Workforce Education and Development

Welcome to Workforce Education and Development at Penn State University. We appreciate your interest in our program, one of the oldest academic programs offered by Penn State.

Program Mission

The mission of Penn State’s Workforce Education and Development (WFED) program is to promote excellence, opportunity, and leadership among professionals in the field of workforce education and development, including professionals employed in secondary and postsecondary education institutions, social services, employee organizations, and private sector businesses.

Faculty in the program strive to attain a cost-effective academic program that is recognized nationally as among the best of its type in scholarship, leadership, and professional preparation.

Faculty, students, and alumni are proud of the program, which consistently ranks in the top three of its type in national assessments of program quality.

Doctoral students may choose from three different emphases: human resource development/organization development; school-to-work; and secondary career and technical education leadership. Master's degree students have these three choices, plus an additional emphasis in teacher certification.

Undergraduate Programs and Certification

Workforce Education and Development offers a variety of pathways to earn an undergraduate degree with an emphasis in Career and Technical Education (CTE) or Workplace Learning and Performance (WLP). 

The CTE emphasis offers an undergraduate degree through a large off-campus degree and non-degree program leading to two types of certifications: Pennsylvania CTE Teacher Certification and Co-Op Certification.

The WLP emphasis offers flexible programs enabling working professionals to take courses and earn credits in a variety of ways including earning professional certificates, an associate degree, and a baccalaureate degree.

Any questions about Career and Technical Certification, Cooperative Education Certification and undergraduate WFED studies should be directed to Mark Threeton, 814-863-5361.

General information about scholarships and financial aid is available at

Graduate Program Degrees

Master of Education (M.Ed.) - University Park

The M.Ed. candidates must complete six credits taken outside of the Workforce Education and Development program and three credits of WF ED elective. A candidate for the M.Ed. must complete three credits of WF ED 59, Individual Studies. and a comprehensive exam. A full list of program course requirements can be found here.

Master of Science (MS) - University Park

The culminating experience for the Master of Science (MS) degree is a thesis, essay, or paper acceptable to the student's adviser and graduate program director. An MS candidate must complete the three–credit course WF ED 550, Research in Workforce Education. Candidates who choose to complete a formal thesis that will be submitted to the Graduate School must complete six credits of WF ED 600, Thesis Research. Those choosing to complete a paper or an essay must enroll in a minimum of three credits of WF ED 596, Individual Studies. Students must be enrolled during all semesters in which they are working on the manuscript. A full list of program course requirements can be found here.

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Master of Professional Studies - World Campus

The Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) in Organization Development and Change is an online degree aimed toward professionals in fields such as talent management, corporate development and performance improvement in government, nonprofit organizations and industry. The program is designed with an international focus, ensuring that students are exposed to global issues and the way change is occurring around the world and will emphasize the importance of technology when it comes to facilitating change.

Students in the OD&C program will have the opportunity to build portfolios, collections of work samples that they have accumulated throughout their programs that they can share with prospective employers. Classes are planned to start in summer of 2014, more details can found on our course list.

The M.P.S. in Organization Development and Change is a degree offering of the Workforce Education program in the Department of Learning and Performance Systems in the Penn State College of Education. It is offered as an online degree program through the Penn State World Campus.

For more information on the program and faculty, please contact the OD&C program staff assistant:

Whitney DeShong (World Campus)
Learning and Performance Systems
303 Keller Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 865-0473
Fax: (814) 865-0128
[email protected]

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Doctoral Degree Programs (Ph.D.) - University Park

The Pennsylvania State University Workforce Education and Development (WFED) program offers a graduate degree program leading to degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Students interested in this program should be employed in or aspire to be employed as faculty, trainers, administrators, or researchers in education-for-work settings such as business, industry, health fields, occupational home economics, cooperative education, youth apprenticeship, or employment and training.


The Ph.D. degree requires, among other matters:

  • Maintenance of satisfactory scholarship, with a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at the University;
  • Completion of Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) requirements
  • Attainment of doctoral candidacy status;
  • High-level competence in the use of the English language, including reading, writing, and speaking;
  • Over some twelve-month period during the interval between admission to the Ph.D. program and completion of the Ph.D. program, enrollment at least two semesters (summer sessions are not included) as a registered full-time student engaged in academic work at the University Park campus;
  • Completion of research requirements, in lieu of typical communication and foreign language requirements for most Ph.D. programs;
  • Completion of the Ph.D. program, including acceptance of the doctoral dissertation, within eight years from the date of attainment of doctoral candidacy status; and
  • Successful completion of a comprehensive examination, acceptance of a dissertation, and completion of a final oral examination for the Ph.D. degree.


Requirements of emphases within the Ph.D. program can be found in the WFED Handbook. To find out what WFED graduate courses are offered and when, please see our Graduate Course list.


Ph.D. students are eligible to compete for a limited number of graduate assistantships that may become available to serve the research, teaching, and service missions of the WFED program. The regular graduate faculty for the WFED program consider applications in the light of faculty needs and availability of University funding for graduate assistantships. Applications are due on January 29 for assistantships that could be awarded for the upcoming academic year. For more information, see the Graduate Assistantship Application.


If you are ready to proceed to the application but have NOT read the Graduate School requirements, please visit this website.


If you have read the Graduate School and program requirements and are ready to apply, you may proceed to the application.

Additional Information

History and Rankings

The Workforce Education and Development program originated in 1920 in the School of Engineering and was called the Department of Industrial Education. On June 11, 1923, the Department of Industrial Education moved from the School of Engineering to join three other academic units - Agricultural Education, Education and Psychology, and Home Economics Education - to form the School of Education, now the College of Education.

In 1925, new graduate programs in Vocational Industrial Education were inaugurated. The first Master's degree in Industrial Education were conferred in August, 1929. In 1939, the first doctoral degree in Industrial Education were conferred upon Edward C. Estabrooke and George H. Parks. These programs now lead to degrees of Master's of Arts, Master's of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy.

In 1944, the Department of Industrial Education was officially designated as the agency for the State Department of Education for the administration of Occupational Competency Examinations to qualified applicants in central Pennsylvania.

In 1963, the designation Department of Industrial Education was changed to the Department of Vocational Education. In 1977, the Department of Industrial Education changed its name to the Department of Vocational-Industrial Education.

In 1994, Dr. Kenneth C. Gray, Professor-in-Charge of Vocational Industrial Education, conducted a contest among the graduate students resulting in a name change from Vocational Industrial Education to Workforce Education & Development. The Workforce Education & Development program at Penn State has been recognized consistently by U.S. News & World Report as being among the top three vocational education programs in the United States.

In 2014, Dr. William Rothwell, SPHR, RIDC, CPLP Fellow Professor, announced a new online Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Organization Development and Change (OD&C).

Rankings of Penn State's Workforce Education and Development program by U.S. News & World Report

2018 - Ranked No. 2
2017 - Ranked No. 2
2016 - Ranked No. 1
2015 - Ranked No. 1
2014 - Ranked No. 1
2013 - Ranked No. 2
2012 - Ranked No. 1
2009 - Ranked No. 3
2008 - Ranked No. 2
2007 - Ranked No. 2

2006 - Ranked No. 1
2005 - Ranked No. 2
2004 - Ranked No. 3
2003 - Ranked No. 3
2002 - Ranked No. 2
2001 - Ranked No. 2
2000 - Ranked No. 2
1999 - Ranked No. 3
1998 - Ranked No. 3
1997 - Ranked No. 3