Penn State Graduate School Penn State Penn State Graduate School

Professional Degree Policies

GCAC-700-G Culminating Project / Final Performance - Professional Doctoral Degrees

Purpose: to define the final culminating experience required for a professional doctoral degree.

Academic Goal: to ensure that professional doctoral students demonstrate competence in scholarly exposition by the preparation of a culminating project or final performance on a topic related to the major subject. The culminating project / final performance is the final summative assessment in a professional doctoral program, and determines if the candidate should be awarded the doctoral degree.

Scope: all students enrolled in programs of study leading to a professional doctoral degree.



Professional Doctoral Degree Program: an integrated program of study combined with understanding of research literature to support application of knowledge to practice at the highest level, culminating in a project, portfolio, or performance that demonstrates expertise in professional practice. Students successfully completing a professional doctoral degree program are awarded the appropriate doctoral degree; professional doctoral degrees at Penn State include D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., and Dr.P.H.

Research Doctoral Degree Program: an integrated program of study combined with investigation of a significant problem, question, or issue in the discipline, culminating in the completion of an original scholarly contribution (in the form of a dissertation) that expands the frontiers of knowledge. Students successfully completing a research doctoral degree program are awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Policy Statement

  1. The culminating experience for a professional doctoral degree program is required to be either a culminating project or final performance.
    1. The culminating project may take several forms, but must include a public presentation of the work and a final oral examination of that work.
      1. With the exception of the D.Ed program, the culminating project is not referred to as a dissertation.
    2. The culminating experience of the D.M.A. degree is a public final performance (solo recital) that will be discussed and evaluated by the doctoral committee.
    3. The culminating experience of the D.Ed must be a dissertation and conform to policy GCAC-607 Dissertation - Research Doctorates.
  2. It is the responsibility of the doctoral candidate and culminating experience committee chair/project adviser to comply with all policies concerning the completion, distribution, and consultation requirements for the culminating project / final performance. See GCAC-700-C Culminating Experience Committee Responsibilities - Professional Doctoral Degrees for more information.
  3. Each professional doctoral program may have additional or specific requirements concerning the culminating project / final performance. See appropriate degree requirements documentation for more information.
  4. Completion of the requirements of a professional doctoral degree program entails acceptance of the culminating project / final performance, as indicated by the signatures of at least two-thirds of the doctoral committee, as well as the head of the graduate program, on the doctoral signatory page. In addition, the work must be accepted as meeting the editorial standards of the Graduate School (if applicable), so that it constitutes a suitable archival document for inclusion in the University Libraries.

Revision History

Adapted from the Graduate Bulletin: June 2018

Facebook Facebook LinkedIn LinkedIn Twitter Twitter