Frequently Asked Questions

Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be a current student at USC to apply to this program?

No. Absolutely not. We welcome applications from individuals who have never applied to attend USC before as well as current USC graduate students.

I really want to get into the Marshall MBA program. Can I start with the certificate and then apply to the MBA?

Admission to the Graduate Certificate program will not change your chances of getting into the MBA program. Also, some of the courses required for this program may overlap with courses required for the MBA. That could get expensive. You should apply to the MBA program instead.

I already hold a master's degree. Do I have to submit test scores?

Holding a prior master's degree does not automatically exempt applicants from submitting the required test scores. Individuals may choose to submit an application without test scores. The admission committee will review the content of the individual's graduate degree transcript to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence that the individual is qualified for admission. The quality of the institution at which the master’s degree was earned and the individual’s GPA will be taken into consideration. If the individual attended an institution that does not issue grades or distinguishing evaluative marks, test scores are required. If the individual's performance in the graduate program was marginal, test scores will be requested. If the committee is not comfortable making a recommendation without test scores, they may be requested. Failing to submit test scores could jeopardize the individual’s admission if the committee asks for scores and the applicant is not able to take the test in time for admission.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The length of time needed to complete the program varies from student to student.

  • It  is possible to complete the certificate in one fall semester, although most students choose to complete the program over two or more semesters. (16 units is a very heavy load for one semester.)
  • Individuals who have not previously completed a master’s level accounting course must take ACCT 509 in the fall semester (ACCT 509) and may complete the program in one or more semesters.
  • International students must complete the program in no less than two semesters.
  • Domestic students and permanent residents may choose to complete the program over several years.

How much does the program cost?  (Tuition and Fees)

For those who are not already graduate students at USC, the cost of the program is around $31,000 plus books, fees, insurance, and living expenses. Fees and insurance can total more than $2,000 per year. Living expenses (housing, food, transportation, etc.) run about $20,000 per year. Current USC tuition and fee information is available at Select the next future semester and then the 'Tuition and Fees' tab on the left side of the screen. Graduate business (M.B.A.) tuition rates apply to this program. Tuition rates do increase each year.

Scholarships & Financial Aid

The Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals program is not funded to support scholarships.  Other scholarship programs might be available. Visit the USC Awards Database for more information.

This certificate is eligible for federal financial aid. For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please click here.

Career Development and Placement Services

The Marshall School of Business is not prepared to provide career development training and placement assistance to non-business professionals. Students seeking assistance in this area are advised to contact their home department or the USC Career Planning and Placement Center.

Application of Prior Degree Coursework to the Certificate

Coursework credited to a previously completed degree cannot be applied to the Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals. Current USC students who wish to pursue the certificate and a graduate degree simultaneously should consult with their degree program advisor. For those students who will be applying coursework to both programs, it is critical that the certificate be completed before or in the same semester as the degree program.

What if I took one of the required courses with a degree I completed already?

Coursework credited to a degree previously awarded by USC cannot be applied to the Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals. A suitable replacement course will be identified by the admissions team. No more than 1 of the courses required for this program can be replaced.

Application of Graduate Certificate Coursework to M.B.A. requirements

The Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals is designed for individuals who are not likely to ever wish to pursue an M.B.A. Should the student develop an interest in the M.B.A. while completing the certificate, it is recommended that the student apply to the M.B.A. program of his/her choice before completing the certificate. Because the certificate program is designed for non-business professionals, and completing the M.B.A. makes the individual a business professional, concurrent enrollment in both programs is not allowed. Certificate students who enroll in an M.B.A. program prior to completing the certificate will be dropped from the certificate program. GSBA-520 and ACCT-509 cannot be applied to a Marshall M.B.A. degree. In some cases other courses taken for the certificate might not be applicable to a subsequent M.B.A. Certificate students interested in converting or doing an M.B.A. after completing the certificate should consult with the M.B.A. program advisor.

Current USC Students - Creating a New Application

Current USC students must submit a new application to apply for admission to this program.

Applications to the Graduate Certificate are submitted on-line via

  • Start by applying for an application fee waiver. Follow the instructions under
    step 3 at or
    step 4 at
    Processing of application fee waivers usually takes 2-3 working days.
    When you try to submit your application, if the system asks for a credit card number, do NOT give it a credit card number. Contact USC Admissions to follow up on the status of your waiver.
  • If you have not used this system before, you will need to create a login and password. If you have applied to USC using this system before, use your existing login and password to retrieve your file.
  • Under the "Add Program" tab search for "Program Level" - Certificate, find the Marshall School of Business on the list, locate the semester you want to start the program, and select the Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals from the list.
  • Return to the "My Application" tab and complete the required portions of the application. Test scores and transcripts submitted to USC with your prior application should be on file in the USC admissions system, so you should not have to submit new official scores or new official transcripts, but do fill in the requested fields and upload scanned copies as requested to your application.
  • In the "Academic Background" section don't forget to add your current USC degree program to your education history and upload copies of your USC transcripts and/or STARS report.
  • In the "Program Materials" quadrant, the "Questions" are required.
  • Don't forget to "Submit Application."

What did we miss?

For more information write to or call (213) 740-3198.