AEE Graduate Student Handbook

Click here to review the full NC State Graduate Handbook.

Gaining Admission


The NC State Graduate School looks for a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. If an applicant does not have an overall 3.0 GPA, we will then look at the last two years of the undergraduate program and the courses in the major. If an applicant does not meet the GPA standard, we recommend he or she enroll in graduate courses as a continuing education student. Some prospective students may gain admission on a provisional basis, which will require them to earn at least a ‘B’ in the first three graduate courses. Doctoral candidates are expected to have a 3.5 GPA in their master’s program.


The Agricultural and Extension Education programs require a minimum GRE combined General Test score of 300 and 4.0 or better on the GRE Analytical Writing Test. GRE scores can be waived for Masters applicants with the completion of a 3.0 GPA or higher in six credit hours of graduate-level courses. GRE scores are required for those applying to the doctoral program for Fall 2020 by the June 25 deadline only. The GRE is not required for those applying for admission to the doctoral program beginning Spring 2021.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation play an important role in the application process. Three strong letters of recommendation are expected.

Statement of Purpose

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.


As part of the application process, you must arrange for all official transcripts of previous collegiate work to be sent to the Graduate School. You may also upload an unofficial electronic copy of your transcript(s) while waiting for the official transcripts. While we can make an admission decision based on electronic copies, official copies are required for the final decision by the Graduate School.

Mail transcripts to:

The Graduate School
North Carolina State University
Room 240, Research Building III
1005 Capability Drive
Campus Box 7102
Raleigh, NC 27695

The Graduate School will also accept official electronic transcripts sent from the institution’s secure online delivery service (e.g. eScripSafe, Parchment, National Student Clearninghouse, etc.); however they cannot accept transcripts sent as email attachments from an individual’s email address. E-transcripts should be sent to

Establishing a Graduate Committee

You must establish a graduate committee by the time you earn 12 hours of graduate credit. The committee guides you through your graduate program, reviews your professional portfolio, and conducts your exit exam. The master’s graduate committee is composed of three faculty members. The doctoral committee has four members. At least two of the master’s committee and three of the doctoral committee members must be from the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. The remaining committee member can be from the department or a minor area of study.

You can select the members of your committee. Ask the faculty members if they are willing to serve.  First, identify one of the committee members to serve as your graduate chair. Discuss your committee plans with he or she after he or she agrees to serve as chair. You should select faculty who have the experience and expertise that align with your career aspirations and goals. The committee chair is responsible for filing appropriate paperwork during your graduate program. The committee chair must submit the official committee to the Graduate School.

Establishing a Plan of Work

The Graduate School requires a written Plan of Work (POW) immediately after you’ve established your graduate committee. The POW is a list of the courses you plan to complete your degree program. It is flexible and serves as the “roadmap” to your graduate program.

Your committee chair will help you develop the POW, and the graduate committee must approve it.

Register for Classes

Before a graduate student is permitted to register for classes, the Office of Registration and Records must have authorization from the Dean of the Graduate School. Once a student is notified of his or her acceptance, the authorization is sent to Registration and Records.

Graduate students register for all classes online. To log in and register, visit My Pack Portal and enter your Unity ID and password. Please note registration deadlines for each semester.

Typically, instructors contact students via email before the class starts with instructions on how to access class materials. Most of our courses have a specific lesson each week. In a typical graduate class, you are expected to spend three hours studying and doing assignments for each hour you are registered. For example, if you registered for a three-hour class on campus, you are expected to spend three hours in class and nine hours outside of class studying and completing assignments.

AG*IDEA Courses and Tuition Waivers

Please note that AG*IDEA courses cannot be covered by tuition waivers.

Rules and Regulations

Time Limit

Master’s Degree

Students must complete all requirements for the master’s degree within six calendar years, beginning with the date the student begins courses carrying graduate credit applicable to the degree program either at NC State or another institution.  The student’s degree clock for time to completion starts with the first course approved for inclusion in the plan of work or the date of admission to the program, whichever comes first.

Doctoral Degree

All doctoral students must attain candidacy for the degree within six calendar years from the date of admission and complete all degree requirements within 10 calendar years. The time limit remains at 10 years even if a student was on an approved leave of absence during the 10-year period. The student’s degree clock for time-to-completion starts with the first course approved for inclusion in the plan of work or the date of admission to the program, whichever comes first.

Exceptions to time limits

The Graduate School may grant an exception to the above time limits for a period of up to two (2) years.  Requests may be submitted informally and only need to explain the extenuating circumstances and provide a reasonable timeline for completing the work within the limits of the extension. Requests for extensions of more than two (2) years, or requests to further extend extensions granted by the Graduate School, may be presented to the Administrative Board of the Graduate School (ABGS). The Graduate School will decide whether the request should be presented before the ABGS on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances of each case. Factors and circumstances that the Graduate School will consider in making this decision include, but are not limited to, the currency of the coursework and/or research effort falling outside the allowed time limit window.

