Jun 20, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2021-2022 
USC Catalogue 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Gerontology (PhD)

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs, Minors and Certificates

The purpose of the PhD in Gerontology is to provide research training in the multidisciplinary field of aging. The program is designed to enhance the potential of able students to make scholarly and professional contributions to the field of gerontology through research and teaching. To obtain this goal, the PhD in Gerontology provides (1) high level rigorous research training, (2) the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge in the field of aging and (3) the development of leadership skills.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for admission to the doctoral program must meet the following requirements:

  1. Recipient of a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university by anticipated enrollment date.
  2. Academic promise, as evidenced by above average achievement in previous undergraduate and graduate education. A minimum GPA of 3.0 in an appropriate undergraduate major and a baccalaureate degree are required.
  3. Personal qualities compatible with high level performance in gerontology and indicating a potential for leadership in the field. This includes a strong commitment to developing a scientific research program. Applicants to the PhD program must submit a resume of professional and academic experience, three letters of reference (academic and professional), a statement of objectives and examples of written work.
  4. Satisfactory performance on the Graduate Record Examinations — existing test scores may be submitted if the GRE has been completed no more than five years prior to the date of application. A satisfactory score on the Verbal and Quantitative GRE is required. Students should also provide scores from the Analytic exam.
  5. Submission of application materials as required. Instructions for application to the Doctor of Philosophy in Gerontology may be obtained by contacting the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

Degree Requirements

Course Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 60 units of course work (with at least 24 of these units being completed in residency at USC), as well as additional dissertation units (at least 4 units) as required. All students will take courses in three areas: a set of required core courses, research courses and elective courses.

Students will be advised about course selection during the first year by the PhD committee. As soon as a student has selected a specialization (e.g., psychology, sociology/demography, policy), an advisory committee of appropriate faculty will be appointed. The purpose of the advisory committee is to help the student in the selection of courses and a research agenda; to monitor the student's progress; and to insure preparation for the qualifying examination.

Basic Scientific Core

The core for the PhD in Gerontology program stresses the physiological, psychological, sociological and policy dimensions of individual and population aging. Special emphases include mechanisms associated with chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and the interplay between genetic and environmental influences.

Research Core

A second core area focuses on development of research skills which includes research design, methods and statistics. Students in the PhD in Gerontology program are required to take GERO 593  and GERO 640  and at least one additional statistics course — generally from another department — on the student’s research focus.

Elective Core

A third core involves electives that allow students to create a concentration in a particular area of focus or analytic field of inquiry. Students should select courses in consultation with their adviser. Courses should be selected to provide in depth knowledge in the specialized area or general knowledge in the field of gerontology. A number of gerontology courses can be taken as electives.

Students should note that Gerontology courses at the 600 level are usually offered only every second year. Students are encouraged to review the course schedule to determine how to best complete these courses in a timely manner. Successful completion of the required course work does not complete the educational experience of the student. Students are expected to enhance their exposure to research by attending the colloquium lecture series, working on research with a faculty member and presenting original research at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America and other professional meetings.

Additional Requirements

Foreign Language Requirements

There are no foreign language requirements for the PhD program.

Transfer Credits

Students with master’s degrees or prior graduate course work in gerontology can petition to apply the credit toward required courses. Petition for credit will be based on the Graduate School’s policies and requirements for “transfer of credit” and on approval by the doctoral advisory committee. Transfer credits toward the PhD requirements will be limited to 20 units and must be credits taken within 10 years of entering the program.

Time Limit

The normal time for completing the PhD is four to five years (without a prior master’s degree). The first two years will consist of required and elective courses. The third year will consist of electives, the PhD qualifying exams and completion of the dissertation proposal. The final year(s) will involve the completion of the dissertation. The maximum time to complete 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 of the proposed enrollment in the PhD program must complete the PhD in six years.

Screening Procedures

When students have completed a minimum of 16 but not more than 24 units of doctoral course work, the doctoral advisory committee assesses their performance through a screening process and makes a decision regarding their ability to continue in the program. If the student is granted permission to continue, a guidance committee is established.

Qualifying Exam Committee

The qualifying exam committee is composed of five faculty members, at least three from the School of Gerontology. The function of the qualifying exam committee is to oversee the development of the student’s academic progress through the qualifying examination, including the preliminary dissertation proposal.

Qualifying Examination

As a prerequisite for candidacy for the PhD, students must pass a qualifying examination, which is multidisciplinary and comprehensive in nature and that necessitates independent study beyond course requirements. Students must have completed at least 28 units of course work in the doctoral program with a GPA of at least 3.25 before attempting the qualifying exam. The exam is designed to test mastery of knowledge and scholarly skills and to test readiness to undertake independent research. If the student fails this exam, it may be repeated one time. When the exam is successfully completed, the student then must develop and have a dissertation proposal approved before the student is officially admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree.

Doctoral Dissertation

Upon admission to candidacy, a dissertation committee is established which consists of three members of the faculty, some of whom may be from the qualifying committee.

The dissertation committee has responsibility for providing guidance and consultation during the research process, approving the dissertation, conducting the final oral examination, and recommending the candidate for the PhD degree. The doctoral dissertation should make an original contribution to the development of knowledge and theory in gerontology.

Final Oral Examination

Upon approval of the final draft of the dissertation by all members of the dissertation committee, the candidate must pass a final oral examination. Upon successful completion of this final examination, the committee recommends the candidate to the Graduate School for award of the PhD degree.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs, Minors and Certificates