Environment and Sustainability Ph.D. Admission

The deadline for submitting an application for admission is December 15.

UCLA’s PhD program in Environment and Sustainability seeks to recruit a diverse class of students who are keen to do path-breaking research to advance understanding and capacity for effective action on high-stakes societal challenges related to environment and sustainability.  As a newly established doctoral program with a deep commitment to supporting studies that are innovative and interdisciplinary, we seek students who are ambitious, confident, and entrepreneurial.  While we expect that the most successful candidates will have strong grounding in one or more of the research or scholarly disciplines relevant to environment and sustainability challenges, this program is most suited for students whose ambitions are too broad or too novel to be effectively addressed within a conventional disciplinary PhD program.

We expect to admit 4 to 5 students each fall. 

Overall approach to evaluating applications

Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree.  In addition, the program’s specific requirements for applications are listed below.  While we require these materials for all applications, we stress that our evaluation of applications will be holistic.  We will weigh all aspects of applications to form an assessment of candidates’ likely fit with, and contribution to, the program. We do not make admission decisions based on any single factor, including standardized test scores.

Application requirements:

Applications to the PhD program in Environment and Sustainability must be submitted online via the general application form for admission to graduate study at UCLA.

In addition to the general application requirements specified on that form, applicants to the PhD program in Environment and Sustainability are requested to submit the following. The general application form provides instructions how to submit letters of recommendation, as well as instructions how to upload additional materials as files.

  • Please scroll to the bottom of this page for more information regarding transcripts
  • For applicants whose native language is not English, scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examinations.
  • Three letters of recommendation, with letters from faculty members preferred.
  • GRE Optional: Students are not required to take the GRE or submit a GRE score report as part of their application package. However, students may voluntarily submit GRE test scores and they will be reviewed as part of the holistic application consideration. The applications with GRE scores will not be given greater weight than those that do not include scores.
  • Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose. In your responses to the “Statement of Purpose” and “Personal Statement” on the general graduate application, please make sure to address the following points of particular interest to the Environment and Sustainability PhD program, in addition to whatever else you wish to include:
    • First, briefly tell us about your engagement with research: for example, your research experience, research ambitions for your doctoral studies, and how you think you might pursue them (note: We recognize that your present plans may be preliminary and exploratory).
    • Second, this program is committed to interdisciplinarity in research and scholarship. To help us assess the fit of your ambitions for this program, please identify what disciplinary fields of study are most relevant to your aims – and also tell us why you think the Environment and Sustainability PhD is a better fit for you than a disciplinary graduate program in one of these fields.
    • Finally, please identify any UCLA faculty you have communicated with as potential advisors.

Preliminary consultation with potential advisors:

To promote interdisciplinarity as the core of the program’s identity, each student’s program of study and dissertation research will be guided by two advisors, from distinct areas of research and scholarship.

We strongly encourage applicants to identify prospective areas of study, and to identify and communicate with at least one potential advisor before completing an application. 

Prospective advisors of students in the program will typically be drawn from the large number of UCLA faculty who make up the regular faculty and affiliated faculty of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.  If appropriate, advisors may also be drawn from other UCLA faculty, who represent a vast range of expertise across the physical and life sciences, humanities, fine arts, social sciences, and major fields of professional training. If you are unsure how to identify faculty whose interests and expertise fit with your aims, you might first contact a member of the PhD program’s Executive Committee, or the program’s administrative staff. 

The availability and interest of faculty advisors in applicants’ areas of interest will be one factor considered in admissions decisions.

Submitting Transcripts

You do not need to send official transcripts during the application process. The general application form provides space to upload unofficial transcripts from your prior university study. If admitted to UCLA, applicants must submit official, final academic records at that time.

Please see https://grad.ucla.edu/admissions/required-academic-records for more information. 

Which program should I apply for, the Environmental Science and Engineering D. Env. or the Environment and Sustainability Ph.D.?

The UCLA Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IoES) has two doctoral programs, the professional doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering (D.Env.) and the Ph.D. in Environment and Sustainability. Both programs are interdisciplinary, both equip students with diverse perspectives to tackle pressing environmental issues, and both provide opportunities to interact with students and faculty across all the programs and projects of IoES, and more broadly across UCLA.

Environmental Science and Engineering, D.Env.

  • A professionally oriented program – the only professional environmental doctorate in the nation.
  • Emphasizes interactions between science, engineering, public policy, economics, and law in the protection of the environment and public health.
  • Students spend two years on campus completing courses, including a major applied “Problems Course” completed in the second year.
  • The dissertation is completed off campus, typically in two years, while the student is in professional residence at an environmentally focused organization – a business, public agency, consulting firm, environmental group, or non-profit organization.
  • Of the program’s 250 alumni, about 90 percent are in non-academic careers in the public, private, or non-profit sectors.  

Environment and Sustainability, Ph.D.

  • A research oriented program
  • Newly established, with the inaugural class starting in Fall 2018
  • Emphasizes interdisciplinarity and innovation in research to understand paramount environment and sustainability challenges
  • Students have two advisors, from distinct disciplinary backgrounds
  • Students develop an individualized program of courses in consultation with their advisors, including a small number of core courses plus additional courses that develop the foundation of knowledge and skills to support the student’s research aims, in their dissertation and their subsequent career.
  • Students are typically in residence through the entire program. 
  • The program will prepare students for a wide range of academic and research careers, as well as careers in environment and sustainability in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

If you are unsure which program is right for you, we are happy to discuss it with you – or to help you transfer your application between programs.

Apply now