ERG Admissions FAQ

What is the deadline for Letters of Recommendation?

The deadline for Letters of Recommendation has been extended to Monday, January 9, 2017.  We appreciate letters being uploaded as early as possible.


How long do the ERG Master’s Degree and Ph.D. take to complete?

The Master’s program is two years.  Students who are admitted to the ERG/Public Policy or Law Concurrent Degree take three to four years. The Ph.D. depends on you, your research topic, and your funding situation, but normal completion is four to six years.


Is it a good idea to visit?
You are welcome to visit ERG at any time before the admissions deadline in early December.  Please contact the Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) at to make an appointment.  ERG does not allow applicants to visit during the period of active consideration (between the first week of December and the last week of February). It is best to wait until the fourth week of classes before planning your visit; check the Berkeley Academic Calendar for holidays and instruction start and end dates.


May I meet with a member of the faculty? Which faculty are accepting students?
You are welcome contact faculty directly by email; however please understand that due to the small number of ERG core faculty and the large number of applicants, it is not possible for faculty to meet with most prospective students.  The Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) is available to advise you on the ERG programs, requirements for admission, application process, and other questions.

Faculty may occasionally be available to discuss research questions on a case-by-case basis by phone, email or during their office hours. However, please be advised that this will have no direct effect on admissions. Applicants are reviewed by the entire admissions committee, and are admitted to the program, not under the auspices of any individual faculty member.

ERG students are often available to discuss their experience at ERG and answer questions as well. The GSAO can help you reach out to current students.


Does the faculty accept short-term visiting students?
Please note that due to the high volume of requests ERG core faculty members receive, they are rarely able to accept short-term visiting students and may not respond to inquiries. If you have questions about ERG admissions, please contact


But my college advisors tell me to contact faculty about their research. Should I do so?
No, this is not necessary or recommended. ERG faculty members generally put current research efforts on their faculty websites. More importantly, because ERG students often change research focus while they are students and often have advisors who are not ERG core faculty, there is no advantage in the application process to proposing to do research that matches the interests of ERG core faculty. We encourage you to define your own research interests.  You do not need the endorsement or sponsorship of any faculty member in order to be admitted to ERG.


Who will be my advisor?
When you are admitted, you will be assigned an ERG core faculty advisor based on your research interests. That advisor will help to ensure that you navigate the process of obtaining a degree.

Once you are here, you will seek out a research advisor for your Master’s Project or Dissertation as well.  The research advisor can be any faculty member at UC Berkeley, or in some cases researchers or faculty at other institutions. Many of our students do not have ERG core faculty as research advisors. (But many do, of course.) There are well over 100 ERG Affiliate Faculty in departments across UC Berkeley, plus Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and other institutions who love to work with ERG students. The combination of the UC Berkeley faculty and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab research staff is probably the world’s largest concentration of professional researchers working on energy and resources, and maybe the best.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, you may have more than one advisor and you are never tied or obligated to remain with a specific advisor.


How can I get in touch an ERG student?
If you wish to be put in touch with a current ERG student, please send an inquiry to the following email address with a short summary (just a couple of lines please) including the degree program you are considering (Masters, PhD, Concurrent degree), research areas of interest, specific students whose work interests you, a little bit about your relevant background, and your country/language of origin if you are international. Email:


Should I apply for the MS or MA?
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, there is very little difference between the coursework for the MS and MA and there is no strategic advantage to one or the other in terms of your application.  All Master’s applications are considered together without regard to degree category. Apply to the degree goal that you expect will best reflect your research interests.  You may work with your advisor after admission to revise your degree goal if appropriate.


Should I apply for the Masters or for the Ph.D.?
Ph.D. applicants must have a two-year Master’s Degree from a fully accredited U.S. institution of higher learning or foreign equivalent.  They also must be able to demonstrate a highly interdisciplinary academic background, either through a combination of Bachelor’s and Master’s coursework, or an interdisciplinary Master’s program equivalent in breadth and depth to the ERG Master’s program.  Doctoral students must also demonstrate their readiness for independent research with no additional foundational work required.

