counselor education courses (21 credit hours), empirical foundations (12 credit hours), and a counseling specialty area (15 credit hours) such as: career guidance, administration, planning, and management in service delivery settings. D.Ed. students must complete a dissertation (15 dissertation credit hours) that is of practical significance to the delivery or administration of counseling services.

CORE COURSES for Counselor Education D.Ed. Program:


  • 554. Multicultural Counseling (3)
  • 580. Foundations: History and Trends in Counselor Education (3)
  • 581. Professional Issues in Counselor Education (3)
  • 589. Seminar on Counseling Supervision (3)
  • 595D. Supervision of Counselors (3)
  • 595K. Counselor Education Doctoral Counseling Internship (3)
  • 595P. Counselor Education Doctoral Counseling Practicum (3)                                                                      

Candidacy Examination

All Ph.D./D.Ed. students are required to have a master's degree in counselor education prior to admission. After completion of 12 credits of doctoral study, which may allow the student to take the candidacy examination as early as the second semester in their doctoral program, Ph.D. and D.Ed. students may take a candidacy examination. Given the requirement that doctoral students will have a master's degree in counselor education thereby demonstrating their ability to complete graduate work successfully, the nature of the candidacy examination will include a review of the following by the student's candidacy committee: (1) the student's professional resume, (2) a statement regarding the general direction of the student's research interests and possible areas of dissertation inquiry, (3) grades from completed graduate courses, (4) proposed course of study for subsequent semesters, (5) selected graduate papers written by the student, and (6) a statement regarding the student's professional goals. In the candidacy examination, the student's candidacy committee determines the student's ability to continue in the program and to conduct doctoral research.

Comprehensive Examination

Both Ph.D. and D.Ed. candidates are required to take a written and oral comprehensive examination once their course work is completed (or when they are in their final semester of required coursework) and prior to the dissertation. The examination, prepared by the student's doctoral committee, covers all areas of the student's doctoral work. The comprehensive examination for Ph.D. students must include an assessment of the student's competence related to conducting independent and original research.

Doctoral Committee Composition

General guidance of a doctoral candidate is the responsibility of a doctoral committee consisting of four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty, which includes at least two faculty members in the major field. The dissertation adviser must be a member of the doctoral committee. The dissertation adviser usually serves as chair, but this is not required. If the candidate is also pursuing a dual-title field of study, a co-chair representing the dual-title field must be appointed. In most cases, the same individual (e.g., dissertation adviser) is a member of the Graduate Faculty in both the major and dual-title fields, and in such cases may serve as sole chair.

At least one regular member of the doctoral committee must represent a field outside the candidate’s major field of study in order to provide a broader range of disciplinary perspectives and expertise. This committee member is referred to as the “Outside Field Member.” In cases where the candidate is also pursuing a dual-title field of study, the dual-title representative to the committee may serve as the Outside Field Member.

Additionally, in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the primary appointment of at least one regular member of the doctoral committee must be in an administrative unit that is outside the unit in which the dissertation adviser's primary appointment is held (i.e., the adviser's administrative home; in the case of tenure-line faculty, this is the individual's tenure home). This committee member is referred to as the “Outside Unit Member.” In the case of co-advisers, the Outside Unit Member must be from outside the administrative home(s) of both co-advisers. In some cases, an individual may have a primary appointment outside the administrative home of the student’s dissertation adviser and also represent a field outside the student’s major field of study; in such cases, the same individual may serve as both the Outside Field Member and the Outside Unit Member.

Doctoral Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Ph.D. and D.Ed. students should complete the writing of the dissertation and make revisions to the satisfaction of the committee chair, who is expected to ensure that the dissertation is in near final form before allowing the final oral examination (defense) to be scheduled. The student is responsible for arranging and scheduling a time (2 hours) so that all members of the committee can be present. The student must give each committee member a copy of the complete dissertation two weeks before the final oral examination. Students should not expect this to be the final version for submission to the Graduate School, as there are typically revisions after successful completion of the oral defense.

English Competence

Candidates for the Ph.D. and D.Ed. programs are required to demonstrate high-level competence in the use of English language, including reading, writing, and speaking, as part of the language. Counselor Education evaluates English language proficiency in several ways. Prior to admission all students are required to provide written goals statements and personal development statements that are evaluated by faculty as a portion of the application process.  Additionally, international students must have either earned a master’s degree in the United States or supply official minimum scores for the TOEFL (total score 80 and 19 on speaking section) or IELTS (6.5 composite). Once admitted to the program and prior to gaining candidacy, students are evaluated for their reading, writing, and speaking in class assignments and as a part of their first-year portfolio evaluation. When problems are identified, individual remediation programs are developed that utilize faculty and all appropriate University resources.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin.


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



Lasted Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2014

Blue Sheet Item #: 42-06

Review Date: 04/08/2014

Faculty linked: 6/5/14


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