Doctoral Advising FAQ

The following are frequently asked questions (FAQ) and answers about SDSU’s Doctoral Program and General Requirements.

Doctoral Program

First, the joint program enables students to have access to and exploit the excellent faculties and facilities of two strong, research-oriented Geography departments. The second and more pragmatic reason is that California law does not allow departments within the California State University (such as SDSU) to offer a standalone doctoral program. Thus, even though SDSU Geography matches or exceeds research publication and funding rates of many of the Top Ten ranked Geography doctoral programs in the U.S., it is not legally able to offer a Ph.D. degree on its own.
The only substantial disadvantage is that students in the Joint Doctoral program are required to be in residence for at least one academic year at UCSB (normally during the second year). San Diego and Santa Barbara are separated by approximately 200 miles.
Yes, UCSB Geography is well known as one of the top Ph.D. granting departments in the World. The program is particularly known for its strengths in quantitative and computational approaches to spatial analysis and earth system science.
No. The Geography JDP is a personalized program that requires in person interaction and research in our departmental labs and facilities. It would be very difficult to provide the type of training we offer in an on-line format.


There are no formal course requirements other than two core courses at SDSU, Geography 700 and 701, and a colloquium course each quarter, while at residence at UCSB. Coursework necessary for successful completion of dissertation research, or for career preparation, are determined through consultation with students and their advising committee members.
Yes. We strongly recommend taking Geography 701 and 700 during the first two semesters, in that order and NOT concurrently. All students must take these two classes, unless they had them as a master’s student at SDSU.
This is not necessary, given that there are no course requirements.
Doctoral students may take courses numbered 500 and above at SDSU as long as it is deemed appropriate for research or career preparation.
The program is designed to take four years. Some students complete the program in four years, however, it has been most common for students to take five years to complete degree requirements. The length of the program also varies depending on the dissertation topic and the type of research conducted. Normally, students conducting extensive fieldwork take longer completing the program. A competitive fifth year of funding is normally available to students who have made excellent progress in the program but who still need additional time to finish the dissertation as a result of demanding research.