Doctoral Degree: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Ph.D.
For official university admissions information and program degree requirements, please visit the Graduate Division website.
Please go to our “Application – How to Apply” page for step-by-step instructions to guide you through the application process. In addition to students holding bachelor’s degrees in Meteorology, Atmospheric Sciences, and Oceanography, graduates with degrees in related disciplines — Astronomy, Chemistry, Engineering, Geophysics, Mathematics, and Physics — are encouraged to apply for graduate studies in the department. Programs are arranged by consultation between the student and their Faculty Advising Committee, and considerable flexibility is maintained so that maximum advantage may be taken of previous education.
Major Fields or Subdisciplines
- Atmospheric Dynamics & Climate
- Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics
- Space Physics
Course Requirements (effective Fall 2021)
Course requirements for the doctoral degree are satisfied by completion of a departmentally approved program of study. Each program of study must consist of at least nine courses (36 units), six (24 units) of which must be entry level graduate courses drawn from a list maintained by the department and chosen to ensure proper breadth and preparation (see course requirements below). A minimum of 12 additional units of coursework are chosen, from the 200-series, to develop a specialization. The advanced course requirements also may be partially satisfied by: (1) 200-series courses taken for a grade outside of the department; (2) directed studies courses (596) within the department; and (3) research courses (598) within the department. Each student submits their program of study to the department prior to the beginning of Spring quarter of their first year. Subject to the approval of the student’s faculty advising committee (FAC), the program of study may be amended, repeatedly and at any time, based on course offerings and evolving interests. Satisfactory completion of the program of study requires an S grade for all S/U grades courses and a B average in all letters-graded courses that are part of the program of study. After the written and oral exams (see below), the committee will combine the student’s GPA in the core courses and the letter grades from the written and oral departmental examinations to decide if the student meets the requirements to continue in the program.
Students are required to present a graded departmental seminar based on their original research as part of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences 270. The grade for this seminar is based on the seminar presentation and is given by the faculty as a whole. A grade of B or better is required for the doctoral degree. Prior to the quarter in which the seminar is presented for a letter grade, students in the doctoral program are required to enroll in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences 270 for S/U grading every quarter in which they are registered. After receiving a B or better for their seminar presentation, doctoral students are encouraged but not required to continue to enroll in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science 270.
Common Core Courses
All graduate students are required to take the following 4 common core courses (16 units):
- 200A Introduction to Atmospheric and Ocean Fluid
- 200B Introduction to Dynamics of Earth Systems
- 200C Introduction to Atmospheric and Oceanic Radiation, Physics, and Chemistry
- 200D Scientific Communication for Atmospheric and Oceanic Scientists
Specialized Core Courses
All graduate students are required to complete 2 specialized core courses (8 units) selected from the following:
- 201A Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I
- 202 Introduction to Ocean Science
- M203A Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry
- 203B Introduction to Atmospheric Physics
- C205A Introduction to Solar Systems Plasmas
- 205B Introduction to Solar-Terrestrial Physics
- 209 Climate Change Assessment
- M210 Dynamics of Planetary Circulations
- 211 Planetary Wave Dynamics and Teleconnections in Atmosphere/Ocean
- M235 Ocean Biogeochemical Dynamics and Climate
12 units of AOS electives courses from the 200-level course and directed studies, or AOS department approved advanced courses taken outside of the department. These should be chosen with the students’ advisor or the graduate advisors so as to develop a specialization.
Faculty Advising Committee (FAC)
Students should form their faculty advising committee by the start of the Spring quarter of their first year. The faculty advising committee consists of three AOS faculty members. The student’s primary faculty advisor can serve as one of the FAC members and can provide suggestions on other possible committee members. The student can petition to the Graduate Advising & Curriculum Committee (GAC) to have one non-AOS faculty member serve on the FAC. The student’s FAC is responsible for administering and assessing the oral and written components of the comprehensive examination. Normally the FAC forms the core of the student’s doctoral committee.
Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations
Academic Senate regulations require all doctoral students to complete and pass university written and oral qualifying examinations prior to doctoral advancement to candidacy. Also, under Senate regulations, the University Oral Qualifying Examination is open only to the student and appointed members of the doctoral committee.
Students are required to complete three examinations before advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree: the department written examination, the department oral examination, and the University Oral Qualifying Examination.
Department Written Examination
All doctoral students are required to pass a written qualifying examination that demonstrates their ability to critically summarize and synthesize literature and propose new science questions on a research topic. This ability is demonstrated by satisfactory performance on an examination that is offered once a year, usually at the beginning of the summer. Students must take this exam at the end of their first year in the program (exceptions may be requested via petition to the Department’s graduate advising committee). The examination consists of a written research proposal in which students present a critical summary and synthesis of a research topic of their choice and propose scientific questions, the answers to which would advance the field. The proposal is evaluated by the students’ faculty advising committee, who will provide written comments and a letter grade. Students will have the opportunity to respond to written comments and revise the proposal within 3 months. The revised proposal will be evaluated for a final letter grade. After the oral exam (see below), the committee will combine the grade from the written exam with student’s GPA in the core courses and the grade from the oral departmental examinations to decide if the student meets the requirements to continue in the program.
