Viterbi School of Engineering

Graduate Degrees

General Requirements

The Viterbi School of Engineering recommends candidates for the Master of Science degree in: aerospace engineering, astronautical engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, financial engineering, green technologies, health systems management engineering, industrial and systems engineering, manufacturing engineering, materials engineering, materials science, mechanical engineering, medical device and diagnostic engineering, operations research engineering, petroleum engineering, product development engineering, sustainable infrastructure systems, systems architecting and engineering, engineering management, and construction management. Several areas of emphasis and specialization are available within these disciplines.

All graduate work in the Viterbi School of Engineering is under the jurisdiction of the Viterbi School except the Doctor of Philosophy degree, which is under the jurisdiction of the USC Graduate School. All prospective graduate engineering students should apply to the USC Office of Graduate Admission.

Admission

Two classes of students are admitted to take courses for graduate credit: admitted and conditionally admitted students. These classifications are determined by the Office of Graduate Admission on the recommendations of the appropriate department in the Viterbi School of Engineering.

Admitted Students

This is the status of a graduate student pursuing work leading toward an advanced degree. The student has been accepted into the degree program without any conditions.

Conditionally Admitted

The chair of a major department in the Viterbi School of Engineering may recommend that a student be admitted under certain conditions. Conditional admission is granted when a student’s admission records are incomplete or when deficiency courses must be taken but the student appears to be otherwise admissible. The conditions must be met before the completion of two semesters of enrollment or 12 units of course work, whichever comes first. If the conditions on admission are not met within the given time period, the student may not be allowed to register for course work in subsequent semesters. When the conditions have been met, the academic department will remove the restrictions that have been placed on the student’s registration.

Criteria

In order to qualify for admission, applicants are expected to present strong academic records and show superior accomplishment in their engineering and related courses. Admission decisions will be based on Graduate Record Examinations test scores and transcripts of previous school work. Individual departments may set higher admission standards than the Graduate School. In some departments letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose are required and should be sent directly to the department office. Doctor of Philosophy applicants who have published professional papers in their field may forward copies to the department, and they will be considered together with the other credentials submitted.

Procedure

Applicants to graduate programs must present credentials to the Office of Graduate Admission showing that they have completed an acceptable curriculum for the bachelor’s degree. In some departments students with outstanding records will be admitted for the doctoral program without first receiving the Master of Science degree. If the previous degree is not in the field in which the student wishes to pursue graduate study, it may be necessary to make up undergraduate deficiencies in the area of the desired specialty. Applicants must take the Graduate Record Examinations. Satisfactory scores on the general test are required for admission to full graduate standing in most programs. Consult the department office for further information.

Once the application for admission has been sent, arrangements should be made immediately to have official transcripts of all previous undergraduate and graduate school work forwarded directly to the USC Office of Graduate Admission from the schools attended. If the Graduate Record Examinations general and subject tests, as well as the TOEFL or IELTS exams, have been taken the scores should be sent to the Office of Graduate Admission by arrangement with the Educational Testing Service. If the tests have not been taken, the applicant should register to take them on the earliest available date. The departments will review the application files and select for admission those students offering the greatest promise for completing graduate studies.

Progressive Degree Programs

The progressive degree program allows qualified undergraduate students the opportunity to complete an integrated program of study joining a bachelor’s degree program and a master’s degree program in the same or different departments. Applicants for a progressive degree program must have completed 64 units of course work applicable to their undergraduate degree since graduating from high school. (Credit by exam and course work taken prior to high school graduation are excluded). Applicants must submit their application prior to completion of 96 units of course work. Normally, the application is submitted in the fall semester of the third year of enrollment at USC. The application for admission to a progressive master’s program must be accompanied by a departmentally approved course plan proposal and two letters of recommendation. All application materials can be obtained from the Viterbi Admission and Student Affairs Office (RTH 110, viterbi.usc.edu/pdp).

Progressive degree program students must fulfill all the requirements for both the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree. The total number of units for the master’s degree, however, may be reduced by a maximum of one-third. A minimum of two-thirds of the units required for the master’s degree must be at or above the 500 level, excluding any 590 courses. Students will be subject to undergraduate academic progress standards and policies while in undergraduate status and master’s academic progress standards and policies while in graduate status. The degrees may be awarded separately, but the master’s degree will not be awarded before the undergraduate degree. The time limit for completing a progressive degree program is 12 semesters. For more information, refer to the Requirements for Graduation page.

