Progressive Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How are the overlapping units determined for a progressive degree student?
Units for progressive degrees cannot actually “overlap” or apply to both degrees. A course must be taken at the undergraduate or the graduate level, but not both. The “overlap” refers to a reduction in the total number of units that may be required for the graduate degree.

Can a course plan be changed for a progressive degree student?
Yes. To revise the previously approved course plan, a progressive degree student must submit a new course plan with all the appropriate signatures. The STARS report cannot be updated to reflect program changes without the revised course plan.

Can a progressive degree student change majors?
Yes. A progressive degree student must submit a new course plan with all the appropriate signatures, along with a Change of Major form.

Does an application for degree check need to be submitted for a student pursuing a progressive degree?
No. Degree Progress enters all of the appropriate information for the student when the progressive degree application is processed.

How many units can a progressive master’s degree be reduced by
The progressive master’s degree can be reduced by one-third. Examples: A 30 unit program can be reduced to 20 units. A 32 unit program can be reduced to 22 units (round up from 21.33). A 48 unit program can be reduced to 32 units.

Can the two-thirds requirement for applied 500-level course work be reduced as well?
No. This value is always based on the traditional unit value of a program. Example: A 30-unit program can be reduced down to 20 total units, but then all 20 units must be taken at the 500 level or above.

Can a student complete more than one progressive master’s degree?
No. Only one progressive master’s degree is allowed.

Can a student drop the progressive master’s degree and switch to the traditional master’s degree?
If a student wishes to switch to the regular master’s program, he or she must go through the formal steps necessary for admission to that program. This means he or she will need to take the GRE and submit the graduate application, along with all the required supplementary information and documents.

What happens when a student exceeds the time limit for a progressive degree?
Progressive degree students must complete their undergraduate degree and master’s degree within six years (12 terms). The time limit begins with the term in which the student completed his or her first college-level course (transfer or USC) after high school graduation. Petitions to extend the time limit should be sent to Associate Provost Robin Romans. Degree Progress will enter approved time extensions on the STARS report.

What if a student wants to apply to the progressive degree program but has already exceeded or will be close to exceeding the time limit before being admitted?
The Associate Provost should review these applications. Special approval may be granted for admission with a time-limit extension through a specified term.

What is the required GPA for a student to be admitted into a progressive degree program?
The established university minimum GPA for admission to a progressive degree program is a 3.00 or above. Schools and academic departments can raise this standard for their applicants. The Viterbi School of Engineering currently requires a 3.200 or above.

What if a student has already exceeded 96 units at the time he or she applies for admission?
The Associate Provost must review these applications. Special approval for admission may be granted.

If the student doesn’t know which electives they are going to complete for his or her master’s program, can a generic "graduate elective" be entered on the course plan?
The course plan must be submitted with specified courses. A revised course plan must be submitted if the student deviates from the approved course plan.

Does a progressive degree student need to complete only the courses on his or her course plan?
Students must complete the courses specified by their course plan AND the course requirements specified by the catalogue for the graduate program. Often these overlap. If appropriate, the department may waive or substitute course requirements specified in the catalogue. The limits on waivers and substitutions still apply to progressive degrees.

Can a course be used for both undergraduate and graduate credit?
No. The course plan must clearly indicate whether each course will count for undergraduate OR graduate credit. If a student uses a graduate-level course in the undergraduate program, but the catalogue specifies it as a requirement for the graduate program, a Subject Credit waiver must be granted to fulfill the course requirement in the graduate program.

Can a student reserve a course for graduate credit before being admitted to the progressive degree program?
If a student has not yet been admitted to the progressive degree program, he or she must follow the standard policy for taking graduate-level course work for graduate credit:

  1. Have a 3.00 cumulative GPA or above;
  2. Be within 12 semester units of completing the bachelor’s degree; and
  3. Not exceed 16 registered units for the semester.

Additional information can be found at:
The Progressive Degree Programs Introductory page
The Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences Progressive Degree Programs FAQ page