The requirements set forth by the Graduate School policies for Ph.D. research students.

Following is a summary of Graduate School requirements that Ph.D. students must meet before the Office of Graduate Programs may approve their graduation.  For more detailed information on these and other requirements, please refer to the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin and the Graduate School's Policy Website.


Residency Requirement 

  • Over a twelve (12) month period the Ph.D. student must spend at least two (2) consecutive semesters, exclusive of summer sessions, as a registered full-time student engaged in academic work at the Penn State campus(es) offering the Ph.D. degree in the student’s graduate major program.
    • SUBJECT 601 and SUBJECT 611 cannot be used to meet this requirement.
  • Full-time University employees enrolled in a Ph.D. program must be registered for six (6) credits or more in each semester in which residency is declared and must be certified as full-time employees by their unit leader. In exceptional cases, the Head of the graduate program may certify to Graduate Enrollment Services that the student is devoting half time or more to graduate studies in lieu of registered credits.
    • This requirement must be satisfied at a Penn State campus offering the Ph.D. degree in the student’s graduate major program.
    • This requirement must be satisfied prior to the semester in which the final oral examination is administered.

English Competence

  • Every graduate program shall have a formal mechanism for assessing and improving English language competence of both domestic and international students. This mechanism, to include guidelines and evaluation criteria, must be presented in the graduate program’s handbook, which must be provided to the student upon matriculation. If English language competence is assessed contemporaneously with another assessment, it should not be conflated with the assessment of disciplinary knowledge, analytical thinking, or other skills.
  • Assessment shall include:
    • Original writing of a length and complexity suitable for assessing high-level English language competence.
    • An oral component that assesses the student’s listening, comprehension, and speaking skills.
  • The AEOCPT, TOEFL and/or IELTS tests do not adequately assess the level of English competence expected of a doctoral degree candidate and for conferral of a doctoral degree from Penn State. Consequently, these tests do not in themselves constitute sufficient forms of assessment of English competence.
  • Programs and advisers shall identify any areas of English competence requiring improvement before or at the Qualifying Examination and direct students into appropriate activities and support services to improve their English skills.
  • Programs must document the outcome of the assessment of English competence, including any areas requiring improvement and remedial steps, at the time of reporting the outcome of the Qualifying Examination.
  • English competence shall be formally attested to by the graduate program before the doctoral student’s Comprehensive Examination is scheduled.

Continuous Registration Requirement

  • A candidate for the Ph.D. degree is required to register continuously for each fall and spring semester from the time the comprehensive examination is passed and the two-semester residence requirement is met until the dissertation is accepted by the doctoral committee and the final oral examination is passed, regardless of whether work is being done on the thesis during this interval

Time Limitations

  • A Ph.D. student is required to complete the program, including acceptance of the doctoral dissertation, within eight years after the date of successful completion of the qualifying examination, not including approved leaves of absence.

Graduate Assistantships

  • Graduate assistantships are provided to degree-seeking students enrolled in residence in the Graduate School at The Pennsylvania State University as aids to completion of advanced degrees. Graduate assistants are students, and graduate assistantships provide pedagogic and educational experiences designed to make students better instructors, researchers, and scholars. As such, graduate assistantship appointments should be related to the graduate student's disciplinary field and, wherever possible, tied to the student's program of study so as to contribute in a relevant manner to the student's professional development. To effectively make such a contribution, the supervisor of the assistantship necessarily serves in a mentoring role, which requires regular interaction, close communication, and feedback with the graduate assistant, including clear expectations for satisfactory fulfillment of the assistantship activities. Assistantships may require activities in the classroom, in the laboratory or other research environment, or in other areas on campus, with the opportunity for professional development further benefiting from and enriched by the scholarly environment of the University. Graduate assistantships include a stipend, tuition remission, and a subsidy for the Penn State student health insurance plan (SHIP) premium.
  • Eligibility: Graduate assistantship appointments are contingent upon the student’s admission to the Graduate School as a degree-seeking student enrolled in residence. Certain IUG students in simultaneous undergraduate and Graduate School degree programs, approved by the dean of the Graduate School, are also eligible (requests should be submitted for the dean’s approval via memorandum to the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards Administration). Eligibility is also contingent upon enrollment in the appropriate number of credits in each semester of a graduate assistantship appointment. Non-degree students are not eligible for graduate assistantships.
  • Appointment Types: Graduate assistantships may be one of three types: quarter-time, half-time, or three-quarter-time. The expected average weekly hours of assigned activities are the same for all graduate assistants within an appointment type. Thus, for all quarter-time graduate assistants, irrespective of stipend grade, an average of 10 hours of regular activities per week are expected; for all half-time assistants, an average of 20 hours per week are expected; and for all three-quarter-time, an average of 30 hours per week are expected. In all cases, additional hours related to a student’s degree requirements may be necessary, such as related to a graduate student’s research, depending upon the student’s thesis/dissertation project.
  • Credit Limit: Graduate assistantship are required to enroll in a specific amount of credits depending on Appointment Type and semester:
    • Graduate Assistantship - Quarter-Time
      • Fall/Spring 9-14 credits
      • Summer 5-7 credits
    • Graduate Assistantship - Half-Time
      • Fall/Spring 9-12 credits
      • Summer 4-6 credits
    • Graduate Assistantship - Three-Quarter-Time
      • Fall/Spring 6-8 credits
      • Summer 3-4 credits