IGPMS Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Course Requirements

Seminar Course

MARSC 595 – Seminar in Marine Science (2 units). This seminar is offered in all quarters. At a programmatic level, the purpose of the seminar is to provide direct training and preparation for academic, government, and industry employment.  There is a different focus each quarter:

  • Fall - The Fall offering of MARSC595 rotates among three topics: Professional Development, Marine Science and Society, and Proposal Writing. IGPMS students are required to enroll in MARSC595 in each of their first three years of study.
  • Winter - Students develop professional communication training through presentation of their research and subsequent guidance and feedback about scientific presentation skills. All IGPMS students are required to enroll in MARSC595 in winter quarter every year.
  • Spring - Visiting and local speakers present on a variety of topics to a general marine science audience, providing professional network opportunities. All IGPMS students are required to enroll in MARSC595 in Spring quarter every year. 
IGPMS-CORE Graduate Curriculum

Completion of 4 of the 5 courses below from the Marine Science core curriculum:

  • EEMB 243 (Biological Oceanography)
  • GEOL 266 or GEOG 267 (Chemical Oceanography)
  • GEOL 276 (Geological Oceanography)
  • GEOG 263 (Introduction to Physical Oceanography)
  • EEMB 242 (Marine Ecology & Conservation)

Completion of 16 additional units of upper-division and graduate level courses in marine science and in the student's area of specialty, exclusive of courses numbered 596 and higher.

Teaching Assistant Courses

There is no TA requirement for IGPMS, but students interested in pursuing an academic career are encouraged to TA at least once in their graduate careers. TAships are coordinated with the student’s advisor’s home department and Graduate Program Assistant. Graduate students who will be new TAs are required to attend a mandatory TA Orientation held prior to the start of the fall quarter.

Degree Checklist

Graduate Handbooks

2021-2022474.92 KB
2020-2021365.89 KB
2018-2019204.76 KB
2016-2017537.09 KB

Graduate Council Regulations Regarding Committees

  • Minimum of 3 UC ladder faculty, 2 (including Chair) must be in home department
  • Additional members may be at departmental discretion

Departmental Committees Requirement

Students are required to complete both written examinations within two years after enrolling in the Ph.D. program. Doctoral students, in consultation with their advisor and doctoral committee, chose two fields of study for their written exams. One will be a sub-discipline within ecology and/or evolution and the other may be another sub-discipline or may be in another discipline entirely but related to the development of the student's Ph.D. research. The student's reading and research in the period of foundation building will prepare them for the upcoming exams.

Written Exams

What to Expect

Written exams will test a student's understanding and their ability to work with material and ideas in the field at a level above that expected in an upper division undergraduate class. The qualifying exam is a written, two-day exam. On Day 1 students answer a choice of 2 out of 3 short-essay (about 15 minute) questions in each of the 4 core course areas (biological oceanography, geological oceanography, physical oceanography, and chemical oceanography). On Day 2 students answer a choice of 2 out of 3 integrative questions, each requiring about 1 hour to complete. Students should plan to spend at least a few weeks of intense directed preparation immediately before the exam. Please see the IGPMS handbook for more information.

Penalties for Falling Off Schedule

To pass the written exam, students must receive a pass on 8 out of the 10 questions, and must not fail two questions in the same section. Students that fail three or more questions overall on the written exam in Spring quarter must take an oral exam by the end of November before a faculty committee of three or more members, comprised of faculty representing the core subject areas of the failed questions plus the student's faculty advisor.


When progress reports are sent to students and their advisors at the end of each academic year, students with outstanding conditions on their qualifying exam will be informed that they cannot schedule their oral Ph.D. Candidacy exam (which should be taken no later than the end of Fall quarter of the third year) until they either have fulfilled the specified conditions and hence passed their qualifying exam, or they have obtained a letter of postponement or waiver for their file that is approved and signed by the IGPMS Chair.

Oral Exams

To be completed within three years after enrolling in the Ph.D. program.

What to Expect

The oral exam is usually a broad based exam testing a student's knowledge and ability to work with material in the basic science areas relevant to their research. The exam will include the student's area of specialty and the dissertation prospectus.

Students who do not pass their oral exam by the end of their fourth year are placed on academic probation by the Graduate Division. Students petition to be advanced to candidacy after passing this exam.

The expectations are outlined in the IGPMS handbook located on the Graduate Program Resources resources page.

Advancing to Candidacy

After passing the oral exam, a student will be "Advanced to Candidacy". That has two possible effects on a student's life. First, a student becomes eligible for doctoral candidate borrowing privileges at the Davidson Library. It also means that non-resident supplemental tuition will be waived for three years for international students. Since IGPMS students generally don't pay their own fees, this may not seem important, but whatever source is supporting them (departmental funds, grants, etc.) may benefit, by allowing resources to be used to support other students. Note, to advance to candidacy officially, you must file the Doctoral Form II with the Graduate Division and pay a fee (currently $50). For more information, please review the handbook located on the Graduate Program Resources page.

Penalties for Falling Off Schedule

If the oral exam is not completed within 3 years, the student will receive a warning that they are falling off schedule, and that the exam must be completed within the next year or they may be placed on academic probation by Graduate Division. Students failing to successfully complete their oral examinations and advance to candidacy within 4 years will be placed on academic probation unless the Department petitions Graduate Division not to do so. This requires a solid justification.

Students who have not completed their oral exam and advanced to candidacy within 5 years after enrolling in the Ph.D. program may be dropped from the program.


Students who fail their oral examination are allowed to retake the exam once only. The second exam must be taken within one year.


During this period, the student is actively engaged in research including experiments, observations, analysis and writing. Students must manage their time wisely between demands for research, teaching, and public and professional service. It is important that students stay engaged with other graduate students for discussions and feedback, and with their adviser and the other members of their doctoral committee. The worst thing that a student can hear when they think they are finished with their research is "You need to have done…" The only way to ensure this doesn't happen is through regular interaction with the advisory committee.

Presentation of Dissertation

The main thing a student needs to do after advancing to candidacy is to finish their dissertation. The official guidelines for format and filing requirements are available in the Guide to Filing of Theses and Dissertations. During the time a student is focusing on their research and writing, it is important that they stay in touch with their committee. A final presentation must be in an open forum upon nearing completion of his / her dissertation.

Normative Time

This is the length that the Department believes is a reasonable amount of time for a student to complete a Ph.D. In IGPMS, normative time is 6 years following enrollment as a graduate student (in either a M.S. or Ph.D. track). If a student hasn't completed their Ph.D. within normative time, they lose the reduced fee benefit they may have received when they advanced to candidacy.

Maximum Time

In accordance with university policy students who have not completed their degree within 7 years of enrolling in the program must petition the Graduate Committee and the Graduate Dean to remain in the program. The petition must outline reasons for not completing the degree and an acceptable alternate completion schedule.

Final Defense

A final examination defending the dissertation will be made after the written dissertation is completed. Students may petition to have the final oral examination waived, and to give a public seminar of their dissertation research, in lieu. Petition forms to waive the final defense are provided to the Department by the Graduate Division and are available from the departmental office. This is a 50 minute talk in Power Point. Students may present this talk up to 6 months before actually filing their thesis.