General Requirements for the Master of Science

Residence Requirements

The typical time required for earning a Master of Science degree is one and one-half academic years. Students entering the Viterbi School of Engineering with course or credit deficiencies require a correspondingly longer period. A candidate must complete the last four semester units of course work at USC. Up to four transferred units will be accepted from another engineering school upon verification by Degree Progress and with the approval of the major department.

Prerequisites

Prerequisite is a bachelor’s degree in engineering, allied fields or science. If the graduate field is different from the field of the bachelor’s degree, there may be undergraduate deficiencies assigned by the major department, and these must be made up by taking and passing either the assigned courses or the final examination in these courses before proceeding with the graduate courses.

Deficiency Courses

New students may be required to demonstrate satisfactory preparation for the graduate program with previously completed course work. In cases where preparation is not demonstrated, up to 9 units of deficiency course work may be required in addition to the normal degree requirements.

Credit for required deficiency courses may not be applied toward a graduate degree. A deficiency course within the same discipline taken after the higher level course has been passed will not be available for unit or grade point credit.

Placement Examinations

Enrollment in certain 500- and 600-level courses in the disciplines of computer engineering and electrical engineering will require a student to either take and pass the corresponding 400-level prerequisite at USC, or pass a placement exam in the corresponding course.

Not all 400-level prerequisite courses taken instead of a placement exam are available for degree credit. No unit or grade point credit is given for placement exams. Please consult with an academic adviser or refer to the department Website at ee.usc.edu for information on specific courses and placement exam details.

Grade Point Average Requirements

A grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (A = 4.0) is required for the master’s degree in all engineering programs. The minimum GPA must be earned on all course work applied toward the master’s degree and on all 400-level and above course work attempted at USC beyond the bachelor’s degree. 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 graduate degree. Transfer units count as credit (CR) toward the master’s degree and are not computed in the grade point average.

Course Selection

There are two program options for the master’s degree, one with a thesis and the other without. Courses are selected to fit the special needs of individual students, must form an integrated program leading to a definite objective and must be approved in advance by the department. Only courses numbered 400 and above may be applied for degree credit.

Program without Thesis

The minimum requirement is 27 units; 18 of these units must be at the 500 level and at least 18 units must be in the major department and closely related departments. Specific requirements are listed under each department.

Program with Thesis

The minimum requirement is 27 units; four of these units are to be thesis. At least 16 units, not including thesis, must be at the 500 level or higher, and at least 18 units must be in the major department. A total of not less than four nor more than eight units of 590 Directed Research and 594ab Master’s Thesis must be included in the program. The minimum thesis requirement in 594a is two units; in 594b, two units.

Master’s Thesis

The thesis, when it is required, is regarded as an important part of the work of the candidate for a master’s degree. It is not intended to be a piece of highly recondite research, but it must be a serious, considerable and publishable piece of work demonstrating the writer’s power of original thought, thorough grasp of the subject matter and ability to present material in a scholarly manner and style.

The thesis presents the results of an investigation of an approved subject in the major department. It is supervised throughout by a thesis committee, appointed by the chair of the student’s major department. The committee is usually composed of two members of the major department and one other member of the faculty.

The student will register in courses 594a and b respectively during the final two semesters of the master’s program as determined by discussion with an adviser. (Concurrent registration for 594a and b during the same semester is permitted when a student’s progress makes completion of all requirements likely within one semester.) If the thesis has not been completed within these two semesters, the candidate must register for 594z each semester until the thesis has been accepted but no additional unit credit will be earned.

A student readmitted to candidacy by petition to the graduate study committee must reregister for 594a and 594b. Final acceptance of the thesis is based upon the recommendation of all members of the thesis committee. For requirements concerning format of master’s thesis see the Graduate School section of this catalogue.

Candidates who find it necessary to be excused from registration in 594a or 594b for a semester must formally report before the beginning of the semester to the Viterbi Office of Graduate and Professional Programs that they will be inactive during that semester and request a leave of absence. During a leave of absence a candidate will not be entitled to assistance from the thesis committee or to the use of university facilities. The granting of a leave of absence does not change the candidate’s responsibility for meeting the time schedule for the completion of degree requirements. Leave will be granted only under exceptional circumstances.

Progress Toward the Degree

Graduate students are expected to make regular progress toward their degrees as defined by the faculty of their respective departments and within the time limits allowed. Graduate students’ progress and performance are reviewed each semester. Students making unsatisfactory progress receive a formal written warning and are placed on a semester of academic warning with specific conditions to be met for continuation in the program. Please refer to catalogue sections Academic Warning and Dismissal of Graduate Students; Grade Point Average Requirements; and the Website of the Office of Graduate and Professional Programs (GAPP) at viterbi.usc.edu/gapp.

