Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need a Ph.D.?

No. While research experience is required, an advanced degree is not and provides no advantage in the admission process. Over the years, we have enrolled roughly 40% Ph.D. recipients, 30% with master's degrees, and 30% with bachelor's degrees.

2. What if I don’t have a degree in science?

The program requires a degree in life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, or engineering. Contact the program office (below) if you aren't sure whether your academic background qualifies.

3. I have a degree in psychology (or sociology or anthropology or economics or medicine or linguistics or …) Does that count?

Maybe. We'll consider you if you have the required research experience. Discuss your research history with the program director.

4. Are international students eligible for financial aid?

Yes. We reserve most of our fellowships for domestic students, so our international students typically seek funds from agencies in their home countries, but we have some funds available. All international students must provide evidence of sufficient funding for tuition and living expenses for the entire academic year to the Graduate Division upon accepting an admission offer.

5. May I use old GRE scores? (2023 update: The GRE will be optional for applicants to the 2023-24 cohort)

We accept old GRE scores. However, the program accepts only original copies of the scores, not photocopies. If you cannot get an official copy of old scores sent to us, contact our program office for assistance. ETS will not send scores older than five years. See the GRE pages at ETS for more information.

6. Will my GRE scores make it in time? What if scores are not in?

Since test results are received by the Graduate Division four to six weeks after you have taken the exam, applicants should register for the December or earlier test dates. Be sure to "self-report" your scores, if you know them, on your application.

7. What type of research experience is expected?

We prefer at least six months of academic lab or field research experience—such as two field summers, several semesters of part-time lab work, and so on. We also will consider professional experience that makes use of your undergraduate or graduate degree.

8. What do you seek in the two admissions essays?

The essays are critical to our review, as we recruit science students with innate writing talents. Think of standing at the cusp of a ridge, which represent's today's date. To your left is everything that has gotten you to this point: the trails you followed into science, from childhood onward; the major influences in your life; the rewarding experiences you've had in school and at jobs; and why you've decided to make a change. That's your personal history. To your right is the professional path you wish to follow: the kinds of writing and communication you wish to do; the audiences you want to reach; and how you think our program can help you get there. That's your statement of purpose. See this NASW article by director emeritus Robert Irion for additional thoughts.

9. How many letters of reference should I submit?

We require a minimum of three; we accept as many as five. Consider your recommenders carefully, and seek people who can comment about various aspects of what you've achieved thus far—and your potential to succeed in this new venture.

10. When does the program start and when does it end?

Our academic cycle is on the three-quarter system: mid-September through early December; early January through mid-March; and late March through early June. The part-time internships during the school year run concurrently with classes. We require our graduates to finish their full-time summer or fall internship within six months of completing the academic program.

11. May I enroll as a part-time student?

No. The program is a full-time commitment. We also do not allow working or taking extra classes during the year. Since working internships are part of the academic portion, your hours are filled. Reporting, writing, and editing consume most hours outside of class time.

12. May I sit in on classes or audit a single class?

We do not allow visitors in the classroom. There is one exception: Students who have an offer of admission may request to sit in on classes for one day as part of a campus visit.

13. How do I establish state residency or know if I qualify?

This determination is made by the UCSC Registar, not by our program. Visit the Registrar's residency webpage for more information.

14. Whom should I contact if I have any additional questions? May I visit or talk to someone in person?

Program director Erika Check Hayden and director emeritus Robert Irion are happy to talk with prospective students by phone, Skype, or in person. Contact the program manager with your questions or to make an appointment.

Email: scicom (at)
Phone: 831.459.4475
Location: Kresge College Annex A