Appli­ca­tions from students with one-year Master’s degrees, or with single-discipline pro­fes­sional degrees (e.g., law, pub­lic health) will usu­ally be redi­rected to the ERG Master’s pro­gram for consideration.


What is the Master’s/Ph.D. Track? How do I apply for it?
The Master’s/Ph.D. Track is both an indication of your intent to continue to the Ph.D. program at ERG, and ERG’s expectation that you will to be qualified to continue to doctoral work after satisfying  the Master’s Degree requirements.  It does not obligate you, or ERG, to your eventual matriculation to the Ph.D.

Of those appli­cants who apply to the Master’s/Ph.D. Track, only a small num­ber of highly qual­i­fied appli­cants will be selected. The remain­der of admitted applications will begin in the two-year Master’s pro­gram and may apply to the Ph.D. pro­gram upon successful completion.  Can­di­dates admit­ted into the Master’s/Ph.D. Track will be expected to com­plete all the require­ments of the ERG Master’s Degree before continuing.

Can­di­dates for admis­sion to the Master’s pro­gram whose ulti­mate goal is to con­tinue on for a Ph.D. at ERG should select either the MA or MS degree appli­ca­tion and select the Master/s Ph.D. Track checkbox.


I want to complete my ERG Master’s degree requirements and then continue to a Ph.D. at ERG.  How do I apply for that?
You should select the Master’s Degree (either M.S. or M.A.) and use the checkbox on the application form to indicate your desire to be considered for the Masters/Ph.D. Track.


Is it possible to apply to more than one graduate program in one year?
No.  At UC Berkeley, applicants must identify one department to which they wish to apply.  If you change your mind, you may ask the Graduate Division Admissions unit to switch your application to another department.


Is it possible to apply for a Concurrent Degree with ERG and another UC Berkeley department?
ERG offers two Concurrent Degree programs to which you can apply:


How long should my Statement of Purpose and Personal History Statement be?
Please make them no longer than three pages each, double spaced (10-12 pt. font).  We can be somewhat flexible on length but please keep in mind that the committee must read hundreds of essays so concise statements are highly appreciated.


One of my letter-writers is unavailable or in the field with no internet access before the deadline. What should I do?
While we strongly prefer that letters are submitted through the online system, we will in exceptional cases accept hard copy letters.  Please have letters sent in a sealed envelope, with a signature across the seal, mailed to: CONFIDENTIAL ERG Admissions, 310 Barrows #3050, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3050.


What kind of jobs do ERG graduates get?
Pretty much what they want, eventually, in universities, think tanks, government agencies, and academia. Examples include Yale, UC Santa Cruz, The Pacific Institute, Redefining Progress, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Energy Commission, Pacific Gas & Electric, and venture capital firms, among many others.


What is the Admissions Committee looking for?  Is there a typical ERG student profile?
ERG deliberately admits students with a wide variety of interests, perspectives/disciplines, research methods, and experience so that each can help the others see the whole picture and keep the faculty in line as well. To be competitive at ERG, your application needs to convince us that you are committed to interdisciplinary approaches. Even better if you could demonstrate your interest this by actually doing it–some applicants, for example, have prior interdisciplinary work or volunteer experience. We value creativity, good mathematical skills, clear thinking and writing, passion about the issues you think are important. Most successful applicants have at least 2 years of experience after their undergraduate degree, although applicants directly out of undergrad are sometimes admitted. Most of our students have GPAs above 3.5 and GRE scores in the 80-90th percentile – although we sometimes admit students with lower scores who bring other interesting skills, perspectives, accomplishments, and experiences to the table.


What are some similar programs elsewhere?
ERG was one of the first interdisciplinary energy and resources programs in the world, and there are a number of programs around the country that are modeled after it.  Nothing is really like ERG, but similar programs are Engineering and Public Policy – Carnegie Mellon, Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences – Duke, Geography and Environmental Engineering – Johns Hopkins, Technology and Public Policy – MIT (plus other degrees at MIT), Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources – Stanford, Management Science and Engineering – Stanford, Bren School of Environmental Studies – University of California Santa Barbara, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies – Yale.


