Graduate Studies - University of California Merced (2024)

Phone: 209-228-4723

  • Welcome from the Dean
  • Preparing for an Advanced Degree
  • Applying for Admission
  • Admissions and Registration
  • Programs of Study
  • Graduate Degree Learning Outcomes
  • Governance of Graduate Education
  • Financial Support
  • Types of Aid
  • General Requirements for Graduate Degrees

    Welcome from the Dean

    Dear Students:

    Graduate school is one of the most exciting times in a scholar’s career, and I am pleased you have chosen UC Merced for your graduate studies. The education and research training you receive here will set you on a course for success in your chosen field, and the friendships you make in graduate school last a lifetime. At UC Merced you will find a stellar faculty to guide you, and a supportive and inclusive community of graduate peers with shared interests.

    As the first new American research university of the 21st century, UC Merced continues the University of California’s tradition of providing students a world-class education. To this, we add our distinctive blend of small academic programs, interdisciplinary research opportunities, and personalized attention from award-winning faculty. As a newly admitted graduate student, you will have the opportunity to solve real world problems and contribute to the “esprit de corps” of a new campus of the University of California system.

    As an advocate for graduate students and a leading voice for graduate education, the Graduate Division is here to support you in your academic career. If you have any questions, please contact us at (209) 228-4723. Additional information and resources are available through our website at

    Best wishes as you start your graduate career at UC Merced!

    Hrant P. Hratchian, Ph.D.

    Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate Division

    Preparing for an Advanced Degree

    Admission to a graduate program at UC Merced requires a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, that is comparable to a degree from the University of California both in the level of scholarly achievement and in the distribution of academic subject matter. Although applications for graduate study will be evaluated primarily on scholarly achievement, UC Merced will utilize the totality of a prospective student’s qualifications, including research, work experience, recommendations and other creative accomplishments, to render a decision. To be eligible for graduate admission at UC Merced, you musthold a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution and have a minimum 3.0 grade point average. Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation, in addition to a formal graduate admission application, official transcripts, and in some cases TOEFL test scores. Certain Graduate Groups may require GRE test scores, and/or a sample of your written work that can be evaluated by the admissions committee.

    Applying for Admission

    Applications to UC Merced can be accessed electronically at Applications are accepted for the fall semester only. Prospective students are encouraged to begin the admissions process as early as possible in the prior academic year. International applicants should check the Graduate Division website for details regarding application and admission. Please check our website for application and priority funding due dates. In order for an application to be fully considered, a nonrefundable application fee must be paid. You may pay online with a credit card. Fee exemptions for UC approved programs are available. The Graduate Division website,, provides further information about admission requirements, financial assistance, deadlines and important contacts.

    International Students

    Students with credentials from universities outside the United States should begin the application process well in advance of the deadline date. Official copies or certified copies of all transcripts in English and in the original language are required.

    Applicants whose primary language is not English are required to demonstrate proficiency in English for admission consideration. Any applicant who spent the majority of their primary and secondary education in a nation/territory where English is not the primary language must take an approved English proficiency examination prior to admission. Proficiency in English may be demonstrated by passing one of two standardized, internationally administered tests: TOEFL (the Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Please note that TOEFL and IELTS scores expire two years after the test date. The applicant should take one of these tests at the earliest available date to ensure that the scores are reported in time to meet application deadlines. Applicants will not be admitted if they lack an acceptable proficiency score. Passing scores are defined on our website.

    Information on the TOEFL is available online at and IELTS information at These requirements are waived for applicants who have received an advanced degree from a U.S. institution or from a country where English is the language of instruction.

    International applicants must certify that they have sufficient funds to cover fees, tuition and living expenses for the first year of their study at UC Merced. Financial verification must be provided before visa forms can be issued.

    Admissions and Registration

    A formal notice from the Dean of the Graduate Division is the official proof of admission to graduate study at UC Merced. Successful applicants will be notified as soon as possible after the program faculty have made their recommendations to the Dean of the Graduate Division. Accepted students will be asked to submit their intention to register by April 15. Submission of the Statement of Intent to Register reserves your slot in the program. Should you choose not to accept the offer of admission, we ask that you also notify us of your decision as soon as possible so that we can offer the placement to another applicant.

    Students must be enrolledfull-time in 12 units each semester to retain graduate student standing. Registration provides the necessary access to courses, facilities and faculty. Students holding non-immigrant visas must register for each semester covered by their visa.

    Programs of Study

    UC Merced offers the Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Management (M.M.),and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. New students are typically assigned a faculty advisor and committee that assist them in developing a curriculum to meet the requirements. In some graduate programs, students begin their first year in a rotation of faculty research groups. Although considerable flexibility to meet individual needs exists, requirements usually include a core of required material that a student must master.

