Frequently Asked Questions
For more information about applying to the program, please contact the program secretary.
To discuss any questions you may have about the program and the degree to which it could address your particular scholarly interests and/or professional goals, to find out more about our faculty and students or about the financial support offered by the program or to discuss what graduate work entails and the opportunities it provides, please contact the program coordinator.
How long will it take to receive my degree?
Most students enrolled in the program full-time (6-9 credits in each of the fall and spring semesters) normally finish their program within five years. Naturally, some students finish sooner and others take a bit longer. On average, however, most full-time students finish within five years. Students who regularly take fewer than six credits a semester, and who don’t take summer courses, tend to finish their program about two years later than students who enroll full time.
How many courses will I need to take to complete my program?
At a minimum, students are required to take at least 45 course credits during their program. This translates roughly to 15 courses. That said, a doctoral program entails more than completing a set of courses. A doctoral program is designed to best prepare you for a career following the completion of your degree. Consequently, and depending on your particular area(s) of interest and level of preparation you desire, you may choose to (or your committee might suggest you) take one or more additional courses.
Can a student transfer courses to the Ph.D. program that were originally counted for an MSU master's degree?
No. Courses that were already counted toward one MSU degree cannot be counted again toward another degree.
Can a student transfer courses to the Ph.D. program that were taken at another university, whether or not a degree was received?
There is no fixed limit for transfer courses from other institutions. However, all transfer credits must be approved as part of the student's program plan by his or her guidance committee and confirmed by the program coordinator and associate dean for student affairs. This means that the question of whether transfer courses will count cannot be firmly resolved until the second year of a student's enrollment, when the program plan is approved by the student’s guidance committee. The central question is always: What courses will best serve the student's program needs? Realistically, students should not expect to transfer in a large number of courses from another institution, since the student’s program plan will need to reflect the student’s particular focus area in his/her doctoral studies. There is one set of requirements that is more often open to transfer: the inquiry and research methods requirement. It is difficult, nevertheless, to imagine an appropriate program plan that would include more than three transfer courses.
It is important to note that a student’s course of study at MSU (which is reflected in the student’s plan of study or program plan as it is otherwise known) can last no more than eight years. A plan of study begins from the day the student began the first course appearing on the program plan. Consequently, adding a course from another institution taken more than two or three years before beginning your MSU program into your program plan would mean that your first year at MSU would count as your second or third year in the program. This will require you to complete all other program requirements in five or six years in order to abide by the eight-year university rule for degree completion.
Can I apply MSU Lifelong Learning courses toward my doctoral degree?
Yes, but only as part of an approved program plan. No more than nine (9) credits earned under the Lifelong Education status may be applied to the doctoral degree program. Courses earned under the Undergraduate Lifelong Education status may not be applied to a doctoral degree program.
Can a student take courses offered in other departments in the College of Education or from other colleges at MSU and have them count towards his/her program?
Yes. We encourage students to draw widely from the resources in the college and university when planning their programs. In addition students can take courses through the "traveling scholars" program at any of the Big Ten universities. For more information, see the Graduate School's website description of the Academic Leadership Program.
Who receives assistantships and what level of support do they provide?
The Department of Teacher Education currently offers all full-time students enrolling in the doctoral program in Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education a guarantee of half-time (two quarter-time) assistantships for each of the fall and spring semesters for up to five years, as long as students are not fully employed elsewhere. (Some form of external employment is permitted in conjunction with department-provided assistantships as long as it does not impede a student’s normal academic progress in the program.)
Assistantships provide students a monthly stipend and a tuition waiver for up to nine (9) credits for each of the fall and spring semesters. (Students with summer assistantships receive a stipend for summer months as well as a tuition waiver for up to five (5) credits.) Assistantships also provide year-long health care and a waiver of out-of–state university fees. In all, assistantships provide students an annual stipend and benefits that exceed $20,000.
How can I find out what research assistantships are available, and how can I attain one?
Research assistantships are much less available than other kinds of assistantships because they depend upon grants awarded to faculty. If you are interested in serving as a research assistant for either a quarter-time or half-time appointment, it is your responsibility to discuss potential options with your advisor. Consider which projects may be a good fit given your interests and programmatic progress. Once you’ve identified potential projects, contact the Principal Investigator(s) (PI) early in the spring semester about meeting to discuss the assistantship requirements for the following academic year. If you, your advisor, and the PI(s) feel it is a good fit, express formal interest for consideration in the project with the PI(s) and note this when you complete the Application for Assistantship Form.
