University of Southern California
#39 Overall Influence#30 Desirability Rank

University of Southern California

Private research university in Los Angeles, California, United States

By James Barham, PhD

The University of Southern California (USC) was founded as the first private research university in the state (five years before Stanford) largely through the efforts of Judge Robert Widney, one of the most prominent citizens of Los Angeles at that time.

Widney’s vision was of an inclusive institution that would serve all sectors of the already-diverse LA community. Accordingly, the board of trustees he assembled included a wealthy Protestant businessman, a Catholic former-governor, and a Jewish banker. While USC was officially affiliated with the Methodist church during its early years, from the beginning its charter provided that no student would be denied admission on the basis of race.

Today, USC enrolls more than 48,000 students, of whom around a quarter (some 12,000) are international students—one of the highest percentages of any university in the country. Half of all students are undergraduates, while the other half are pursuing graduate or professional training.

Nine Nobel Prize laureates have been connected with USC, including the:

  • Physicist, Murray Gell-Mann
  • Chemist, Arieh Warshel
  • Economists, James Heckman & Angus Deaton

USC faculty member Leonard Adleman, who has a joint appointment in computer science and molecular biology, is a Turing Award–recipient.

Among its many other notable faculty and alumni, we may mention:

  • Astronaut, Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon
  • Architect, Frank Gehry
  • Electrical engineer and entrepreneur, Andrew Viterbi
  • Actors John Wayne, Tom Selleck, LeVar Burton, Cybil Shepherd, Daryl Hannah, Will Ferrell, & Forest Whitaker
  • Television producer and film director, Judd Apatow
  • Film directors, Robert Zemeckis, John Singleton, Ron Howard, & George Lucas
  • Mohamed Morsi, the former president of Egypt
  • Shinzō Abe, the current prime minister of Japan


What does this school look for?

Annual Applications




Graduation Rate


Median SAT Score


Median ACT Score



How much does it cost to attend?

Tuition (in-state)


Fees (in-state)


IncomeAverage Net Cost

After Graduation

Averages for 10 years after enrolling

Avg Earnings




Campus Life

What's it like to attend this school?

The People

Full time on-campus stats

Student Body






The Campus

Where will you be attending?


University Park, Los Angeles CA 90089

What is University of Southern California known for?

Our answer to this is to show you the disciplines in which a school's faculty and alumni have had the highest historical influence. A school may be influential in a discipline even if they do not offer degrees in that area. We've organized two lists to show where they are influential and offer corresponding degrees, and where they are influential through scholarship although they don't offer degrees in the disciplines.

Top areas of influence with degrees offered

#7 World Rank #6 USA Rank
Social Work
#14 World Rank #13 USA Rank
#15 World Rank #14 USA Rank
#34 World Rank #16 USA Rank
#21 World Rank #17 USA Rank
#31 World Rank #22 USA Rank
#30 World Rank #22 USA Rank
Computer Science
#28 World Rank #22 USA Rank
Political Science
#33 World Rank #25 USA Rank
#59 World Rank #30 USA Rank
#89 World Rank #31 USA Rank
Earth Sciences
#84 World Rank #33 USA Rank
#66 World Rank #35 USA Rank
#75 World Rank #42 USA Rank
#88 World Rank #46 USA Rank
#90 World Rank #52 USA Rank
#181 World Rank #64 USA Rank
#132 World Rank #66 USA Rank
#161 World Rank #77 USA Rank
#224 World Rank #85 USA Rank
#232 World Rank #89 USA Rank
#188 World Rank #92 USA Rank
Religious Studies

Other areas of influence

#28 World Rank #24 USA Rank
Criminal Justice
#105 World Rank #80 USA Rank

Influential People

Who are University of Southern California's Most influential alumni?

University of Southern California's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Social Work, Communications, and Business. University of Southern California’s most academically influential people include Neil Armstrong, Frank Gehry, and George Lucas.

Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong

American astronaut and the first human to walk on the moon

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Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry

Canadian-American architect

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George Lucas
George Lucas

American film director, producer and screenwriter

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John Wayne
John Wayne

American actor

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Gene Roddenberry
Gene Roddenberry

American television screenwriter and producer

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Ron Howard
Ron Howard

American film director, producer, and actor

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Martha Chase
Martha Chase

American biochemist

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Jim Lovell
Jim Lovell

American astronaut

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Andrew Viterbi
Andrew Viterbi

Italian-born American electrical engineer and businessman

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Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard

United States Navy officer, oceanographer and underwater archaeologist

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Anthony Boucher
Anthony Boucher

Editor, novelist, short story writer

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Wallace Thurman
Wallace Thurman

American novelist active during the Harlem Renaissance

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