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Professional Degree Policies

GCAC-700-J Doctor of Education Degree Requirements

Purpose: to define the minimum requirements for obtaining a Doctor of Education (D.Ed.) degree.

Academic Goal: to ensure that students pursuing the Doctor of Education (D.Ed.) have sufficient academic training and assessment to be leaders in the profession of education.

Scope: all students in a Doctor of Education (D.Ed.) degree program.



The D.Ed. degree is conferred in recognition of advanced preparation of a high order for work in the profession of education as evidenced by:

  1. Satisfactory completion of a prescribed period of study;
  2. Ability to apply scientific principles to practitioner problems in a variety of education endeavors;
  3. Preparation of dissertation demonstrating ability to undertake an educational problem with originality and independent thought;
  4. Successful performance on major and minor examinations, showing a satisfactory grasp of the field of specialization and its relation to allied education areas.


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. Residence Requirement -- A minimum of 90 credits, of which at least 30 credits must be earned in residence at University Park campus, or Penn State Harrisburg if the degree is offered at that location, is required for the D.Ed. degree.
    1. The D.Ed. candidate may meet the requirements by attending summer sessions unless the major department requires a period of registration during the regular academic year.
    2. A candidate may register for a maximum of 30 credits of research in absentia, but none of these may count toward the minimum of 30 credits that must be earned at the University Park campus or Penn State Harrisburg if the degree is offered at that location.
    3. It is expected that students will register for a minimum of 15 credits of thesis research.
  2. Major Program and Minor Field -- The program of study includes a major and either a minor or a group of general studies. A majority of the courses offered in fulfillment of the requirements must be in the major program of study.
    1. A candidate choosing to minor in a major outside the fields of professional education (such as history) shall have a minor consisting of no fewer than 15 graduate credits in professional education, as recommended to the director of Graduate Enrollment Services early in the major program with the approval of a faculty adviser from the major and minor areas.
    2. A candidate choosing a major in one of the approved programs in professional education must also choose either a minor or a group of general studies with the approval of the major program chair. In this case, a minor consists of no fewer than 15 graduate credits in a field considered by the major program committee to provide valuable intellectual and/or professional depth and breadth for the candidate.
    3. There must be at least one faculty member from the minor field on the candidate’s doctoral committee. The minor may include courses taken as part of a previous master’s degree program, if the minor is in an area different from the master’s, and if the courses were not a required part of the program, e.g., used to meet a total credit requirement.
    4. An acceptable general studies group consists of at least 15 graduate credits, including those taken as part of a previous master’s degree (up to 6 credits), considered by the major program committee to provide valuable intellectual breadth for the candidate. (Note that a general studies group is not a minor and is not entered as such on the student’s transcript.)
    5. A candidate entering with a master’s degree in a field that would normally be regarded as appropriate for a minor may petition the major program committee for a waiver of the minor requirement. If the program chair then approves, a request for a waiver may be submitted by the chair to the director of Graduate Enrollment Services. Waiving the minor requirement does not reduce the residence or total credit requirements for the D.Ed. degree.
  3. Qualifying Examination -- For the D.Ed. student, the examination should be given when the student has earned a total of at least 30 credits toward the graduate degree, including the master’s program and graduate work done elsewhere.
    1. A student transferring from another graduate school with 30 or more credits earned toward a graduate degree must take the candidacy examination prior to earning more than 25 credits toward the graduate degree at Penn State.
  4. Comprehensive Examination -- In addition to demonstrating a high level of competence in the subject matter in the major program and minor field, each candidate must show, by a comprehensive examination, an understanding of current theories of education and the ability to apply the techniques and findings of educational research so far as they bear upon the teaching of the subject matter.
    1. The candidate must also be able to understand and contribute to the technical and professional literature in the field, and to criticize learned procedures in the light of historical trends and practices in this and other countries.
    2. Command of the tools for a thorough study of the problems of education is necessary and must include competence in the use of statistical methods.
    3. For certain students the requirements may include a reading knowledge of one or more foreign languages.
  5. Dissertation--Evidence of a high degree of scholarship, competence in scholarly exposition, and ability to select, organize, and apply knowledge must be presented by the candidate in the form of a written dissertation.
    1. The candidate must demonstrate a capacity for independent thought, as well as ability and originality in the application of educational principles or in the development of a new generalization under scientific controls.
    2. A dissertation may be based upon a product or project of a professional nature, provided scholarly research is involved. For example, it may be based upon the solution of a professional problem concerned with the development of a curriculum, or a product of creative effort related to education.
    3. However, in order to be acceptable as a dissertation, professional project must be accompanied by a written discourse demonstrating the nature of the research and including such theories, experiments, and other rational processes as were used in effecting the final result.
    4. The topic and outline of the proposed dissertation must have the approval of the doctoral committee.

Revision History

Adapted from the Graduate Bulletin: June 2018

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