Ph.D. Program

The duration of the Ph.D. program is five to eight years. University and departmental regulations stipulate that the maximum tenure of graduate study at UCSD is eight years while seven years is the limit for receiving any type of university financial support. For the Department of History, the "normative" time to degree is 7 years.  Normally, during the first two years, students participate in courses, write two research papers, complete language requirements, define major and minor fields of study, and take at least one minor field examination. In the third year, the student normally completes all outstanding minor field and language requirements, defines a dissertation topic, and passes a qualifying examination in the major field, at which time the student officially advances to candidacy for the Ph.D. Advancement to candidacy must occur at least before the end of the fourth year, and in some programs, such as Ancient History and East Asian Studies, extra language requirements may make fourth year advancement the norm.

Department of History Ph.D. students will be expected to spend time between their first and sixth years doing archival and/or field research (involving travel outside of San Diego), as required by the demands of their research topic. They often spend their fifth to seventh years writing their dissertation, although exact travel requirements and time to degree varies depending on funding, preparation, and the requirements of the specific project.


Admission to the is based on the applicant's undergraduate preparation; previous graduate work, if any; three letters of recommendation; one or two papers (preferably written for history courses); and scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). In most areas of concentration knowledge of at least one foreign language will be required during a student's academic career. With very few exceptions, students are expected to begin their programs in the fall quarter.

Admission Requirements

  • A minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 with a higher average in history and related subjects
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE)--the GRE subject exam in history is not required
  • If you are applying to Latin American history, a reading knowledge of Spanish is required
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required for non-English speaking foreign applicants with a minimum score of 550

Application Deadline: first week of January

Applications to the History Department's graduate program are submitted to the UC San Diego Graduate Division. Visit their website,, for additional information about graduate study at UC San Diego.

General Course Categories and Requirements

A normal full-time program consists of twelve units (or three four-unit courses) per quarter. Ph.D. students are expected to complete at least one of the following minimum formal courses of study prior to their qualifying examination: (1) two two-quarter research seminars, three one-quarter historiography courses in the major field and four other courses (which may be a combination of colloquia, conjoined courses, or directed readings, but which must include one cross-field graduate colloquium like HIGR 200); or (2) three two-quarter research seminars (not necessarily in the same field), three one-quarter historiography courses in their major field, and three other courses (which may be a combination of colloquia, conjoined courses, or directed readings, but which must include one cross-field graduate colloquium like HIGR 200). Students are encouraged to take their first research seminar in their major field during the initial year of graduate study.

T.A. Ships: After the first year, most students' full-time program includes two regular academic courses each quarter (8 units), and employment as a 50% Teaching Assistant, which counts as four units.

Graduate Specialization in Critical Gender Studies (CGS)

UCSD’s Critical Gender Studies program began as Women’s Studies in the 1970s, alongside both an active non-academic women’s rights movement and the nascent institutionalization of women’s studies as an academic presence. The program was initiated with participation from students and faculty across the humanities and social sciences, including many of the same departments that continue to be involved. From the beginning, it understood itself as an interdisciplinary countercurrent, drawing from these disciplines and simultaneously offering a critique of accepted ideas and beliefs within them.

In the late 90s, the program’s faculty introduced curricular revisions and the name change to Critical Gender Studies. With this, UCSD became one of the first institutions formally to acknowledge and to embrace the importance of sexuality and racial formation for the interdisciplinary study of gender. Always forward-thinking and rigorously interdisciplinary, the program has proven immensely useful and enriching for the undergraduate students who have partaken in it for the last several decades. Given the rich history and roots of this program, we are pleased to announce that such benefits now extend to graduate students through the CGS graduate specialization.

UCSD has long been a vibrant site for the study of gender and sexuality, with many graduate students and faculty already engaged in gender-related projects. These students and faculty have collaboratively organized toward recognition of this focus in their research. The specialization has been put in place to respond to such demands, providing a central program through which graduate students may develop their work among peers who take up similar questions. The program encourages applications from all graduate students (who have been admitted to the participating departments) whose work takes up questions of gender. Through the contributions of CGS faculty who specialize in women of color feminism(s) and queer of color critique, the program helps to develop and foster an understanding of gender as necessarily linked to race, sexuality and other social formations.


Evaluation of Academic Work

The department expects all graduate students to do "A" level work. Grades below "B-" are considered evidence of unsatisfactory progress; a "C+" or any lower letter grade is recorded on the transcript, but is regarded as the equivalent of a failure. Required field courses must be taken for a letter grade. Students are strongly encouraged to take their entire first-year program for letter grades. These grades assist the department in evaluating the student's academic progress and in determining future financial support. Post first-year students may take elective courses for satisfactory/unsatisfactory evaluation. Grades of "I" (Incomplete) must be changed to a letter grade by the end of the quarter following the quarter in which the course was taken. The grade will be recorded as a failure if the work has not been completed by then.

Students whose grade point average falls below 3.0 during an academic year may continue in the program only in exceptional circumstances.

Each spring in the years before the student has advanced to candidacy, faculty members from the field group will meet with each student individually to discuss the student's progress. In addition, the faculty adviser will submit a written evaluation for the student's file. Students are entitled to include a response in their permanent record. Once they are advanced to candidacy, graduate students continue to receive annual written evaluations of their progress from their respective faculty dissertation advisers. These evaluations are to be read and signed by the student, the adviser, at least three of the faculty members on the student's dissertation committee, and the department chair.

