UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

2400 Bren Hall
Telephone: (805) 893-7611
Website: www.bren.ucsb.edu

Dean: Steven D. Gaines 

Graduate Program


Application materials for MESM and Ph.D. programs are normally accepted for Fall Quarter only, and Summer Session B for the MEDS program. The application deadline for MEDS applicants is December 1.The application deadline for Ph.D. and MESM applicants is December 15. The Bren School welcomes applicants from a wide range of undergraduate majors who seek an intellectually challenging education designed to prepare them for leadership in a variety of careers in environmental problem solving. Applicants should be interested in obtaining broad and balanced training in natural science, social science, and management and participating in a program that emphasizes quantitative and analytical approaches to assessing and solving environmental problems.

MESM Prerequisites: Necessary background for the MESM degree includes two courses of college-level science, two courses of math (calculus, statistics and probability, econometrics, linear algebra, etc.) and one course in social science (economics, anthropology, sociology, environmental studies, psychology, political science, etc.). Students lacking a prerequisite course may be accepted for admission, but it is expected they will make arrangements to complete the required coursework prior to matriculation.

MEDS Prerequisites: The MEDS degree requires either a degree in an environmentally-related discipline (biology, chemistry, ecology, economics, geology, geography, governance, politics and policy, life cycle assessment, marine science, environmentally-related engineering, etc.) or strong coursework in environmentally related topics. Post-baccalaureate work experience in the environmental field also could fulfill this requirement. Applicants to the MEDS degree should have completed two courses of math (calculus and statistics). Students lacking a prerequisite course may be accepted for admission, but it is expected they will make arrangements to complete the required coursework prior to matriculation.

PhD Qualifications: Admission to the Ph.D. program is highly competitive and dependent upon acceptance by a faculty sponsor or faculty group with compatible research interests. Ph.D. applicants will be evaluated on academic performance, skills and research potential, motivational attributes, and personal achievements and contributions. To be competitive, Ph.D. applicants must demonstrate excellence in undergraduate/graduate preparatory coursework and/or research. Each faculty sponsor’s or faculty group's entrance criteria beyond these minimum requirements depends on the research focus. A master’s degree or equivalent is not required for admission.

Applicants whose native language is not English are required to take either the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. The minimum TOEFL score for consideration is 550 for the paper-based test (PBT), or 80 for the Internet-based test (IBT). The minimum IELTS score for consideration is an Overall Band Score of 7 or higher. TOEFL and IELTS scores must not be more than two years old at the time of application to UCSB. Students who have completed an undergraduate or graduate education at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English are exempt from this requirement.

Master of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) (Requirements - PDF)

The Master of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) is a professional degree intended for students who are interested in pursuing careers in the field of environmental science and management. It is not designed as an intermediate degree for the Ph.D., although MESM graduates will be well prepared for Ph.D. study. The MESM program prepares students to work in government agencies, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and consulting firms. Bren MESM graduates demonstrate clear and critical thinking, leadership skills, professionalism, and creativity that allow them to be leaders in solving the environmental problems of the 21st century.

The coursework for the master’s degree is multidisciplinary, incorporating courses in natural sciences, social sciences, law, policy, and business. The courses emphasize quantitative and analytic thinking, and train students to identify environmental problems, formulate the proper questions, and design and execute appropriate solutions, taking into account scientific knowledge (and its limits), legal constraints, and the business and social contexts of the problem. The school also brings in environmental professionals from government, business, and nonprofit organizations to ensure that students’ professional development reflects the integration of rigorous academic training with a sound understanding of real-world environmental problems and the needs of clients. The training not only teaches students to tackle current environmental problems, but also fosters their capacity for long-range thinking and prepares them to meet new challenges as they arise.

Master of Environmental Data Science (MEDS) (Requirements - PDF)

The Master of Environmental Data Science (MEDS) is a professional degree intended for students looking to gain new skills in data science, management, analysis and visualization with a focus on environmental data and problems. The MEDS degree is an 11-month program designed to provide students with a depth and breadth of data-science skills pertinent to jobs within the environmental field. Coursework includes training in programming, project management, spatial data analysis, machine learning, policy evaluation, data visualization, text and sentiment analysis, and more. The MEDS program culminates with a two-quarter capstone group project for students to work with clients and apply what they have learned in their courses to real-world problems and datasets.

By the end of the MEDS program, students will possess core knowledge of multiple programming languages, the ability to work on a technical team, experience working with a variety of data formats, and an understanding of how data science is used to communicate, analyze, and help solve environmental issues. Graduates will be prepared to work in technical roles within government agencies, NGOs, academic research, and private companies with an environmental focus. The program maintains an emphasis on job-readiness and provides students with career services to prepare them to enter the workforce after graduation.

Doctor of Philosophy—Environmental Science and Management (Requirements - PDF)

The Bren School’s Ph.D. program furthers the school’s mission of educating high-caliber future research professors while simultaneously meeting the urgent need for innovative researchers and problem-solvers in the public and private sectors. The cornerstone of the doctoral degree is original, high-quality research that focuses on diagnosis, assessment, mitigation, management, and remediation of an existing environmental problem and/or the prevention of future environmental problems. The Ph.D. program is designed to accommodate a wide range of research interests, from those highly focused in a particular discipline to those that are strongly interdisciplinary.

The Bren School offers a unique setting where students and faculty in many branches of environmental science and management interact and create new, interdisciplinary approaches to environmental problem solving. All faculty engage in research that crosses traditional boundaries, and encourage students to do so as well. Students who wish to obtain a more diverse background before focusing on one research area may enroll in the MESM program and apply to the Ph.D. program in the second year.

The Ph.D. program at the Bren School is a mentoring program. Students should choose the Bren School because their research interests are complementary to those of a specific faculty member or group of faculty.

Optional Interdisciplinary Emphases

Students pursuing a doctoral degree in Environmental Science and Management may petition to add the following Optional Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Emphases: Climate Sciences and Climate Change, Economics and Environmental Science (EES), Environment and Society (IEES), and/or Information Technology and Society (IT&S).

Requirement sheets may be found on this page.