Penn State Graduate School Penn State Penn State Graduate School

Programs and Curriculum Policies

GSAD-202 Joint Degree Programs Administrative Policy

Purpose: to ensure that joint degree students receive the academic and administrative support needed to complete these complex educational programs.

Scope: all joint degree programs offered through the Graduate School.



Joint degree programs offer select, highly motivated students the opportunity to combine advanced disciplinary knowledge offered by the Graduate School with legal or medical training offered by Penn State Law and Dickinson Law School, or the College of Medicine, respectively. The advantages of a joint degree program (compared to simply sequentially completing the two degree programs) include a curriculum in which the student benefits intellectually from a close integration of the curriculum, and benefits in practical terms from select individual courses that are counted toward the requirement of both degrees (“double counted courses”).

Managing the academic and administrative needs of the intersection of degrees from two schools with differing cultures and expectations is complex and requires clear academic and administrative policies to ensure that the students understand the expectations of them, and that the faculties and staff members of both programs provide appropriate support to the students.



Graduate Degree Program: A postbaccalaureate degree program offered under the Graduate School that meet standards established by and is approved through the curricular review and approval process of Graduate Council. Graduate degree programs are listed in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin.

Joint Degree Program: A formal program of study leading to conferral of a graduate degree from the Graduate School and either i) a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Penn State Law (PSL) or Dickinson School of Law (DSL), or ii) an M.D. degree from the College of Medicine. Existing graduate degree programs may establish a joint degree program upon review and approval by Graduate Council’s curricular review process and the curricular review process of the respective partner school. (Note: Joint degree programs are specifically related to the J.D. and M.D. degrees, and do not include other medical and law education degrees offered by PSL, DSL and the COM (e.g., the L.L.M., S.J.D., and M.P.A.S.).

Double-Counted Course: a course taken by either an integrated undergraduate-graduate (IUG) degree program student or a joint degree program student that fulfills a degree requirement for both the Graduate School degree and the undergraduate, law school / medical school degree, respectively.

Policy Statement

  1. Proposals for new joint degree programs must be accompanied by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the deans of the respective colleges describing how tuition will be charged to joint degree students as they progress through the program.
    1. The graduate program and the respective partner school must work in conjunction with the University Budget Office, the Bursar, and the Graduate School to establish these MOUs.
    2. The MOU must include a typical program of study.
  2. The graduate program and the respective partner school will each identify a faculty member with academic administrative responsibility specifically for the joint degree program. For the graduate program, this may be the program head, DGS/PIC, or another member of the program’s Graduate Faculty specially designated to this role. These individuals have the following responsibilities:
    1. Being knowledgeable about the requirements of the joint degree program;
    2. Providing academic advising and guidance to joint degree students; and
    3. Signing forms on behalf of the respective academic program for that program’s aspects of a student’s joint degree program.

Cross References / Other Policies

GCAC-211 Joint Degree Programs

Revision History

Effective date: August 24, 2017

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