Opportunity for Teaching

Teaching Assistantships

In addition to providing funding opportunities, Teaching Assistantships are an integral part of the graduate program at UCSD, providing training and experience in undergraduate teaching. All students, regardless of their funding needs, are encouraged to spend at least one year as a Teaching Assistant.

Training of teaching assistants is the responsibility of the program in which the teaching is done. For teaching assistants employed within the History Department, an orientation seminar will be offered at the beginning of the fall quarter. The seminar will be organized by the faculty teaching coordinator, in collaboration with a senior TA, both of whom serve as advisers for first time Teaching Assistants throughout the year. In addition, departmental teaching assistants attend one four-hour training session given by the Center for Teaching Development prior to the beginning of instruction in the Fall Quarter.

For teaching assistants employed by the college programs or in the Linguistics Department, training sessions are organized by these programs to orient students in specific course content and methodologies. These seminars are often scheduled during the week prior to the beginning of instruction in the Fall Quarter. Training continues throughout the academic year in weekly staff meetings.

Teaching assistants both inside and outside the department are evaluated by the course instructor. The instructor visits a teaching assistant's section at least once each quarter and reviews a representative sample of papers and exams for fairness and consistency of grading. The instructor prepares a written evaluation of the teaching assistant at the end of the quarter, and the teaching assistant acknowledges the instructor's comments by signing the evaluation. The TA also has the opportunity to include a written response in their file.

Adjunct Instructors

There are some opportunities for advanced graduate students in the final year of their program to serve as the primary instructor ("Assoc-In") for an upper-division course in the history department. First, a graduate student may be asked to teach an existing course to replace a faculty member on leave. Second, a graduate student may apply to teach a course of their own design during one of the summer school sessions. Third, students in the last year of the program may apply for the Faculty Fellowship, which provides a two-year adjunct teaching position in the History Department. Students should consult with the Graduate Coordinator for relevant deadlines and application procedures.

Part-time Study

Students who enroll in fewer than twelve graduate or upper-division units per quarter are considered part-time students. Part-time study may be pursued in several master's programs and a few Ph.D. programs at UCSD. Approval for individual students to enroll on a part-time basis may be given for reasons of employment, family responsibilities, or health. Individuals who are interested in part-time study and meet the department's qualifications should see the Graduate Coordinator.

Part-time students must satisfy the same admission requirements as full-time students and are eligible, at the discretion of the department, for 25 percent time teaching or research assistantships. Students who are approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies for enrollment in a program of half-time study or less (a maximum of six units) may be eligible for a reduction of fees. All other students pay the same fees as full-time students.

Scholarly Articles

Students who have written seminar or M.A. papers of high quality are assisted and encouraged to revise them for publication in scholarly journals.

Job Placement

A job announcement page contains up-to-date fellowships and job announcements. Students expecting to complete the Ph.D. normally work with their major adviser on job placement. In addition, the Department Chair annually selects a member of the faculty to serve as the Graduate Placement Officer. Duties for this position include discussing employment procedures and initiatives for prospective job-hunters. At the beginning of each academic year, a general memo will be sent to graduate students identifying the faculty member chosen as Placement Officer. During the academic year in which they finish their dissertation, students should also prepare a placement file for deposit in the Career Services Center on campus.

Language Requirements

  • Ph.D. candidates in European and Latin American history must demonstrate competency in two foreign languages.
  • Ph.D. candidates in East Asian history must demonstrate proficiency in the appropriate language(s), as decided in consultation with the advisor.
  • Ph.D. candidates in History of Science and United States history, as well as M.A. candidates in European and Latin American history, must demonstrate competency in one foreign language.
  • Ph.D. candidates in Ancient history require two modern foreign languages, as well as the relevant ancient languages.
  • Ph.D. candidates in Middle Eastern history must possess a sound foundation in reading Arabic or Turkish (Ottoman Turkish or modern Turkish) as a requirement for admission to the program. Reading competence in two languages in addition to English is required before advancement to candidacy: the regional language Arabic or Turkish above, and a modern European language (other than English) related to the major field of specialization.
Additional languages appropriate to the special field of study as well as language requirements for a candidate in fields other than those already mentioned may be required by the Graduate Committee in consultation with the student's major field adviser.

Students may satisfy the foreign language requirement in one of the following ways:

  1. By completing, with a grade of B- or better in each term, a two-year language sequence from the student's undergraduate institution. Such a sequence must have been completed within two years of the time the request is made to the Graduate Committee for certification of competency.
  2. By completing, while a graduate student, a two-year, lower-division sequence in the language approved by the Graduate Committee, with a satisfactory (S) grade in each term.
  3. By completing, while a graduate student, a one-year upper-division sequence in the language approved by the Graduate Committee, with a satisfactory (S) grade in each term.
  4. By passing a translation examination administered by the department. (This is the only option available for Chinese and Japanese.) A faculty examiner chooses a text that is approximately 3-4 paragraphs, and historical in nature. Students are given two hours to take the exam and are permitted the use of a dictionary. The criteria for evaluation are somewhat subjective but will focus on the grasp of meaning and concepts, rather than word for word translation. Exams will also be offered twice a year, once in the fall quarter and once in the spring quarter. Students may also petition the graduate coordinator to take them at an alternate time. At the beginning of the fall and spring quarters, the graduate coordinator will poll students about their intentions to be tested and will schedule an exam time, usually in the sixth week of classes.

Students are urged to complete at least one foreign language examination by the end of the first year of study and must do so by the beginning of the third year of study. Failure to meet this requirement is grounds for denial of financial support. No student may take the oral qualifying examination before completing all language requirements.