    The Master’s degrees are either Plan I or Plan II programs. Plan I requires a minimum of 24 semester units in approved graduate courses plus completion of a thesis. Plan II requires at least 24semester units in approved graduate courses, followed by a comprehensive examination or capstone/culminating project administered by the faculty.

    Students pursuing Master’s Plan I degrees will begin their thesis research at the end of the first year. Although they may continue to take additional graduate seminars or independent study, the majority of the second year involves thesis research and writing. The thesis committee must approve the scope of the thesis and provide guidance during the process of developing the thesis. Approval of the thesis must be unanimous for the awarding of the Master’s degree.

    The Ph.D. degree is designed to prepare students for creative activity and original research. A Doctoral degree is awarded in recognition of a student’s knowledge of a broad field of learning and for distinguished accomplishment in that field through an original contribution of significant knowledge. The dissertation must demonstrate a high level of critical ability, imagination and synthesis. In contrast to the Master’s degrees, there are no University unit requirements for the Doctorate, although individual programs may set specific course requirements. However, students must complete at least four semesters of academic residence at UC Merced and successfully complete the course requirements before they are allowed to take the Qualifying Examination.

    All students pursuing the Ph.D. degree must pass a Qualifying Examination before admission to candidacy. The intent of this examination is to ascertain the breadth of a student’s comprehension of fundamental facts and principles that apply in the major field of study. It will also determine the student’s ability to think critically about the theoretical and practical aspects of the field. Students are advanced to candidacy when they fulfill the following requirements:
    • Successfully completed the Qualifying Exam;
    • Maintained a minimum grade point average of 3.0;
    • Received incomplete grades in no more than two courses; and
    • Fulfilled any language requirement associated with their program.

    Once a student is advanced to candidacy, it is imperative that they begin theirdissertation studies promptly.

    Graduate Degree Learning Outcomes

    Master’s Degree Outcomes

    The goal of the Master’s degree at UC Merced is to sufficiently educate students at an advanced level in specific fields of knowledge so that they may continue in their pursuit of graduate education, or be competitive for careers in the private or public sector. Towards this end, recipients of the Master’s degree:

    1. Have an understanding of the principles that underlie the field of study.
    2. Are able to use the research and/or working methodologies of the field of study.
    3. Are able to use the communication formats of their field to effectively communicate with professional, specialist audiences as well as to other audiences as appropriate for the field.
    4. Are proficient in the professional skills necessary to lead productive careers in their chosen profession.

    Degree specific versions of these objectives are available under each program’s description.

    Doctoral Degree Outcomes

    The goal of the Ph.D. degree at UC Merced is to advance human knowledge and to provide for the dissemination and use of that new knowledge. We will educate students at the most advanced level in specific fields of knowledge so that they may assume positions of leadership in research, teaching, industry, business and government. Toward this end, recipients of the Ph.D.:

    1. Are able to apply the underlying fundamental principles and philosophies of their field in the production of new knowledge.
    2. Are able to use the research methodologies of the field of study.
    3. Have added to human knowledge.
    4. Are able to use the communication formats of their field to effectively communicate with professional, specialist audiences as well as to other audiences as appropriate for the field.
    5. Are self-directed learners able to advance their field of study.
    6. Are proficient in the professional skills necessary to lead productive careers in their chosen profession.
    7. Are versed in the topic of research integrity and apply in their work the ethical norms of behavior associated with their field of study.

    Degree specific versions of these objectives are available under each program’s description.

    Governance of Graduate Education

    Graduate study is administered by the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education and by the Graduate Council, a committee of the UC Merced Academic Senate. The Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs is a system-wide body that assures coordination between the campuses and develops general policies that govern graduate education throughout the University of California.

    Financial Support

    Several forms of financial support are available to facilitate the pursuit of a graduate education at UC Merced. Most forms of support are granted for merit, while others are granted for financial need or a combination of merit and need. The Graduate Division works closely with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships and the academic units to coordinate all forms of financial support.

    The Graduate Division and Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships administer need-based financial aid for graduate students. We are here to help students understand financial aid opportunities as well as the criteria utilized in determining eligibility for the various financial aid programs available at UC Merced.

    For more information on graduate student financial support, please see Graduate Student Financial Support section of our website.

    Types of Aid

    Financial support is available at UC Merced in the form of graduate student research positions, teaching assistantships positions, fellowships and loans. All students, regardless of income, are encouraged to apply.