Department Approval for Non-major Courses

Prior departmental approval is required for non-major courses to be taken and applied toward a graduate degree. Students must consult with the faculty adviser for formal written permission to take courses outside the major department for degree credit.

A copy of the faculty adviser’s written approval must be kept in the department file and retained by the student until graduation.

Time Limit

It is expected that work for a Master of Science in engineering will be completed within a maximum of five calendar years. An academic department may grant an extension of up to one year at a time for a maximum of two years. Courses taken more than seven years prior to the date upon which the degree is to be awarded cannot be included for the degree.

Admission to Candidacy

Application for admission to candidacy for the Master of Science is a separate step from admission to graduate standing. The requirements for admission to candidacy are: (1) the applicant must be admitted to regular graduate standing and must have removed all undergraduate deficiencies, and (2) the applicant must submit a complete program approved by the major department showing the course work, research and thesis (if required).

Application for graduation should be made at the beginning of the semester in which the requirements for the master’s degree are to be completed. Students are strongly advised to file for graduation as soon as the registration process has been completed so that their names may appear in the printed Commencement program and so that any discrepancies in their records may be resolved. Late filing may delay conferral of the degree.

Application forms for graduation with the master’s degree may be obtained from the student’s academic department. This application should be returned to the student’s academic department. Changes in the program after admission to candidacy are made by petition to the graduate study committee.

Second Master’s Degree

A graduate student who already holds a master’s degree from USC may apply a limited number of previously earned units toward the second master’s degree.

The maximum number of units allowed for transfer is four. In all cases, permission of the chair of the major department is required. All credit, including the units from the first master’s degree, must be earned within seven calendar years.

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 unit credit from the first program of study may be counted toward the second master’s degree.

General Requirements for the Master of Engineering Degree

The Viterbi School does not currently offer degree programs with the Master of Engineering designation.

General Requirements for the Engineer Degree

The Engineer degree is awarded under the jurisdiction of the Viterbi School of Engineering. This degree is granted upon completion of a comprehensive curriculum beyond the general course requirements for the Master of Science and after successfully passing an engineer’s qualifying examination. The required curriculum is intended to give students broad preparation in two areas of engineering, together with a minimum number of units in these areas to prepare them for the interdisciplinary nature of the many complex problems they will encounter in practice today. The degree is also intended to fulfill a growing need in industry for students with comprehensive advanced engineering training, but not necessarily with the research orientation developed by the Ph.D. student.

The Engineer degree is a terminal degree. Students who complete the Engineer degree will not be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program.

The Engineer degree is offered in aerospace engineering, astronautical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, industrial and systems engineering, mechanical engineering, petroleum engineering and materials science.

Prerequisites

There are three basic prerequisites for the Engineer Degree Program: a Master of Science degree or completion of 27 units of acceptable course work, application for admission to the Viterbi School of Engineering and acceptance to the program by the appropriate department.

Course Requirements

The Engineer degree requires a minimum of 30 units of graduate course work beyond the Master of Science degree; up to 6 units at the 400 level may be counted at the discretion of the student’s qualifying exam committee if the committee finds them necessary for the student’s program. The course work must form a balanced program of study leading to a definite concentration in two fields of engineering, a minimum of 12 units in one field, nine in another; nine units are elective and may be taken outside the Viterbi School of Engineering, but must be acceptable for graduate credit. The distribution of course work will be governed by the student’s qualifying exam committee and should be considered in conjunction with the course work done for the Master of Science degree. A candidate for the Engineer degree may substitute a project under the supervision of a faculty member for 6 units of course work. In order to have the project credited toward the degree, the student must register in 690 Directed Research during the course of the project; total 690 Directed Research registration should be 6 units. A student wishing to work on a project must make arrangements with a member of the faculty to supervise and evaluate work, and obtain the approval of the committee chair prior to completing more than 15 units of course work. In many cases the project may be related to the candidate’s work outside the university but must still be supervised by a faculty member. Distribution of the course work should take into account the nature of the project.

Grade Point Average Requirement

A minimum grade point average of 3.0 must be earned on all course work applied toward the Engineer degree. This average must also be achieved on all 400-level and above course work attempted at USC beyond the bachelor’s degree. 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 graduate degree. Transfer units count as credit (CR) toward the Engineer degree and are not computed in the grade point average.

Residence Requirements

A candidate must complete the last four units of course work at USC. At least 26 units must be taken in residency at USC. A maximum of four transfer units not counted toward a previous degree may be allowed with adviser approval.