Is there funding available?
There is some funding available for first-year students. However, because we do not require students to specify their area of study beforehand, we often cannot guarantee funding for more than 1-2 years.

Most students find support here after they arrive, either through external fellowships and grants, teaching assistantships, or faculty-sponsored research positions. Campus funding sources exist as well from a range of programs, including international and area studies awards. ERG faculty and students will work closely with you to identify funding sources and write fellowship applications. 


What about funding for out-of-state or international candidates?
As a state institution, tuition at UC Berkeley is lower for California residents.  U.S. citizens and U.S. Permanent Residents can become California residents for purposes of tuition after one year of full-time residence. International students may find the higher tuition especially challenging; ERG has limited support for such students but the faculty work hard to help international students to procure funding.


Do I have to define a project in my application?
No. We expect that many students will explore and learn and change their minds several times. (This is part of the reason we cannot always guarantee funding.) You should explain why ERG is the right place for you and it is often helpful to describe an interesting project as means.


Can I take classes in other academic departments as credit for my ERG degree?
Yes. You can take all sorts of classes while obtaining an ERG degree. See the Masters Requirements for further details.


Can I sit in on classes?
Yes. Check the UC Berkeley online schedule for current course offerings, day, time and classroom, and the ERG course listing for more detailed course descriptions. For seminars and small lecture courses, email the instructor and ask for permission to sit in.  For large ERG lecture courses it is not necessary to ask permission to sit in.


Can I meet with current ERG students?
Yes, when possible. Contact the Student Affairs Officer for details at


Can I schedule a meeting or phone consultation with the Student Affairs Officer?
Yes. Email to schedule a meeting.


Can I apply for spring admission?
No. The Energy and Resources Group accepts applications for fall admissions only.


Do you offer part-time or distance learning degree programs?
This is a full-time day program; we do not offer part-time or distance learning studies. 


May I give you my credentials and be pre-assessed for admission?
No. We are unable to determine in advance if an applicant will be admitted to the ERG graduate program. There are too many variables involved.


When are admissions decisions made?
We will send admissions decisions beginning in mid-February through mid-March.


Are there campus-wide minimum admissions criteria that apply to all graduate programs at Berkeley?
Yes. Please refer to the graduate admissions requirements section on the UC Berkeley Graduate Division website at


What minimum GRE scores are required?
The Energy and Resources Group does not set minimum scores for the GRE. Generally, admitted applicants score in the 80th to 90th percentiles on all sections of the General Test.


Do applicants with graduate degrees need to take the GRE?


How long are GRE scores valid for admission purposes?
Scores are valid for five years.


May I submit the GMAT, LSAT, or other standardized test in place of the GRE?
No, the Energy and Resources Group requires the GRE.


Where can I find information about costs and fees for graduate students at Berkeley?
Please refer to the Graduate Division website at and for a more detailed breakdown of fees please go to the Office of the Registrar website at  ERG does not charge any Professional School fees.


Do international applicants need to submit GRE scores?
Yes.  While we acknowledge that speakers of English as a second language have additional challenges in taking the GRE, we do require it for all applicants and use it as one of many tools in assessing your qualifications.


What are the English language proficiency requirements for international applicants?
The UC Berkeley Graduate Division requires an internet-based Test of English as a Second Language (ibT TOEFL) overall score of at least 90.  Although the TOEFL test is preferred, IELTS scores will also be accepted.  For more information on language requirements please go to


I am an international student. Who can advise me on transition and visa questions?
Please contact the Berkeley International Office. They also have a very helpful website at


I already have a professional position related to my research and I’d like to keep it. May I work while I am a student at ERG?
Some (domestic) graduate students do hold off-campus jobs, but we do not recommend this since your program will demand a great deal of focus and time. International students with F-1 visas are not allowed to work off-campus. Many ERG students obtain on-campus appointments as Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs) or Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) in areas related to their studies. GSRs and GSIs are allowed to work no more than 50% Full-Time Equivalent (20 hours/week) when school is in session.