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Admissions: MESM Program

Bren’s Master of Environmental Science and Management degree is a two-year professional degree program focused on developing solutions to critical environmental problems while preparing students for careers in environmental science and management. This program is full-time and held on-campus.

What you gain from the Bren MESM program goes beyond the knowledge and skills to be an environmental leader. You’ll gain the training and confidence to impress employers and make real change in sustainability, conservation, environmental policy, and much more.

Important Dates & Deadlines

Cohorts begin during Fall Quarter annually

Online Application Opens September 1
Application Deadline December 15
Admissions Decisions March
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How to Apply

Review our application guide on how to apply to the MESM program, including a required materials checklist, information about fees and fee waivers, and more.

Graduate Admissions Timeline

The Bren School’s Master of Environmental Science and Management program accepts applications for Fall matriculation only.

Holistic Admissions Approach

The Bren School proudly stands by a holistic admissions process. Bren's admissions committee looks for well-rounded applicants with excellent academic performance, maturity, work experience, great letters of recommendation, and strong personal statements. Each applicant offers a unique suite of experiences and accomplishments that are fully considered by the admissions committee.

We believe holistic admissions is important to diversity and inclusivity at the Bren School, and to removing barriers to gaining a first-rate graduate education. Please read about Bren's holistic admissions process to understand how we weigh and consider your application materials, as well as how to request an application fee waiver. 

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Admissions Eligibility

The Bren School is a graduate school within the Graduate Division of UC Santa Barbara. Applications to the Bren School are completed through the UCSB Online Graduate Application. Please note that you may apply to only one department at UCSB per admissions cycle.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

UC Santa Barbara requires applicants to receive a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) from an accredited four-year institution prior to starting a graduate program. The undergraduate minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) is 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.

In rare cases, Bren can petition the UCSB Graduate Division to admit a student who has a GPA that is slightly below 3.0 if the rest of the application is extremely strong and unusual circumstances may have contributed to the lower undergraduate GPA. You can only apply to one graduate program at a time during the admissions cycle.

Review the complete UCSB Graduate Division graduate admissions eligibility requirements.

GRE Exam Scores

Please note the GRE requirement has been waived for the 2024-2025 admissions cycle. The Bren School will not be accepting any GRE scores at this time. The requirement will continue to be evaluated on an annual basis moving forward.

Academic Preparation

The MESM program at the Bren School values a diverse student body and we welcome applicants from any undergraduate major. However, the Bren faculty expect applicants to have completed the following minimum prerequisite coursework:

Science – two courses (quarter or semester)
You may meet the science prerequisite requirement through any combination of two courses in chemistry, biology, physics, earth science, or atmospheric science (including lower- and upper-division courses). To get an idea of relevant topics for prior study, review syllabi for MESM core courses, particularly ESM 201 Ecology of Managed Ecosystems, ESM 202 Environmental Biogeochemistry, and ESM 203 Earth System Science.

Math – two courses (quarter or semester) 
The Bren School emphasizes quantitative and analytical approaches to environmental problem solving, so it is essential for you to have an adequate mathematical foundation. You may meet the math prerequisite by taking at least two math courses including calculus, statistics and probability, econometrics, or linear algebra, among others.

Social Science – one course (quarter or semester)
Solving environmental problems requires understanding not only science-based solutions, but also the social, political and economic context to determine feasibility. You may meet the social science prerequisite by taking at least one course in economics, anthropology, sociology, environmental studies, psychology, or political science, among others.  
Important things to consider:

  • Only courses earned with a grade of C or higher will be counted toward meeting MESM prerequisite requirements.
  • Prerequisite courses may be met through any accredited two- or four-year college or university (including community colleges). Courses completed through online education platforms (such as Coursera) are not accepted.
  • If you wish to use Advanced Placement (AP) credit to count toward meeting the MESM prerequisites, please include course summaries in the Prerequisite Verification Form when you submit your application.

Applying Without Full Academic Preparation
If you are lacking preparation in a prerequisite area, we still encourage you to apply. You must include a memo in your application outlining how you plan to rectify the deficiency before enrolling, if admitted. Presenting a good plan will strengthen your application. While you are not required to have finished all of the prerequisite coursework for admission, you must have it all completed before enrolling in Bren School courses.

Holistic Admissions Approach
Please read about Bren's holistic admissions process to understand how we weigh and consider your application materials, as well as how to request an application fee waiver.

International Student Eligibility

In addition to reviewing the following information, we recommend that international applications do the following:


All applicants are required to self-report their Grade Point Averages (GPA) on their UCSB online application. Although most institutions in the United States use a 4.0 scale (including UCSB), international students do not need to convert their GPAs to the U.S. grading scale. You are required to self-report your GPA on your application in the same scale used by your home institution. Read more details about Completed Units/Credits 

English language exam for non-native speakers

If your native language is not English, then you are required to complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam, or the Duolingo English Test (DET). TOEFL ITP Plus, TOEFL Essentials, IELTS One Skill Retake, and other exams not specifically noted in the Graduate Division's English Language Examination admissions requirements will not be accepted. Exams scores must be within two years of the date of application. The University requires a minimum score of 550 (paper test) or 80 (computer test) for the TOEFL exam, a minimum overall band score of 7.0 or higher for the IELTS exam, and a minimum total score of 120 for the DET exam. Be sure to check the above Graduate Division's webpage for more information before you apply.

The Bren School generally does not admit students to the MESM program unless they have TOEFL, IELTS or DET scores significantly higher than the minimum required by the University. Bren’s master’s programs are rigorous and do not allow time for students to develop their English skills simultaneously. In addition, there is a considerable amount of group work which requires a high-level of proficiency in English.

Exceptions to English language proficiency exams may be granted to applicants who have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. If you think you qualify for this exception, you will need to upload unofficial transcripts from your institution and indicate on the online application that it is an English instruction-only institution. There are no additional forms or steps necessary at the time of application.

All non-native English speakers who are admitted to UCSB—even those having an acceptable TOEFL, IELTS, or DET score—must take the university's English Language Placement Exam (ELPE) before Fall quarter courses begin. The Bren School expects students to have completed all English as a Second Language (ESL) courses recommended by the test results prior (or concurrently) to starting coursework at Bren.

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Take the next step toward your future.

Request more information, bring your questions to a webinar with our admissions manager, or start or complete your online application.

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