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College of Education

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Guide

Applying for a Ph.D. degree is a substantial commitment to concentrated study and research for 3-10 years, depending on your interest, motivation, and program requirements. During that time, experiences such as your qualifying or comprehensive exams and dissertation defense mark major milestones.

Primary career goals for students in the College of Education’s Ph.D. programs include teaching and conducting research in a college or university, working in higher education administrative positions, and/or conducting research in a variety of professional organizations. The Ph.D. programs in the College of Education typically require concentrated study in the major area, research courses, and cognate courses, which are typically 9-12 hours of courses in a common subject or field of study that differs from the major but may still be housed in the College of Education.


The Gamecock EdQuarters staff will assist you as you complete your doctoral study in the College of Education. You can contact our office at 803-777-6732. Meet our staff and view their contact information:

USC publishes the academic calendar online. Important dates such as start dates, holidays, and scheduled breaks can be found on the academic calendar. There are instructions for applying to graduate with important  deadline information there, too.

Chalk and Wire is a data collection tool used by the College of Education to ensure the delivery of quality academic programming, make modifications to programs and courses, maintain assessment and accreditation expectations, and to help students build portfolios of their accomplishments within their programs. Chalk and Wire is required of all students in the College of Education and is distributed by the Office of Assessment and Accreditation.

In addition to regular university tuition and fees, students will be responsible for fees as follows:

  • College program fee of $528 per semester or $44 per credit hour for part time registration (fall and spring semesters only)

  • Praxis certification exams which require registration fees as set by ETS, if applicable

  • All other appropriate fees as outlined by the University Bursar 

Note: All fees are subject to change.

Applicants to a College of Education Ph.D. submit a complete application to the Graduate School in their desired major and are recommended for admission to the Graduate School after a faculty review of their application materials.

Once admitted to a Ph.D. program, students must be admitted to doctoral candidacy at least one full academic year before awarding the Ph.D. degree. To be admitted to doctoral candidacy, a student must be fully admitted to the doctoral program in the academic unit, pass the doctoral qualifying exam, and submit an approved doctoral program of study to the Graduate School. Admission to doctoral candidacy typically occurs at or near the end of the first year of course work.

The Graduate School has requirements for progression, and each college or school can identify additional progression requirements. The College of Education requires that 12 hours of credit below a grade of B on graduate work while admitted to a College of Education graduate degree or certificate program will disqualify a student from continuation in and completion of that program.

The College of Education expects doctoral students to earn grades of B or better. Graduate students who earn a C or below in a course should contact their graduate advisor.

Students in all Ph.D. programs are assigned a graduate advisor and a faculty advisor. These advisors work together to ensure that students receive information about courses and progression information. Graduate advisors are College of Education staff housed in the Gamecock EdQuarters office. They are responsible for communicating with all newly admitted students regarding steps leading to registration and with all students regarding course registration for an upcoming semester. The graduate advisors work closely with faculty program coordinators and faculty advisors to ensure that students have access to important information about program and university policies. Programs of study are approved by the faculty advisor and are filed with the graduate advisor. If students need to step out of a program due to health or family concerns, the graduate advisor assists with required documentation.

Faculty advisors are critical to students’ success in their programs. Faculty advisors are assigned by each program with the intention of the faculty and students’ research interests aligning. While course information is communicated by the graduate advisors, the faculty program advisors are a critical step in the process since they work with students to complete their Program of Study [link to section below], provide content area expertise, and likely direct students’ dissertations.

Currently under development.

As part of admission to candidacy, each student is required to complete a program of study (DPOS) [pdf]. The DPOS shows the courses that you plan to take in your program. Your graduate advisor will provide a template DPOS that you and your faculty advisor will complete and sign. If you have taken previous graduate course work that is not part of a completed degree, you should talk with your graduate advisor about possible transfer of courses when you receive the template DPOS. There is a process for the approval of transfer courses. [Phillippe, make the words “approval of transfer courses” a link to the Transfer of course credit heading below.] The faculty advisor will forward the DPOS to your graduate advisor who will ensure that it is filed with the Graduate School.

