The degree requirements stipulated by the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, in conjunction with the Graduate School of Penn State University.

The Graduate School requirements and specific Department requirements dictate the following guidelines. It is the responsibility of Ph.D. degree students to consult with their adviser prior to each registration period. Before the conclusion of the first semester, the student and adviser will collaborate on developing a Graduate Academic Plan (GAP), which will be subject to approval by the students committee. The Graduate Academic Plan may be adjusted with the consent of the committee during any registration or drop/add period. It is important for the plan to include alternative course options in case the student encounters difficulties in securing their preferred courses.

Minimum Graduate Credits

The Graduate School does not have a specific credit requirement for obtaining a Ph.D. Degree. However, students pursuing a Ph.D. without holding an M.S. Degree must fulfill the credit requirements designated for M.S. students in their respective program. On the other hand, Ph.D. students who already possess an M.S. Degree prior to enrolling are only required to complete additional credits as specified by their advisory committee. In addition to these requirements, candidates are expected to acquire further credits through participation in seminars, teaching assignments, and research activities. It should be noted that credits earned to address deficiencies are not included in this calculation. Furthermore, it is crucial that these credits align with the minimum credit requirements outlined in the following sections.

Required Courses and Credits Beyond the M.S.

Successful completion of the courses and credits in the designated study areas beyond the M.S. Degree, unless stated otherwise, is a graduation requirement. It is the responsibility of the student's doctoral advisory committee to review and approve the courses and credits that it deems necessary for the candidate's education and growth. The committee plays a crucial role in ensuring that the student receives comprehensive and impactful training, fostering their ability to conduct doctoral-level research in a core scientific discipline. The training provided should equip the student with the essential skills and knowledge needed to advance specific areas of study that are pertinent and applicable to their chosen field.

1. SARI - Scholarship and Research Integrity

Penn State requires training related to research integrity and must be fulfilled during the initial year of registration. Requirements include five hours of in-person discussion, typically met by successfully completing two (2) credits of FOR 597 Research, Integrity, & Communication course, AND completion of the CITI online course. In extraordinary cases, the student's adviser, in consultation with the Graduate Program Coordinator and Program Head, will determine the acceptability of any alternative to the five hour in-person requirement. Individuals who have successfully met the requirement as part of their Master's Degree are exempt from fulfilling it again.

2. Major Field Courses

Twelve (12) credits of 400-, 500-, or 800-level formal courses in the major field are required beyond the B.S. degree. (at least 6 of the 12 credits must be 500-level or higher, excluding seminars and independent studies).

The selection of coursework in the major field will be tailored to align with the students' primary educational goals, which include the achievement of thesis research, mastery of discipline-specific subject matter, and preparation for a successful career. Any courses within this field or other departments will be deemed suitable for inclusion in the major if they align with these objectives. To optimize the program's effectiveness, it is advisable to select a cohesive series of related courses.

The student, in collaboration with their thesis advisor and the advisory committee, will have the responsibility of selecting the courses in the major field. The thesis advisor will oversee the direction of the student's academic studies on a semester-by-semester basis.

3. Dual-title Courses (Optional)

Fifteen (15) credits of 400-, 500-, or 800-level formal courses in dual-title area excluding seminars and independent studies, except where such courses are specifically allowed by the dual-title department.

A dual-title degree is a fully integrated program of study that allows students to define a problem that combines both the graduate major and dual-title fields. A dual-title graduate degree program cannot exist as a separate (stand-alone) graduate degree program at Penn State. Other departments and discipline areas of the University govern dual-title requirements. A faculty member representing the dual-title area will serve on the student's committee as co-Adviser and/or co-Chair. For additional information on dual-title degrees, we recommend visiting the Intercollege Degree Programs webpage where you will find comprehensive details.

4. Minor or General Studies Courses (Optional)

Fifteen (15) credits at the 400-, 500-, or 800-level formal courses in minor or general studies area excluding seminars and independent studies, except where such courses are specifically allowed by the minor department. (at least 50% of the credits must be at the 500-level or higher)

A minor consists of integrated or articulated work in one field related to, but different from the major field. Other departments and discipline areas of the University govern requirements for a minor. A faculty member representing the minor will serve on the student's committee. A student may not pursue more than three minors while completing their Ph.D. program. If a student pursues more than one minor, each minor must have a separate group of courses to support it (i.e., none of the courses may be applied to the requirements for more than one minor). If the student completed a minor with a master’s degree in the same field proposed for a doctoral minor, the 6 credits taken for the master’s minor cannot count towards the doctoral minor. However, credits earned in the master’s program beyond those applied to either the master’s minor or major can be applied to the doctoral minor.

