EES Degree Requirements


The Earth, Environment and Society doctoral program serves students and advisors from a range of disciplines. At the time of admission, the admission committee may require you to take up to three courses that they feel will help you be successful in our program.

You must take a minimum of 81 credits, including 54 credits of coursework and 27 credits of dissertation, to meet the requirements for the program.

Seminar (4 credits)

Speaker series seminars, research group seminars and/or journal club seminars can fulfill this requirement. You should expect to take at least one 1-credit seminar course during every term you are in residence until advancing to candidacy.

  • Speaker series seminars (ESM/G/GEOG 507) are broad topical seminars that rotate between departments.
  • Research group seminars are organized by research groups at the departmental 500-level.
  • Journal clubs can be offered by any of the three core departments at the departmental 500-level or ESR 600-level and would require you to read and lead a discussion on recent journal articles in your area.

Professional Development (2 credits)

You must take two credits of professional development, such as ESR 655 (Science Communication), ESR 656 (Advanced Communication Skills for Doctoral Students), or another similar course recommended by your Advisory Committee and subject to approval by the EES doctoral program director.

Research Methods (3-4 credits)

You must take one research methods course, such as ESM 566 (Environmental Data Analysis), ESM 567 (Multivariate Analysis of Environmental Data), G 523 (Statistics and Data Analysis in the Geosciences), GEOG 525 (Field Methods in Human Geography), or another similar course recommended by your Advisory Committee and subject to approval by the EES doctoral program director.

Electives (44 credits)

You need 44 credits of electives to complete your degree requirements. Work with your Advisory Committee to select the remaining courses that best serve your Ph.D. educational goals.

Transfer Credits: If you only want to transfer in electives and have a completed master's degree, then a GO-21D (Proposed Transfer Credit - Doctoral Degree) is not needed. Instead, request your approval to apply the completed master's via a DARS exception.

Dissertation (27 credits)

Follow these instructions to complete an electronic by-arrangement form for dissertation credits. You will need the following information to complete the request:

  • Instructor Name (if student is initiating request)
  • Student’s PSU ID (if instructor is initiating request)
  • Subject Code (ESR)
  • Course number (603)
  • Number of credits
  • Grade Mode (P/NP, A-F, etc)
  • Course Title ("DISSERTATION")
  • Course Description

Ph.D. Checklist

Identify an Advisor

In order to be admitted and to continue in the program, you must have a doctoral advisor. Your advisor and admissions committee will provide a list of up to three courses that you must take upon entrance to the program.


  • Complete the CITI Responsible Conduct of Research training by the end of your first quarter. Click on "New Users Register Here," select PSU from the participating institutions, create a username and password, and pick the RCR learner group. 
  • After completion of nine credit hours, you and your advisor will form an Advisory Committee. Submit the ESR-006 form to Angela Canton via email or in person at Cramer Hall 341. 
  • Establish a course of study that includes admission committee recommendations, EES Ph.D. program requirements, and other courses as determined by your Advisory Committee.
  • Maintain continuous enrollment of at least one credit per term.
  • Every year by May 1, submit an annual report approved by your advisor to remain in the program.

Comprehensive Exams

  • Form a Comprehensive Exam Committee. It can be the same as your Advisory Committee. Submit the ESR-007 form to Angela Canton via email or in person at Cramer Hall 341.
  • Create and submit to the committee a Comprehensive Exam Prospectus. Be sure to include the cover sheet ESR-008.
  • Schedule a comprehensive exam and defense. Comprehensive exams should be taken by the beginning of your third year in the program.
  • After passing the written and oral portion of the Comprehensive Exam, submit the Report on Passing Comprehensive form (GO-22) to
  • You have a maximum of three years from the completion of comprehensive exams to advancement to candidacy.


  • Complete all coursework, verified by a DARS report run by the Graduate School.
  • Form a dissertation committee using the Appointment of Doctoral Dissertation form (GO-16D). 
    • The committee must consist of four to six PSU faculty members. The chair of the dissertation committee and the Graduate Office Representative must be regular, full-time PSU instructional faculty, tenured or tenure-track, assistant professor or higher in rank. The other two to four committee members may include adjunct or fixed-term faculty.
  • Prepare and present a dissertation proposal.
  • Once the dissertation committee approves the proposal,  you're recommended for advancement to candidacy via a Doctoral Request for Advancement to Candidacy (GO-23). You have a maximum of three years from the completion of comprehensive examinations to advancement to candidacy.
  • Complete research and write dissertation.
  • File the Application for Awarding of the Master's or Doctoral Degree form with the Graduate School no later than the first week of the anticipated term of graduation.
  • Present your dissertation in a public forum and defend it to the committee. A dissertation defense may be scheduled only during the regular academic terms, at least five weeks prior to the end of the term of anticipated graduation.
  • Submit your dissertation to the Graduate School using the Dissertation Signature Page and the ETD Access Form. The final dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than three weeks prior to the close of the term of application for graduation.
  • After your dissertation is completed and appropriately published, you're recommended for the degree using the Doctoral Recommendation form (GO-17D). You have a minimum of four months and a maximum of five years from the effective date of advancement to candidacy to complete all requirements for graduation, including defense of the dissertation and its final acceptance by the Graduate School.