USC Rossier PhD Program Boasts Impressive Placement and Completion Rates

March 11, 2014
Kris DePedro PhD ’12

Kris DePedro PhD ’12

New data reveal that PhD graduates of the USC Rossier School of Education are finding tenure-track faculty and research positions at an impressive rate. Graduates are also finishing their degrees more quickly than national averages.

USC Rossier’s PhD program, a doctoral degree in Urban Education Policy, was retooled a decade ago with a focus on enrolling smaller, more highly-selective cohorts, with only about 10 percent of the most accomplished applicants being accepted into the program. On average, only 12 to 15 candidates enter the PhD program annually.

This select group of candidates has proven to be highly productive. Seventy percent of the PhD cohort completed their degrees within five years, and half completed within four years during the period of 2004 to 2009.

The Council of Graduate Schools released a 2008 report on PhD completion rates over a 12-year period, and found only 11 percent of PhD candidates completed in four years, and only 23 percent in five years. Across all disciplines, only about 57 percent of students who start their PhDs complete them within 10 years, according to that report.

And despite the shrinking supply of tenure-track positions nationwide, two-thirds of USC Rossier’s PhD graduates are placed in tenure-track or postdoctoral positions; and another 15 percent work in research units.

University Professor William G. Tierney, who codirects USC Rossier’s Pullias Center on Higher Education, said these numbers place USC Rossier near the top when compared to all schools and colleges of education across the country, and all schools within USC.

Among the hallmarks of the PhD program at USC Rossier is the fact that all candidates receive full funding so they do not have to compete for grants or work to support their studies.

At USC Rossier, candidates begin working with their advisers on research and grants immediately; they work through their summers; and they benefit from the support and resources of a dedicated PhD program office and a doctoral support center. PhD candidates also collaborate with top faculty across the school, receiving mentorship from education researchers beyond their own advisers.

According to Kris DePedro PhD ’12, now assistant professor at Chapman University, the most unique aspect of his PhD experience was “amazing mentorship.”

“I worked closely with my advisor on several research projects, including writing a multi-million dollar grant and successfully publishing in a top tier academic journal. I also gained the tools of the trade, which is not often taught in other programs,” said DePedro.

“In my relationship with my mentor, I developed the tools to build a strong scholarly identity, everything from presenting well at national conferences and designing rigorous curriculum for my students.”

Andrew McEachin PhD ’12, now assistant professor at North Carolina State University, said his work with Rossier Professors Dominic Brewer, Katharine Strunk, and Morgan Polikoff, and support for his own research agenda, opened many doors for him after graduation.

I worked very closely with these top educational policy scholars, and gained invaluable experience conducting high-level research, publishing in the top education and public policy journals, and presenting research findings to practitioners, policy-makers, and fellow scholars

  –  Andrew McEachin

“The program also provides very generous support to help graduate students jumpstart their own research agendas—the research funds are often comparable to those given to junior faculty members.”