Skip to navigation menu

Skip to main content

Programs in International and Comparative Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between the programs in International Educational Development (IED) and Comparative and International Education (CIE)?
    The major difference is that the IED program is based on a concentration in a professional specialization of education, while the CIE program is based on a concentration in an academic discipline within the social sciences. Students in both programs apply to a specific concentration, either within the Department of International and Transcultural Studies, or outside of it. In IED, you may apply to one of the following concentrations:

    Within the ITS Department:
    • African Education
    • Family and Community Education
    • Finance and Planning
    • International Educational Policy
    • International Humanitarian Issues
    • Language, Literacy and Technology
    • Peace Education
    Outside the ITS Department:
    • Adult Education
    • Bilingual-Bicultural Education
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Curriculum and Teaching
    • Educational Administration
    • Health Education
    • Higher Education
    • Organizational and Social Psychology
    A student specializing in one of these concentrations is mostly concerned with the actual practice of the general area of education (not only teaching). Some concentrations in the IED program are only offered at the M.A. and Ed.M. level. Please consult with the IED/CIE Program Assistant when applying.
    Rather than a professional field of education, CIE students have a concentration in one of the following social science disciplines:

    Within the ITS Department:
    • Anthropology
    Outside the ITS Department:
    • Economics
    • History 
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    Applicants apply to ONE concentration within their chosen program. Applicants to the Ph.D. program in CIE generally have a substantial background in the social science discipline to which they are applying.
    For more information on Admissions requirements and application procedures, please contact the TC Admissions Office.
    (See FAQ # 14 for information about changing concentrations within your program once you are an enrolled student.)
  • What kinds of professions do graduates from these programs pursue? (What can you do with a degree in IED or CIE?)
    In the field of research, alumni of CIE continue in comparative educational studies, working for such national and international organizations as OECD, AERA, and ERIC. Others continue research in the discipline from which they graduated (i.e., research in anthropology, historical research, etc.).
         
    In the field of international development , there are positions for alumni with all degrees of experience, working in such non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as AED, Africare, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, I-EARN, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran World Relief, Save the Children, World Teach, or World Vision (either in their headquarters offices in New York or Washington, DC, or in their international field offices). Many also work in government or government-affiliated organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Institute for International Education.
         
    In the field of education, some graduates work in the New York area in multilingual/multicultural classrooms, such as those with large numbers of immigrant students, while others work in school systems, charter schools, or independent or informal educational programs. Many Ed.D. and Ph.D. students are adjunct professors during their doctoral studies. Lastly, as a good number of our students are international (approximately 40%), many return to their country of origin, and work in its Ministry of Education, or in regional or local school systems. Some students also opt to pursue their studies at higher degree levels.
         
    For more information on possible job/career opportunities for IED/CIE graduates, please refer to the TC's Career Services website. Also, please see the link in our IED/CIE website, Profiles of Recent Graduates.


  • What is the academic and professional background of students in the program?
    Our students are usually in the top ranks of their undergraduate and graduate classes. There are roughly an equal number of students who come to TC in the five years immediately following an undergraduate program (or graduate school for a Masters), as there are students who have been working in the field for a number of years before pursuing an advanced degree. Many of these students have been working in the professions mentioned above, or are returned Peace Corps volunteers. Acceptance into the doctorate degree usually depends on some type of professional and/or academic experience.


  • How many students are currently in the programs? How many people apply every year? How many people are accepted?
    It is difficult to account accurately for the number of students in the programs, as there are many students who are not active, others who are part-time, or take leaves of absence. There are approximately 250 students in the two programs, with the majority in the IED program at the MA level. Approximately 300 apply for Fall entry and approximately 100 are admitted into the program, although they may not be accepted into the degree level to which they apply (some doctoral applicants may be accepted into the Ed.M). Each Fall term we welcome approximately 3-5 new Ph.D. students, 7-9 new Ed.D. students, and 75 new M.A. and Ed.M. students to the two programs.


