Academic Standards and Policies

Degree Requirements

Your graduate degree at USC Thornton is comprised of the following options (depending on your program):

  1. Required coursework (e.g. lessons, ensembles, research/scholarly analysis courses)
  2. Elective coursework (at the graduate level)
  3. Unit requirement (comprised of completed required coursework and elective coursework)
  4. Non-coursework requirements (e.g. recitals, comprehensive exams)
  5. Music Graduate Entrance Exam (MGEE) requirements
  6. Cumulative GPA requirement (3.0 required)

Graduate-level Coursework and Unit Requirement

Your degree program requires completing a minimum number of graduate-level units in order to earn your degree. The total number of required graduate-level units varies depending on your program.

However, for all programs, graduate-level units are courses at the 400-level or higher (e.g. MUSC 460 – Film Music History). Courses taken and completed below this level (such as MGEE review courses which are 300-level) will not count toward the minimum unit requirement for your degree.

Detailed information concerning the unit requirements for your degree is provided in the program-specific module for your degree program and major at the end of these orientation materials.

Minimum Passing Grade for Credit

Degree Program
Classes within your major department (e.g. MUJZ for Jazz Studies majors)
Classes outside of your major department
All MM, MA, DMA, PhD, MS Arts Leadership
GCRT Performance
MS Music Industry

For MGEE review classes, the minimum passing grade is B-minus.

Course work cannot be taken on a Pass/No Pass grading basis and be applied to your graduate degree.

Full-time Enrollment

It is important for you to be aware of the minimum number of units required for full-time enrollment in your degree or certificate program. Certain scholarships, financial aid, and teaching assistantships (TA) require that you maintain full-time status during each semester of enrollment. International students who plan to take courses in-person at USC must also be enrolled as a full-time student each semester in order to maintain F-1 student visa status.

Degree Program
Units required each semester for full-time enrollment
GCRT Performance

*In order to maintain desired progress toward degree completion, doctoral students are encouraged to complete 8 units per semester instead of 6 units.

**For Graduate Certificate students in Performance, full-time enrollment is maintained by registering for the standard 4-unit Graduate Certificate Performance class (e.g. MPKS 554).

Continuous Enrollment Policy & Leaves of Absence

Graduate students are required to be enrolled at USC for the fall and spring semesters each year until all degree requirements have been satisfactorily completed within the time limit allowed for their degree program.

Students who plan to not enroll in a fall or spring semester must be approved for a Leave of Absence (LOA) for the semester(s) they will not be enrolled. Students who break the continuous enrollment policy without an approved LOA must be approved for re-admission before being allowed to resume their studies. For more information, please review the USC Catalogue.

Prior Degree Verification

All Master’s and Doctoral students must verify completion of a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Students have up to the end of the first semester of study to submit official verification of an earned Bachelor’s degree. Prior degree verification must be completed as soon as possible to prevent registration holds in later semesters.

USC Degree Progress has provided detailed information regarding the verification process at their website.

For students who earned a degree from a domestic (United States) institution, it is advisable to submit your materials electronically to USC to The Degree Progress website provides more information.

For students who earned a degree from an international institution, please follow the process described on the Degree Progress website for international degrees. This verification is completed through the International Education Research Foundation (IERF). The report required for degree verification is the “Certification of Studies for USC” from IERF, which carries a $85 fee.


The Federal Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) governs your rights and privileges as they pertain to your academic records. In general, your academic records are your personal property and University staff generally cannot discuss your academic record with anyone who is not you unless you grant permission.

You may choose to grant permission for others to have access to your USC academic records through the OASIS system on the myUSC portal. In the OASIS system, link to “Other Services”, then “Establish Guest Access.”

Other Academic Policies

Other information and graduation requirements are described in the USC Catalogue.

Once you have reviewed this content in this module, please return to the USC Thornton Graduate Orientation home page and review the next module.