Return to: USC School of Cinematic Arts
The PhD in Media Arts and Practice program offers a rigorous and creative environment for scholarly innovation as students explore the intersection of design, media and critical thinking while defining new modes of research and scholarship for the 21st century. Core to the program is its transdisciplinary ethos; after completing foundational course work, students design their own curricula, drawing on expertise across all divisions and research labs within the School of Cinematic Arts.
A bachelor's or master's degree in media arts, or a closely related field, is required for admission to the PhD program. In addition to submitting an application to USC Graduate Admissions, applicants for the PhD must submit the supplemental application and materials to the Media Arts and Practice Division. For specific instructions, contact the School of Cinematic Arts Office of Admission, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, (213) 840-8358, or online at cinema.usc.edu/imap.
Each PhD candidate must complete 64 units beyond the bachelor's degree, exclusive of IML 794a , IML 794b , IML 794c , IML 794d , IML 794z . (Up to 28 units may be transferred from graduate work completed at other institutions.) At least two-thirds of the units applied towards the degree (including transfer work and not including IML 794a , IML 794b , IML 794c , IML 794d , IML 794z ) must be at the 500 level or higher. The required units will include 8 to 16 units in a minor area. The minor will be chosen by the student in close consultation with the adviser and will be in an academic field that supports the student's dissertation topic and project. Each student must complete the following course work:
- IML 600 4 , IML 601 4 , IML 602 4 , IML 603 1 , IML 604 4 , IML 605 4 . These courses should be taken before the screening procedure.
- At least 8 units in theory based course work within Cinematic Arts.
- At least 14 units in practice-based course work within Cinematic Arts. Courses outside of Cinematic Arts will be considered for approval by the student's adviser. The above courses should be taken before the qualifying exam.
- At least 4, but no more than 8 units of IML 794a 2 , IML 794b 2 , IML 794c 2 , IML 794d 2 , IML 794z 0 .
The Graduate School requires that programs administer an examination or other procedure at a predetermined point in the student's studies as a prerequisite to continuation in the doctoral program. The screening procedure in the School of Cinematic Arts is designed to review the student's suitability for continuing in the chosen PhD program. Two separate screening procedures will measure a student's progress at two points in their work toward the degree. The first screening will occur no later than the end of the student's third semester of graduate course work beyond the master's degree or after 46 units of graduate work beyond the bachelor's degree. The second screening will occur no earlier than one-half of a semester following the first screening. The screening procedure process will include the following steps:
- First screening. Prior to the first screening, the student will select a faculty adviser and formulate a provisional course of study. At the first screening, the student will be interviewed and his or her progress in the program will be reviewed by the faculty to determine if the student will be approved for additional course work. Following a successful first screening, the student, in consultation with the faculty adviser, will formally establish a five-member qualifying exam committee. The composition of the qualifying exam committee will be as specified by the Graduate School. For the PhD in Cinematic Arts (Media Arts and Practice), the committee is ordinarily composed of five faculty members with familiarity with the Media Arts and Practice program.
- Second screening. Working closely with the faculty adviser, the student will prepare to present his or her qualifying exam fields and associated bibliographies and mediographies as well as a dissertation project proposal, to a subcommittee of Media Arts and Practice faculty. This will be a formal written proposal detailing the proposed topic, three fields for examination derived from the general dissertation topic area. Formal presentation of the dissertation project proposal will occur no later than the end of the semester prior to taking the qualifying examinations. The qualifying exam committee must approve the dissertation topic.
Qualifying Exam Committee
Following a successful screening procedure, the student, in consultation with the qualifying exam committee chair and the Media Arts and Practice faculty, will formally establish a five-member qualifying exam committee. The composition of the qualifying exam committee will be as specified by the Graduate School. For the PhD in Cinematic Arts (Media Arts and Practice), the committee is ordinarily composed of four cinematic arts faculty members and an outside member from the candidate's minor area.
Foreign Language Requirement
The Cinematic Arts faculty will advise each student as to whether or not a foreign language is required. This requirement is determined by the student's dissertation topic. The requirement must be met at least 60 days before the qualifying examination.
Written and oral examinations for the PhD are given twice a year, generally in November and April. Questions for the written portion of the examination will be drafted by members of the qualifying exam committee who will also assess the examination. The qualifying examination comprises three examinations administered one day each for three days over a five-day period. The oral examination will be scheduled within 30 days after the written examination. All qualifying exam committee members must be present for the oral portion of the qualifying examination.
Admission to Candidacy
A student is eligible for admission to candidacy for a PhD degree after: (1) passing the second screening procedure; (2) presenting the dissertation proposal and having it approved; (3) satisfying the language requirement, if applicable, (4) completing at least 24 units in residence; and (5) passing the written and oral portions of the qualifying examination. Admission to candidacy is by action of the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Programs.
The dissertation committee is composed as specified by regulations of the Graduate School. A dissertation project based on original investigation and showing technical mastery of a special field, capacity of research and scholarly ability must be submitted.
Registration for dissertation units, IML 794a IML 794b , in the two semesters following admission to candidacy is the minimum requirement. These units cannot be applied towards the required 64 unit total. The student must register for IML 794a , IML 794b , IML 794c , IML 794d , IML 794z each semester after admission to candidacy until the degree requirements are completed. No more than 8 units of credit can be earned in IML 794a , IML 794b , IML 794c , IML 794d , IML 794z .
Defense of Dissertation
An oral defense of the dissertation is required of each PhD candidate. The dissertation committee will decide whether the examination is to take place after completion of the preliminary draft or the final draft of the dissertation. The oral defense must be passed at least one week before graduation.
The following policies apply to each student admitted to the PhD program.
At least one year of full-time graduate study (24 units excluding registration for IML 794a , IML 794b , IML 794c , IML 794d , IML 794z ) must be completed in residence on the main USC campus. The residency requirement may not be interrupted by study elsewhere. Residency must be completed prior to the qualifying examination.
Grade Point Average
An overall GPA of 3.0 is required for all graduate work. Courses in which a grade of C- (1.7) or lower is earned will not apply toward a graduate degree.
Leave of Absence
A leave of absence may be granted under exceptional circumstances by petitioning the Graduate School the semester before the leave is to be taken.
Change of Committee
Changes to either the qualifying exam or dissertation committee must be requested on a form available from the Graduate School.
Completion of All Requirements
Everything involved in approving the dissertation must be completed at least one week before graduation. Approval by the dissertation committee, the Office of Academic Records and Registrar, and the thesis editor must be reported on the triple card and submitted to the Graduate School by the date of graduation.
The maximum time limit for completing all requirements for the PhD degree is eight years from the first course at USC applied toward the degree. Students who have completed an applicable master's degree at USC or elsewhere within five years from the proposed enrollment in a PhD program must complete the PhD in six years. Extension of these time limits will be made only for compelling reasons upon petition by the student.
When petitions are granted, students will be required to make additional IML 794a IML 794b IML 794c IML 794d IML 794z registrations. Course work more than 10 years old is automatically invalidated and cannot be applied toward the degree.