Academic Requirements


Registering for classes

To register for classes, go to WebReg and select the classes or research units you want. Remember, in the Fall, Winter, and Spring quarter, every students must be registered in 12 units (classes or research) to receive financial support. This is also very important for international students who need to maintain their visa status.

The exact deadlines vary every year, but making sure you are registered in early September (Fall), early December (Winter), and early March (Spring) should prevent you from having to pay late fees.

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Required Courses

First-year students are expected to enroll in core courses that cover physical, geological, chemical, and biological oceanography. Each first-year student is assigned a guidance committee consisting of three faculty members who provide the student with advice about courses of study. By the end of the first year, students select an area of focus and choose an adviser. Programs of study for the first year vary among the three programs.

Please click on the link to your curricular group to access their academic and course requirements.
COAP: Applied Ocean Science , Climate Science, Physical Oceanography
MBP: Biological Oceanography, Marine Biology
GEO: Geophysics, Geosciences, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry

Requirement checklists are made available by the department, but they should be used as guidelines only. Always discuss with your adviser the best course of action for you.

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Departmental Exam

2018 Test Dates and Additional Test Information

At the end of the first year, students are required to take the Departmental Examination, administered by their curricular group. Expectations and format vary with the curricular group. Not passing the examination does not necessarily mean a failure. The examination committee may:

  • give you an opportunity to retake the examination at a later date.
  • give you an opportunity to take a focused examination on the areas in which you did poorly.
  • recommend that you leave the program (possibly with a terminal MS degree).

Curricular Group Test Format

Applied Ocean Sciences: The exam has both oral and written components and is administered at the end of spring quarter.

Biological Oceanography: The exam is an oral examination at the end of the first academic year.

Climate Science: The exam format consists of a written and an oral portion and is administered at the end of spring quarter.

Geophysics: The written exam is administered at the end of spring quarter and is based on the coursework. The oral exam, administered before fall of second year, is based on papers assigned to read, which are targeted at the student's interests. A brief presentation of research interests will also be expected at the oral exam.

Geoscience: The written portion, administered at the end of spring quarter, consists of two essay questions to be completed in two weeks. The oral exam before the fall of second year consists of a 30 to 45 minute presentation of research that the student has conducted during the first year and summer.

Marine Chemistry: A written exam is administered at the end of spring quarter. Before fall quarter of the second year, the student will read a paper assigned by each committee member, and is expected to answer questions that synthesize their course work with the contents of these papers as part of an oral examination.

Marine Biology: In the spring term, students will take an exam consisting of a presentation of their first-year research in the form of a paper and short talk to the curricular group, followed by a meeting with their first-year advisory committee. In this exam they also will be expected to demonstrate competence in the material covered in their required courses.

Physical Oceanography: A written and oral exam at the end of spring quarter during which students will demonstrate their knowledge of material covered in the four required courses.

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Annual Evaluation

The Graduate Council policy requires doctoral students to be evaluated every spring in order for financial support to be continued. Pre-candidacy students require the adviser’s and student’s signatures. Once the student advances to candidacy, this evaluation will require the signatures of three members of the student’s doctoral committee and the student.

Prior to advancement to candidacy, a course checklist will be a component of the Spring Evaluation. The checklist will also be reviewed at the Departmental Examination and the Qualifying Examination.

Students are required to submit a self-evaluation. The self-evaluation questions are completed prior to the evaluation being routed to the student’s adviser for their feedback.

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Ethics requirement: Before taking their qualifying exam, all PhD students are required to complete one of the following responsible conduct of research courses:

  • SIOG 232, Ethical and Professional Science (spring)
  • SIOC 273, Professional Ethics in Science (winter)
  • one of the UCSD Ethics Courses.

SIO policies dictate that all students must take their qualifying examination and advance to candidacy no later than the end of their third year.

For the Qualifying Exam, students will assemble a Doctoral Committee. Doctoral Committees in the Scripps Department consist of a minimum of five (5) members who hold instructional titles and at least four (4) of the five (5) members must hold professorial titles of any rank. Committee members are chosen from at least two departments, and at least two members must represent academic specialties that differ from the student’s specialty. All committees must include one tenured or emeritus UCSD faculty member from outside the student’s major department. Students must have the doctoral committee membership approved by the Department at least three weeks prior to the scheduled examination date. The student and adviser will choose a date for the examination. The entire committee must be present at the exam.

The above text represents a summary of committee requirements.  For a more comprehensive overview and explanation, please refer to the Student Handbook and this PPT.  Please refer any questions or sample committees to the Graduate Coordinator, Gilbert Bretado.  Please do not make any assumptions on committee eligibility, and always check with the Graduate Coordinator.

When the examination date is scheduled, the student must contact the Graduate Coordinator, Gilbert Bretado, so that the examination is added to the department calendar. The Report of the Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy form must be signed by all committee members and returned to the graduate coordinator, who will obtain the department chair’s signature.

When all of the signatures have been obtained, the student must take the form to the cashier’s office on upper campus, pay the $50 advancement to candidacy fee, and drop the form off at the Graduate Division (Graduate Division). Following this, the student will receive a copy of the form and a letter from Graduate Division that confirms their advancement to candidacy.

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Establishing Residency

The following students are required to file for California residency in the summer after their first year - bear in mind that steps may need to be taken as soon as you arrive in California:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Permanent resident or other immigrant, or
  • Nonimmigrant who is not precluded from establishing a domicile in the United States, including those who hold valid visas of the following types: A, E, G, H1, H4, I, K, L, O1, O3, R, or V
  • Those with conferred lawful presence in the U.S. through Deferred Action for Childhood
  • Arrivals (DACA) and hold an approved I-821D.

Students who meet one of the above criteria should begin collecting the appropriate documentation as soon as they arrive in California. In the summer following their first year, these students will be required to complete the Change of Classification petition and apply for California residency.

Should a student's petition be denied, it will be the student's responsibility to pay any non- resident supplemental tuition until their petition is approved and residency status is updated.

Complete information on the process, filing dates, and required documentation can be found on the Registrar's website. Students should refer to the 12 items requested by the Registrar's Office when submitting the Change of Classification petition.

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