General Timeline

General Timeline

Although the graduate program is best characterized by its flexibility, there is a general process to be followed and an expectation for timely progress. In most cases, graduate study toward the Ph.D. degree can be completed in four to five years as a full time student. There is rarely the need for more than five full time years, unless especially complex research for the dissertation requires additional time.

The general process and timeline for graduate study are briefly outlined below, and may be referred to as a quick reference throughout your graduate studies. These give a sense of how the program unfolds and provide information about what criteria will be used for assessing whether a student is making acceptable progress through the program.

Table of Contents

Components of the Program

  • Coursework
    • Major Area (18 credits)
    • Breadth (depends on area/option)
    • Statistics (507 and 508 or equivalent)
  • Master’s Thesis and Advancement to Candidacy
    • Written proposal 
    • Doctoral candidacy review
    • Master’s thesis defense with committee
  • Research with a second faculty member
  • Comprehensive exam
  • Dissertation
    • Proposal meeting with committee
    • Dissertation defense with committee

Recommended Time Frame

  • Identify and develop relationship with faculty advisor.
  • Coursework
    • Begin major area course work (2 in fall and 2 in spring typically)
    • Complete stats sequence (PSY 507 and 508 typically)
    • Satisfy English language requirement through graduate program orientation course (501)
  • Begin conducting research. This is typically with your faculty advisor. (PSY 600 credits in fall, perhaps 610 credits in spring if beginning Master's research in first year).
  • Master’s Thesis
    • Lay out plans for Master's research
    • Identify and set up Master's committee.
    • Propose thesis (spring)
Year 1
  • Apply to dual-title program, if desired (early fall).
  • Advance to candidacy (end fall).
  • Master’s Thesis
    • Complete thesis research.
    • Defend thesis (spring).
  • Continue coursework (3 courses in fall and 3 courses in spring typically, depending on specific requirements of the area).
Year 2
  • Conduct research with a second faculty member*
  • Complete remaining coursework.
  • Comprehensive Exam
    • Prepare plan for exam with advisor and committee.
    • Take exam (spring).
*For adult-track clinical students, this is typically the minor project and needs to be completed before finishing comprehensive exam.
Year 3
  • Dissertation
    • Propose dissertation before committee
    • Conduct dissertation research.
    • Defend dissertation before committee
Although most faculty members have a strong working knowledge of these graduate program requirements, it is expected that each student will be responsible for the Departmental requirements presented in the GUIDELINES and the Graduate School requirements as presented in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin (https://bulletins.psu.edu/graduate/). It is a good idea to rely on yourself and not just your advisor with regard to program requirements!
Year 4-5

Good Standing and Acceptable Progress Toward Degree

Department funding is awarded only to those students who are considered to be in good standing in the Department and who are making acceptable progress toward the degree. The above time frame is the base set of criteria on which assessment of acceptable progress toward the degree is made. Individual situations may involve deviation from that general time frame. However, when deviations occur, an explicit statement as to why the deviation occurred and a specific plan for getting back on track that is approved by the student’s advisor must be documented in the student’s file with the graduate staff assistant.

There are several deadlines for which a failure to meet automatically places students in poor standing and results in the loss of priority for funding. These are the following:

  • Failure to successfully propose Master’s thesis by the end of spring semester of the second year.
  • Failure to defend the Master’s thesis by the end of spring semester of the third year.
  • Failure to complete comprehensive exams by the end of the fall semester of the fourth year.
  • Failure to successfully propose a dissertation by the end of the fall semester of the fifth year.

These should not be thought of as due dates. Instead, they are extreme dates that are to be avoided.

Finally, any of the following situations also places students in poor standing and results in the loss of priority for funding:

  • Failure to identify a faculty advisor by the end of spring semester of the first year.
  • Receiving a failing grade in any course that is part of program
  • Receiving grades lower than B+ in multiple courses.

Being in poor standing or failing to make acceptable progress toward a degree places a student at risk for termination from the program.