Qualifying Exam Committee

After being granted graduate standing the student must form a qualifying exam committee. The committee is made up of three full-time faculty members who are specialists in the student’s areas of concentration, with at least two from the major department. Forms for appointment of the committee are available from the student’s academic department. The student is responsible for finding a faculty member from one area of concentration who will act as the chair of the qualifying exam committee. The chair will assist in selection of the other members. Advisement of the student after formation of the committee will be by the committee chair.

Qualifying Examination

The student must satisfactorily complete an engineer’s qualifying examination administered by his or her qualifying exam committee. This examination will cover both areas of concentration and will consist of at least one written and one oral examination. This examination is normally taken during the last semester of course work toward the degree. Students who choose to take the examination in the semester following the completion of course requirements may do so up until the end of the third week of classes without registering. After that date they must register for GRSC 810 to maintain continuous enrollment in the program. Results of the examination are reported to the Viterbi Office of Graduate and Professional Programs and forwarded to the Office of Academic Records and Registrar.

Transfer Credits

Up to four units of graduate course work may be transferred from an accredited institution to be applied toward the Engineer degree. Transfer work must have been done after receipt of the Master of Science degree and must be approved by the qualifying exam committee.

Reserving Course Credit

A student who receives the Master of Science degree at USC may reserve a limited number of units taken prior to the receipt of the Master of Science degree for credit toward the Engineer degree. To reserve credit, the course must have been taken during the last semester as a Master of Science candidate, not used toward the Master of Science degree, be acceptable to the student’s committee, and approved by petition to the graduate study committee of the Viterbi School of Engineering.

Time Limit

The student must complete all requirements within five calendar years.

Admission to Candidacy

After satisfactorily completing the qualifying examination, and no later than the beginning of the last semester of course work, the student must file for candidacy. This is a separate and distinct step which sets forth the entire academic program fulfilling the degree requirements and is used as a working basis for awarding the degree.

General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy

This degree is granted under the jurisdiction of the USC Graduate School. Students should also refer to the Requirements for Graduation section and the Graduate School section of this catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degree must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.

Thirteen Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs are offered: aerospace engineering, astronautical engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, engineering (environmental engineering), industrial and systems engineering, materials science, mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering.

Deficiency Courses

New students may be required to demonstrate satisfactory preparation for the graduate program with previously completed course work. In cases where preparation is not demonstrated, up to 9 units of deficiency course work may be required in addition to the normal degree requirements.

Credit for required deficiency courses may not be applied toward a graduate degree. A deficiency course within the same discipline taken after the higher level course has been passed will not be available for unit or grade point credit.

Placement Examinations

Enrollment in certain 500- and 600-level courses in the disciplines of computer engineering and electrical engineering will require a student to either take and pass the corresponding 400-level prerequisite at USC, or pass a placement exam in the corresponding course.

Not all 400-level prerequisite courses taken instead of a placement exam are available for degree credit. No unit or grade point credit is given for placement exams. Please consult with an academic adviser or refer to the department Website at ee.usc.edu for information on specific courses and placement exam details.

Foreign Language Requirements

There is no foreign language requirement for engineering majors.

Course Requirements

Satisfactory completion of at least 60 units of approved graduate level course work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 is required of all Ph.D. students in engineering. 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 graduate degree. Undergraduate prerequisites and graduate course work will be required in accordance with the regulations of the major department or program and the recommendations of the student’s qualifying exam committee. Transfer units are subject to approval by the Office of Degree Progress (for course work taken at institutions in the U.S.) or by the Office of Graduate Admission (for course work taken at institutions outside the United States) and by the qualifying exam committee.

Screening Procedure

The original admission decision admitting a student to the Ph.D. program is based on the student’s previous academic records, Graduate Record Examinations scores and other evidence of scholastic abilities indicating promise for completing graduate studies. It is also a prerequisite that all Ph.D. students successfully complete the screening procedures designated by the department. These usually consist of a written and an oral examination administered by the faculty. Students who fail the screening procedure will be advised that they are not recommended to continue in the Ph.D. program and that any additional work may not be counted toward the degree.

Qualifying Exam Committee

The Ph.D. student’s program of study is supervised by the qualifying exam committee, which is formed immediately after passing the screening examination. The committee consists of five tenure-track faculty members, four from the major department and one from outside the department. Reporting the screening procedures and forming the qualifying exam committee are accomplished by filing the appropriate forms obtainable from the Graduate School Website, usc.edu/schools/GraduateSchool.

Qualifying Examinations

The qualifying examinations are taken during the last semester of the second year of graduate study or, at the latest, in the fifth semester or equivalent. The Request to take the Qualifying Examinations must be filed in the semester prior to taking the examinations and at least 30 days before beginning the examinations. The examinations are intended to determine the extent of the student’s knowledge in basic science and engineering areas as well as the ability to do original and scholarly research. The qualifying exam committee decides the nature of the qualifying examinations (both oral and written portions) according to the policies applicable in each department.