Are “remote” assistantships possible?
Requests for “remote” assistantships (assistantships that would not require a physical presence on campus) are not entertained by the TE Department. The department assigns assistantships based on need and doctoral students’ academic expertise/interests, not on where a student wishes to be in a particular given time. Remote assistantships therefore are not a guaranteed form of assistantship. While the department doesn’t guarantee such assistantships, in rare instances, they may become possible if a student has received a combination of assistantships (or a fellowship) that allow them to be away and still complete all assistantship/fellowship requirements.
Those assistantship may (though don’t always) include teaching an online MATC course, being an RA on a grant, or working on an editorial board that allow remote work. To secure such assistantships, students will need to indicate a preference for teaching particular online courses when filling out the assistantship application form in early spring (note: requesting a specific course doesn’t guarantee students will be assigned to teach it) as well as doing their own legwork by meeting with faculty who have grants in order to inquire whether there may be a RA position that allows work to be conducted remotely. The best way, however, for students to ensure that they could be off campus for a semester or longer to conduct research, is to secure a fellowship (normally from a foundation, such as the Spencer Foundation dissertation fellowship) that allows for that.
Who is covered by student health insurance and what does it cover?
MSU graduate teaching and research assistants automatically participate in a medical benefits plan, the details of which can be reviewed at the MSU Human Resources: Student Health Insurance website. Spouses and children may be included in the university’s plan at an additional cost to the graduate assistant.
There are additional options for spouses and children, however. It is worthwhile to explore these options. In particular, children in households earning less than $27,000 annually are eligible to be enrolled in a very attractive, comprehensive option called the MIChild Program (“My Child”) operated by the State of Michigan. Details and procedures for enrolling in this plan can be reviewed online at the MIChild Program website.
Where will I live?
Graduate students who wish to live on the MSU campus may select from two housing options: Owen Graduate Center and University Apartments. Although there are no deadlines for housing applications, students are encouraged to apply as early as possible. The MSU Housing Office website provides essential guidance to on-campus living.
Owen Graduate Center is specifically designed to meet the needs of single graduate students. Rooms are completely furnished and include linens and private telephones. Occupants of two rooms share an adjoining bathroom and shower. Housekeeping service is provided on a weekly basis. The hall has a lounge, recreational areas, laundry facilities, and cafeteria. In addition to the above website, you may contact Owen Graduate Center, which is handicap accessible, at (517) 355-9550 or 1-(800) 678-4679.
MSU also provides more than 2,000 furnished one and two bedroom apartments on campus for married students and their families as well as for single graduate and undergraduate students. In addition to the above website, you may call University Apartments at (517) 355-9550 or 1-(800) 678-4679.
The city of East Lansing and several nearby communities are home to many graduate students who choose to live off-campus. Current listings of off-campus housing are available through the Department of Student Life website, or by calling (517) 355-8286. The MSU Student Life Information Center is also helpful in finding off campus housing.
Can I take courses outside of the Department of Teacher Education?
Yes, while some of your required courses and your three selectives need to be in teacher education (TE), you may, with consultation with your advisor/committee, take courses in other departments in the college as well as take courses outside of the college. MSU also has an agreement that allows MSU students to register for courses in any of the other Big Ten universities.
Can I include some master’s level courses in my doctoral program?
Yes, up to two master’s level courses are allowed as long as your guidance committee approves them (their approval will be based on whether these courses strengthen your particular area of study).
What is the difference between a Guidance Committee and a Dissertation Committee?
A guidance committee, which is formed either late in your first year in the program and no later than by the end of your second year in the program, is designed to help guide your doctoral program, approve your program plan, and guide you to the completion of your comprehensive exams. A dissertation committee is formed after you pass your comprehensive exams, with the purpose of guiding you through your dissertation research, writing and defending the dissertation. Both committees need to include at least four MSU regular faculty. The chair of each must be a TE faculty member.