  • What does the admissions committee look for in a Masters (Doctoral) application? How competitive are the IED/CIE programs?
    The first piece of material that the faculty committee examines is the personal statement. Faculty members are looking for applicants who state what their goals are, and how they think a degree in the particular IED or CIE program from TC is going to help them to achieve those goals. The applicant must clearly state to which program and concentration she is applying. It is important that the applicant specifies the type of educational and professional background she has and how it has led the applicant to apply to the IED or CIE program. A typical personal statement is 1-2 pages. The second important aspect of the application is the letters of reference. If the applicant has been in school in the last 2-3 years, letters from former professors are recommended; if the applicant is a professional, a letter of reference from a former professor and another from a supervisor (especially if your work is related to the IED and CIE fields) are helpful. Another consideration is the applicant's undergraduate and graduate transcripts. It is beneficial to have international and/or development-related experience, more substantial than travel or study abroad. For doctoral students, a writing sample, such as one's previous Masters thesis, is required.
          
    If you are currently a TC student in another program wanting to apply to the IED or CIE program OR if you are an IED or CIE student wanting to apply to a higher degree level, you should file a RE-APPLICATION form with the Admissions Office. We recommend that you do NOT waive any of the requirements of this application and that at least one of your letters of reference is from an ITS or TC professor.
           
    If you are a prospective student planning on applying to the IED or CIE program and have the flexibility of visiting TC, please contact the IED/CIE Program Assistant at iedcieinfo@tc.columbia.edu in order to set up any appointments with faculty members, former students, or to arrange to sit in on a class.
           
    For more information on Admissions requirements, such as TOEFL and GRE tests or final due dates, please contact the TC Admissions Office. Also, please see detailed information on the IED/CIE website, under the link Special Application Requirements/Information.

  • My undergraduate (Masters) degree is not in education. Am I still eligible for the IED/CIE programs?
    It is not necessary to have a degree or prior experience in education, as many of our graduates do not go into teaching specifically, but in some other area in the general field of education.


  • I have taken some graduate-level courses; can I transfer them into the programs?
    Credits from an accredited graduate school may be transferred at the Ed.M., Ed.D., and Ph.D. levels (NOT the M.A.). At the Ed.M. level, a maximum of 30 credits is transferable; at the Ph.D. level, a maximum of 30; and at the Ed.D. level, a maximum of 45 credits. Once you are enrolled as a student, obtain and fill out an ASR - Advanced Standing Review from the Admissions Office. The Admissions Office must first approve these credits for their numerical worth. The grade must be a B or better to be transferred, and must be on the same or equivalent level as TC. The ASR will be sent to the IED/CIE Programs Office. The IED/CIE PA will contact the student when it is available. It is the student's responsibility to pick it up from the IED/CIE PA in a signed, sealed envelope and meet with his advisor. The student's advisor must sign off on the approved number of credits The student returns the ASR to the IED/CIE PA, who makes a copy of it for the student's file, and returns it promptly to the Admissions Office. Once the process is complete, the credits will appear on the student's record. The process usually takes at least one semester to complete.
  • Is the GRE or TOEFL required for an application to the IED or CIE program?
    The GRE is not required for an application to the IED or CIE programs although it is highly recommended at the doctoral level. International students who did not receive an undergraduate education in the English language are required to submit TOEFL test scores. A score of 600 or better on the TOEFL is required. Please confirm with the Office of Admissions on all application requirements.


  • How often do courses meet per week? When are courses generally offered? Can I work while taking classes?
    The majority of courses meet once a week for one hour and forty minutes, Monday-Thursday, from 5:10-6:50 or from 7:20-9:00 pm. Some courses meet in the middle of the day, and there are some workshops with special dates that meet on Fridays and weekends. Most students work at least part-time, and some work full-time. Most international students take a full course load. The range is quite diverse and there are some students who take one class a semester while others take 12-15 credits. The minimum amount of time needed to complete an M.A. is 12 months.
  • What kinds of financial aid/scholarships are available?
    The amount of fellowships and scholarships available through TC is growing and varies from year to year. Please refer to the Office of Financial Aid to find out more about possibilities for scholarships, financial aid and loans. It is a Teachers College policy that all students speak directly with Financial Aid about financial concerns.