Department Oral Examination
All doctoral students are required to pass an oral comprehensive examination that demonstrates their ability to present and defend a research proposal and/or preliminary research results, and to demonstrate mastery of the fundamental knowledge required to perform research in that area. The oral exam must be taken by the end of the second year in the program (delays require a petition to the Department’s graduate advising committee with justification signed by student and adviser). The oral exam is conducted by the student’s faculty advising committee (FAC), who must communicate to the student the scope of the exam ahead of time. The committee will assign a letter grade to the student’s oral exam performance. After the oral exam, the committee will combine the student’s GPA in the core courses and the letter grades from the written and oral departmental examinations to determine if the student meets the requirements of the Ph.D. or M.S. program. The weight of each component as well as passing criteria are described in a document maintained by the department and available to students upon admission to the graduate program. Students that receive a Ph.D. pass are eligible to continue towards the doctoral degree. Students that receive an M.S. pass will be awarded an M.S. degree upon completion of the requirements for this degree. Students may retake the exam within 6 weeks, depending on the committee’s recommendation. Students may petition to delay repeating the exam for up to 6 months by developing, with their adviser’s input, a plan for retaking the exam.
University Oral Qualifying Examination
The student’s doctoral committee must be approved by the Division of Graduate Education (DGE) prior to holding their oral qualifying exam. To nominate their committee, the student must complete the Nomination of Doctoral Committee form and submit it to the department’s student advisor. Guidelines on who can serve as a member of the doctoral committee can be found on page 2 of the Nomination of Doctoral Committee form.
The oral qualifying exam typically comes at the middle/ end of the 3rd year. It is conducted by the student’s doctoral committee. The committee conducts an in-depth oral examination of the student’s written proposal of the dissertation research topic. The proposal is made available to the committee at least one week prior to the examination. The examination is graded based on the student’s ability to articulate a coherent and feasible plan of original and creative research. Upon passing this exam the student advances to candidacy. Upon failure the examination may be repeated once on the recommendation of the committee.
Dissertation Final Defense Oral Examination
After successfully completing a dissertation under the guidance of an AOS faculty member, an oral examination defending the dissertation is required. A failed examination may be repeated once on the recommendation of the committee.
When preparing for the final defense and filing of dissertation, please consult the “Policies for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation & Filing” booklet at https://grad.ucla.edu/gasaa/library/thesisintro.htm
All students must be a TA, for a minimum of two quarters, before graduating.
Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)
Required of all students and is taken near the completion of the dissertation. Please see “Dissertation Final Defense Oral Examination”.
Candidate in Philosophy Degree
A student advances to candidacy for the Ph.D. after passing the University Oral Qualifying Examination and is therefore eligible for the C. Phil degree.
Normative Time-to-Degree is 17 academic quarters (and five summer terms).
Maximum Time-to-Degree is 24 academic quarters (and eight summer terms).
Students are expected to:
A. Pass the written component of the departmental comprehensive examination at the conclusion of their first year and to take the oral component of this examination before or during the summer at the end of their second year.
B. Take the University Oral Qualifying Examination at the end of their third year (nine academic quarters and three summer terms) or at the beginning of their fourth year.
To remain in good standing students must meet the course work requirements and pass the departmental oral examination prior to the end of their ninth academic quarter (end of 3rd year) pass the University Oral Qualifying Examination prior to the end of their thirteenth academic quarter; and the dissertation and final oral defense examination should be completed prior to the end of their eighteenth quarter. Exceptions to these policies may be granted based on extenuating circumstances or based on students being allowed to enroll part-time. In such cases, student progress is judged in relation to a timeline determined by the graduate advisers in consultation with students and their principal advisers
Disqualification and Appeal of Disqualification
A student who fails to meet the above requirements may be recommended for academic disqualification from graduate study. A graduate student may be disqualified from continuing in the graduate program for a variety of reasons. The most common is failure to maintain the minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00) required by the Academic Senate to remain in good standing (some programs require a higher grade point average). Other examples include failure of examinations, lack of timely progress toward the degree and poor performance in core courses. Probationary students (those with cumulative grade point averages below 3.00) are subject to immediate dismissal upon the recommendation of their department. University guidelines governing academic disqualification of graduate students, including the appeal procedure, are outlined in Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA.
Special Departmental or Program Policy
A student who fails to maintain a 3.00 grade point average for two consecutive terms or for a total of three terms, or who fails to pass the University Oral Qualifying Examination after two attempts, or who fails to remain in good standing for two consecutive or three total quarters (see definition of good standing under Time-To-Degree) will be recommended for academic disqualification. A student may appeal a recommendation for academic disqualification to the departmental chair.