Jun 15, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2023-2024 
USC Catalogue 2023-2024

Policy, Planning, and Development (DPPD)

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The USC Price Doctor of Policy, Planning, and Development offers established professionals in the public, private and nonprofit sectors a high level academic experience to enhance their leadership capabilities, to develop their capacities in social change and innovation, and to extend their knowledge of policy, administration, planning and development.  Through their interaction with Price faculty and advanced practitioners, including members of their cohort, participants in the program will become more adaptive agents of change as they address the most complex and challenging governance problems of our times.

The goals of the DPPD are: to create a unique educational environment that will forge advanced professionals into a cadre for effective social, political and economic change; to develop professionals who can apply new policy, planning and administrative tools to design and implement new and integrative public policies; to establish and impart a new set of problem-solving paradigms for examining and altering decision making; and to equip professionals with sophisticated analytical tools and a sharper global and cultural awareness.

The DPPD offers a rigorous curriculum, an applied approach and an interdisciplinary course of study that provides knowledge, practice-based skills, and research capabilities for today’s leaders. Moreover, the program prepares advanced professionals to provide change leadership in social innovation, particularly in urban communities. Doctoral candidates will specialize in a particular domain, one often cutting across disciplinary boundaries, that enables students to align their research and doctoral thesis with their professional and intellectual interests.

Applicants are expected to hold a master’s degree in planning, public policy, public administration, leadership, real estate development or a closely related field. Applicants without master’s degrees in other fields will be expected to complete foundation courses prior to entering the degree core courses in consultation with the appropriate degree director.  Those admitted without advanced standing complete a total of 60 units.


Applicants are required to have a basic competence in descriptive and inferential statistics. This prerequisite may be met in one of two ways: (1) entering students must have passed a college level inferential statistics class, with a grade of “B” or better, at an approved university within three years of matriculation or (2) take PPD 502  Statistical Foundations for Public Management and Policy and complete with a grade of “B” or better. If students select to take PPD 502 , the units associated with this class may not be used toward the DPPD degree.

Professional Advisory Committee

By the end of the second year of study, the student will form a three-member Professional Advisory Committee consisting of three persons. The chair of the committee will be a full-time USC Price faculty member (tenured, tenure-track or full-time teaching or research faculty member). However, other committee members may include either faculty or professionals in the field of the student’s area of interest. This committee will oversee the student’s program to its conclusion. One member of the committee needs to be a tenure-track or tenured professor at USC.

Curriculum Requirements

The DPPD program is administered by the Price School of Public Policy. A minimum of 60 units of course work beyond the baccalaureate is required for a doctoral degree including research courses and 4 units of doctoral dissertation. A minimum of 36 units of course work beyond the first graduate degree, exclusive of dissertation units, is required for doctoral degree students admitted with Advanced Standing. If a student enters with a related master’s degree, he or she may be admitted with advanced standing and complete a minimum of 40 units.

Foundation Courses (20 units)

Up to 20 units of foundation courses are required for students admitted without advanced standing. These courses may be taken from the school’s master’s degree programs or, with prior approval, from other USC graduate programs.

Required Courses

Students are required to complete 16 units of required core courses, 4 units of methodology, 16 units of field coursework, and 4 units of professional dissertation (PLUS 694a  PLUS 694b  PLUS 694c  PLUS 694d  PLUS 694z ).

Methodology Course (4 units)

Students select one 4-unit methods course, to be determined and approved by the student’s professional advisory committee.

Field of Study (16 units)

In consultation with their faculty adviser and Professional Advisory Committee, students will craft the field of study and identify associated courses related to their professional area of interest. The field may or may not reflect standard academic boundaries and we expect most fields would cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Students should take advantage of USC’s resources in developing the field, especially taking into consideration the relationship of practice to theory. The field of study should be seen as providing the tools for effective practice in the student’s area of interest. Sixteen units of course work are required for the field of study, of which 8 may be taken outside the Price School of Public Policy. Four units of the 16 units of field courses should be directed research with the student’s Professional Advisory Committee Chair, to  prepare for writing the professional dissertation.

Qualifying Exam

Students will hold a formal defense of their dissertation topic at the end of year three as the qualifying examination. Upon successful completion, students advance to doctoral candidacy and enroll in PLUS 694a , PLUS 694b , PLUS 694c , PLUS 694d  and PLUS 694z .

Dissertation (4 units)

The professional dissertation is a research-based study of a policy issue, an administrative process, or other element of professional practice. Students are expected to enroll in PLUS 694a , PLUS 694b , PLUS 694c , PLUS 694d  and PLUS 694z  in fall and spring semesters for a minimum of four units, typically with their cohort, once they have defended a professional dissertation proposal. PLUS 694a , PLUS 694b , PLUS 694c , PLUS 694d  and PLUS 694z  will be taken in year four to satisfy this requirement.

Each professional dissertation should be designed to present an innovative or original contribution to the world of practice, and is expected to be a substantial work that satisfies the rigorous standards of academic research and creativity. It is likely that dissertations will cut across various fields and disciplines. The parameters of the professional dissertation are intentionally left open, allowing the project to be produced as solely text, or text in conjunction with film, computer program, design or other multimedia format.

The dissertation is supervised by the student’s Professional Advisory Committee. Students must then maintain continuous registration in the PLUS 694a , PLUS 694b , PLUS 694c , PLUS 694d  and PLUS 694z  series until completion of the professional dissertation. Upon completion of an approved draft of the dissertation, students will present their findings in an open session but the Professional Advisory Committee will be the sole evaluator.

General Requirements

The DPPD is administered by the Price School of Public Policy. At least 24 units must be fulfilled in residence at USC. The total length of study must not exceed six academic years. Policies regarding time limits, leaves of absence, scholarship standing, academic warning and other issues not directly addressed here are consistent with those of the Graduate School.

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