  • What is the difference between the M.A. and the Ed.M.?
    The Ed.M., an advanced Masters degree, is almost 30 credits more than the M.A., and will therefore give a student more practical experience in a particular field (specialization). In the field of education, an Ed.M. is recognized as more advanced, and may possibly offer a higher salary. It may also give faculty a better understanding of students' abilities, especially for students who wish to pursue a doctorate after completing the Ed.M. requirements. Applicants to the Ed.M. degree must have an M.A. already. It is common for applicants to the Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs to be accepted first into the Ed.M. program.
  • Do the programs involve student teaching? Can I get my teaching credential through the programs?
    It is not possible to get a teaching credential though the programs in International Educational Development or Comparative and International Education. However, there are programs in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies that offer a teaching credential, such as the Bilingual/Bicultural Education program. The programs do not involve student teaching.
  • Can I transfer or "switch" from the IED program to the CIE program and vice versa?
    You may apply to change your program after seeking advice from your advisor and after you have been an enrolled student in either the masters or doctoral programs for at least one semester. You will have to fill out a Re-Application form in the Admissions office. Your advisor can assist you in determining whether or not switching programs is the best option for you. Additionally, your advisor can help you calculate which credits, if any, will count toward your new program. It is not recommended that you waive any features of the re-application process.
  • Can I switch concentrations?
    Yes, an M.A. or Ed.M. student can switch concentrations after having been enrolled for at least one semester. It is advisable for the student to set up an appointment with the current advisor to discuss the logistics of such a change and to aid you in setting up a new course of study. If a student does switch concentrations, s/he is kindly asked to alert the IED/CIE Program Assistant. 
         
    Ed.D. and Ph.D. students are accepted into the specific concentration to which they applied; switching concentrations is still possible but must be done early in the student's doctoral career and under the supervision of the advisor and support of the faculty.


  • Can I switch advisors?
    Yes. The ITS Department assigns each student to an advisor upon entry to the program. However, as a student's interests may change over time, choosing an advisor who fits the specific course of study may be preferable. If a student wants to switch advisors, she should first ask the permission of the faculty member she wishes to be the new advisor. Be aware that asking does not imply that the advisor will agree. It is the student's responsibility to tell the advisor originally assigned to her about the switch. If a student does switch her advisor, she is kindly asked to alert the IED/CIE Program Assistant.  An IED/CIE student's primary advisor must be a faculty member within the ITS Department; however, a student may choose to work with a secondary advisor outside the department.
  • How do I register for a course outside of TC?
    Every course that you take should be first approved by your primary IED/CIE advisor. If the course is taught at another Columbia University school, you must acquire the course's CRN number from the school-wide database of classes, available online. It is always advisable to contact the professor of the course to determine any pre-requisites for the desired course. Registration for courses outside of TC varies from school to school. Contact the TC Registrar for assistance. You can register for some courses at other CU schools directly through TC's Online Student Information System other schools (e.g. SIPA) have a specific on-site registration day. Please note that you pay the course tuition fees of the school in which the course is located. Tuition at other CU schools is different than that at TC (and usually more expensive) . There are specific regulations regarding language courses and undergraduate courses; most students in the IED or CIE programs do not take language courses towards their degree requirements. Check with your advisor regarding this possibility and then with the Registrar. 
  • What courses count towards my particular concentration?
    Every semester the ITS Department offers an array of classes that can be used to fill various requirements. Students are recommended to thoroughly examine each semester's course listings and check with their advisor and the IED/CIE PAs to find out which courses offered during a particular semester count toward a particular concentration. Courses outside of the ITS Department can sometimes also count towards a student's concentration (eg. Policy).
  • How do I register for a course with a "special permission"?
    You will need a Special Permission Form from either the ITS Department Office or from the Registrar's Office. Have the professor of the course initial the appropriate restriction override. Only "special permission" overrides for ITS courses can be submitted to the ITS Department Offices for completion. (That is item #1 on the form.) Instead of using the form, the professor of the course can also e-mail the IED/CIE PA affirming that the student has "special permission" to take the course. 
         
