Coursework Program

The coursework program for the Ph.D. will generally include major and minor areas, although general studies may be substituted for the minor. The student's coursework and thesis plans are considered tentative until approved by the advisory committee.

Minimum Graduate Credits

The Ph.D. program should include 55 to 60 credits of formal coursework earned beyond the baccalaureate. Additional seminar, teaching, and research credits are required. For students holding a ½ time assistantship, approximately three years beyond the M.S. will be necessary to complete the Ph.D.

Required Courses and Credits Beyond the M.S.

The courses and credits in the following specified study areas beyond the M.S. (except where specifically noted) constitute a requirement for graduation. They are the nucleus of subject matter around which students, their advisers, and advisory committees will develop specific concentrations of study.

  1. Major Field, Formal Courses

    The coursework for the major field will be chosen to meet the student's primary educational objectives--accomplishment of thesis research, mastery of discipline subject matter, and preparation for a career. Courses in this and other departments may be designated as part of the major field if they conform to these objectives. The strength of the program should be maximized by choosing a related series of courses.

    A minimum of 12 credits of 500 level formal courses beyond the BS degree are required. The student and thesis adviser in consultation with the advisory committee will make the choice of courses in the major field. The thesis adviser will be responsible for the semester-by-semester direction of the student's academic studies.

  2. Minor or General Studies Courses

    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.

    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.

  3. Statistical Methods

    Six credits of statistical methods beyond the BS degree of which a minimum of three shall be 500 level. Courses taken during the Ph.D. program may be used to meet the major, minor (if approved by the department offering the minor), or general studies requirement.

  4. Colloquium - One colloquium course "Research Integrity and Communications." (1 credit) is required in which presentation techniques are learned by the student. There may also be a student presentation experience as part of this colloquium.

  5. SARI - Penn State requires training related to research integrity.

  6. Seminar -In addition, one seminar presentation is required at the departmental graduate seminar near the end of the student's degree. In extraordinary cases, the student's adviser, in consultation with the Graduate Program Coordinator, will determine the acceptability of any alternative to this seminar presentation.
  7. Thesis Research

    Twelve credits of 600 or 610 (thesis research). The student is required to write an original research thesis.

  8. Supplemental Credits

    Credits of 400 or 500 level 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.

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 (see "Summary of Graduate Coursework for Ph.D. Degree" form).
  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.

Residence Requirements

Over some 12-month period during the interval between admission to the Ph.D. program and completion of the Ph.D. program the candidate must spend at least two semesters as a registered full-time student engaged in academic work on campus.

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.

Teaching Experience

A student holding a half-time assistantship is expected to perform duties that, on average, occupy approximately 20 hours per week and could include service as a teaching assistant in those semesters in which you receive a departmental assistantship. The time required to conduct high-quality research and complete a dissertation that makes a significant contribution to the field, as a requirement for your degree, may take considerable additional hours per week, and will depend upon the nature of your dissertation topic.

Summary Checklist

These requirements are summarized in the check lists ("Checklist for the Ph.D. Degree" and "Summary of Graduate Coursework for Ph.D. Degree" forms). It is the responsibility of the student to maintain these checklists, and to have them approved by the Major Adviser and Graduate Program Head prior to graduation.

Doctoral Advisory Committee Participation

The doctoral advisory committee has the responsibility to review the courses and credits proposed by the student and the thesis 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.