For students entering the doctoral program with a well-defined area of research and scholarship, the composition of the guidance committee (GC) and the dissertation committee (DC) might be similar (in other words, the GC, either fully or with some minor changes, turns into your DC). For students who enter the program with a less defined focus, or those who change direction after entering the program, the DC might end up being quite different from the GC. Whether a substantial difference in the two committees has taken place or not, it is important to ensure that, while the composition of the GC might include faculty outside your area of scholarly focus (e.g., faculty with whom you’ve taken courses outside of your specific areas of scholarly interest), your DC, to the degree possible, should, by and large, comprise of faculty in your area of scholarly interest. This will not only allow them, as experts in the field, to better support your doctoral research and writing of your dissertation, their letters of recommendation on your behalf will be considered more significant by search committees when you apply for faculty positions in your field.
Can I select an advisor who is a faculty member in another department?
No. Your advisor must be a faculty member in the Department of Teacher Education. You can select a faculty member from another department to serve as the director of your dissertation, but your advisor of record must be from TE.
Can my Guidance/Dissertation Committee include members from departments outside of Teacher Education?
Yes. Depending on your scholarly area of interest, you might, in consultation with your advisor, want to select one or more committee members from other departments in the college or even outside of the college. You may also include a fifth committee member from another university.
What happens when changes occur to the program requirements while I am in the program?
You are required to comply with the program requirements applicable to your particular cohort. However, if program requirements change while you are already in the program, you may select to either follow the new requirements or follow the requirements in the books pertaining to your particular cohort.
How do I apply for, and receive funding for travel to conferences?
Each year, depending on the budget for the doctoral program for that year, a certain sum is allocated toward student travel for conferences in which a paper they authored (or co-authored) is to be presented. If one of your papers has been accepted at a conference, and you wish to travel to present that paper, you should fill out a travel pre-authorization form. Once that form has been approved, and you have completed your travels, you’ll need to submit all receipts for which you seek reimbursement to the program secretary. Make sure to include the air ticket receipt as well as the boarding passes for each leg, a receipt from your hotel and any other travel related (e.g., taxi, shuttle) expenses. No receipts are necessary for food (you receive a pre-determined per-diem). Please ensure that if you share a hotel room with another student, the hotel bill is split (it is easy to do if you notify the hotel when you make your reservation or when you check in. They will not be able to split the bill at checkout). In the event that a conference takes place nearby (e.g., in Chicago), and you’d rather drive than fly, make sure you check with the program secretary which option is cheaper before going to the conference (the university will not reimburse the gas and mileage if flying is cheaper).
When should I take dissertation credits?
In addition to your 45 credits of courses, you also are required to register for 24 dissertation credits (TE 999). While the intent is that you register for those credits after you’ve completed your course work, you may register for those at any time during your program.
How many credits is the Practicum (TE 995) and when should I register for it?
The Practicum can be anywhere from 1-6 credits. A practicum normally taken more than a semester to complete. You may register for the course in the semester in which you begin your practicum or in the semester in which you defend your practicum paper (or, if your practicum spans more than two semesters, anywhere in between).
When should I be doing what in my program (Or, how do I know that I am progressing in a timely fashion)?
Students are expected to complete their degrees within five years. How they do so varies widely since each student’s program will look quite differently. What I propose here is a general guideline, not something carved in stone that you must abide by. Still, this guideline might be helpful to plan your program.
By the end of your first year and no later than the end of your second year, you should have constructed your guidance committee. Your program plan should be approved by your guidance committee in your second year. Your practicum should be conducted during your second or third year (if you intend for your practicum paper to serve as one of your comp artifacts for option 2, your practicum should be conducted sooner than later, sine comps should be taken sometime during your third year in the program. The end of your third year or the end of the fall semester of your fourth year should mark the completion of your course-taking. Your fourth year should, by and large, be devoted to getting approval for your dissertation research and conducting that research. Your fifth year should be devoted primarily to writing and defending your dissertation.
Where can I get help with my writing?
One of the better ways to get support for and feedback about your writing is to create or join a writing group with other doctoral students in the department. Additional support can be received through the MSU Writing Center.
Where can I borrow a laptop, camcorder, audio-recorder. Projector, transcriber, and other equipment to be used in my research and its dissemination or in my teaching?
Such equipment can be obtained from Karen Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org, 353-0696) or from the TIES office in room 133 (http://www.ctt.educ.msu.edu, 355-TIES). Both loan equipment for up to two weeks (an extension is possible). Laptops are also available through IMC (353-3960).