If not otherwise enrolled, a student must enroll in GRSC 800 during the semester in which the qualifying examination is to be taken. Students are strongly encouraged to take the qualifying examination during the first semester in which they are enrolled in GRSC 800, and should not enroll in more than two semesters of GRSC 800 before taking the qualifying examination.

The examinations may be scheduled at any time during the semester provided that all members of the committee are available to administer them. All portions of the examinations must be completed within 60 days. After passing the qualifying examinations the Ph.D. student is admitted to candidacy by the Dean of Graduate Studies and the dissertation committee is established. After this step students will normally engage in at least one year of full-time graduate study and research on campus.

Doctoral Dissertation

An acceptable dissertation based on original investigation and supervised directly by the dissertation committee is required. The dissertation must show mastery of a special field, capacity for independent research and a scholarly result. Candidates are expected to keep all members of the dissertation committee informed of their progress at all stages of the dissertation.

Defense of the Dissertation

After satisfactorily meeting all other requirements and after the research and writing of the dissertation are substantially complete, the Ph.D. candidate must pass a general final oral examination devoted to the major field and to the topic of the dissertation. The examination will be conducted in such a manner as to determine to the satisfaction of the dissertation committee that the candidate has attained the stage of scholarly advancement and power of investigation demanded by the university for final recommendation to the doctorate. The faculty are invited to attend and to participate in the final oral examination. However, only the dissertation committee may vote. Unanimous approval of the committee is required for the student to upload the dissertation to the Graduate School.

Departmental Requirements

The requirements and regulations set forth in this portion of the catalogue are to be construed as the minimal requirements only as established by the Graduate School. In addition, students must meet all the requirements established by their department.

Progress Toward the Degree

Graduate students are expected to make regular progress toward their degrees as defined by the faculty of their respective departments and within the time limits allowed. Graduate students’ progress and performance are reviewed each semester. Students making unsatisfactory progress receive a formal written warning and are placed on a semester of academic warning with specific conditions to be met for continuation in the program. Please refer to catalogue sections Academic Warning and Dismissal of Graduate Students; Grade Point Average Requirements; and the Website of the Office of Graduate and Professional Programs (GAPP) at viterbi.usc.edu/gapp.

Special Educational Opportunities

Distance Education Network (DEN@Viterbi)

Established in 1972, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Distance Education Network (DEN@Viterbi) is a pioneer in the distance learning arena, using cutting-edge technology to enable professional engineers to take USC engineering courses for graduate degree credit without coming to the campus. DEN@Viterbi students enrolled around the world are pursuing over 40 graduate degree programs online — more choices than at any other research university. DEN@Viterbi breaks down geographical and scheduling barriers, allowing students to take classes anytime and anywhere. Remote DEN students receive support from administrative and technical staff and enjoy access to all services the Viterbi School has to offer.

The Viterbi School has made it possible for all on-campus students enrolled in the school’s graduate courses to receive free access to the archived lectures of courses offered via DEN@Viterbi. This valuable study aid enables students to review lectures throughout the semester.

For more information, visit viterbi.usc.edu/gapp.

Graduate Certificate in Engineering Technology Commercialization

The graduate certificate in engineering technology commercialization provides USC engineers with the knowledge, skill set and confidence to manage intellectual property and technology innovation and enables them to connect with colleagues in industry and venture capital to address real-world problems through technology transfer and commercialization. This certificate program provides an opportunity for graduate students to understand the process of evaluating the feasibility of their ideas and inventions and the confidence to commercialize their ideas. It also provides an opportunity for practicing engineers to obtain an academically rigorous foundation of technology commercialization which drives their company. The program is interdisciplinary in nature, requiring courses from both the business and engineering schools and providing education in the economic, technological and management aspects of commercializing new engineering ideas.

Applicants to this program are expected to have a degree in engineering or science from an accredited institution, an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and a score of at least 650 on the quantitative portion and 400 on the verbal portion of the GRE test.

A total of 12 units is required for the certificate.

Required core courses (6 units) units
BAEP 551 Introduction to New Ventures 3
ISE 585 Strategic Management of Technology 3

Elective courses (6 units) units
ISE 515 Engineering Project Management 3
ISE 517 Modern Enterprise Systems 3
ISE 527 Quality Management for Engineers 3
ISE 544 Management of Engineering Teams 3
ISE 555 Invention and Technology Development 3
ISE 565 Law and Finance for Engineering Innovation 3