University of Southern California
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Requirements for Graduation

Graduate Students

Degree Requirements

All graduate students must meet both university degree requirements and those degree requirements specific to their program of study to receive an advanced degree. University degree requirements consist of grade point averages, unit, residence and time limit requirements. Degree requirements specific to a student's program of study consist of course, examination and research requirements. University degree requirements and degree requirements specific to the program of study are collectively defined as degree requirements. Graduate students may elect to follow (a) the degree requirements in the catalogue current for the semester of their admission to the degree program or (b) degree requirements in subsequent catalogues as long as they are continuously enrolled (see Continuous Enrollment). However, they may not mix catalogues. Graduate students who discontinue their enrollment without a leave of absence approved by the dean of the pertinent academic unit (see Leave of Absence) will be subject to the degree requirements in effect for the semester of their readmission to the program. Students requesting exceptions should petition the dean of that unit.

Time Limit for Degree Completion

Students must maintain satisfactory progress toward their stated degree objective at all times. Progress is measured from the beginning of the first course at USC applied toward a specified degree, and all requirements for that degree must be completed within a specified time. The maximum time limit allowed for each degree is considerably greater than what is needed to complete all requirements. Departments may set more stringent time limits than those specified in this section.

The time limit for completing the master's degree is five years. The time limit for completing the doctoral degree is eight years. For students who earned an applicable master's degree within five years prior to admission to the doctoral program, the time limit for completing the doctoral degree is six years from the date of admission to the doctoral program. An academic department may grant an extension of up to one year at a time for a maximum of two years.

The Director of Graduate and Professional Programs will be notified of these extensions. In unusual cases, a student's committee and the department chair may petition the Director of Graduate and Professional Programs for further extensions.

Students who have exceeded the time limit for completing their degree program will not be permitted any further registrations. If granted an extension of time, the dean of the degree-conferring unit will permit registration for the specified period of extension. Approved leaves of absence (up to a total of two years or four semesters) are not counted in the time allowed for completion of degree requirements.

The time limits apply unless otherwise designated by the faculty and previously approved by the Graduate and Professional Studies Committee for a particular degree program.

Dual Degree Programs

Dual degree programs offer graduate students the opportunity to complete concurrently requirements for two degrees. Students enrolled in dual degree programs must complete all requirements for the dual degree program and then will be awarded both diplomas at the same time. The academic units which offer these programs frequently adjust the requirements for each degree to take into account the correlations between required course work. Students who have completed all the requirements for one of the degree programs and who decide to withdraw from the dual degree program may receive the appropriate single diploma. Students who have withdrawn from the dual degree program to receive the appropriate single diploma and later decide to complete the second degree must apply for admission, be admitted and then fulfill all requirements for the second degree. Detailed information regarding dual degree programs is listed in the appropriate school section.

Grade Point Average Requirement

A minimum grade of C (2.0) is required in a course to receive graduate credit. Work graded C- or below is not acceptable for subject or unit credit toward any master's or doctoral program. A grade point average of at least 3.0 on all units attempted at USC toward a graduate degree is required for graduation. In addition, a grade point average of at least 3.0 on all graduate work attempted at USC, whether or not all such units are applied toward the degree, is required. In some cases, the Graduate and Professional Studies Committee has approved different GPA requirements for professional schools. The university will not deviate from policies governing the calculation of the grade point average through inclusion or exclusion of course work.

Unit Requirement

The minimum unit requirement for a master's degree is established at the time the program is approved and may not be waived. At least 20 of these units must be completed at USC. The minimum number of units for a doctoral degree is 60, at least 24 of which (exclusive of Doctoral Dissertation 794) must be completed at USC. In addition, at least one-half of the total number of units applied toward a graduate degree must be completed at USC. The minimum number of units for a doctoral degree with Advanced Standing upon entrance is 36. No exceptions are allowed.

A department or school which has a graduate program approved by the university requiring a higher minimum may not waive that requirement. The unit requirement for a dual degree program is established at the time the program is approved by the university and may not be waived.

Regardless of the number of units required for a graduate degree, at least two-thirds of the units applied toward the degree (including transfer work and not including 594 or 794) must be at the 500 level or higher. Students with Advanced Standing in doctoral programs may not apply additional 400-level course work toward that degree. Individual exceptions will not be allowed. Some degree programs, where designated by the faculty and approved by the Graduate and Professional Studies Committee, permit a higher maximum number of 400-level units.

