Frequently Asked Questions

Find here our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for both prospective and current students. Please contact our Program Assistant for additional help if needed at iceinfo@tc.columbia.edu

Prospective Students

About the Program

The International and Comparative Education Program serves as an umbrella for two academic pathways -- 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.

In IED, you may apply to one of the following concentrations: African Education; Family and Community Education; International Educational Policy; International Humanitarian Issues; Languages, Literacies and Cultures; Latin American and Latinx Education; and Peace and Human Rights Education.

Rather than a professional field of education, CIE students have a concentration in one of the following social science disciplines: Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, and 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.


Our master’s students work across a range of organizations around the world, including governments, donor agencies and foundations, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, policy institutes, private entities, schools, and community-based organizations. Master’s students typically focus on supporting efforts to improve education practices, influence policies, and develop programs in different contexts. 

Our doctoral students either enter academia or assume key leadership roles within various organizations as they become international and comparative educators. 

Please visit our alumni profiles page for examples about the types of careers and roles that our graduates play in improving education.

Our students come from 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 master's), 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 for the range of organizations listed above, or are returned Peace Corps volunteers. Acceptance into the doctorate degree usually depends on some type of professional and/or academic experience.

If students enroll full-time, they usually complete an M.A. (32 credits) within 1.5 to 2 years, though some students move quickly to complete the program in 1 year or 3 full semesters (e.g. fall, spring, and summer); 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 number of transfer credits accepted from previous graduate work may reduce the number of required credits and shorten the timelines for the Ed.M., Ph.D., and Ed.D. Beginning in the 2024-2025 academic year, the Ed.D. degree required credit load for this program will change from 90 to 75 credits. Up to 30 credits from prior graduate studies may be transferred, subject to advisor approval. Prospective new students who apply for spring, summer or fall 2024 terms and are successfully admitted will follow the new reduced Ed.D. credit requirements.

The doctoral programs may also take more or less time depending on the amount of time a student takes to perform field research and write the dissertation. 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 once their coursework has been successfully completed.


The Ed.M., an advanced master’s degree, is almost 30 credits more than the M.A., and will, therefore, give a student more practical experience in a particular field (specialization). 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.

The size of our program ranges from 215-240 students across all degrees (M.A., Ed.M., Ph.D., and Ed.D.), with the majority at the M.A. level.

It is not possible to get a teaching credential through the International and Comparative Education program. The program does not involve student teaching.

M.A. and Ed.M. students often find summer internships or work abroad opportunities that can be linked to their degree requirements as an Independent Study, Internship, or as research for their Integrative Projects (IPs). Doctoral students typically pursue some or all of their doctoral dissertation work abroad in their geographical region of interest. Students may also have opportunities to participate in field-based and grant-funded research led by faculty in the program.

The majority of courses meet once a week for one hour and forty minutes to two hours. Courses typically are offered during the afternoon and evenings; on occasion, we have special dates courses that meet for longer periods of time over fewer class sessions. Many students work part-time, and some work full-time.

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. Please also review the Student Handbook for some of the program-level resources available. 


Applying to the Program

A critical component of all students’ applications is the personal statement. Faculty members are looking for applicants who state what their goals are, and how they think a degree in the International and Comparative Education program at TC is going to help them to achieve those goals. The applicant must clearly state to which program and concentration they are applying. It is important that the applicant specifies the type of educational and professional background they have and how it has led the applicant to apply to the program.

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 also 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 master's thesis, is required.

For more information on Admissions requirements or final due dates, please contact the TC Admissions Office.

Yes. Please contact our Program Assistant at iceinfo@tc.columbia.edu to make arrangements to visit our program.

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 or other relevant areas (e.g. international relations, anthropology, etc.).

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.

The GRE is not required for an application to the program 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.

After the faculty have received and reviewed your application, we will invite strong candidates for interviews during the final admissions and selection process.

Admitted Students

Advisors and Concentrations

New students will find out who their advisors are once they have been admitted to the program and by May/June prior to beginning the program in September. Faculty advisors will communicate with their new advisees during the summer months as needed, and the Summer Peer Advisor will provide helpful guidance and support during this time as well. During Orientation in September, students will have another opportunity to meet with their advisors face-to-face before the new semester begins.


Yes. The program 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, they should first ask the permission of the faculty member they wish 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 about the switch. If a student does switch advisors, they should kindly inform our Program Assistant. A student's primary advisor must be a faculty member within the International and Comparative Education Program; however, a student may choose to work with a secondary advisor outside the program.



