PACE Master's Degree Program of Study

PACE curriculum                                                      

The PACE program requires the completion of at least 45 credits, which includes at minimum:

  • ELP professional studies core (16 credits)
  • Thematic specialization and electives (25 credits)
  • Culminating experience (4 credits)

Students have considerable flexibility in shaping their thematic specialization and elective course work in consultation with a faculty advisor.

Courses are delivered in a variety of formats including on campus, hybrid, and online. Classes on campus are held in the evenings (4-6:30pm or 6:40-9:20pm) and weekends. Summer courses are offered both during the day and in the evening. For up-to-date schedules and full course descriptions, see the most current PSU Bulletin or visit the class schedule online at the ELP homepage.

PACE program of study

ELP Professional Studies Core: (16 credits)

Students may complete the professional studies core at any point in their program. However, it is recommended that students complete ELP 520 and ELP 511 as early as possible.

  • ELP 511 Principles of Educational Research and Data Analysis I (4 credits)
  • ELP 520 Developmental Perspectives on Adult Learning (4 credits)
  • ELP 551 Social Foundations of Education (4 credits) OR ELP 554 Philosophy of Education (4 credits)
  • ELP 568 Educational Organization and Administration (4 credits)

Thematic specializations and electives (25 credits)

The Thematic Specializations are to serve as a learning guide in assisting students with focusing and developing their program. They are not intended to be prescriptive. As such, working with their advisor students may choose one theme or combine courses from a variety of themes.


Students may also be interested in courses offered by other PSU academic units including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy—conflict management and ethics, applied linguistics, and speech communication); the College of Urban Public Affairs; and the School of Business Administration. In addition, the Intercultural Communications Institute offers summer workshops and seminars: 503-297-4622,

Self-Directed Learning Credit (Independent Study)

Students may work with faculty to design a self-directed learning experience. Most students engage in independent study after they have completed at least 20 credits of course work. At this point, specific learning needs and interests may be identified. Students might engage in research, program evaluation, practicum, internship, special project, or reading and conference on selected topics. For more information, contact your faculty advisor or instructor.

  • ELP 506 Special Problem (1-3 credits)
    • For more information about what is required for arranging for 506 credit, click here.
  • ELP 509 Practicum (1-4 credits)
    • For more information about what is required for arranging for 509 credit, click here

Culminating Experience (4 credits) 

Candidates for the Master's degree with a specialization in Postsecondary, Adult & Continuing Education must select, in consultation with their faculty advisor, one of two culminating experiences: comprehensive examination or thesis. The majority of students complete the comprehensive exam, which involves a professionally grounded theory-to-practice project formally contextualized in the research literature. The thesis requires an oral exam in addition to the written product and is likely to significantly extend a student's time to completion.

Comprehensive Exam (COMPS) option: The comprehensive exam is a project-based experience that requires enrollment in ELP 507: PACE Comps (4 credits), taken as Pass/No Pass and offered every term. The project entails completion of an eportfolio which includes evidence of key learning in the program and a theory-to-practice paper. Students should have completed a minimum of 35 credits, including the Professional Studies Core, before enrolling in the course. The ELP 507: PACE Comp course will meet 4 to 6 times during the term to help guide students through the completion of their eportfolio. Students will present their projects/paper orally in the final meeting(s) of the course. Further options and guidelines for completing the comprehensive examination process will be discussed in the class.

Thesis option: The thesis option requires enrollment in 6-9 credits of ELP 503: Thesis. The thesis is likely to require 2-4 quarters of additional work before completion of the program. This also requires the appointment of a Thesis Committee of two tenure-track faculty, one of whom must be from the ELP Department, and a faculty member appointed by the Office of Graduate Studies. Visit the Office of Graduate Studies website for thesis guidelines.

For information about the 18-credit PACE graduate certificate programs, please visit PACE Graduate Certificates.