If students have taken graduate courses that are not part of a completed degree, up to 50% of the required hours may transfer if those courses meet degree requirements. The Graduate School requires that courses, including transfer courses, must be less than 10 years old at the time of graduation to be approved.

Graduate students may take up to 15 graduate hours per semester. Your graduate advisor will make recommendations of courses to take each semester, and you will have course rotation information, so you will know the frequency of the course offerings. If you take 6 credit hours in a semester, you may qualify for financial aid. Taking less than 6 credit hours is considered part-time. Taking at least 1 credit hour of dissertation preparation each semester when you are completing your dissertation is required.

Designed to ensure that doctoral students gain benefits and make contributions to the USC community, the residency requirement can be met through consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment or through a program-specific residency plan.

The role of the advisory committee is to give advice, to guide academic planning and research, and to assist in designing the program of study. Typically, the advisory committee is two or three faculty from the student’s academic program. The advisory committee does not replace the faculty advisor from the student’s academic program or the graduate advisor from Gamecock EdQuarters, but it is designed to aid the student in timely completion of the Ph.D. program. The dissertation committee works with the student during the planning, research, writing, and defense phases of the dissertation.

All College of Education doctoral programs require both qualifying and comprehensive exams. Both exams have a written and an oral component which must be successfully passed. Successful completion of both components of the qualifying exams means a doctoral student can form the doctoral committee and is qualified to continue to program completion. Successful completion of both components of the comprehensive exams allows a doctoral student to progress to the dissertation phase of the degree. Comprehensive exams are typically administered after all course work is completed, or within the last semester of course work. Students must be enrolled for at least 1 credit hour during the term of graduation.

When you receive the email from your graduate advisor each semester, it will have the courses listed or will contain the course rotation for you to select the next courses to take based on your program of study. Students register in the Spring for the upcoming Summer (if needed) and Fall courses and in the Fall for their Spring courses. When you have completed your DPOS, you can use it as a guide, but your graduate advisor is able to assist you if you have questions.

In order to view your registration time each semester, log in to Self Service Carolina and select the Student tile. Select the Registration tile, then select Registration Status. You should see any holds that may prevent registration, as well as the date and time that you will be able to register. Registration time tickets are not always available for viewing, but they are usually available by the midpoint of each semester.

All fully online programs use Blackboard to deliver course content. On-campus programs may use Blackboard in their courses, too. To access Blackboard, go to .

  • Find the Blackboard link on the left and select the Columbia campus in the dropdown options. Log in using your Network Username and Password. This is not your VIP ID. Your network username is a combination of letters from your first and last name. It is usually the portion of your name that is before the @ symbol in your USC email address. If you do not know your network username, go to and click on “View my IDs” under the Personal section.
  • When you are logged into Blackboard, you will see the courses in which you are enrolled.
  • Use the left side of the screen to navigate to different introductory and course material.
  • Books and/or materials required are in the syllabus.

Circumstances may require you to withdraw or not enroll in a Fall or Spring semester. (Summer attendance is not required in all programs. If your program requires summer enrollment to stay on track for faster program completion, not enrolling in a summer term may affect your graduation date. Typically, taking a break in study does affect your planned graduation date.) We know that unplanned events happen and can assist you by providing the options if a major life event creates a need for you to take a break for a semester or withdraw from classes if the semester is already underway. Contact your graduate advisor if you need to investigate taking a break in study.

The College of Education has an academic petitions and appeals process for students who are requesting an exception to academic policy. Contact your graduate advisor for more information.

In order to successfully complete a Ph.D. program and graduate, students must complete each of the following:

  • Have an approved program of study on file with the Graduate School

  • Earn an appropriate grade on all course work included in the program of study

  • Pass written and oral components of the qualifying and comprehensive exams

  • Form a dissertation committee

  • Complete an approved dissertation proposal

  • Complete the dissertation

  • Successfully defend the dissertation

  • Apply for graduation


While not required for graduation, completion of the College of Education Exit Survey provides important information for improving our services and program offerings for students.


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