Skip to content

Clinical and Translational Sciences Dual-Title PhD Program

The Clinical and Translational Sciences Dual-Title PhD Program gives students the opportunity to tailor their graduate education for health-related careers in the laboratory, clinic, community and industry.

Offered through participating graduate programs in Penn State’s colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Health and Human Development, Medicine and Nursing, this program features more than 85 approved elective courses and 10 affiliated major programs spread across two campuses. Diversity is reflected in both students and in more than 70 CTS faculty, each with a unique interest in clinical and translational science.

Integrating the requirements of the major program with clinical and translational science allows students to individualize the doctoral experience by creating new research teams in academia, industry, medicine, government and the community.

See program handbook

Jump to topic


Program Details

Eligibility and Academic Requirements Expand answer

To pursue a dual-title PhD in clinical and translational science, applicants must be accepted by The Graduate School, one of the participating graduate major programs and the Clinical and Translational Sciences Program. Students complete degree requirements for their major simultaneously with those required for clinical and translational sciences. Graduates are awarded a single degree in the student’s major field and in clinical and translational sciences.

Prospective dual-title program students must first be admitted to a major program. Students must meet all eligibility requirements for the major program and the Clinical and Translational Sciences Program. Check with the major program for additional requirements.


Any pre-qualifying student enrolled in an affiliated major program is eligible to apply. If a student’s major program is not affiliated, the major program head should contact the Clinical and Translational Sciences Program administrator. Post-qualifying students should contact the administrator to learn more about the Translational Science Graduate Certificate Program.

Academic Requirements

Students are expected to demonstrate that they are making good academic progress in their major program. Applicants must have a graduate GPA of at least 3.5 in a research area related to human health.

All Penn State graduate students are required to complete Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) training. Much of this training is completed with self-study computer-based modules administered through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative at the University of Miami. The Clinical and Translational Sciences Program has training requirements in addition to a student’s major program. Prior to taking a qualifying exam, potential CTS students are expected to complete the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative modules, which can be accessed through the Penn State College of Medicine CITI Portal.

English Requirements for International Students Expand answer

Penn State requires two evaluations of English language proficiency for graduate students.

All International Applicants

All international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (minimum acceptable score of 550 for the paper-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test) or the International English Language Testing System (minimum acceptable composite score of 6.5).

Applicants with internet-based test speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, which requires completion of specified remedial English courses ESL 114G (American Oral English for Academic Purposes) and/or ESL 116G (ESL/Composition for Academic Disciplines) and attainment of at least a B grade.

International applicants are exempt from the testing requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States and Wales. However, the major program may require all international applicants to submit test scores, regardless of their academic background and country of origin, so be sure to check with the major program for any unique requirements.

Graduate Teaching Assistants

All graduate teaching assistants whose first language is not English and who have not completed an academic program in a U.S. university are required to take the American English Oral Proficiency Test administered by the Linguistics and Applied Languages Studies Department at Penn State. Given at the beginning of fall and spring semesters, international students are required to pre-register for the test.

The test scores are posted on the University’s Administrative Information System site.

Programs often use this test to evaluate graduate students before they could be used by the department as teaching assistants and instructors. See a list of requirements based on AEOCPT score ranges.

Students who are required to enroll in ESL courses must complete the ESL requirement by the end of the second semester of residency.

The Clinical and Translational Sciences Program does not have any additional English requirements. However, the major program may have more stringent requirements. Students who fail to satisfy English requirements may be terminated from the Clinical and Translational Sciences Program and their major graduate program, at the discretion of the graduate major program chair.

Major Programs Expand answer

The Clinical and Translational Sciences Program is affiliated with the following major programs:

Application Process Expand answer

Applicants must be admitted to a graduate major program before applying to the Clinical and Translational Sciences Program. Once admitted, students may apply to the Clinical and Translational Sciences Dual-Title PhD Program before arriving at Penn State, any time prior to taking the qualifying exam, or shortly thereafter.

The following elements are required:

  • Statement of interest, including the candidate’s reasons for pursuing a career that includes clinical and translational science. The statement should address the ways in which the candidate’s research and professional goals will be enhanced by an interdisciplinary course of study in clinical and translational sciences.
  • Letter from the candidate’s research adviser, which endorses the candidate’s participation in the program. The letter should be sent by the research adviser to the program office at
  • Letter of support from the head of the candidate’s major program. If the candidate has not yet selected a research adviser, the program head’s letter should describe the program’s support of the candidate’s desire to incorporate clinical and translational research in the candidate’s training plans. The letter should be sent by the program head to the program office at
  • A description of the candidate’s academic performance to date (transcript).
  • An academic vita.
Mentoring Expand answer

The Graduate School requires that the candidate’s dissertation committee be co-chaired by a member of the Graduate Faculty in both the major area of study and in Clinical and Translational Sciences. Faculty who are members of both programs can fulfill both roles. Furthermore, a member of the Clinical and Translational Sciences faculty must be part of the qualifying and comprehensive exams.

See list of CTS faculty

Qualifying, Doctoral Committee and Comprehensive Exam Expand answer

Doctoral students achieve a series of milestones as they progress toward their degree. The path for dual-title students is similar, but with a few important differences. Consult the program handbook or The Graduate School for details.

Program Handbook and Elective/Required Courses Expand answer

The CTS Program Handbook includes details on courses, funding, professional development and more.

See the full CTS student handbook

See required courses

See elective courses

About Dual-Title PhDs

What is a dual-title PhD? Expand answer

A dual-title degree is a single degree titled in two fields. A dual-title program encompasses a course of study that integrates both the graduate major and dual-title fields throughout graduate training. This makes dual-title degrees academically distinct from minors, options and double degrees.

Does it take longer to earn a dual-title PhD? Expand answer

Ten of the Penn State’s dual-title PhD programs have sufficient history to compare the time to degree for dual-title students and students enrolled only in the graduate major program. The median time for dual-title students was 5.2 years vs. 5.3 years for major programs.

Is there an advantage to a dual-title PhD? Expand answer

By integrating a second distinct, but complementary, field of study into their major program, dual-title students develop valuable skills and approaches beyond those of their major field. Clinical and translational science career paths are expanding, with opportunities in academic, medical, industrial and community settings. One goal of the dual-title PhD program is to attain proficiency in interdisciplinary team science to improve clinical and health outcomes.

Contact the Program

Program Leadership Expand answer
Request Information Expand answer

Clinical and Translational Science Dual-Title PhD Information Request