Agricultural and Extension Education Home

Main Navigation


Getting Started, and Progressing Through the AEE Graduate Program

Getting Started

There are two ways to get started in a graduate program. The first way is to take a few courses as a continuing education student to make sure this is what you want to do. The second approach is to go ahead and apply to the graduate program.

The Continuing Education Approach - Students may take up to 12 hours as a Non-Degree Studies (NDS) student in the NCSU Non-Degree program and have those courses count toward a Master's degree.

There are advantages to enrolling as a NDS student:


  • You can take the program for a "test drive" to make sure it is for you.
  • There is no application fee.
  • It only takes 24-48 hours to get enrolled.
  • There are no application deadlines.
  • If your undergraduate GPA is low, you can take courses to show that you are capable of doing graduate work. This will improve your chance of getting accepted into the graduate program.
  • There are also disadvantages to enrolling as a NDS student.
  • In order to count the coursework in the Master's program the student must make a B or higher in each course.
  • All the courses taken must be letter graded. One cannot count a course that is graded S or U. This means continuing education students cannot take a 600 or 800 level course since these are graded S or U.
  • The courses must be at the 500 level or above.
  • NDS students do not have an academic adviser assigned to them.
  • NDS Students must contact the distance education office every semester to register for courses.

​Some students "forget" to apply to the graduate school and end up with more continuing education courses than can be counted when they do apply.

The graduate school requires students to complete the Master's degree within six years. The six year clock starts with the first course the student wants to count. For NDS students, this means that some courses may not be able to be included in the plan of work.In order to enroll in a course as a continuing education student, all one has to do is to go to and follow the directions.

Enrolling directly in the Graduate Program

This is the recommended approach. Students who enroll directly into the graduate program have fewer potential problems with their graduate program because they have an AEE faculty adviser from the beginning and having greater flexibility in their course choices.

The application process is online at It will take about an hour to complete the application. As part of the application process, you will provide the name and e-mail addresses of three references. NC State will contact these individuals electronically and ask them to complete an online reference form. You may use a debit or credit card to pay the application fee. As part of the application process, you have to arrange to have transcripts of all previous collegiate work sent to the Graduate School. This step normally takes the longest. It takes a while for some universities to send transcripts. However, if you have an electronic copy of your transcript (or a hard copy and scan it) it can be uploaded. We can make an admission decision based upon the electronic copy but will need at official copy at some point in time. Have transcripts mailed to:


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

Admission to the Graduate Program

Four major factors are considering in determining who is admitted to the Master's program. The first factor is the undergraduate GPA. The Graduate School is looking for an undergraduate GPA of 3.0. If one does not have an overall 3.0 GPA, we then look at the last two years of the undergraduate program to see if that is a 3.0. If this is not a 3.0, we then look at the courses in your major. Hopefully, this will be a 3.0. If none of these are at the 3.0 level, then you should take some graduate courses as a continuing education student. If your GPA is below a 3.0, but close, it may be possible to admit you on a provisional basis. This means that you must make B or higher in your first three graduate courses. For doctoral students, we expect the applicant to have 3.5 GPA in the Master's program.

GRE scores are required for admission. The higher the GRE score, the more likely one will be admitted to the program.

Letters of recommendation and the personal statement play an important role in the application process. Strong letters of recommendation are expected. You will also prepare a personal statement of your educational goals. This helps us determine if our graduate program fits in with your personal goals and future plans.

The deadlines for applying to the graduate program are:

Fall Semester - June 25 for US Students, March 1 for International Students
Spring Semester - November 25 for US Students, July 15 for International Students
Summer Semester I - March 25 for US Students, December 15 for International Students
Summer Semester II - May 10 for US Students, December 15 for International Students
Acceptance Notification - As soon as you are admitted into the graduate program, you will receive your Unity ID and password. This information is critical. The NCSU student computer system is known as Unity. So your Unity ID will be needed when you access private information on the computer system. The password will also be needed. This information will not change during your academic career.
Temporary Adviser - Shortly after being notified of your acceptance by the Graduate School, you will receive correspondence from the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education. In this correspondence, you will be assigned a temporary adviser. You will need to contact the temporary advisor.  He or she will help you in selecting the appropriate courses to meet your needs. You are required to contact your adviser for advising every semester before registering for classes.

