Graduate Program HeadMichelle Frisco
Program CodeCRIM
Campus(es)University Park (Ph.D., M.A.)
Degrees Conferred

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Dual-Title Ph.D. in Criminology and Social Data Analytics

The Graduate Faculty


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 Ph.D. 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

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

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:

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. English proficiency test scores (TOEFL/IELTS) may be required for international applicants. See GCAC-305 Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.

Degree Requirements

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

Students entering the program with the B.A. degree will first earn the M.A. degree. Thirty-eight credits of course work at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level, with a minimum of 18 credits at the 500 and 600 level, combined, and a master's thesis, including 6 credits of thesis research, are required for the M.A. The course work includes:

  • an introduction to graduate studies seminar,
  • a sequence of methods and statistics courses;
  • a sequence of two criminological theory courses;
  • a course in the organization and criminal justice system;
  • a teaching seminar
  • and additional 500-level substantive criminology courses selected in consultation with a student's faculty committee.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

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 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.

Qualifying Examination

A qualifying 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.

Ph.D. Committee Composition

The student's Ph.D. studies are conducted under the supervision of a Ph.D. committee that must meet all Graduate Council requirements. At least two members of the Ph.D. committee must be Criminology tenure-line faculty and one 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 students must pass a comprehensive examination that will be administered by the student's Ph.D. 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.


Dual-Title Ph.D. in Criminology and Social Data Analytics

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

Criminology doctoral students seeking to attain and be identified with an interdisciplinary array of tools, techniques, and methodologies for social data analytics, while maintaining a close association with criminology, may apply to pursue a dual-title Ph.D. in Criminology and Social Data Analytics.

Social data analytics is the integration of social scientific, computational, informational, statistical, and visual analytic approaches to the analysis of large or complex data that arise from human interaction. The dual-title Ph.D. program provides additional training with the aim of providing criminologists with the skills required to expand the field of social data analytics, creatively answer important criminological questions, and communicate effectively with both academic and nonacademic audiences.


Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in Criminology and the Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. After admission to the Criminology program, students must apply for admission to and meet the admissions requirements of the Social Data Analytics dual-title program. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the Social Data Analytics Bulletin page. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may note their interest in the program on their applications to Criminology and include remarks in their personal statements, in which they address the ways in which their research and professional goals in sociology reflect related interests in Social Data Analytics-related research.


To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the degree requirements for the Ph.D. in Criminology, listed on the Degree Requirements tab. In addition, students must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title Social Data Analytics, listed on the Social Data Analytics Bulletin page. This requirement involves 18 credits, including: SoDA 501 (3 credits),SoDA 502 (3 credits), and 12 or more elective credits in Social Data Analytics from a list of courses maintained by the Social Data Analytics Committee. There is no formal maximum number of credits from the primary Criminology degree that can be double-counted toward the SoDA degree, though Ph.D. committees may limit the number of double-counted credits.. For those meeting the SoDA elective requirement with the minimum of 12 credits, the outside-program minimum effectively limits the number of primary degree credits that count toward SoDA at 6.

The qualifying examination in Criminology satisfies the qualifying exam requirement for the dual-title degree program in Social Data Analytics. In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a Social Data Analytics dual-title doctoral degree student must include at least one member of the Social Data Analytics Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Social Data Analytics, the member of the committee representing Social Data Analytics must be appointed as co-chair. The Social Data Analytics representative on the student’s Ph.D. committee will participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination. Students in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that is approved in advance by their Ph.D. committee and reflects their original research and education in Criminology and Social Data Analytics. Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.


A graduate minor is available in any approved graduate major or dual-title program. The default requirements for a graduate minor are stated in Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies and GCAC-700 Professional Degree Policies, depending on the type of degree the student is pursuing:

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.

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.

Criminology (CRIM) Course List

Learning Outcomes

  1. Know: Graduates will demonstrate a deep conceptual understanding of criminological theory and the interrelated institutions and processes of the criminal justice system, as well as specialized knowledge in a sub-area of the discipline.
  2. Apply: Graduates will be able to apply theory and current research to identify gaps in the literature and generate new knowledge in criminology.  
  3. Communicate: Graduates will be able to communicate with the discipline through clear, well-organized manuscripts, proposals, and formal presentations. 
  4. Think: Graduates will be able to critically analyze unpublished and published research by other scholars in criminology and in their specialty area.
  5. Professional Practice. Graduates will demonstrate a commitment to active citizenship in the department and the discipline and engage with research, as well as with colleagues and students, in an ethical manner.


Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Michelle Lynn Frisco
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) Pamela K Wilcox
Program Contact

Sierra Brooke Waite
213 Oswald Tower
University Park PA 16802
(814) 865-3455

Program Website View