Unit credit indicates the number of semester units earned in the course; these units may or may not be applicable to the degree. Degree credit indicates the units are applicable to the degree.

Residence Requirements

A minimum of 20 graduate units at USC is required for the master's degree; 24 units for the doctoral degree.

Residence for a graduate degree program at USC is a period of intensive study completed on the University Park campus, the Health Sciences campus and/or at one of the approved off-campus study centers. Each degree-conferring unit may establish a school residence policy. School residence requirements as presented in the USC Catalogue are approved by the Graduate and Professional Studies Committee and are to be interpreted consistent with university policies on continuous enrollment, leaves of absence, transfer of credit and time limits for completion of graduate degrees. Individual exceptions must be approved by the Vice Provost for Academic Programs.

Pass/No Pass Graded Work

Graduate students may elect to enroll in courses on a pass/no pass basis with department approval. Course work taken on a pass/no pass basis cannot be applied toward a graduate degree. If a student later requires the course for a degree program (because of a change in degree objective or a decision to obtain an additional degree), the degree-granting unit can decide to allow subject credit for the course and require a substitute course for the unit credit. Individual departments may have placed further restrictions on whether a course taken on a pass/no pass basis can be used to fulfill specific requirements.

All students should consult their academic advisors before enrolling in any course on a pass/no pass basis.

Waiver and Substitution of Course Requirements

Students admitted to graduate degree objectives are expected to complete the degree requirements listed in the USC Catalogue. A maximum of 25 percent of the stated degree course requirements (exclusive of 594 Master's Thesis and 794 Doctoral Dissertation) may be approved for waiver or substitution by other USC course work, directed research or transfer course work. Deans of the individual academic schools may approve substitutions and waivers within this limit for programs housed in their schools. Deans' approval for substitutions and waivers within the established maximums is recorded by the academic unit in the student exception process. In rare instances, the dean of the school can request approval by the provost of additional substitutions.

Waiver or substitution of course requirements does not reduce the minimum number of units required for the degree. Programs establishing a lower maximum may waive their own policy by approval of the dean of the academic school.

Second Master's Degree

A "second master's degree" is any master's degree pursued after a first master's degree is earned at USC or another university. The maximum number of units which may be applied toward the second master's degree for course work taken from the first master's degree is: four units toward degree programs requiring 24-32 units; eight units toward programs requiring 33-40 units; 12 units toward programs requiring 41 or more units. Second master's degrees are not allowed in the same program of study for students who earned their first master's degree at USC.

For students who earned their first master's degree at another institution, no course work may be repeated from the first program of study and no units from the first program of study may be counted toward the second master's degree. Program exceptions require approval of the Graduate and Professional Studies Committee and are listed in the departmental sections of this catalogue. No individual exceptions are allowed.

Enrollment Status

To be considered full time, a master's level student must be enrolled in a minimum of eight units of 400- and 500-level course work, and a doctoral level student must be enrolled in a minimum of six units of 500-level and above course work. All graduate assistants are classified as full-time students during the semester(s) of their appointments as long as they are enrolled for the minimum units required for their assistantship. In order to make normal progress toward the timely completion of course work for a graduate degree, most students will be enrolled for 12 units; 16 units will constitute a maximum load. Students wishing to carry more than 16 units must have prior permission from the degree-conferring unit; such permission will be granted only in exceptional circumstances.

A student who has completed all course work for the master's degree will be considered full time when properly enrolled in either 594 Master's Thesis or GRSC 810 Studies for the Master's Examination.

A student who has completed all course work for the doctoral degree (except dissertation registration) will be considered full time during the semester in which the student is preparing for the doctoral qualifying examination, provided the Request to Take the Qualifying Examination has been submitted and approved for that semester and the student is enrolled in the course GRSC 800 Studies for the Qualifying Examination. Doctoral students who have been advanced to candidacy, that is, who have completed all course work and have passed the qualifying examination, will be considered full time when properly enrolled in 794 Doctoral Dissertation.

International students on student visas must be enrolled as full-time students or must receive authorization from the Office of International Services to enroll in fewer than the minimum units. Such students are not eligible to be considered students without formal registration and are in violation of immigration laws when not properly enrolled. Any international student having questions about his or her registration should consult the Office for International Services.

