Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

*Now accepting applications for Summer and Fall 2019

  • The University of San Diego Graduate School Admission Application and $45 application fee

    • Upload the following to submit your online application
      • Statement of Purpose
      • Resume
      • Copy of Official Transcript
      • Recommenders’ Contact Information
    • Letters of Recommendation and International Transcript Evaluations must be received by the program deadline to complete your application.
  • Copies of your unofficial transcripts from the university where you earned your master’s degree and bachelor’s degree are required at the time of application.

    • Unofficial transcripts from student portals without a registrar’s signature are not acceptable.
    • Students who earned their bachelor’s or master’s degree from an institution outside the United States must submit a course-by-course degree evaluation conducted by a NACES current member.  
      • Applications for students educated outside the United States will not be considered complete nor can an admissions decision be made until this degree evaluation has been submitted.
    • NOTE: If admitted to the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, you will be required to submit an official sealed transcript from all colleges and universities from which you received credit, including community colleges
      • Official E-Transcripts are acceptable only if emailed to
      • Transcripts from study abroad courses are not required.
  • Three professional letters of recommendation from professors or employers. We strongly recommend that at least one of the letters be from a professor who can address your academic abilities and potential, and overall promise as a doctoral student.
  • A current resumé or curriculum vitae
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to take the GRE, but it is not required. Official GRE test scores must be within 5 years of the test date.
  • Statement of purpose. Please address each of the three points in no more than four single-spaced pages:
    • One or two research topics that you may want to investigate as part of your PhD and outline how the work of faculty in the Department of Leadership Studies intersects with those research interests. 
    • How earning a PhD in Leadership Studies fits in with your academic/professional and personal goals.
    • How your academic, professional and/or personal experiences make you a good fit for this program.
  • International applicants only:

Admission Requirements

Standardized Testing Requirements

  • Effective for summer 2018 applicants and beyond: Applicants are strongly encouraged to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), but it is not required. Official GRE test scores must be within 5 years of the test date.
  • There is no minimum GRE score required.
  • The University of San Diego’s GRE Institution Code number is 4849. This number must be included on test registration forms in order to have the official results sent to the university. Standardized testing must be completed well in advance of the deadline as it typically takes about 2 weeks for the score reports to arrive after a request is made.
  • For more information on preparing for the GRE, visit USD's Test Prep or call (619) 260-4579.

Education Requirements

  • Applicants must complete a bachelor’s degree and a master's or JD prior to beginning the program. Applicants may apply prior to completing their master's degree. In this case, please submit your most up-to-date transcripts, and if admitted, submit a second set of official transcripts after your degree is conferred.
  • The minimum cumulative Grade Point Average is 3.50 (on a 4.00 scale) in all graduate coursework.

Experience Requirements

Professional experience is strongly recommended.

Application Process

Application Deadline

All application materials, including transcripts, test score reports and letters of recommendation, must be received by the Office of Graduate Admissions by the final deadline in order for your application to be considered. View current deadlines for admission.

Application Status and Decisions

To confirm that application materials have been received or to check the status of your application, please log in to the MySanDiego portal with your applicant login or contact the Office of Graduate Admissions at (619) 260-4524. Admissions decision letters are sent via US Mail.

Submit all application materials online, or to:

Office of Graduate Admissions
University of San Diego
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492

For questions about this program or the admissions requirements contact:

Office of Admissions and Outreach
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego
Mother Rosalie Hill Hall 149

Phone: (619) 260-7988

Students entering the University of San Diego and/or declaring a major during 2018-2019, should follow information contained in the printed course catalog (also known as the "catalog of record") published on May 1, 2018. Access the catalog of record at

Requirements for the Degree

I. Core - 36 units

These foundational courses are required for all students; courses taken at other institutions may not be substituted.

LEAD 600Integral Leadership Theory3
LEAD 602Competing Conceptions of Knowledge and Research3
LEAD 607Applied Statistics and Quantitative Research Methods3
LEAD 608Qualitative Research Methods3
LEAD 610Dissertation Seminar3
LEAD 611Leadership Theories: Past, Present and Future3
LEAD 612Advanced Qualitative Research Methods3
or LEAD 613 Advanced Quantitative Research Methods
LEAD 613Advanced Quantitative Research Methods3
or LEAD 612 Advanced Qualitative Research Methods
or LEAD 614 Special Topics in Advanced Research Methods
or LEAD 615 Action Research Methods II
or LEAD 616 Survey Research Methods
LEAD 619Applied Leadership Practices: Integral Self and Systems Approach3
LEAD 695Dissertation9
Total Units36

II. Area of Specialization/Electives - 21 units 

With the assistance and approval of their advisors, students select electives to acquire an area of specialization.  Students may select from 500 and 600 level classes at USD.

Examples of Possible Areas of Specialization:

  • Higher Education Leadership (community college, student affairs, general administration)
  • Nonprofit/Philanthropic Leadership and Management
  • Organizational Leadership/Consulting
  • Educational Leadership for Innovation and Social Justice
  • Leadership for International School Leaders
  • Individualized Option

After completing all required units of LEAD 695, candidates must register for 1 unit each semester to maintain candidacy until the final, approved dissertation is submitted to the Office of the Registrar.

III.  International Experience

At SOLES, all masters and doctoral students participate in an international experience designed to support the growth of cultural competency. Our goal is to inform best practices in working with culturally diverse populations locally, nationally and globally.  International experiences are approved by each student's faculty advisor and can be credit based or non-credit based activities. 

IV.  Advancement to Candidacy - Part A 

Part A of this process involves the preparation of a qualifying paper that normally relates to a student’s dissertation topic.

V.  Advancement to Candidacy - Part B

Part B of the Advancement to Candidacy process involves preparing and successfully defending a dissertation proposal.

VI.  Dissertation

Successful written and oral defense of dissertation is required for graduation.