Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

Online Application:

  • 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
      • Recommenders’ Contact Information


Official transcripts from the university where you earned your master’s degree and bachelor’s degree are required at the time of application.


  • Official E-Transcripts are acceptable only if emailed to
  • Transcripts from study abroad courses and transfer credits are not required.

Degrees Earned Outside of the United States:

  • 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.

Letters of Recommendation:

  • 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

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.

English Proficiency Exam (EPEX) Score for International Applicants:

EPEX Requirement

An official score report for the  or the  is required of all international applicants. Official score reports must be two years old or less from the time you submit your online application in order to be considered. 

Official scores can be sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions,  school code: 4849.

  • TOEFL minimum scores:
    • Internet-based test: 83
    • Computer-based test: 237
    • Paper-based test: 580
  • IELTS minimum score:
    • Band score 7

Waiving out of the English Language exam requirement: The English Language Exam waiver may be requested if you:

  1. Have submitted your online application and 
  2. You meet one of the following: 
    • English is your primary language
    • You completed a 4-year bachelor's degree or 2-year master's degree, and obtained (or in the process of obtaining) a bachelor’s or master's degree in the U.S. with a minimum 3.0 GPA. 
    • You obtained your bachelor's degree in Great Britain, Canada, or Australia with an equivalent minimum 3.0 GPA. 

Be sure to promptly order official transcripts or official transcript evaluations, as they are also required to determine waiver eligibility.

If you believe you are eligible for an EPEX waiver, please email the SOLES Admissions and Outreach Office at . Each request will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

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 for admission.
    • 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) 260-4585.

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.


Students entering the University of San Diego and/or declaring a major during 2022-23, should follow information contained in the printed course catalog (also known as the "catalog of record") published on April 1, 2022. Access the catalog of record at

Requirements for the Degree

A grade of less than “B-” is not acceptable for credit in this program, and the courses in which the grade was earned will not count toward the doctoral degree.  USD's policy on repetition of courses will be enforced.

I. Core - 33 units

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

LEAD 602Conceptions Knowledge Research3
LEAD 607Applied Statistics and Quantitative Research Methods3
LEAD 608Qualitative Research Methods3
LEAD 610Dissertation Seminar3
LEAD 611Leadership Theories3
LEAD 612Advanced Qualitative Research Methods3
or LEAD 613 Advanced Quantitative Research Methods
LEAD 619Applied Leadership Practices: Integral Self and Systems Approach3
LEAD 609Evaluation: Theory and Practice3
or LEAD 612 Advanced Qualitative Research Methods
or LEAD 613 Advanced Quantitative Research Methods
or LEAD 614 Special Topics in Advanced Research Methods
or LEAD 615 Action Research Methods II
or LEAD 616 Survey Research Methods
or LEAD 617 Mixed Methods Research Designs
LEAD 695Dissertation9
Total Units33

II. Area of Specialization/Electives - 24 units 

We offer a variety of courses that support the following specializations. Students may select courses from  these specializations to complete their elective requirement.

  • Coaching and Organizational Consulting
  • Educational Leadership for Innovation and Social Justice
  • Higher Education Leadership
  • Nonprofit/Philanthropic Leadership and Management
  • Research Methodology
  • Restorative Justice Facilitation and Leadership
  • Individualized Option

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.  

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.


All application materials must be received by the Office of Graduate Admissions by the final deadline in order for your application to be considered for admission.

Start Your Application

Tuition and Financial Aid

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Status and Decisions

To confirm that application materials have been received, please log into the MySanDiego portal or contact the Office of Graduate Admissions at (619) 260-4524. Admissions decision letters are sent via US Mail.

Submit all supplemental materials to:

Office of Graduate Admissions 
University of San Diego, Manchester Hall 105
5998 Alcalá Park, San Diego, CA 92110-2492

For questions about the admissions contact:

SOLES Office of Admissions and Outreach 
Mother Rosalie Hill Hall 143
(619) 260-7988
Advising Appointments