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PhD Admissions

Your future as a leader in solving environmental problems begins with being prepared for admission to the PhD in Environmental Science and Management at the Bren School. The admissions team is here to answer your questions about eligibility, the application process, research, faculty sponsorship, and how to choose your path in a PhD program in environmental science and management. We can arrange for an online introduction to faculty and current students. Contact admissions today!

Important Dates & Deadlines

Cohorts begin during Fall Quarter annually

Online application opens September 1
Application deadline December 15
Admissions decisions March

How to Apply

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


Current UCSB Graduate Student Applicants

If you are currently a UCSB graduate student in a terminal master's degree (like the MESM or MEDS degree) and are looking to add the PhD in Environmental Science and Management, or if you're currently pursuing a PhD in another department at UCSB and wish to transfer to the Bren School, you will still need to complete the UCSB Graduate Division's online application to be considered for admission. Please select "Current UCSB Graduate Students" application type on the landing page menu of the Graduate Division's online application to complete the correct application. 

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Graduate Admissions Timeline

The Bren School’s PhD in 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.

Academic Preparation

Although the Bren School does not require that you have a master’s degree to apply for the PhD program, some faculty prefer that you do. Undergraduate coursework and related preparation required for the PhD program varies depending on the faculty member(s) with whom you wish to study. Please inquire with the faculty member directly to better understand his/her admission criteria. Sometimes the faculty members explicitly state whether or not they prefer an applicant have an advanced degree before pursuing a PhD; others might want to speak with a prospective PhD applicant before determining if master's-level courses would benefit the applicant.


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.

Review the complete UCSB Graduate Division graduate admissions eligibility requirements.

GRE Exam Scores

Please note the GRE requirement has been waived for the 2023-2024 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.

Research Tracks and Faculty Sponsorship

The Bren School PhD is mentorship-based; you will work closely with at least one Bren professor in their area of expertise. Your sponsor serves as your student advisor and the chair of your PhD committee. This faculty sponsor is also responsible for providing intellectual support and academic and career advice, as well as assisting you to obtain financial support from Graduate Student Researcher positions, Teaching Assistant positions, fellowships, and other areas of support.

Admission criteria differs by research track. The Bren PhD research tracks are:

  • Natural Science or Engineering research interests
  • Social Science research interests

Natural Science and Engineering Research Interests

Prospective students must find a faculty sponsor who expressly agrees to sponsorship to meet criteria for admission to one of these research interests. Faculty members expect that, prior to submitting an application, prospective students will contact them to explore the possibility of pursuing PhD studies under their mentorship. 

Social Science Research Interests

Applicants intending to focus on economics or political science apply to the Bren School PhD program without a faculty sponsor and instead indicate their interest in this track by selecting the "Social Science Group (economics and political science) - PhD applicants only" option on the UCSB online application for admission, under the Faculty Interests section. While applicants intending to focus on economics or political science do not have to identify a mentor at the admissions stage, they are encouraged to review faculty web pages and contact faculty for further information.

Regardless of which track you pursue, it is important that you get to know faculty and their research thoroughly before applying. Please keep in mind that due to the faculty members' busy schedules, it could take longer than two weeks for a faculty member to return a cold call or cold email. 

Important Considerations for Admission and Sponsorship:

That a faculty member may encourage you to apply does not necessarily mean that they are making a commitment to sponsor you. What it generally does mean is the faculty member is considering taking on new PhD students this year and has the necessary research funds to do so, and that your background and interests are of interest to him/her.

Although a faculty member may express interest in sponsoring you, the Bren School Admissions Committee makes the final admission decision on which PhD applicants to advance to the Graduate Division for final review. The Bren School Admissions Committee will recommend admittance only if 1) you have sufficiently strong academic qualifications, and 2) there is a high probability that your financial-support needs can be met primarily through extramural grants and/or fellowships secured by you and/or your advisor. 

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International PhD Applicants

The Bren School is home to a large number of international students and faculty, all of whom add to the diversity and global community of UCSB. Any applicant who does not have U.S. citizenship or permanent residence in the U.S. at the time of application is considered as international.

International applicants should carefully review the UCSB Graduate Division's information for international students as well as the Office of International Students & Scholar (OISS) information for prospective students. The UCSB OISS also offers information about admissions to the university, visa requirements, and the cost of attending UCSB for international graduate students, and more.


The Bren School does not require international applicants to submit a pre-application.

International applicant Grade Point Averages (GPA)

All applicants are required to self-report their GPAs 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 this scale. In fact, international students would be better off self-reporting their GPAs on their application in the same scale used by their home institution. For example, if your institution grades on a scale of 100, please report your GPA using this scale. For more details, read the UCSB Graduate Division's information about Completed Units/Credits.

English Language Proficiency Requirements

If the applicant’s first language is not English, then they are required to complete either the TOEFL or IELTS exam. Scores for either examination may be no more than two years old at the time of application. The University requires a minimum score of 550 (paper test) or 80 (computer test) for the TOEFL exam. The University requires a minimum Overall Band Score of 7.0 or higher for the IELTS exam. Foreign language proficiency exam scores can be no more than two years old at the time of application.

Exceptions to the English language placement exam may be granted to applicants who have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. Applicants who think they qualify for this exception will need to upload unofficial transcripts from their 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.

Group of PhD grads pose for graduation photo

Take the next step toward your future.

Request more information, get to know the Bren School, and start planning your application today.

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