Continuous Enrollment

Students are considered to be pursuing advanced degrees only when they are formally enrolled. Students admitted to a graduate degree objective are required to be enrolled at USC for fall and spring semesters each year until all degree requirements have been satisfactorily completed within the time limit. Graduate students who fail to register are no longer considered to be enrolled in a graduate degree program. After an unauthorized absence, formal readmission is required. Students who have been granted a leave of absence do not need to apply for readmission following the approved leave. Where appropriate to the design of a given academic program, the faculty of the program may obtain the permission of the Graduate and Professional Studies Committee for a different definition of continuous enrollment.

A master's candidate who is writing a thesis and has completed all course work for the degree must enroll each fall and spring semester in the appropriate thesis registration until the thesis has been approved. A doctoral candidate who has passed the qualifying examination must enroll each fall and spring semester in 794 Doctoral Dissertation until the dissertation has been approved.

Exceptions to continuous enrollment are subject to policies governing leaves of absence and readmission.

Leave of Absence

Interruptions of enrollment can cause problems in the continuity of course work within a student's graduate program and, therefore, leaves of absence are generally discouraged.

A student in good standing and making satisfactory progress toward a degree who must interrupt studies for compelling reasons (e.g., approved study abroad, sustained ill health) may petition for a leave for a stated period, usually not to exceed one year. Students who find it necessary to be excused from registration must request a leave of absence by the last day to drop or add courses. A leave must be approved by the dean of the degree-conferring unit. During the period of leave a student is not entitled to assistance from the faculty or use of university facilities. If granted, the leave is recorded on the student's transcript and the period of leave is not counted in the time allowed for the completion of degree requirements. Within the degree time limit a maximum of four semesters may be allowed for leaves of absence. A student who does not return to enrolled status at the end of an approved period of leave is no longer considered to be pursuing an advanced degree. Students who fail to apply for a leave of absence or for whom a leave has been denied (or has expired) are subject to policies governing continuous enrollment and readmission.


A student who leaves the university without obtaining a formal leave of absence from graduate study is not automatically readmitted. A student wishing to apply for readmission to a graduate degree program must submit an Application for Readmission to the Graduate School by the first day of classes for the term in which resumption of graduate studies is sought. The recommendation of the department and the approval of the dean of the degree-conferring unit, based on the academic merits of the student's request, are required. If readmitted, the student will be subject to all of the current requirements for the degree in effect at the time of readmission. Individual exceptions require the approval of the dean of the degree-conferring unit.

Comprehensive and Qualifying Examinations

In graduate degree programs that require a comprehensive examination and for all doctoral qualifying examinations, a student who fails the examination may be permitted, at the discretion of the faculty, to take it a second time. For time limits on retaking the examinations, consult the individual school's policy.

Requests for exception must be approved by the department chair.

A student may not take the comprehensive or qualifying examination more than twice and must be appropriately enrolled at USC during the semester in which any such examination is taken or retaken. A student who fails the comprehensive or qualifying examination a second time may not continue in the degree program after the end of the semester in which the second examination was taken. No exceptions are allowed.

Application for Graduate Degrees

Application for the degree is required for all graduate degrees. Application for the master's degree should be made in the student's academic unit in the semester preceding the one in which the student hopes to graduate and prior to enrolling in 594a. Application for the Ph.D. should be made when the student has passed the qualifying exam and been admitted to candidacy. The student must contact his or her academic advisor at the appropriate time and have the application submitted online. When the application is received by Degree Progress, a degree summary report will be prepared and mailed to the student. The degree cannot be conferred if no application has been submitted.

Theses and Dissertations

Submission of Theses and Dissertations
At the time of submission, all required documentation and paperwork is to accompany the thesis or dissertation, along with a verified submittal check list (signed by the staff advisor in the student's department and by the student). An abstract submittal form, signed by the committee chair (verifying that the student's thesis or dissertation abstract has met the guidelines and has received approval for content) must accompany the student's abstract and thesis or dissertation, as well. The final typed thesis or dissertation must be accepted by the Graduate School within a period of not more than six months after the student's committee has signed the Approval of Thesis or Dissertation for Final Typing. Late submission of the document will require certification by the committee chair and will be subject to a $100 late fee for each six months thereafter.

Thesis or Dissertation Signature Page
A signature page, to be bound with the thesis or dissertation, must be signed by each member of the thesis or dissertation committee, submitted to the degree-conferring unit for the date and the signature of the dean of the degree-conferring unit, and then presented with the final typed thesis or dissertation and other required documentation to the Graduate School.