    All other course restriction overrides must be returned to the Registrar's Office. After you have turned the Special Permission form to either an ITS Department Office or the Registrar, you still must register for the course yourself, either online through the Student Information System or over the telephone.
  • The course that I wanted to get into was full. What should I do?
    Continue to try to register for the course during the duration of the Add-Drop period which is nearly two weeks in length. Many students register for courses and then drop them. Students are advised to "shop" for courses during the Add-Drop period and attend many courses in order to make an informed decision about their schedule. You may also speak directly with the professor of the course. It is up to her discretion whether or not to allow extra students into the course. Make sure you have course back-up course possibilites in case you do not get into the course. Ask the professor when the course will be offered again.
  • What are the requirements for an Independent Study? How do I register for one?
    An Independent Study allows a student to pursue a set course of research with a faculty member that remains outside the traditional classroom setting. Usually, students who choose to engage in an Independent Study formulate a program and approach to a particular research area. Students may choose to turn an internship into an Independent Study as well. A student should select a faculty member who agrees to sponsor them for Independent Study; this is usually the advisor but it can be another faculty member. After obtaining Special Permission from the faculty member, a student should register for an Independent Study as he or she would a standard course, using the CRN associated for an Independent Study with the particular faculty member (see FAQ #18). The number of credits is decided between the student and the faculty advisor, and usually depend upon the amount of work accomplished. M.A. and Ed.M. students should register for a specific section of Independent Study under ITSF 4902 and doctoral students should register for a specific section under ITSF 6902. Each student taking an Independent Study must follow through with the work and deadlines worked out with the faculty advisor. Only if that work is completed will the faculty advisor of the Independent Study submit a grade to the IED/CIE PA. Otherwise a grade of Incomplete (or Fail) will be submitted.
  • What are the requirements for an Internship? How do I register for one?
    Students may find both paid and unpaid internships at a recognized organization. After obtaining the internship, the student should work out a process of receiving credit for the internship with his/her advisor or faculty sponsor. The student should then register for ITSF 5430 (the section number depends on the faculty member). This course requires Special Permission (see FAQ #18). Most often, some form of written product must be presented at the end of the internship for review by the student's advisor or faculty sponsor in order to receive credit and a grade (or Pass). The number of credits is decided between the student and his/her advisor, and depends upon the amount of work accomplished.
         
    Internships are advertised through the department email listserv as well as through the Society for International Education (SIE) listservs.  It is the student's responsibility to be pro-active in securing an internship if so desired.
  • How do I find out information (description/syllabus) about a particular class?
    Descriptions of most courses are offered on the IED/CIE website link Courses and in the TC Catalogue.  Professors often have personal websites with detailed descriptions of and syllabi for their courses. Professors often advertise their courses through short descriptions or a full syllabus that the IED/CIE PA will forward to all students over email.  In most cases though, it is advisable that the student attend the first meeting of a class in the semester and receive a syllabus then and make a decision whether or not to take the course. Syllabi are often being completed and finalized in the last few weeks of the semester.
  • How long does it take to complete the M.A.? Ed.M.? Ph.D.? Ed.D.?
    If a student enrolls full-time, s/he can usually complete an M.A. (32 credits) within 3 full semesters (Fall, Spring, and Summer) or 1 and a half years; an Ed.M. (60 credits) within 5 semesters or 2 and a half years; a Ph.D. (75 credits) within 6-8 semesters or 4 - 5 years; and an Ed.D. (90 credits) 8-9 semesters or 4 - 6 years (or longer). The doctoral programs may take longer or shorter depending on the amount of time a student takes to perform field research and write his or her dissertation (and the number of transfer credits received). These time allowances are rough estimates and will fluctuate depending on a particular student's program design. Students attending part-time will inevitably take longer.
         
    The M.A. and Ed.M. Integrative Project (thesis) is beyond the 32 and 60 credit degree requirement and does not need to be written on-campus. Many students finish this portion of their degree requirements outside of New York City.


  • I am currently in the M.A. or Ed.M. program and want to apply to a doctoral degree level. What is your advice?
    Planning a future educational commitment is a big step. A student thinking about applying for a doctoral degree should first speak with his advisor about the various components of doctoral research. Additionally, discussions with current and former doctoral students will provide various opinions about respective programs.
  • I am currently in the Ed.M. program and want to file for an M.A. degree. What should I do?
    A student wishing to pursue this route should speak with her advisor about preparing an Integrative Project (IP) that would fulfill the M.A. requirements. Additionally, the student should determine her credit standing related to the course requirements of an M.A. Degree application forms need to be filed with the Registrar's Office as well. Speaking to the IED/ CIE PAs and the Registrar's Office can assist in this process.


