Skip to main content

Environmental Health Sciences PhD

Our students are trained to become global leaders in research and teaching in the broad, interdisciplinary field of environmental health sciences.

Graduates can be found working throughout the world, in both the public and private sectors. Graduates hold positions at top global universities; in national and international organizations; in local, state and federal government; in health advocacy organizations; and in the corporate sector.

While completing this program, our students work to:

  • Clarify critical gaps in scientific knowledge that impede the resolution of environmental health problems and plan and execute original research that will lead to solutions of such problems.
  • Conceive, develop and conduct original research leading to useful applications in environmental health sciences, toxicology, environmental health policy or industrial hygiene.
  • Apply advanced methodology to research projects in environmental health sciences and develop new research methods to address environmental health problems.
  • Develop and demonstrate written and oral communications skills by preparing papers, summaries, briefings and presentations regarding environmental health science.


Students must complete a minimum of four semesters of academic residence at UC Berkeley. While there are no specific course requirements for doctoral students, before taking their Preliminary Exam, it is expected that all students understand the principles of exposure and risk assessment, epidemiologic methods, and toxicology. If courses in these subjects have not been taken earlier, students may find it most efficient to take the core courses below in order to acquire the needed understanding.

  • PB HLTH 270A: Exposure Assessment and Control I (3 units) (fall)
  • PB HLTH 250B: Epidemiological Methods II (4 units) (spring) or other 200-level epidemiology course
  • PB HLTH 241: Statistical Analysis of Categorical Data (4 units) (spring) or other 200-level biostatistics course
  • NUSCTX 110/ PB HLTH 270B: Toxicology (4 units) (fall)
  • PH 220C: Health Risk Assessment, Regulation and Policy (3 units) (spring)
  • PB HLTH 271E: Science and Policy for Environment and Health (3 units) (spring)
  • PH 293: EHS Doctoral Seminar (1 unit) (every Fall)

Students must not only develop expertise in the major field but also in two minor fields (one of which must be outside of environmental health sciences), such as biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental law, environmental policy, or molecular and cell biology. These are selected in consultation with a faculty adviser and need to be appropriate for the student’s dissertation topic. Part of the student’s research effort will be devoted to the development of these two minor fields as well as a dissertation prospectus in preparation for the qualifying exam. Students are encouraged to take courses outside of Berkeley Public Health to enhance their understanding of other disciplines that may be important to their research areas. Students who are interested will have the opportunity to complete a Designated Emphasis (DE) in Computational and Genomic Biology.

In addition to standard coursework, students are required to take the doctoral seminar (PH 293) every Fall semester prior to advancement to candidacy, and should carry at least three units of independent research (PH 299) in each of their first two semesters and increased units of research in subsequent semesters. These courses, or equivalent, constitute the basis for the doctoral examinations.

This program can last from three to five years; students take courses during their first three to four semesters in preparation for their examinations. During the first year, each student works closely with their faculty adviser to ensure mastery of the material that will be covered in examinations. When students are ready, they take the preliminary exam, which requires writing an NIH-style proposal for research of interest. It is followed by an oral portion that may cover general knowledge in the environmental health field as well as details related to the submitted proposal. After successful completion of the preliminary exam, students are expected to take the qualifying exam within a few months. After students take the qualifying exam, a formal report on the results (signed by all committee members) is sent to UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division. When the student has satisfied all requirements and passed the qualifying examination, the student advances to candidacy and formally begins the dissertation process. The dissertation research should comprise sufficient original work to motivate at least three peer-reviewed first-authored publications.

This program requires a graduate group examination, qualifying examination, and formal approval and acceptance of a student’s dissertation. A committee of three UC Berkeley Academic Senate members guide students in research and judge the merits of their dissertation. A student’s principal research advisor is generally the chair of this committee and it is expected that students will be in close touch with their advisor throughout the process of formulating the dissertation project and carrying it through to completion.


Applicants should hold an MS or MPH in a related field, as well as display a clear research orientation and firm knowledge of research techniques.


This program is designed to prepare students for careers as independent researchers, educators or managers in the field of environmental health sciences.

Recommendations for Competitive Applicants

Submissions of GRE scores are optional but recommended for this program, especially if you have no other evidence of quantitative, verbal, or analytical abilities in your application.


Most successful applicants establish rapport with potential faculty mentors long before applying to the program. Prospective students applying directly to the program should contact faculty members whose research is of interest to them about the possibility of mentorship as soon as possible. Prospective applicants should closely read recent faculty research, recently funded grant abstracts, and be prepared to discuss with faculty how their specific skills, interests and career goals intersect with the activities in the faculty member’s research group. Most successful applicants are in communication with faculty about these issues no later than the summer before the application deadline.

Admissions Statistics


Average GPA of admitted applicants


Average Verbal GRE percentile scores of admitted applicants


Average Quantitative GRE percentile scores of admitted applicants


Admission rate