It is possible to switch clusters at the end of the first semester with advisor approval.

You may apply to change your program after seeking advice from your advisor and after you have been an enrolled student in either the master’s 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, but this can be discussed with your academic advisor and the program director (as needed).

A student wishing to pursue this route should speak with their advisor about preparing an Integrative Project (IP) that would fulfill the M.A. requirements. Additionally, the student should determine their 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 Peer Advisor and the Registrar's Office can assist in this process.

Course Load and Registration

Typically, students who are enrolled full-time take 12 credits, or 4 courses per semester.  We recommend that students take no more than 4 courses during the first term unless they are determined to finish the program in one year. Most students complete the program in 1.5-2 years.

A full-time student who wants to finish the program in one year should enroll in 12-15 credits per semester during the fall and spring terms, finishing any remaining courses during the summer session. Students can finish the coursework in three semesters (fall, spring, and summer); students complete the integrative project (IP) during the summer as well. Students should note that there are fewer courses offered during the summer and to plan their courses wisely in consultation with their advisors. 

To complete the IP, students can conduct research and write their drafts at a distance with continued advisement from their academic advisor via phone or Skype. Students who choose to write their IP from a distance must receive advisor approval and be mindful of all deadlines for IP submission and graduation forms.

Most students are in the program for 1.5 to 2 years. Keep in mind that 15 credits in one semester is a heavy workload and that there are other opportunities (such as student organizations, networking, workshops, and events) to take advantage of while at TC.


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 Peer Advisors if you need assistance filling out the COE. There is no limit to the number of semesters that you can file a COE.

If a course requires instructor permission to register, students should email the professor directly and ask for permission to enroll in the course. Students should explain a little bit about themselves, including what academic program, concentration, and point in their program they are in. It also helps to include why the student is interested in the course based on their goals/experiences and the course description. Most professors are open to interested students from other departments/programs if students reach out to them directly.


Some classes limit the number of students that can be enrolled. If you are interested in a closed class, email the professor and ask to be added to their waiting list. Some students will likely drop the course during add/drop period and spaces may become available. It is also strategic to participate in the first class meeting to personally introduce yourself to the professor and to check on the status of the waiting list.

Descriptions of most courses are offered on the website Courses page and in the TC Catalog. 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 Program Assistant or Peer Advisors will forward to all students over email. In most cases though, it is advisable that students attend the first meeting of a class in the semester to receive a syllabus and make a decision whether or not to take the course. Syllabi are often being completed and finalized in the last few weeks leading up to the start of the semester.

During add/drop period, students have the opportunity to attend different courses to learn more about the course objectives before they make a final decision about their course schedule. Typically a few students add or drop a given class during this time. Student registration does not need to be finalized until the end of the add/drop period.

Yes. Cross-registration for courses held at Columbia is possible if a student has approval from their faculty advisor and the course instructor. We recommend cross-registration as of the second semester.

More information can be found in the Student Handbook or the TC Registrar’s website. Each school has different procedures so be sure to follow all guidelines to ensure that you receive credit and grades. Students must also be aware that courses (credits) outside of TC are more expensive and financial aid typically does not cover this.


Yes! Scholarship points can be applied to any courses that are billed through TC.


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 courses taken as part of the consortium. Please see the TC Catalog for more information.

Students may take language requirements to fulfill degree requirements; however, this must be done very carefully. Language courses offered at Columbia are usually at the undergraduate level. They DO NOT count as graduate requirements. Students planning to take language courses at Columbia need confirmation from the language instructor – in writing – that it is a graduate level course in order for this to count towards a master’s degree. Students should also double-check with the TC Registrar’s Office that these credits will count toward their degree.

Teachers College students currently enrolled for 15 or more points may audit one or two Teachers College courses during the term. Also, fully certified doctoral candidates may audit Teachers College courses which enhance their professional interests.

Applications for auditing privileges are obtainable from the Office of the Registrar during the change-of-program period.  Students must secure the written approval of the course instructor and return the approval form to the Office of the Registrar during the change-of-program period. 

Audited courses will not appear on the transcript or fulfill any academic requirement and may not later be applied for credit.  Courses with limited enrollment, laboratory courses, seminars, continuing professional studies courses, and non-credit courses are not open to auditors.  

For more information on auditing courses, please see the TC Registrar's Office Policies and Procedures on Auditing.


M.A. students must take a minimum of 20 out of 32 credits toward their program at TC. Both M.A. and Ed.M. students must keep in mind that Columbia University courses do not fulfill the Teachers College electives requirement (Area 4).



