University of Southern California

Price School of Public Policy

Doctoral Degrees

Doctor of Policy, Planning, and Development

Planning and development are critical concerns of the nation and the world today. Whether redesigning the health care system, reproducing economic innovation in our central cities, or facilitating economic and social relationships across the globe, planners and developers are on center stage.

Leading the way into the next century will be a group of experienced practitioners who have updated and expanded their professional achievements by developing additional conceptual and research competency through the Doctor of Policy, Planning, and Development (DPPD).

The goals of the program are: to create a unique educational environment that will forge these professionals into a cadre for urban change; to develop urban professionals who can merge development and planning tools to design new integrative policy planning and implementation systems; to establish a set of new problem solving paradigms for examining and altering planning and development decision-making and to equip professionals with sophisticated analytical tools and a sharper cultural awareness so they can practice planning and development anywhere in the world.


The program is intended for people with considerable professional experience and intellectual interests. Requirements for admission include: GPA of 3.0 (A = 4.0) for all post-high school academic work, and, for international students, submission of TOEFL or IELTS scores; five letters of recommendation, including at least one academic and one professional; five or more years of professional experience; a resume and, if appropriate, a portfolio; and a study prospectus detailing a proposed field of study. Guidelines for preparing the prospectus are included in the application package. Additional requirements for international students are listed under Admission of International Students. The GRE and GMAT are neither accepted nor required for the DPPD program. Each application will be examined with the aim of admitting an applicant whose study prospectus suggests the ability and focus to produce an innovative approach to professional practice.

Applicants are expected to hold a master’s degree in architecture, landscape architecture, public administration, real estate development, urban/city/regional planning, urban design or a closely related field. Applicants with master’s degrees in other fields will be expected to complete foundation courses prior to entering the degree’s core classes.

Upon admission to the program, each student will be assigned a faculty adviser who will oversee his or her program.

Curriculum Requirements

The Doctor of Policy, Planning, and Development is administered by the Price School of Public Policy for full-time and part-time students. The DPPD requires completion of 60 units of course work comprising the following elements:

Requirements Units
Foundation courses 20
Core courses 8
Methods course 4
Field of study 20
Conspectus preparation 4
Planning, design and development project (minimum) 4
Foundation Courses

Up to 20 units of foundation courses are required. These courses may be taken from the school’s master’s degree programs or, with prior approval, from other USC graduate degree programs. Students who hold a related master’s degree may be admitted with advanced standing. Students are required to complete 36 units of course work and 4 units of PLUS 694 (project units).

Required Courses Units
Core Courses
PLUS 603 Planning and Development Paradigms 4
PLUS 623 Politics of Planning and the Urban Environment 4
Conspectus Preparation
PLUS 692 Conspectus Preparation 4

A student’s methods course should be approved by the student’s Professional Advisory Committee. Possible courses include:

PLUS 612 Analysis of Quantitative Data for Planning and Development 4
PPD 627 Design Skills for Urban Planners 4
PPD 632 Planning Analysis and Evaluation 4
PPD 707 Survey Research Methods 4
PPD 708 Qualitative Methods 4
Screening Process

As quickly as possible, the student will form a Professional Advisory Committee consisting of the student’s adviser and two other school and/or USC faculty and up to five professionals whose activities are related to the student’s. This committee shall oversee the student’s program to its conclusion.

At the completion of no more than 16 units beyond the foundation courses and/or PLUS 603 and PLUS 623, students will complete a written examination which will consist of responding to a short list of specific planning and development problems using appropriate professional paradigms. The student will then meet with the Professional Advisory Committee to formally review the student’s progress toward the degree.

Field of Study

In consultation with their faculty adviser and Professional Advisory Committee, students will craft a field of study related to the professional arena of practice. The field may or may not reflect standard academic boundaries, such as transportation and land use planning. Students should take advantage of USC’s resources in developing the field, especially taking into consideration the relationship of practice to theory and context. Twenty units of course work are required for the field of study, 8 of which may be taken outside the Price School of Public Policy.

Conspectus Preparation

In PLUS 692 students complete a professional conspectus that defines their field of study, its structure and place within professional practice, and other related questions. The conspectus will be presented to the student’s Professional Advisory Committee for acceptance. Only after it is accepted may the student proceed to the Planning, Design and Development Project.

Planning, Design and Development Project

The capstone project of the DPPD is the student’s completion of the Planning, Design and Development Project (PDDP). The PDDP is a study of an aspect, site, issue or other such element of professional practice. Each PDDP should be designed to present an innovative or original contribution to the practice of planning and development. The parameters of the PDDP are intentionally left wide, allowing the project to be produced as solely text, or text in conjunction with film, computer program, design or another multimedia format.

The PDDP is supervised by the student’s Professional Advisory Committee. Students must maintain continuous registration in the PLUS 694 series until completion of the PDDP. Upon completion of an approved draft of the PDDP, students will present their findings in an open session, but the Professional Advisory Committee is the sole evaluator.

General Requirements

This degree is administered by the Price School of Public Policy. At least 24 units must be fulfilled in residence at USC. The total length of the study must not exceed six academic years. Students are encouraged to actively participate in a non-credit Price School of Public Policy doctoral workshop. Policies regarding time limits, leave of absence, scholarship standing, academic warning, and other issues not directly addressed are consistent with those of the Graduate School. Please consult the Academic Policies, Graduate and Professional Education and the Graduate School sections for additional information.