  • I need to have part or full time status as a student (because I am an international student/because I need to receive loans) but will not take the required number of credits. What can I do?
    You will need to fill out a Certificate of Equivalency (COE), which will allow you to maintain either half-time (part-time) or full-time status. Please pick up a form at the Office of the Registrar, or download one online. An advisor's signature is necessary in order to complete the form. Please see the Registrar's office or one of the IED/CIE PAs if you need assistance in filling out the COE. There is no limit to the number of semesters that you can file a COE.
  • How do I create a CU email account?
    All enrolled students receive a CU email account. Students can access the CU email system, known as CUB Mail, via the TC homepage. The sign-in screen will have a link to Activate Accounts (UNI). Instructions will follow on how to create a password. Students can use this procedure to determine their UNI (username). For further assistance, please contact the Office of Academic Computing Services. It is incredibly important that students check this email account or set their preferred email account status to an alternative account. A lot of information is sent to students regularly through email by the IED/CIE PAs, professors, and other members of the TC Community. If you have not received any emails from the IED/CIE PAs (subject heading "Notes from 372/374 GDH) by the third week of school, please inquire with the Office of Academic Computing Services.
  • How do I sign up for CU health insurance?
    Students wishing to enroll in health services can either stop in to the Office of Insurance and Immunization Records or enroll through the Student Information System. There are different options associated with health insurance and this office can assist you in determining the best insurance option for you as a student.
  • How do I get involved in ITS department student activities?
    There are several ways to become involved in ITS department activities and the department encourages all students to do so. At the beginning of each semester, TC's Office of Student Activities and Programs hosts a large Student Organization recception at which students can learn more about getting involved. Signing up for one of the department's student listservs [such as the African Studies Working Group (ASWG), the Association for Latin American Students (ALAS), the Peace Education Network (PEN), and the Society for International Education (SIE)] allows students to receive messages that highlight different activities. For more information, please see the link ITS-related student organizations.  Also, speaking to fellow students about many of the programs can keep students informed. Students are encouraged to get involved in student organizations outside the ITS Department and TC as well. Many CU institutes, organizations, and departments have separate email and mailing listservs to keep interested students informed about activities, events, conferences, and scholarships.
  • I am taking the semester off and not registering for classes. Will I maintain an enrolled student student status?
    Students have a 5-year period of candidacy within which they can choose to not take classes. If you would like to maintain enrolled student status, you must register either IND6000 (doctoral students) or IND4000 (masters students). However, if a student chooses not to take classes for 5 years he will no longer be considered enrolled at TC and will have to apply for re-admission. Questions regarding matriculation can always be addressed to the Registrar's Office.


