University of Southern California
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Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy program in business administration is designed to produce research-oriented graduates who, from positions in academia, business or industry, can advance the state-of-the-art of business practice and enhance the contributions that business can make to the larger community. These goals can be advanced through research contributions in theory, concepts, methods and practices, and contributions to the education of the next generation of business leaders.

All students admitted to the Marshall Ph.D. degree program are supported by fellowships that require a full-time commitment to the program. No part-time or evening programs are available. Doctoral students begin their program in early August. The program includes summers. Until the time the student is granted permission to take the qualifying examination, successful completion of at least six units per successive semester is required.

This degree is awarded under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Students should also refer to the Graduate School section of this catalogue. All courses applied toward the degree must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.


The Ph.D. program in Business Administration welcomes applications from students with high intellectual aptitude who plan careers in research and teaching. Students with strong backgrounds in mathematics, the social sciences, engineering and sciences are encouraged to apply for admission to the program. A masterís degree or M.B.A. is not a requirement for entry into the doctoral program; students may enter with only a bachelorís degree.

Consideration is given to the rigor of the undergraduate curriculum, academic performance, scores on the GRE or GMAT, and the quality of the applicantís statement of purpose and personal references. One year of college calculus is a prerequisite for admission; matrix algebra, introductory mathematical statistics and intermediate economic theory are very desirable. Candidates whose qualifications are otherwise exceptionally strong can remedy deficiencies by enrollment in courses prior to their first semester. Current TOEFL scores will be required for applicants whose bachelorís degrees were awarded by universities outside the United States. TOEFL test scores are valid for two years. The final application deadline is January 15. The GMAT or GRE should be taken no later than late December. Test scores are valid for five years. Admissions and fellowship requests are reviewed as a group and not on a rolling basis.

Campus interviews will be initiated by the departments for their top candidates. In cases where in-person interviews cannot be arranged, telephone interviews will be substituted.

Applicants should secure at least three letters of recommendation. The doctoral committee prefers that all recommendations be written by academicians familiar with the applicantís scholastic and research capabilities. However, an applicant who has been away from an academic environment for a significant period of time may substitute nonacademic references.

Students who wish to apply for admission to the Doctor of Philosophy program should contact the doctoral office in the Marshall School of Business for specific admission procedures. The doctoral office is located in HOH 400C, (213) 740-0676, email:

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy in business administration is based on a program of study and research culminating in the completion of a dissertation in the major field of study. A minimum of 60 units of course work beyond the baccalaureate is required for the Ph.D. degree, including research courses and a minimum of 4 units and a maximum of 8 units of 794 Doctoral Dissertation. For students who already possess a masterís degree, a minimum of 36 semester units of course work beyond that degree is required exclusive of 794 Doctoral Dissertation. Doctoral students will be subject to disqualification at any time if the Marshall School of Business determines that they are deficient in academic achievement. All students must maintain a 3.0 average GPA.

Screening Procedure

In addition to whatever papers and examinations are assigned in first-year courses a screening process will occur in May. This process will include a review of each studentís grades, an analysis of competence in written communications and reports by each faculty member who has had course or other responsibility for a student. Based upon this review, the Ph.D. committee will determine whether to formally admit a student into the Ph.D. program in the area of specialization. Students who have not performed satisfactorily will be dropped from the program. The review shall normally be completed and results communicated to students by June 1. If additional data is needed, students may be required to take a written or oral examination or complete a written assignment. In some cases a first-year summer project may be taken into account in determining whether a student should continue in the program.

Advisor and Guidance Committee

An advisor from the Ph.D. faculty is appointed at the beginning of the studentís first academic year. After the screening exam has been passed, the guidance committee is established by the Graduate School upon recommendation of the director of the doctoral program. The guidance committee is comprised of five or more faculty members, one of whom must be from outside the studentís department.

Course Requirements

Each student must successfully complete one course in microeconomics or behavioral sciences, one course in statistics and one course in research design plus the core courses in his or her field of specialization. Advanced course work is specified by the studentís guidance committee in preparation for the qualifying examinations in the area of specialization. The areas are: accounting, operations management, finance and business economics, management and organization, and marketing.

Qualifying Examinations

The examinations qualifying a student for candidacy are comprehensive in nature. They are designed to determine the studentís competence in the area of specialization.

The qualifying examinations consist of written examinations and an oral examination. The written examinations are prepared and graded by faculty and all should be passed before an oral examination can be administered by the studentís guidance committee.

Doctoral Dissertation

The final phase of the program is the completion of a dissertation. The dissertation must be based on original investigation that makes a substantive contribution to knowledge and demonstrates capacity for independent, scholarly research. The quality of the dissertation should meet the standards for publication in leading journals in the field.

Typically, dissertations in business administration will be research studies that advance the body of knowledge concerned with the understanding of issues and solution of problems confronting managers and administrators. As such, a dissertation will (1) develop or extend theories, techniques or models relevant to managerial problems; (2) demonstrate original applications or adaptations of existing theories, techniques or models to managerial problems in a specific area; (3) develop innovative formulations and analyses of complex managerial problems and propose creative approaches to their solution; (4) employ scientific research methodology to test empirically the validity of existing theories, techniques or models and their application to specific types of managerial problems.

A dissertation committee chair shall be requested by the student and appointed by the Ph.D. program director within 90 days after the student has passed the qualifying exams. The remaining faculty on the dissertation committee shall be appointed within six months after the student has passed the qualifying exams.

The dissertation committee must consist of at least four tenure-track faculty, one of whom is outside the studentís department. Students are encouraged to add additional faculty to the committee, especially those who might provide valuable expertise that improves the dissertation. It is important that the student select faculty members who are committed and interested in serving on the committee, since a quality dissertation requires extensive interaction with and a sizable time commitment from individual faculty members.

Format for Thesis and Dissertation

All theses and dissertations submitted in fulfillment of requirements for graduate degrees at USC must conform to certain university regulations with regard to format and method of preparation. These requirements are explained in detail in Regulations for Format and Presentation of Theses and Dissertations, available from the Graduate School, Grace Ford Salvatori Hall 315. Further information on procedures is contained in the Graduate School section of this catalogue.

Defense of the Dissertation

When the dissertation committee agrees that the candidate has essentially completed the research and a satisfactory draft of the dissertation has been written, a final oral examination is held. This examination is open to all members of the faculty of the school and the university. Final judgment on the dissertation and the oral defense is rendered by members of the dissertation committee. The dissertation must be accepted unanimously by the dissertation committee.