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Concurrent Degrees

Programs and Curriculum Policy GCAC-209

Purpose: defines the conditions under which a graduate student may pursue a concurrent degree.

Academic Goal: to insure that pursuit of a concurrent degree:

  • is part of a well-balanced, unified and complete program of study related to the degree the student was admitted to pursue and/or supports related career goals;
  • does not threaten student success in the graduate degree program to which the student was originally admitted;
  • does not compromise the established academic standards of, substitute for, duplicate, or conflict with a graduate minor, Dual-Title Degree, Joint Degree, or Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate Degree program.

Scope: all graduate programs and graduate students.

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 Background

It is generally recognized that graduate-level research and education involves advanced study in areas beyond those specifically identified in a single degree subject title. In some cases, the inter- or cross-disciplinary study may be achieved through several different models including the Graduate Minor, Dual-Title Degree, and concurrent degrees. The option of pursuing a concurrent degree at the masters’ level (i.e., a Ph.D. with a concurrent master’s, or a master’s with a concurrent master’s degree) exists to provide cross- or inter-disciplinary study in those cases where a graduate minor is not sufficient and an organized Dual-Title program does not exist.

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 Definitions

Head of the Graduate Program: Member of the Graduate Faculty with ultimate responsibility and academic authority for a graduate degree program. Refer to the Graduate Faculty Membership policy.

Home Degree Program: The graduate degree program into which the student was first or originally admitted.

Home Degree: The degree, in the home degree program, the student was admitted to pursue.

Home Program Adviser: The student’s graduate adviser in the home degree program.

Concurrent Degree: A second graduate degree (master’s only allowed) the student applies to pursue under this policy.

Concurrent Degree Program: the second graduate degree program a student already enrolled in a home degree program applies to pursue concurrently with the home degree program.

Culminating Experience:

  • For the Ph.D. the culminating experience is a dissertation;
  • For an M.A. or M.S. the culminating experience is a thesis or approved non-thesis option;
  • For professional degrees, the culminating experience may take other approved forms, including but not limited to an internship, an exhibition, a production, a comprehensive examination, or a capstone course.

Policy Statement

  1. Relationship to Dual-Title Degree, Joint Degree, Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Degree, and research master’s degree pursued in the same major and simultaneously as the Ph.D. (i.e. “master’s-along-the-way”):
    1. A student may pursue a concurrent degree if and only if they are not also participating in a Dual-Title Degree, Joint Degree, Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Degree, or research master’s degree pursued in the same major and simultaneously as the Ph.D. (i.e. “master’s-along-the-way”).
    2. A student already pursuing a concurrent degree may not be accepted into a Dual-Title Degree, Joint Degree, or Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Degree Program without first withdrawing from the concurrent degree program.
  2. Allowed Concurrent Degrees:
    1. An individual may pursue only one concurrent graduate degree at the University and will not be eligible for additional concurrent degrees at any time.
    2. A student pursuing a concurrent degree may not also pursue a minor if it duplicates or significantly overlaps with either the concurrent or the home degree program.
    3. Concurrent graduate degrees are allowable only for master’s level degrees (e.g., two M.S. degrees; an M.A. and an M.F.A.; etc.) or a concurrent doctorate and master’s degree (e.g., a Ph.D. and an M.B.A.; a D.Ed. and an M.I.A.; etc.). Doctoral degrees cannot be pursued concurrently, including any combination of research doctorate and professional doctoral degrees, including (but not limited to) the Ph.D., D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., D.P.H. or S.J.D. degrees (see GCAC-307 Policy on Second Doctorates for additional information).
  3. Student Eligibility:
    1. Students applying to pursue a concurrent degree must have an already appointed home degree adviser and/or supervising committee.
    2. Students applying to pursue a concurrent degree must be academically strong in their home degree program. This includes a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA in courses taken as a graduate student at Penn State.
    3. Students applying to pursue a concurrent degree must meet the admission standards of the concurrent degree program.
    4. Students who wish to pursue a concurrent degree must be officially admitted to the concurrent degree program prior to substantial completion of the home degree. Specifically, students in master’s or professional doctoral degree programs must be officially admitted to pursue a concurrent degree prior to having accumulated 75% or more of the credits required for the home degree and prior to their final semester in the home degree. Research doctorate (Ph.D.) students must be officially admitted to the concurrent degree program prior to scheduling the comprehensive examination in the Ph.D. program.
    5. Home degree or concurrent degree graduate programs may institute graduate student eligibility requirements for concurrent degrees more stringent than or in addition to those listed here.
  4. Concurrent Degree Adviser and Supervising Committee
    1. Prior to proposing to pursue a concurrent degree, the student must have found an adviser and a committee chair in the concurrent degree program, both of whom agree to advise and supervise the student’s concurrent degree work. The concurrent degree program adviser and committee chair may be the same individual; however, neither may be the same individual as the student’s adviser or committee chair in the home degree program.
  5. Overlapping Concurrent and Home Degree Requirements
    1. The specific culminating experience of the home and concurrent degree programs must each be separately fulfilled, i.e., no elements of either culminating experience may be shared or double-counted in fulfilling the concurrent and home degree program degree requirements.
    2. To ensure that the integrity of the home and concurrent degrees are preserved, each program may accept no more than 20% of its total required credits for the degree from the other degree program. For example, if a student with a home degree program that requires 100 credits seeks to pursue a concurrent degree in a program that requires 30 credits, the home degree program may choose to accept up to 20 credits from the concurrent degree program towards the home degree program requirements. Similarly, the concurrent degree program may choose to accept up to six (6) credits (20% of the 30 required concurrent degree program credits) from the home degree program towards the concurrent degree program requirements. The proposed credits to be double-counted for each respective degree must be clearly specified in the combined concurrent and home degree program plan, and are subject to approval by the corresponding program. Either program may choose not to accept any credits from the other degree program in fulfillment of its own degree requirements.

Process

Concurrent Degree Proposal and Plan:

  • Students wishing to pursue a concurrent degree must submit to the home and concurrent degree programs a written proposal (Concurrent Graduate Degree Programs Plan of Study) providing a compelling rationale for the pursuit of the concurrent degree and a comprehensive plan for completing the concurrent and home degrees.
  • The proposal must explain why the student’s particular home degree research or education goals, or the students related career goals require inter- or cross-disciplinary graduate-level study so extensive that a Graduate Minor is insufficient and a concurrent degree is appropriate.
  • The plan must:
    • Identify the student’s proposed concurrent degree adviser and committee chair where applicable.
    • Include a credible timetable for completing all required coursework and research/culminating experience for both the home and concurrent degree programs, in a time-period not exceeding the median time to completion for students pursuing the same home degree program absent a concurrent degree.
    • Indicate which courses/credits are proposed to be counted towards the home program degree requirements, and which are to be counted towards the concurrent degree program requirements.
    • Acknowledge that extended time to complete both degrees may require the student to self-fund additional semesters of enrollment, with the understanding that the home degree program/adviser has no obligation to provide financial support for the concurrent degree costs and student expenses.

Procedure

Concurrent Degrees - Procedure

Forms

Concurrent Graduate Degree Programs Plan of Study (PDF) / (DOCX)

Revision History

Approved by Graduate Council, February 17, 2016

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