Russell E. Palmer, chief executive officer of Touche Ross International, will be offered the job of dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, university sources said today.

Palmer was selected at a special search committee meeting this evening after Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker turned down the job. Members of the committee had secretly met with Volcker on several occassions to discuss the possibility of his accepting the job.

As recently as this week, Volcker was scheduled to meet with former General Electric Chairman Reginald Jones to discuss the job. According to university sources, the committee offered Volcker a liberal lecture schedule as well as backing for a book he plans to write in an effort to make the university's basic salary structure more attractive.

Volcker's term as chairman of the Fed expires in August. Key Republican leaders in Congress have urged President Reagan to reappoint Volcker to another term as chairman.

The 48-year-old Palmer is expected to accept the offer. Palmer expressed a strong desire to make the switch to academia during several days of interviews with committee members and Wharton school faculty earlier this month.

Palmer joined Touche Ross & Co., one of the nation's Big Eight accounting firms, in 1956 and became a partner 10 years later. He was named managing partner and chief executive officer of Touche Ross & Co. (U.S.) in 1972 and was elevated to his present position as international chief in 1974.

If he accepts the position, Palmer will replace Donald C. Carroll, Wharton's dean since 1972. Carroll recently accepted an offer to become chairman of a British-based multinational computer company for two years, after which he plans to return to Wharton's faculty. Carroll plans to resign as dean in June.

"Some members of the search committee were concerned that Palmer had no full-time academic experience, but he impressed everyone so much during the interviews that he was truly our best candidate," said one committee member who asked to remain anonymous. "Wharton is consistently ranked in the top three business schools in America and Palmer tried awfully hard to convince everyone that he can help make it number one."

During the last five years, Palmer, a graduate of Michigan State University, has served on the advisory board of New York University's graduate school of business, Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and the University of Connecticut's School of Business Administration. He is director of the Joint Council on Economic Education and a member of the Geneva-based International Management Institute's Advisory Council.

The new dean must take the school through a period of rational consolidation of programs, according to Carroll, whose entrepreneurial drive helped to increase the sponsored research budget at Wharton from $1 million to $12 million annually during his 11 years.

"I encouraged a lot of growth and now we need to make sense out of it all," Carroll said.

"The school grew tremendously under Dean Carroll and after such a fast period of growth, it will be up to a new dean to ask who are we and where are we going," said Jerry Wind, chairman of the search committee.