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 are available from the Bren School and are normally accepted for fall quarter only. Ph.D. applicants who want to be considered for the campus-wide fellowship competition must apply no later than December 15. The application deadline for MESM applicants is January 11.

The Bren School welcomes applicants from varied 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.

Necessary background for the master’s program includes one year of college-level science, one semester or two quarters of calculus, and one course in statistics. A course in microeconomics also is recommended, but not required, to prepare for the master's program. Students lacking some of this preparation may be accepted for admission, but it is expected that deficiencies will be made up prior to entrance by means of formal course work or other arrangements agreed upon by the applicant and the School. A small number of deficiencies may be made up during the first year in residence, but these courses will not count toward the unit requirements for the MESM degree.

Admission to the Ph.D. program is highly competitive and dependent upon acceptance by a faculty sponsor having compatible research interests. To be competitive, Ph.D. applicants must have a high upper-division/graduate GPA, excellent GRE scores, and strong undergraduate/graduate preparatory coursework and/or research. Each faculty sponsor’s entrance criteria beyond these minimum requirements depends upon his or her 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. Exemptions to this requirement will be considered for those students who have completed an undergraduate or graduate education at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English. 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. Requests for exceptions to this requirement will be considered for students who have completed an undergraduate or graduate education at an institution whose primary language of instruction is English.

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. Students are trained 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.

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 an original work of high-quality research that focuses on the diagnosis, assessment, mitigation, management, and remediation of an existing environmental problem and/or the prevention of future environmental problems. The 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 environment where students and faculty in many branches of environmental science and management are able to interact and create new approaches to environmental problem solving. All faculty engage in research that crosses traditional boundaries, and students are encouraged to do so as well. While crossing of boundaries is encouraged, the traditional requirement that the dissertation be of exceptional quality is upheld, which requires that students become experts in their fields (whether their fields have a multidisciplinary or disciplinary focus). Students who wish to obtain a stronger multidisciplinary background before focusing on one research area should enroll in our 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:  Economics and Environmental Science (EES), Environment and Society, Technology and Society.

Requirement sheets may be found on this page.