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2018-2019 Graduate Studies Bulletin 
  Apr 20, 2024
2018-2019 Graduate Studies Bulletin [Archived Catalog]

School Psychology, M.A. (restricted to School Psychology, Ph.D. students)

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The MA in School Psychology is an option available for students enrolled in the School Psychology, Ph.D.  who choose to take the additional steps to obtain the master’s degree concurrent with the doctoral program in School Psychology. Students seeking a terminal master’s degree are not admitted to the program; instead, students admitted to the doctoral program are automatically admitted to the master’s program, if they desire that degree.

The purpose of the School Psychology MA degree is to provide training for students enrolled in the PhD program in School Psychology to develop introductory skills and knowledge in historical and current foundations of school psychology practice and in evidence-based assessment and interventions related to students’ learning and behavior in school and school-related settings.


Students who enter the program with only a bachelor’s degree must complete all program and Graduate School requirements for the completion of the Master of Arts degree. Information on The Graduate School requirements may be found at, where the Graduate Studies Bulletin can be found online. Students are encouraged to consult the bulletin for their year of entry and to maintain up-to-date information about all university and program requirements.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will successfully administer, score, and write a report describing performance on an individual intelligence test.
  • Students will successfully administer,score, and write a report describing performance on tests of academic achievement and social-emotional development.
  • Students will successfully develop an individual behavior plan for a student in a school setting. 
  • Students will successfully demonstrate an understanding of the history and current practices in the field of school psychology.
  • Students will successfully demonstrate an understanding of basic statistical techniques, including analysis of variance and correlation/regression approaches.

Degree Requirements

Requirements for the Master’s degree include:

  • 33 hours of course work, as specified below;
  • 6 hours of thesis credit; Program of Study;
  • Successful completion of the master’s thesis;
  • And an oral comprehensive examination

Students are expected to complete all requirements for the master’s degree by the end of the fifth semester and to complete and submit all relevant paperwork to The Graduate School in a timely manner, as specified in time lines published by The Graduate School.

Course Requirements

The Master’s Thesis (6 Hours)

USC requires a thesis of all graduate students seeking the Master of Arts degree. As indicated in the Graduate Studies Bulletin, students should obtain a copy of the general thesis regulations from The Graduate School. The thesis should be written to meet all graduate school requirements. Later in this Handbook is a detailed description of the steps and requirements for the doctoral dissertation (see “Psychology Department Guidelines for the Dissertation”). Information in that section will be very helpful in preparing your thesis and should be consulted for further suggestions and details for developing your research ideas, choosing a thesis advisor, proposing your thesis, carrying out the project, and completing the written thesis. Information specific to the thesis is also described below.

General Purpose

Completion of the master’s thesis is designed to assist students in becoming competent behavioral scientists. There are three specific objectives for this project: (1) provide an early introduction to research methodology and research applications; (2) provide support and knowledge that will help in the preparation and completion of a doctoral dissertation; and (3) demonstrate the role of school psychologists in the discovery of new knowledge.

Description of the Project

This research requirement will involve a completed data-based project conducted in conjunction with a research committee, and written following the guidelines of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The thesis must also meet all Graduate School requirements.

Scope of the Project

A variety of research approaches are acceptable for this project, including but not limited to:

  • applied and basic experimental designs
  • quasi-experimental designs
  • survey data and methods
  • archival data analysis
  • meta-analysis of an area of research
  • program evaluation
  • qualitative analysis
  • single-subject and small-sample designs


New students will be oriented to thesis and dissertation research requirements in PSYC 832A . Students are encouraged to select their thesis and dissertation chairs and committees based on their individual research interests and career plans.

Regardless of the goal or the content of the thesis, the nature and scope of the project should be such that the student completes the project before the beginning of the third year. The student should develop a concise project prospectus (including a brief overview and description of the methodology; see below) no later than the beginning of the third semester so that the thesis committee can evaluate in a timely fashion whether the proposed project is in the student’s best interest.

The student should recognize that progression from lower to higher level courses, practica, assistantships, and other requirements is contingent upon satisfactory progress in research activities, including the thesis.

Composition of the Thesis Committee

The thesis committee must have two faculty members. At least one member must be from the core School Psychology area faculty. The second member of the committee can be either another School Psychology faculty member, another Psychology faculty member, a faculty member from another USC department, or a qualified person from a local school or agency, provided that he or she has been approved by the Graduate School in advance. Generally, students choose a thesis chairperson with whom they wish to conduct their research; together, the student and chairperson then select the second committee member.

The Thesis Prospectus

All students must submit a written proposal, describing the research they plan to conduct (see Dissertation Guidelines for further description of the components). The proposal must be approved by the student’s committee before the student may proceed with the study. In addition, approval to conduct research with either human participants or animal subjects must also be secured from the University Institutional Review Board (IRB) before the student may begin the study approved by the committee. Your committee will decide if a formal prospectus meeting should be held.

Evaluation of the Thesis

A thesis passes when both research committee members rate the project as acceptable. The global rating of each committee member is based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity of the problem
  • Rigor of the methodology/procedures
  • Adequacy of the data
  • Appropriateness of the data analysis
  • Appropriateness of the data interpretation
  • Clear relationship drawn to prior research
  • Explicit discussion of implications and limitations
  • Precision of writing
  • Correct APA presentation style
  • Correct use of tables, graphs, figures, & appendices

Oral Comprehensive Examination

After completing all requirements for the master’s thesis and all course work for the master’s degree, the student will complete an oral comprehensive examination. The committee for the oral examination consists of three faculty members, usually chaired by either the student’s academic advisor or thesis advisor. A minimum of two members must be from the core School Psychology faculty. The third member may be a School Psychology faculty member, another Psychology faculty member, or under special circumstances, an approved USC faculty member from outside the Department.

The content of the oral examination is at the discretion of the committee but focuses on prior course work and applied school psychology at the master’s level.

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