Requests for extensions of more than two years should be submitted in writing to the Graduate School when the completion date is clearly in sight, e.g., when a defensible thesis/dissertation is in hand or the last course(s) in a coursework-only degree has/have been undertaken. The request should include the following:

  • A proposed Plan of Work;
  • A timeline for completing the degree;
  • A statement documenting the extenuating circumstances that justify the request for a time extension;
  • A statement explaining the impact that the proposed extension would have on the validity of the student’s coursework and program, including the currency of the courses, not just in material but in pedagogy and interpretation, and the research (if appropriate); and
  • Endorsement of the request from the student’s advisory committee and the Director of Graduate Programs (DGP).

The request will be formally considered by the ABGS who will recommend approval or denial. If the request is approved, the student is bound to the terms of completion outlined in the request. Failure to follow the approved plan will result in termination from the degree program.


A minimum 3.0 GPA for the degree requirements and overall graduate coursework at NC State is required for graduation.

Requirements for Full-Time/Part-Time Registration

NC State uses a uniform schedule of the full-time/half-time status of graduate students. These definitions apply to graduate students.

  • Fall and Spring Semesters
    • Full Time – Students will be full time if they take at least 9 hours per semester until the semester in which a load between 3 and 8 hours will reach an accumulated total equal to the minimum number of hours required by the program. Full time for that semester will be that load. Full time thereafter will be a minimum of 3 hours per semester. Course number does not matter.
    • Half Time – Students who are registered for less than that required for full-time but are registered for at least 4.5 hours will be considered half-time.
    • COP 500 and COP 501 – Students registered for COP 500 will be considered full time. Students registered for only COP 501 will be considered halftime.
  • Summer Sessions
    • Stipends and Social Security Taxes – Graduate students are not required by the University to be registered during the summer. However, students who receive a stipend but who are not enrolled in the University during a period of five weeks or more, or who work 30 or more hours per week, are subject to Social Security tax withholding. Specifically, Social Security taxes will be withheld in June for RAs who are not registered in Summer Session I and in July for RAs who are not registered in Summer Session II; students who work more than 30 hours per week are not exempt regardless of registration status. The source of funds that pays the stipend must match the Social Security tax withheld from the student’s paycheck during these months.
    • Summer Registration for Research and Extension Assistants (optional) – Two special registration categories have been created for Research and Extension Assistants who would not otherwise take courses in the summer: XXX 696 (Summer Thesis Research) and XXX 896 (Summer Dissertation Research), where XXX represents the course prefix of a specific department or program. Each of these courses is for 1 hour of credit, with registration for 10 weeks, beginning the first day of Summer Session I. Social Security taxes will not be withheld from the June or July paychecks of RAs who register for either 696 or 896 and are working less than 30 hours per week. Full time in the summer is a minimum of 1 hour.
    • Access to Student Services – Students who are not registered during the summer do not have access to financial aid during that period, nor do they have access to the Student Health Services unless they pay the student health fee for each of the two summer sessions.

Requirements for Residence Credit in Doctoral Programs

A student working toward a doctoral degree is expected to be registered for graduate work at NC State for at least six (6) semesters beyond the bachelor’s degree. The University has minimum residence requirements, as defined below, but the academic schools/colleges have the prerogative of establishing more restrictive requirements within the respective schools/colleges.

Hours of Graduate Work

Doctoral residence credit is determined by the number of semester hours of graduate work carried during a regular semester.

Semester Credits (Hours)
Residence Credits
9 or more
less than 6
(including registration in 590, 690 series)

At least two residence credits are necessary for continuous residence (registration in consecutive semesters) as a graduate student at NC State University, but failure to take courses in the summer does not break continuity.

Summer Residency

Summer coursework can only be used in partial fulfillment of the residency requirement. A single summer session is equal to one-half of the corresponding amount for a regular semester (e.g. six semester hours carried during a summer session will earn one-third of a residence credit; less than six credit hours will earn one-sixth of a residence credit).

Exit Exam

Master’s Students

In the final semester, you will take an exit exam after completing the courses in your plan of study. Contact all of your committee members to arrange a date for the exam. Inform your advisor of when you plan to graduate, and your advisor will file paperwork with the Graduate School to schedule the exit exam. The exam must be completed before the Initial ETD Submission Deadline.

The exam has two parts. The first part consists of general questions over your coursework, focusing on your conceptual understanding and application of the materials. This part of the exam typically lasts an hour. During the second part, you will present a professional portfolio to the committee. The portfolio contains examples of your work that demonstrate your knowledge.

Doctoral Students

Doctoral students take a comprehensive general exam (16-hour written, two-hour oral) after they’ve completed the major courses. The graduate advisor guides students on how to prepare for the exam. Students must also conduct a major research study and prepare a dissertation. As the final exam, students defend the dissertation. The exam must be completed before the Initial ETD Submission Deadline.


NC State has one university-wide graduation ceremony in May for spring graduates and one in December for summer and fall graduates. The department hosts a small graduation program later the same day when students receive their diplomas. The university will send correspondence to graduate students regarding these ceremonies.

If you are applying for a North Carolina “M” teaching license, see your faculty advisor for instructions on the process.