Classes During a Student’s Program

During their first two years in the program, students are required to complete a series of classes in marketing as well as in other departments in Marshall and USC at large.

Within marketing, PhD students complete four marketing seminars (two in quantitative
marketing and strategy, two in consumer behavior). These seminars cover the key areas of
academic marketing research and provide students a broad perspective of the field of marketing.


Semester Title of required marketing class
Fall, even years

MKT 613: Marketing Models in Consumer and Business-to-Business Markets

Spring, odd years MKT 616: Consumer Behavior Theory and Research
Fall, odd years MKT 615 Strategic and Marketing Mix Models
Spring, even years MKT 618: Consumer Behavior and Decision Making

In addition, students take classes in other departments in the business school (e.g., Management and Organizational Behavior, Data Science), as well as in departments across campus (e.g., economics, psychology, statistics, computer science).

First Year Summer Research Paper

The first year paper allows students to develop their own research interest and to demonstrate their research potential. Students develop an original research question and provide initial tests of their predictions. A faculty mentor and other marketing faculty form the first year research paper committee that guides the student’s process.

Qualifying Exam

Following the spring semester of their second year, students will take part in a qualifying exam that leads to the assessment of whether the student is ready for ascension to candidacy. The topics pursued in the qualifying exam often evolve into a substantial portion of the student’s dissertation. A faculty mentor and other faculty members from marketing and from outside the department form the qualifying exam committee that guides the student’s process.

After passing the qualifying exam, students are admitted to PhD candidacy and pursue their research, culminating in their dissertation.

Research Mentorship

Students work with different research mentors over the course of the program. In the first two years, students work with different faculty member each semester, in order to expose students to different researchers and research approaches. By the end of year two, students should have identified a primary research mentor who will guide them until completion of the dissertation, i.e., their faculty advisor.

Year 1: In year 1, the research mentor aims to advise the student with their courses, studies, and overall strategies in the program. Students may assist with a faculty research project if it offers a good learning experience and does not interfere with classes and other program requirements. In some cases, the relationship may involve the student working on their own research project, in which case the research mentor serves as an advisor. Further, the research mentor may be involved in guiding the development of the first-year paper.

Year 2: In year 2, the student should gain further research skills by assisting the faculty mentor with a research project that offers a good learning experience. Activities may include data collection, data cleaning, data organizing, coding, and estimation for empirical projects, and checking models and proofs for theoretical projects. In some cases, the relationship may involve the student working on their own research project, in which case the research mentor serves as an advisor. Further, the research mentor advises the student in developing the second-year paper.

Year 3: In year 3, the student will continue to gain research skills by working on research projects from previous years that should involve different faculty. If not yet done, the student will start developing their own research projects and agenda. The research mentor will primarily serve as an advisor.

Year 4: In year 4, the student will continue to improve their research skills, advancing research projects from previous years, and start new ones. The research mentor will continue to serve as an advisor.

Year 5: In year 5, the research mentor serves to advise the student on completion of the dissertation. In most cases, the advisor will serve as the student’s dissertation chair.