PhD Requirements

The overall program involves intensive course work providing a broad background in advanced physics, practical training, and independent research. Our doctoral program affords exceptionally close collaboration between students and faculty. Degree requirements for the PhD Program are described in detail in the current USC Catalogue. Please also visit the Graduate School sections of the University Catalogue for general regulations.

Screening Procedure

Students proceeding toward the Ph.D. in physics must pass the departmental screening exam at a superior level. The exam must be taken not later than during the second semester (excluding summers, but including time in the M.A./M.S. program) in the department. New advanced students who have passed an equivalent comprehensive exam at a well-recognized research university with superior grades may apply to the departmental exam committee for an oral interview in order to be exempted from the written screening exam. A faculty member who supervises the research of such a student in the department must support this application.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination must be attempted not later than during the fifth semester (or, in the case of advanced students, the third semester)(excluding summer) in the department. The Ph.D. qualifying exam contains a written part and an oral part. The written part consists of a critical review by the student of a published work selected by the guidance committee and of a research proposal prepared by the student on the area in which the student intends to do a doctoral dissertation. The oral part expands on the written part.


A doctoral dissertation in physics is expected to be an extensive description of original research carried out by the student. A complete discussion of reported research in relation to previous work by others is essential.

The dissertation must be defended in a final oral examination. The candidate must be prepared to answer general questions in the field as well as specific questions regarding the dissertation.