Doctoral Degree in AEE

Female doctoral student

The Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences offers a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree in Agricultural and Extension Education. The rigorous research-based program is designed for students who want to pursue careers in higher education or administrative positions in educational settings or government.

Our doctoral students excel in their fields and exceed high expectations of:

  • A Mastery of Knowledge in the Field– At the doctoral level, students must understand and know the major constructs, facts, principles, and theories of the field, and be able to apply this knowledge in real-world settings.
  • Superior Quality of Work – Doctoral work is expected to be perceptive and in-depth.
  • Original Research – Students must demonstrate their ability to conduct original research and that they have deep knowledge and understanding of the research process, statistics, and research in the field.

What’s the difference between an Ed.D. and Ph.D. degree?

The Ed.D. at NC State University is a research-based degree and does not differ in the quality and rigor of a Ph.D. Historically (in theory), the Ph.D. was a research-based degree designed for scientists and the Ed.D. was designed for educational practitioners who needed advanced training in education but who did not need the heavy emphasis on research.

Admission Requirements

Five major factors are considered in the doctoral admissions process:

    1. GPA: A minimum 3.5 GPA in a master’s program and a minimum 3.0 GPA in an undergraduate program
    2. Experience: We consider a candidate’s work in the field for one to three years prior to pursuing a doctoral degree. The departmental faculty require 1 year of relevant experience, but 3 years is recommended. Relevant experience includes extension, teaching, leadership, industry, or other closely related field.
    3. Letters of Recommendation: Students should submit three strong letters of recommendation
    4. Personal Statement: Prospective graduate students will draft a statement of purpose for graduate work. If the student intends to complete a thesis or dissertation, the statement should also indicate the nature of potential research work, including possible topics or questions, and minimally two professors from the Agricultural and Human Sciences department whose research areas potentially align with those possible research topics. Prospective students should plan to meet with faculty prior to submitting their applications to discuss the research with those professors and include those ideas in the statement.

Doctoral applications are discussed with faculty at the beginning of each month. The last meeting for a given admission term is held after the stated deadline for that term. Decisions should be communicated with applicants roughly 1-2 months after the complete application was submitted, unless further discussion with faculty is needed.

Departmental Assistantships

A limited number of departmental research and/or teaching assistantships are available on a competitive basis for MS and EdD students. Applications for open positions are due by February 1 for the following academic year. Other financial aid is available from the Office of Financial Aid and on a competitive basis from the Graduate School.

Please check back Spring 2023 for opportunities for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Program Length

We have customized the doctoral program to meet each student’s career goals. While there are some common components, the student’s graduate committee will consult with him or her to determine the required courses and hours to complete the program.

Eighteen hours from the master’s program can be counted toward the doctoral program unless the student immediately “rolls over” from the NC State’s master’s program into the doctoral program. In those situations, up to 36 hours completed in the master’s program can count toward the doctoral degree.

Students have 10 years to complete the doctoral program (starting with the first course counted in the program). Once admitted, students must maintain continuous enrollment in at least one course every semester. Students may request a leave of absence for up to two semesters.

Comprehensive Examination and Dissertation

Comprehensive Examination

At the completion of the coursework, and no later than four years after the start of the doctoral program, students must complete a comprehensive examination (written and oral) to continue in the program. If the student fails this exam, the doctoral program is terminated.

Written Component

The written exam is 16 hours – four hours a day, for four days. This exam covers the student’s factual knowledge and the ability to apply this knowledge.

  • Part 1 (4 hours) is over general knowledge (e.g., history and philosophy) in the field of agricultural and extension education.
  • Part 2 (4 hours) concentrates on coursework and knowledge in the field of the student’s specialization (i.e., the practice of agricultural education, the practice of extension education, the practice of international development, etc.)  
  • Part 3 (4 hours) concentrates on research and statistics.
  • Part 4 (4 hours) is over the minor field of study.

Oral Component

There is a two-hour oral exam over the written exam. This component allows students to clarify information from the written exam and gives the graduate committee a clear view of the depth and breadth of the student’s knowledge. The written exam must be passed unconditionally before scheduling the oral exam with the Graduate School.


The final requirement of the doctoral program is to make an original contribution to the field of agricultural and extension education through research. Requirements of the dissertation include:

  • Identify a major problem or question in the field of agricultural and extension education
  • Design a research study to address this problem
  • Conduct the research
  • Report the results – the topic of the dissertation must be in the area of AEE
  • The dissertation must be of superior quality that can be published in professional journals

A complete dissertation is about 150-200 pages in length. The student’s graduate committee will provide guidance and support for the project. Upon completion, the student will defend the dissertation before his or her graduate committee.