MS in Environmental and Ocean Sciences Program Overview

About Master of Science in Environmental and Ocean Sciences

Students entering the University of San Diego and/or declaring a major during 2020-2021, should follow information contained in the printed course catalog (also known as the "catalog of record") published on April 1, 2020. Access the catalog of record at

The Department of Environmental and Ocean Sciences offers graduate work leading to the degree of Master of Science in Environmental and Ocean Sciences with two tracks, Marine Science and Environmental Science. This degree is based largely on research and is intended to provide graduate students with an opportunity to design experiments or observations that test hypotheses; to contribute new information to a knowledge base; and to learn to write in a way that facilitates scientific exchange. The program, which combines coursework and research, culminates in a written thesis. The program utilizes not only the excellent facilities at the University of San Diego’s Shiley Center for Science and Technology, but those of some nearby institutions, such as the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (National Marine Fisheries, NOAA), Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, the Leon R. Hubbard Hatchery, and the Tijuana National Estuarine Research Reserve. Thesis committees may be headed by USD Environmental and Ocean Sciences graduate faculty, as well as affiliated graduate faculty members. Committee members are drawn from the Environmental and Ocean Sciences faculty at USD, other science departments at USD and senior research scientists at Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and other institutions.

Our faculty currently are involved in research in ecology, environmental geochemistry, climatology, paleoclimatology, hydrology, oceanography, marine biology, locomotion and fluid dynamics, fluvial geomorphology, physiology, and population genetics. Affiliated faculty work in the areas of bioacoustics, fisheries, aquaculture, molecular genetics, hydrogeology, ecology, marine pollution and physiology. Although there are opportunities for graduate students who are interested in biology to work with a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate animals, as well as a more limited number of plants, applicants should think carefully about the functional areas of biology they wish to work in. Whether in the life sciences or physical sciences, local research opportunities abound: from the coasts and estuaries of San Diego County to offshore and island environments. The deserts of southern California, which include inland water bodies and former ocean basins, offer additional research possibilities. In some instances, research may focus on more distant areas. More information about faculty research interests, graduate student thesis titles and facilities is available through our website.

The Master of Science in Environmental and Ocean Sciences degree can serve as a terminal graduate degree prior to entry into the work force, an enhancement of skills for an existing job in a technical area or in education, or a step toward a PhD.

Additional Admission Requirements

See the Admission page for basic admission requirements.

Entrance Semesters Fall (spring, only under special circumstances)
Application Deadline Fall: Priority application deadline Jan 15; applications received after April 1 cannot be guaranteed review
Minimum Grade Point Average 3.0 (4.0 scale) in all undergraduate coursework
Standardized Admission Tests Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test; subject test in a science field (recommended)
Required Coursework Undergraduate major in a science; a minimum of one year of chemistry with laboratory and one semester each of life science for science majors with laboratory, calculus, statistics, physics for science majors with laboratory and earth or atmospheric science for science majors with laboratory (Environmental Science track).
Other courses required to correct deficiencies noted at the time of admission may be taken at USD but may not count toward the requirements for graduation
Required Licenses Or Credentials None
Additional Requirements Three letters of recommendation from science professors (additional non-academic letters also may be submitted)
The applicant’s Statement of Purpose should specifically address research interests that are compatible with the work of the USD Environmental and Ocean Sciences graduate faculty and affiliated faculty.