Most courses at Teachers College are 3 credits unless otherwise stated. While it is uncommon, there are some courses in which a student may select the number of credits they wish to register for. Typically, classes with variable credits entail a slightly different workload for students with different amounts of credits. Students can confirm these options with the course instructor. 


The Course Planning Worksheet


No. The course plan should be used to plan your overall course selection over the entire span of your degree. During the first semester, students should look at courses that meet the core requirements (Area 1) and at least one course in their concentration (Area 2). It is recommended that students take as many courses as possible within the program in the first semester, so courses in Area 4, TC electives, are generally not a part of the first-semester plan.



Students are not required to have a geographic or regional focus. For some students, it is a natural part of their course plan and future goals, but for others a geographic focus is less relevant. Students without an area focus should concentrate on taking Transcultural courses relevant to their concentration.

Master’s students must take at least six (6) credits outside of their major program. This could take the form of two 3-credit courses, three 2-credit courses, or any other combination agreed upon by students and their academic advisors. Courses in the anthropology program count as electives for students in the International and Comparative Education program.  Courses towards the elective requirement must be taken at Teachers College. This requirement does not apply to doctoral students.


Every semester our program 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 academic advisor and our Peer Advisors to find out which courses offered during a particular semester count toward a particular concentration. Courses outside of our program can sometimes also count towards a student's concentration.

Once you are enrolled as a student, obtain and fill out an Advanced Standing Review (ASR) 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 your faculty advisor via email for final review and approval. The student's advisor must approve the final number of credits. Admissions will then inform the student (and advisor) of the final number of credits that can be transferred into our program. Once the process is complete, the credits will appear on the student's record. The process usually takes at least one semester to complete.

Internships, Independent Study and the Integrative Project

Information about internships can be found through the Career Education and Professional Development office, at the Fall Internship Fair, or through the weekly Grace Dodge Notes that provide job and internship listings each week. It is possible to start an internship after the semester starts. In order to take an internship for credit a student must have approval from their academic advisor and register before the end of add/drop period in a given semester. Internships can also be held during the Spring Semester or over the Summer.

Guidelines for internships can be found on our program website or in the Student Handbook. Students may choose to receive credits for the internship with approval from their academic advisor. In this case, students make a proposal to their advisor and discuss the number of credits the student would like to receive for the internship. Students can also participate in an internship without enrolling in the for-credit course. International students should double-check with the Office of International Service before accepting an internship opportunity to ensure that proper policies and procedures are being followed.

The Integrative Project (IP) is a culminating project completed by students as a capstone to their master’s degree. It is an opportunity for students to apply the knowledge base they have developed during their time in the program. The IP allows students to deepen their research skills, and advance knowledge in their area of study and interest. Students typically take one of the following four approaches for completing their IPs: empirical research, theoretical exploration, policy study, or curriculum development and design. More information about these options can be found in the Student Handbook. Students typically complete their IP during their last semester or after completion of courses.

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. 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 they would a standard course, using the CRN associated for an Independent Study with the particular faculty member and based on their degree (4902 for master’s students and 6902 for doctoral students). The number of credits is decided between the student and the faculty advisor and usually, depend upon the amount of work to be accomplished.

Each student taking an Independent Study must follow through with the work and deadlines established with the faculty advisor. Only if that work is completed will the faculty advisor of the Independent Study submit a grade. Otherwise, a grade of Incomplete (or Fail) will be submitted.

Opportunities at Teachers College

Yes. There are opportunities for master’s students to work with professors on their research. Students who would like to become involved with research should speak to their advisors or a specific professor as soon as possible so that they can learn about these opportunities.

There are several ways to become involved in extracurricular activities and the program encourages all students to do so. At the beginning of each semester, TC's Office of Student Affairs hosts a large Student Organization reception at which students can learn more about getting involved.

Signing up for student organizations' listservs allows students to receive messages that highlight different activities. Below are examples of some of the organizations our students get involved in and/or directly originated in our program:

  • African Studies Working Group (ASWG)
  • Black Student Network
  • Coalition of Latinx Scholars
  • Development in South Asia
  • Friends of Japan
  • Korean Graduate Student Association
  • Passports to Peace
  • Peace Education Network (PEN)
  • Queer TC
  • Society for International Education (SIE)
  • Spark Notes
  • Teachers College Chinese Students and Scholars Association

Students are encouraged to get involved in student organizations outside of the program and College as well. Many Columbia University institutes, organizations, and departments have separate emails and mailing listservs to keep interested students informed about activities, events, conferences, and scholarships.


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