General Requirements for the Doctoral Degree

Please see individual program descriptions for additional requirements.

Unit Requirements

PhD programs offered at the University of San Diego vary in length (minimum 48 semester units). The requirements build upon professional experience and prior academic work done at the master’s level. The DNP program is currently designed as a post MSN, APRN program requiring a minimum of 34 semester units. The PhD in Leadership Studies in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences is a 57 semester unit program designed for practicing professionals and academic scholars.

Residency Requirement

Although USD’s doctoral programs are designed primarily for persons employed full-time, the university still considers that a limited period of intensive study is essential for a meaningful and rigorous educational program. See individual program descriptions for options to meeting this requirement.

Qualifying Examinations, Admission to Candidacy and Time Limitations

Refer to individual program descriptions.


Students in USD’s doctoral programs must complete a dissertation of scholarly quality, demonstrating their ability to conduct original research and to report findings with complete documentation and presentation of data and adherence to copyright law and to the regulations pertaining to the use of human and/or animal subjects. Students in the DNP program must complete a clinical project. Specific dissertation requirements are set out in the program descriptions in this course catalog and in the Doctoral Handbook of each School. Deadlines for the defense and submission of the dissertation are included in the Academic Calendar.

After completing all coursework and the required nine units of dissertation credit, students must continue to register for dissertation credit each fall and spring semester to maintain candidacy until the dissertation is completed and has been successfully defended, approved and submitted to the Registrar. Students at this stage ordinarily are not eligible to take a leave of absence.

The deadlines for submitting the approved and final copies of the dissertation are listed in the Academic Calendar. New procedures are currently being drafted for electronic submission of dissertations (due to publishing deadlines, these are not included in this issue of the catalog. Please consult your dissertation chair for guidance. Students who fail to submit the dissertation by the published deadline will not be eligible for graduation in the then current term. If the dissertation is submitted prior to the eighth day of the next semester, the student will not be required to register for dissertation supervision and will be eligible to petition for graduation in the subsequent term.

Access To Theses and Dissertations

Copies of accepted theses and dissertations by USD students are incorporated into the Copley Library collection and are registered in the library’s catalog as well as a national bibliographic database. Theses and dissertations are then accessible to the general public through circulation and interlibrary loan procedures.