Ph.D. in Environment and Sustainability

Applications for fall 2019 admission will be available on September 10, 2018.


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 for Fall 2019.

Applications for admission will be available in September, and applications must be submitted by December 15, 2018 to be considered for Fall 2019 admission.

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.

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
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores from a test completed within the past five years
  • 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
  • Two personal statements, each with suggested length of no more than 1,000 words:
    • First Statement: Please follow the instructions for the “Personal History Statement” on the general graduate admissions form, with one modification. As part of this statement, please include, as appropriate for you, some discussion about your experience with research. This might include, for example, discussion of research projects you have been engaged in or observed, what you learned from these, what you found particularly rewarding or challenging about them, or how these experiences and observations have influenced your current ambitions and plans.
    • Second Statement: We want to hear about your plans and ambitions – for graduate study and beyond – and how these relate to this PhD program in particular. What do you want to do, what do you want to know, what questions do you want to answer? This can be as broad or as specific and detailed as you wish. Why are you applying to this interdisciplinary environment and sustainability program, rather than to a disciplinary graduate program in one of the fields most relevant to your interests? Please upload this statement in the “Supporting Document” section of the application.

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 (international applicants please see section below):

The general application form provides space to upload unofficial transcripts from your prior university study. You do not need to send official transcripts during the application process.

If you are offered admission, one official transcript from all prior university study must be sent directly to the Institute’s address from the registrar of the academic institution you attended. UCLA graduates please note: you do not need to submit official copies of UCLA transcripts.

Attention: Harrison Levy
Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
La Kretz Hall, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1496

International applicant transcripts:  International applicants must submit official transcripts during the application process. Official academic records must show the dates of enrollment; the subjects or courses taken, together with the units of credit or time allotted to each subject and, if rank is determined, rank in the total class or group. The records must also include a complete description of the institution’s grading scale or other standard of evaluation. Maximum and minimum marks and the steps between them must be indicated. 

Unless academic records and diplomas are routinely issued in English by the institution, the official records in their original language must be submitted with an authorized, complete, and exact English translation. Please see https://grad.ucla.edu/admissions/required-academic-records/ for more information. Please send these documents to the address listed above.

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.

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