MS/PhD and PhD

Learning Objectives

PhD students in Environmental Health Sciences are trained to become global leaders in research and teaching in the broad, interdisciplinary field of environmental health sciences. Graduates of the Environmental Health Sciences doctoral program can be found working throughout the world, in both the public and private sectors. Graduates hold positions at top global universities; in national and international organizations; in local, state, and federal government; in voluntary health organizations; and in the corporate sector. While completing the PhD program, our graduates work to:

  • Clarify critical gaps in scientific knowledge that impede the resolution of environmental health problems and plan and execute original research that will lead to solutions of such problems.
  • Conceive, develop and conduct original research leading to useful applications in environmental health sciences, toxicology, environmental health policy or industrial hygiene.
  • Apply advanced methodology to research projects in environmental health sciences and develop new research methods to address environmental health problems.
  • Develop and demonstrate written and oral communications skills by preparing papers, summaries, briefings and presentations regarding environmental health science.

Students in the EHS Ph.D. program also have the opportunity to complete a Designated Emphasis in Computational and Genomic Biology (see details).


Direct admission to the Ph.D. program requires a master's degree in a relevant subject. Exceptionally well qualified students without a master's degree, but who wish to pursue a doctoral degree can apply for admission to the M.S./Ph.D. program. This program requires mastery of the subject matter normally gained in the M.S. or M.P.H. programs and, as a consequence, may take somewhat longer to complete the full doctoral requirements than those entering with a prior master's degree.


Most successful Ph.D. applicants establish rapport with potential faculty mentors in the division long before applying to the program. Prospective students applying directly to the Ph.D. program should contact faculty members whose research is of interest to them about the possibility of mentorship as soon as possible. Prospective applicants should closely read recent faculty research, and recently funded grant abstracts, and be prepared to discuss with faculty how their specific skills, interests and career goals intersect with the activities in the faculty member's research group. Most successful Ph.D. applicants are in communication with faculty about these issues no later than the summer before the application deadline.

Required Courses

For a list of Ph.D. program course requirements, please consult the student handbook.

Other Requirements

Ph.D. students take two examinations as part of their programs. The EHS Graduate Group Preliminary Exam normally takes place after 3-4 semesters of course work and requires writing a NIH-style proposal for research of interest to the student. It is followed by an oral portion that may cover general knowledge in the environmental health field as well as details related to the submitted proposal. After successful completion of the Preliminary Exam, students are expected to take the Qualifying Exam within a few months. The format of this exam follows the guidelines laid down by Graduate Division. More details of both exams are available from the EHS Student Administrator and the Chair of the EHS Graduate Group. 
After the Qualifying Examination has been taken, a formal report on the results, signed by all committee members, must be sent to the Graduate Division. Forms for this purpose are available from the Division Manager and in 417 University Hall. The Division Manager will retain a copy of the report for EHS files and will forward the report to the School and Graduate Division. 
When the student has satisfied all requirements and passed the qualifying examination, the student must complete an application for Advancement to Candidacy form (forms are available in 417 University Hall). The student must return the completed application, with the appropriate signatures, to the Student Services Office in 417 University Hall. The application must also be accompanied by a check for the candidacy fee (currently $65.00) made payable to the Regents of the University of California. Please provide the Program Assistant with a copy of your completed advancement to candidacy application. The Graduate Division computes time in candidacy from the semester following the one in which the student passed the Qualifying Examination. 
Students who have been advanced to candidacy are eligible to apply for the doctoral student support award for research administered by the School of Public Health (contact a Student Services Officer in the School of Public Health, 417 University Hall, for more information). 
The Graduate Council requires all doctoral students advanced to candidacy to meet annually with at least two members of their dissertation committees. This Annual Review of Doctoral Candidates is part of the Graduate Council's efforts to improve the doctoral completion rate and to shorten the time it takes to obtain a doctorate. The Program Assistant will distribute the form to be used for the review at the end of each Spring semester. On the form the student states what progress has been made toward the degree and itemizes the requirements that remain to be completed. The dissertation committee members should comment on the student's progress and objectives. In turn, the student has an opportunity to make final comments. A copy of the evaluation form is forwarded to the Graduate Degrees and Petitions Office and is included in the student's file. 
Doctoral students who have completed all requirements except for the filing of their dissertations can apply for Filing Fee Status. There are strict eligibility requirements for the filing fee which is used by EHS students only when the dissertation or thesis is completed except for the "final" reading by the committee. Filing Fee may be applied for only once per degree and the fee will not be refunded or transferred because the dissertation has not been filed with the Graduate Division. Therefore, it is very important that students not submit a filing fee application unless they are certain their dissertation will be filed within the next one to four months. Applications can be obtained from the EHS Division Manager and at the Student Services Office in 417 University Hall. Applications must be submitted to the Student Services Office and be accompanied by a check for the application fee (currently $178.25) payable to the Regents of the University of California. Please provide the Division Manager with a copy of your completed filing fee application. 
Specific formatting instructions for the doctoral dissertation can be obtained from the Degrees Staff in 302 Sproul Hall. 
During the entire period of study, a doctoral student is required to be in continuous registration, except during those semesters for which the Dean has approved a petition for withdrawal, or during the semester when the Filing Fee is used in lieu of registration.


All EHS doctoral students have a primary faculty advisor who provides guidance on their intended course of study and areas of research interest. Advisors may be changed by mutual consent. Students are expected to meet with their advisors at the beginning of each term and are encouraged to do so more often. 
Group advising sessions will be held occasionally during the academic year. Students are encouraged to attend these sessions to learn more about general academic policies, recommended courses, and other developments in EHS.