    Graduate Student Research (GSR) Positions

    Graduate Student Research (GSR) positions are typically supported through external funding agencies for specific research projects. Graduate students may assist with research work in a wide variety of ways, and some projects may provide opportunities for advanced students to lead certain efforts, with guidance and oversight of the principal investigator. GSRs are especially valuable for graduate students pursuing research careers.

    Teaching Assistantships (TA)

    Teaching Assistants help provide instruction in courses with relatively larger numbers of enrolled students. Assistance takes a variety of forms, which include leading lab and discussion sections, helping to prepare instructional materials, and grading of exams and papers. TAships also provide valuable training for graduate students as future faculty members at all institutions of higher education. A limited number of teaching assistantships are available each year. On the recommendation of the academic deans, the academic units make appointments to teaching assistantships.


    Fellowships are awarded primarily on the basis of merit and the promise of outstanding academic and professional achievement. Consideration is given to the extent and quality of previous undergraduate and graduate work, evidence of ability in research or other creative accomplishment, evidence of intellectual capacity and promise of productive scholarship.

    Financial need or the availability of other sources of support in your graduate program is not relevant to the evaluation of academic merit, but may be an additional criterion for some fellowships. Students must establish eligibility for need-based fellowships by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For faster and more accurate filing, students can complete the FAFSA online at


    Financial aid awards that require repayment, loans, offer the opportunity to defer the cost of your educational expenses by borrowing now and repaying later. Some loan programs are based on financial need, but there are loan programs available to all students regardless of income. Loan programs available through UC Merced are federally funded, providing long-term, low-interest loans.

    Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans - Not based on financial need, these loans are available to all eligible students, regardless of income. This loan is “unsubsidized” in that the student is responsible for paying all interest due. There is no federal interest subsidy for the loan. Interest accrues immediately upon disbursem*nt. Borrowers may elect to pay accrued interest on a monthly or quarterly basis or have it added back to the principal balance in a process called capitalization.

    PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Degree Students – Graduate and professional degree students are eligible to borrow under the PLUS Loan Program up to their cost of attendance minus other estimated financial assistance. The terms and conditions applicable to Parent PLUS Loans also apply to Graduate/Professional PLUS loans. These requirements include a determination that the applicant does not have an adverse credit history, repayment beginning on the date of the last disbursem*nt of the loan. Applicants for these loans are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). They also must have applied for their annual loan maximum eligibility under the Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Program before applying for a Graduate/Professional PLUS loan.

    Please refer to the Satisfactory Academic Progress section under Financial Aid and Scholarships for more information on the academic requirements for student loans.

    General Requirements for Graduate Degrees

    Most requirements for graduate degree programs are determined by the Graduate Group that offers the degree. Students must satisfy the degree requirements outlined in the Graduate Group Policies and Procedures that are in effect at the time they are admitted to a graduate program. If the degree requirements are subsequently revised, the Graduate Group may, where appropriate, give students the option to meet the new requirements. A student who withdraws from a program or loses student status for other reasons for more than two semesters, will be bound by the degree requirements in effect at the time of readmission unless otherwise stipulated and agreed to in writing by the Graduate Group and approved by the Graduate Dean. A student who defers admission or who changes to another program must meet the requirements in effect at the time of first registration.

    Second Advanced Degrees

    The University of California, in general, discourages the duplication of advanced degrees. At the same time, it recognizes that a professional degree does not duplicate an academic degree, and that the holders of either an academic or professional degree may have the pressing need to earn another degree in an area different from that of their existing graduate degree(s).

    The Graduate Dean has delegated the authority to admit students for a second Master’s degree to the Graduate Groups. Admission for a second or concurrent Ph.D. is rarely granted, and must be handled as an exception to policy and approved by the Graduate Dean. All requests must be made in writing to the Graduate Dean and should include strong justification for admitting the applicant for a second or concurrent Ph.D., as well as a statement assuring the Dean that the applicant’s first Ph.D. is in an unrelated area and that there will be no duplication, transfer, or waiving of coursework.

    Transfer of Credit

    Transfer of credit toward Master’s degree requirements are governed by the University regulation and policy summarized in the UC Merced Graduate Policies and Procedures Handbook. Courses taken toward a graduate degree at another institution cannot be transferred for credit toward a Ph.D. at UC Merced. However, a course requirement may be waived if a similar course was taken at another institution and the instructor and Graduate Group Chair determine that the student exhibits adequate knowledge and understanding of the relevant material. The General Petition form should be used for all requests for waivers of course work. To obtain a waiver, the Graduate Group should submit a full description of the course including a syllabus and a copy of the student’s transcripts along with the Petition to the Graduate Division for review and approval.

    Graduate Studies - University of California Merced (2024)


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