Degree Requirements

Course Requirements

Students begin the program by taking a set of core courses:

  • 3 substantive classes (Lifespan Development, Family Studies, and Intervention Research)
  • 4 foundational methods classes in research methods and statistics
  • 2 professional development classes

Students are also required to take electives based on their own interests and program of research:

  • 6 credits in methodology electives
  • 12 additional elective credits (3 may be from non-HDFS class)

Methodology Requirement

The HDFS program has a methodology core requirement. As mentioned above, students are required to take four foundation courses and 6 credits in methodology electives. Methodology electives offered in recent years include:

  • HDFS 517 Multivariate Change (Multi-level modeling)
  • HDFS 530 Longitudinal Structural Equation Modeling
  • HDFS 597 special topics courses, including: Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis, fMRI Data Analysis, Time Series Analyses, Bayesian Data Analysis, Dynamical Systems Analysis, Data Mining

Review a list of 500-level graduate courses that have been offered in the past.

Research Requirements

All students in the program are required to participate in research activities. Students are expected to present research at professional meetings and take advantage of workshops, colloquium series, and symposia held at Penn State every year.

Communications Requirement

The Graduate School requires that departments certify students’ competence in written and oral English. In HDFS, evaluations in English are conducted by the faculty in charge of teaching the core introductory courses and, again, by the candidacy exam committee. Students with difficulties in oral or written English will be referred to appropriate remedial classes and/or activities. The comprehensive exam cannot be scheduled until the doctoral committee attests to the candidate’s English proficiency.

Teaching Requirement

Instructional development is an important component of graduate education in HDFS. Our program is designed to provide a broad and flexible approach to students’ development in this domain.

  • Students are required to serve as a teaching assistant for a minimum of two courses. This requirement exposes students to the tasks of organizing and conducting a course, and may include such activities as syllabus preparation, quiz/test construction, grading, assisting students and responding to their questions, and lecturing.
  • Students may also teach classes. The department provides assistance for students teaching a class for the first time, including a teaching preparation course and a faculty mentor.

Student Development and Evaluation

  • Plan of Study: At the end of each spring semester, students work with their advisor to develop a plan of study which specifies what course work, scholarly, and apprenticeship activities they will undertake for the upcoming year. Students also report on their activities and accomplishments in the prior year. The planning process is an opportunity for students to think about where they are headed in their graduate education and what they need to accomplish to achieve their goals. The planning process provides opportunities to discuss these important issues with faculty mentors and allows for an individualized program for each student within the context of general departmental goals.
  • Review of student progress: At the end of each academic year, faculty provide students with feedback on their academic and professional progress.

Master’s Thesis and Dissertation

  • By the time students graduate the program, they will have completed a master’s thesis and a doctoral dissertation.
  • Students entering the program with a master’s degree may be exempt from completing a master’s thesis as part of the HDFS program if they have previously completed an empirical master’s thesis.
  • For more detailed information on the master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation, review the Graduate Handbook.

The Graduate School at Penn State has requirements for a master’s degree and doctoral degree. These requirements are almost entirely overlapping with the departmental requirements described above. For more details about program requirements, see the Grad Handbook. Students must meet the following requirements:

  • Masters degree requires a minimum of 30 credits.
  • Masters thesis (for those who completed an empirical thesis elsewhere, their earlier thesis can meet this requirement)
  • Candidacy evaluation.
  • Maintain at least a 3.00 grade point average;
  • Demonstrate competence in the English language (including reading, writing, listening, and speaking).
  • Demonstrate competence in professional communication skills.
  • Pass the Comprehensive Examination (written and oral).
  • Write a satisfactory dissertation (an independent, competent research and scholarship activity that makes a significant contribution).Pass the final oral examination (dissertation defense).