As an alternative to a minor, general studies coursework may be undertaken in a field or fields different from the major field that are considered by the thesis advisory and the advisory committee to have significance and value for the student. Courses meeting this requirement will include 400 or 500-level formal courses. Exclusions: 1) courses for the major field that are outside the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management; and 2) seminar or independent study courses, except where such courses are specifically allowed by the minor departments.

5. Statistical Methods Courses

Six (6) credits at the 400- or 500-level formal courses in statistical methods beyond the B.S. degree. (at least 50% of the credits must be at the 500-level or higher) Courses taken during the Ph.D. program may be used toward the statistics major, minor, or the general studies formal course requirement if approved by the Statistics Department.

6. Thesis Research Courses

Graduate Council has established limits on the total number of research credits that can be assigned quality grades in a student’s program (i.e., other than R): 12 credits for doctoral candidates.

Only 15 credits (graded or ungraded) can be counted towards fulfilling the overall credit requirement.

The commitment of time necessary to conduct rigorous research and successfully finalize a thesis that presents a notable advancement within the field, as an essential component of your academic pursuit, may demand a substantial allocation of supplementary hours per week. The specific duration will be contingent on the intricacies and scope entailed by your chosen thesis topic.

7. Supervised Teaching Experience Course

One (1) credit of FOR 602 supervised teaching experience is mandatory for all Ph.D. Forest Resources students. As part of this requirement, students are expected to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) on at least one occasions. During their time as a TA, students collaborate with a faculty member to formulate a comprehensive teaching plan and enhance their teaching abilities. The supervising faculty member assumes the role of mentor to the TA and evaluates their performance at the end of the semester.

Upon appointment as TA by the department, students can register for FOR 602 in the respective semester. The purpose of these credits is to facilitate the meaningful development of the graduate student's teaching skills. However, it is important to note that 602 credits cannot be used to fulfill any requirement.

Graduate students whose native language is not English are required to take and pass the American English Oral Communicative Test (AEOCPT) prior to being assigned as a Teaching Assistant.Scores on the test determine any remedial action and when a student can assume teaching responsibilities. Additional information on this test is available at

8. Seminar/Colloquium Course

One (1) credit of FOR 590 seminar presentation is required near the end of the student's degree. In extraordinary cases, the student's adviser, in consultation with the Graduate Program Coordinator and Program Head, will determine the acceptability of any alternative to this seminar presentation.

9. Supplemental Credits

Additional credits from 400-, 500-, 600-, or 800-level formal courses as required to fulfill program needs that supplement one or more of the areas: thesis, major, minor, and general studies. Credits for independent study courses may be included.

10. 500- and 600-Level Courses within the Program

Eighteen (18) credits of 500- or 600-level formal courses are required beyond the B.S. degree to fulfill the graduate school’s course requirement.

11. Deficiencies

Any admission deficiencies should be addressed and resolved to the students' committee's satisfaction. It is important to note that such deficiencies do not contribute towards the total credits needed for the completion of a doctoral degree.

Additional Courses

Additional courses and requirements specified by the adviser and/or advisory committee.

Credits Earned at Other Institutions

Credits for courses earned in graduate work at other institutions may be applied toward the major, minor, or general studies requirements of the degree program under the following conditions:

  1. The student's advisory committee must concur that the courses are clearly equivalent to 400 or 500-level formal courses at Penn State.
  2. Only one credit of seminar may be included.
  3. Special problem courses are excluded.
  4. The student's minor department must concur on the acceptability of courses in the minor.

Seminar Attendance

The candidate is expected to routinely attend Seminar each semester of registration at the University Park Campus.

Communications Requirements and Examinations

Communications requirements and examinations for the Ph.D. are specified in the Graduate Guide.

Doctoral Advisory Committee Participation

The doctoral advisory committee has the responsibility to review the courses and credits proposed by the student and the academic adviser and to suggest changes essential for the education and development of the candidate. The results of the competency evaluation will help to establish any subject matter deficiencies or special requirements. The committee helps ensure that the student is properly trained in a sub-field of the major field and has a perspective of the field in general.