Acceptance by the University
The university must accept all theses and dissertations in an approved, final typed form before graduation can be conferred. The candidate's committee, before submission to the Graduate School, must have approved all documents. After complying with the submission process described at length above, the student will remain in contact with the Graduate School, leaving a telephone number or email address where he or she can be contacted should the need arise. If students are from out-of-town, out-of-state or out-of-the-country, they must arrange for a local contact person who will be responsible for all phases of the process if they cannot do so themselves. This is mandatory or the manuscript will not be accepted by the Graduate School.

All theses and dissertations, once properly submitted, are read in the order in which they are received. Candidates should contact the Graduate School when considering deadlines. At the time of submission, all manuscripts should be formatted and edited according to a recommended style manual and strict adherence to the Regulations for Format and Presentation of Theses and Dissertations, available from the Graduate School, Grace Ford Salvatori Hall, 315, or from the Graduate School home page. The university thesis editor reviews the final typed copy for conformance to university regulations, which takes precedence over all other style formats and issues. The editor does not function as a proofreader or copy editor. The final version of the thesis or dissertation must comply with university guidelines, which prepare the manuscript both for microfilming and publication at Bell and Howell (University Microfilms International), as well as binding and archiving in the university library. All manuscripts that have not been proofread and do not conform to university regulations will automatically be returned to the student or the student's department for compliance.

If the candidate's manuscript requires corrections, the student must make arrangements for that manuscript and correction sheet to be returned to them (or come to the Graduate School to pick it up). The student must maintain contact with the Graduate School throughout the entire process to ensure completion. When a student resubmits his or her manuscript for a second review, those manuscripts are also reviewed by the thesis editor in the order in which they are received. No more than two reviews will be granted in a semester or summer period, and when time constraints prevail at each deadline, the number of reads possible will depend upon the availability of the thesis editor. Therefore, all students must allow adequate time to make any and all corrections, and these corrections must be approved by the thesis editor before a thesis or dissertation will be accepted by the university for graduation.

Schedule of Deadlines
The Graduate School provides a schedule of specific dates for completing the various requirements to qualify the student for the master's or Ph.D. degree at commencement in May or to receive the degree in August or December. Despite the date of submission, a student must complete all corrections to the manuscript as specified by the thesis editor, as well as all verification of documentation and necessary paperwork before the degree can be conferred. Not until all the requirements of the entire process are completed will the thesis or dissertation be approved by the editor and the triple cards forwarded to Degree Progress (where the degree will then be verified and finally posted). Deadlines are strictly enforced. No exceptions will be made. Thus, a student may not always graduate in the semester in which he or she first submits the thesis or dissertation. Upon completion of all requirements, the official USC transcript will serve as evidence of the degree until the diploma is received.

Copies Required
For the first submission of either a thesis or dissertation, only one clean, typed, photocopy on regular white paper is required. That copy must observe margin and page number specifications, along with other guidelines, which are outlined in Regulations for Format and Presentation of Theses and Dissertations. Each time corrections are requested and made, the student will continue to resubmit an entire clean white, typed photocopy to the thesis editor. No partial pages will be accepted. Once the thesis or dissertation has been approved by the thesis editor, an additional copy on non-erasable, 20-pound cotton fiber paper will be submitted for cataloging, binding and archiving by the University Library. The photocopy will be sent to Bell and Howell (UMI) for microfilming. Candidates need to check with their committees to determine the requirements for any additional copies. The university does not provide these copies.

Publication and Microfilming
All theses and dissertations submitted and approved are microfilmed and each candidate must sign a UMI form, available from the Graduate School, authorizing microfilming of the document. The dissertation is publicized by means of the printed abstract, which appears in Master's Abstracts International or Dissertation Abstracts International, with worldwide circulation. Theses and dissertations can be copyrighted for a fee of $45 made payable in a money order to UMI. Please request copyright at the time of submission if desired.

Thesis/Dissertation Fees
All master's and doctoral candidates must pay a fee as part of the final requirements for the degree. The doctoral candidate's fee, currently $113, includes microfilming and binding the dissertation and publication of the dissertation in Dissertation Abstracts International. Master's candidates currently pay a fee of $50 for microfilming and binding the thesis and publication of the abstract in Master's Abstracts International. Both fees are paid at the Cashier's Office, King Hall, prior to submitting the manuscript to the Graduate School.