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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 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.

Research Track and Faculty Sponsorship

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

Prospective students should choose their area of research interest and identify a faculty member within that research area who agrees to sponsor them for admission to the Bren School. 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. 

It is important that you get to know faculty and their research thoroughly before applying to ensure expertise in your research interests are represented at the Bren School. 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. 

Two people laughing and discussing research poster

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 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 PhD 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.

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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