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
OBP: 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 and guidance committee the best course of action for you.

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Departmental Exam

At the end of the first year, Ph.D. students are required to take the Departmental Examination, administered by their curricular group. The Departmental Examination is intended to test the general scientific background of the student, the ability to integrate material from specific courses in analyzing new problems, demonstration of a reasonable degree of originality and insight, and the ability to present clear verbal and/or written arguments. Expectations and format vary with the curricular group. Failure to pass the examination may have these results, decided by the examination committee:

- An opportunity to retake the examination at a later date.

- An opportunity to take a focused examination on the areas in which the student did


- Recommendation that the student leave the program (possibly with a terminal MS


- Recommendation to take additional coursework

Individual Curricular Group exam details will be provided to the first-year Ph.D. students at the beginning of fall quarter.  For a better understanding of exam format and structure, you can find the details of the most recent Departmental Exams here.

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Annual Evaluation

The Graduate Council policy requires that doctoral students be evaluated every spring quarter; this annual evaluation is also known as the “Spring Evaluation.” A satisfactory evaluation is necessary for financial support to be continued every year. For those who have not constituted their doctoral committee, this review requires the advisor’s and student’s input and signature. Once the student constitutes their doctoral committee, this evaluation will requires the advisor, (at least) two members of the student’s doctoral committee and the student’s input and signature.

Spring Evaluations are a substantive progress review.  Student are required to convene a yearly committee meeting.  Students are required to meet with either their Pre Qualifying Guidance Committee or Doctoral Committee (if constituted).  

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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)
  • SIOB 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 four (4) members who hold appropriate instructional titles at UC San Diego. Each committee must have at least two (2) members from the student's home department, at least one member from another UC San Diego department, and at least one member with a tenured or emeritus UC San Diego faculty appointment. You can review the Graduate Division's doctoral committee membership chart to determine that all four members you have chosen are eligible to serve on your committee. 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.  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 and the electronic paperwork process begins. The Report of the Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy form must be electronically signed via Docusign by all committee members and the department chair’s signature.

When all of the signatures have been obtained and the form is processed by the Graduate Division, a $50 advancement to candidacy fee will post to the student's account.  It is the student's responsibility to pay the fee. Following this, the student will receive an email from Graduate Division that confirms their advancement to candidacy.

*As of summer 2022, the campus's current policy regarding in-person academic events permits qualifying exams to be held in-person or remotely. 

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As soon as you schedule your defense, please contact the Scripps Department Office.  First contact the Scripps graduate student funding coordinator, Shelley Weisel Funding issues can take several weeks to resolve. Be sure to tell the funding coordinator if you have accepted a job, since there may be some employment and fee issues that must be handled before you leave. The funding coordinator will let you know if there is anything special you must do for your support, taxes, tuition and/or fees before you defend and file your thesis. It is your responsibility to make an appointment with the funding coordinator.  

Notify the Graduate Coordinator, Gilbert Bretado  at least three weeks prior to the defense. Send your title exactly as you would like it to appear in all notices. 

*As of summer 2022, the campus's current policy regarding in-person academic events permits qualifying exams to be held in-person or remotely.  In addition, final defense paperwork is now being processed electronically through Docusign.

You can find the Department's PPT on Preparing to Defend here.

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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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