Registering for Class - All registration is done electronically. When you are ready to register, go online to the Department of Records and Registration ( Click on the Pack Tracks logo to log into the registration screen. You will have to provide your Unity ID, and password. The process for registering is straightforward. You can also view an online video on how to use the system. You should realize that there is a deadline for registering for classes. This is typically several months before the next semester. For example, registration for spring semester occurs in mid-October.

Registration for summer school and the fall semester occurs in mid-March. If you wait and register only a few weeks before classes start, you may have to pay a stiff "late registration" fee. The registration calendar dates are located on the NCSU website.
Taking the Class – The instructor will contact you, usually by email, before the class starts with instructions on how to access the class materials.

Most of our courses have a specific lesson each week. In a typical graduate class you are expected to spend 3 hours studying and doing assignments for each hour you are registered. So if you were signed up for a 3 hour class on campus, you would be expected to spend 3 hours in class and 9 hours outside of class studying and completing assignments.

Establishing a Graduate Committee - By the time you reach 12 hours of graduate credit, you are to establish a graduate committee. This committee will be responsible for conducting your exit exam, reviewing your professional portfolio and guiding you through your graduate program. The Master's graduate committee is to be composed of three (3) faculty members; doctoral committees have four (4). At least two of the Master's committee and three of the doctoral committee members must be from the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education. The other committee member can be from the Department or can be from a minor area of study.

You have full freedom to select the faculty whom you want to serve on your committee. When you are ready to establish your committee, you will simply ask the faculty members whom you want on your committee if they are willing to serve on your committee. First, you should identify one of the committee members to serve as your graduate chair. Discuss your committee plans with this individual after he or she agrees to serve as your chair. You should select faculty who have the experiences and expertise that match up with your career aspirations and goals. The person you select to chair the committee will be responsible for filing the appropriate paperwork at various times during your graduate program. After your committee is established, the committee chair must record that information with the Graduate School.

Establishing a Plan of Study - Immediately after the Graduate Committee is established, the Graduate School requires that you have a written plan of study.

The plan of study is a listing of the courses you plan to complete in your degree program. Your committee chair will help you develop this plan and then your graduate committee has to approve the plan. This document then serves as the "roadmap" to your graduate program. However, it is permissible to make changes as your graduate career progresses.

The Exit Exam - If you are a Master's student, you will have an exit exam after you complete the courses in your plan of study. This will occur in your final semester of graduate study. You are responsible for letting your adviser know when you plan to graduate. A typical adviser could have 20 or more graduate advisees and it is hard to keep tabs on all of them. Your adviser must file paperwork with the Graduate School to schedule the exam. One of your responsibilities is to contact all your committee members to set up a date for the exam.  The exam must be completed at least one month before the semester is over.

The exam has two parts. The first part of the exam will consist of general questions over your course work. The questions will focus on your conceptual understanding of the materials taught and the application of those materials. This part of the exam typically will be an hour or so. During the second part of the exam, you will present a professional portfolio to the committee. This portfolio will contain examples of your work showing that you have applied the knowledge that you have been taught. Detailed information about the portfolio requirements can be found in the online student handbook.

At the end of the exam, the student has to complete a diploma request form. This form is used to print the name on the diploma and for listing your name in the graduation program.

Doctoral students have a comprehensive general exam at the completion of the major courses. This exam is a 16 hour written exam followed by a two-hour oral exam. The graduate adviser is responsible for advising students on how to prepare for the exam. After successful completion of the exam, the doctoral student then conducts a major research study and prepares a dissertation (which is a report of the research) and then experiences a final exam (dissertation defense) that focuses on the research project.

Graduation - The University has one graduation ceremony in May for spring graduates and one in December for summer and fall graduates. At these times, there is a university wide graduation ceremony for all students. The Department then holds a smaller graduation program later in the day where students actually receive their diplomas. You will receive correspondence from the university regarding these ceremonies.

After graduation, if you are applying for a North Carolina "M" teaching license, see your faculty adviser for instructions on completing the process.