Admission to the doctoral program in Soil Science is based on a careful evaluation of an applicant's potential to successfully complete the degree program.

  1. M.S. or Equivalent Degree

    An M.S. or equivalent degree from a graduate program in natural science, but note exception in #4 of exceptions and limitations of Admissions.

  2. Expected Background

    Specific courses and credits as a minimum equivalent to those specified for the M.S. degree at Penn State.

  3. Grade Point Average

    A cumulative grade point average of 3.25 for the master's program.

  4. English Proficiency

    Students who come from nations where English is not the native language, or who have not received a baccalaureate or master's degree from an institution in which the language of instruction is English, must submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), 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 an institutional test of English proficiency upon first enrollment and, if necessary, remedial coursework. The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5.

  5. Candidacy Examination

    All students wishing to pursue a doctoral program must pass a candidacy examination administered by the Department to attain full status as a doctoral candidate. Prior to passing the candidacy exam, the student who has been admitted into a departmental doctoral program is identified as a doctoral student, but not a doctoral candidate.

Exceptions and Limitations of Admission

Since graduate studies require close student-professor working relationships and various facilities and equipment, there are limits to the total number of graduate students the Department may accept at a given time. Therefore, the Department will admit the most qualified applicants for its openings. We recognize, however, that all qualified students do not fit a common mold. The following statements are for the guidance of students without traditional agronomy or soil science backgrounds:

  1. Deficiencies in Preparation

    Students with deficiencies in agronomy or soil science coursework, but qualifications in other areas, may be admitted and allowed to take a limited number of remedial undergraduate courses while proceeding with their graduate programs. Courses taken for this purpose do not apply toward the credit requirements of the advanced degree. An appropriate course plan will be developed in conjunction with the student's advisory committee.

  2. Minimum Grade Point Averages

    The minimum grade point averages stipulated for admission may be waived for students with special background, abilities, or interests. However, no student may be admitted for a Ph.D. program with less than a 3.00 grade point average (4.0 = A, 1.0 = D) obtained in the junior and senior undergraduate years or 3.00 for the master's program.

  3. Career Experience

    A person with career experience having a bearing on graduate qualifications may request that it be considered along with the academic record for admission to graduate school.

  4. Baccalaureate to Ph.D.

    An applicant may be admitted directly to a Ph.D. program following the baccalaureate degree based on their exceptional qualifications, the support of the prospective adviser, and concurrence of the Graduate Programs Committee and the Department Head.