  • I am a newly admitted student. When will I know my advisor's name and how can I contact him or her?
    For newly admitted students, there will be time during the orientation day (always the day after Labor Day in the Fall and the day after Martin Luther King Day in the Winter) to meet with advisors. The finalized list of advisees/advisors is only completed just before orientation. Thus, a student may receive his or her acceptance letter in the Spring, but not be assigned an advisor until late Summer. Additionally, most of the faculty take the summer to pursue research interests and are not available for immediate contact. It is recommended that a student signs up for office hours with his advisor early in the semester.
  • Do have any recommendations on how I can improve my writing?
    Academic writing can come as a challenge for many students, both international and domestic. Taking a core class in each of your first two semesters of study at TC will introduce you to the spectrum of writing assignments usually required of IED and CIE students. TC also has an established and excellent Writing Center that offers many individual and group services. Generally, a course called ITSF 4195 Academic Literacies is offered once or twice during the year in the ITS Department. This course is designed to help students develop the professional knowledge and skills necessary for effective communication through such genres as research reports, conference presentations, and contributions to journals, grant proposals, and evaluation reports. Finally, the IED/CIE Peer Advisor offers writing and support workshops for M.A. and Ed.M. students in various stages of their Integrative Project (IP) research and writing. Master's students should see information at the link under Resources for IED/CIE Students.
  • I am an M.A./Ed.M. student and would like more information about the Integrative Project. What can you advise?
    Please see the website link "Description of Program Requirements" or stop by the IED/CIE Programs Office for basic information concerning the Integrative Project (IP) and make an appointment with the IED/CIE Peer Advisor. The IP is an M.A. and Ed.M. degree requirement above and beyond the 32 or 60 credits. It is generally 40-60 pages but can take various creative forms. The most important tip to completing a successful IP is communication with your advisor. Brainstorming topics and ideas for an IP can never start too early. IPs of recent alumni are on file in 372 GDH and are available for perusal in the office. You should register for IND 4000 during any semester in which you are working towards your IP and NOT registered for any courses. You should consult with your advisor about your IP at least one semester before your intended graduation date. Please refer to the M.A. Degree Application available from the TC Registrar for specific deadlines regarding filing for the M.A. degree.
  • Can you explain the TC elective requirement?
    Masters students must take at least three (3) courses (defined as one that is for at least 2 credits) outside of their major program. For students in IED or CIE, this elective requirement can be fulfilled with courses within the ITS Department, IF the course is significantly outside of the student's particular concentration of study. For example, an IED student specializing in Peace Education could take an Economics or Bilingual course located within the ITS Department or a Philosophy of Education course located outside the ITS Department to fulfill this elective requirement. Courses towards the elective requirement must be taken at Teachers College. This requirement does not apply to doctoral students.
  • I have a question about a grade I received. What do you advise?
    IED/CIE PAs and other ITS assistants do not, under any circumstances, discuss grades with students. Students are advised to consult with the teacher of the class for which they received the grade. Please consult with the TC Registrar's website regarding the TC policy on grading.
  • I am having an issue with a professor/TC staff member. What do you advise?
    It is advisable to see Erwin Flaxman, Ph.D., TC's Student, Faculty and Staff Ombudsperson.
  • Are there opportunities to take courses at other universities as part of my TC studies? Can I audit courses?
    It is possible for Ph.D. and Ed.D. students to take classes at other universities towards their TC degree. TC participates in the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium which provides for cross-registration among member institutions.  Students taking cross-listed courses at another university are subject to the academic regulations of the host university, including the grading system, calendar, and academic honor system. It is the responsibility of the students to familiarize themselves with the pertinent regulations of the host university. Teachers College students pay tuition to Teachers College for any such courses they take. Please see the TC Catalogue for more information.

    For more information on auditing courses, please see the TC Registrar's Office Polices and Procedures on Auditing.
  • How do I apply for TC housing? I did not receive TC housing. Do you have any advice?
    Students should visit the website of the TC's Office of Residence Services in order to apply for TC housing or to inquire about housing opportunities. If you are looking for housing outside of campus, students are advised to look through Columbia University 's online housing classifieds (called the Off Campus Housing Association) as well as Craig's List.
  • Are there opportunities for traveling, working, or studying outside of the country as part of my IED/CIE studies?
    In the past few years the ITS Department has offered study-abroad courses and practicums to Tanzania, Brazil, and Central Asia/Balkans. An upcoming course will be held in the Dominican Republic.  M.A. and Ed.M. students sometimes find summer internships or work abroad and apply it to their degree requirements as an Independent Study or Internship. Doctoral students typically pursue some or all of their doctoral dissertation work abroad in their geographical region of interest.
  • Any other advice that you can share?
    If you are a prospective student and interested in applying to either the IED or CIE program and can/intend to visit TC, please contact the IED/CIE PA a few weeks before the desired visiting date. Please note that IED/CIE PAs can not share admission status information with prospective students.
         
    If you are a newly admitted student and intend to enroll, the most important date on your calendar should be New Student Orientation. Please attempt to keep your questions and concerns to the IED/CIE PAs both organized and limited before the semester that you actually start classes.
         
    If you are currently a student, please keep your IED/CIE PAs informed and "in the loop" about changes in programs, concentrations, or advisors. Also, make copies of every form you hand in for your own files. IED/CIE PAs are happy to keep copies of forms for you in your student file in the IED/CIE program office.