Cognitive Science Ph.D. Program

This program provides broad training in neurological processes and phenomena; the experimental methods, results, and theories from the study of psychology, language, and social and cultural issues; and the studies of computational mechanisms. The first year is devoted to familiarizing the student with the findings and current problems in cognitive science through Foundations and Issues courses.

In the second year, basic courses and laboratory rotations are completed, with the major emphasis on the completion of a year-long research project. Future years are spent completing the advancement to candidacy requirements and doing the thesis research. Throughout the program, there are frequent faculty-student interactions, including special lectures by the faculty or invited speakers and the weekly informal research discussions and cognitive science seminar.


An interim adviser is appointed to serve as general adviser and counselor for each entering student. The adviser helps chart a set of courses that fulfill the content area requirements, taking into account the student's prior training and interests. Students may change the interim adviser at any time (as long as the new interim adviser is willing). At the time of advancement to candidacy, students choose a permanent adviser who also functions as the chair of the dissertation committee.

Background Knowledge

It's assumed all entering students posses basic prerequisite knowledge within the field of cognitive science; incoming students will be presented with a reading list that covers these topics. Students lacking this background can acquire it through self-study preceding his or her arrival at UCSD or by taking self-paced study courses or relevant undergraduate courses at UCSD.

Ph.D. Requirements

The PhD Program in Cognitive Science requires: 

  • Foundations Courses
  • Approved Plan of Study
  • Second-Year Project
  • Language Requirement
  • Advancement to Candidacy
  • Teaching
  • Participation in the Cognitive Science 200 Seminar Series
  • Participation in Departmental Events and Committees
  • Ph.D. Dissertation and Defense

See our PhD Requirements page for more information.
For requirements for the Interdisciplinary PhD program see here

Master's Degree

The Department of Cognitive Science does not offer admissions to a master's program. However, candidates for the Ph.D. who do not hold a master's degree from another institution may be granted the M.S. degree after fulfilling the first three requirements listed above. This is usually at the end of the second year. Duplication of advanced academic degrees, e.g., one at the same level, is not permitted at UCSD. Likewise, a professional degree at the master's or doctoral level, e.g., M.Ed., M.P.I.A., MD., or Pharm.D., is not regarded as a duplicate of an academic degree.

Evaluation of Performance and Progress

A formal evaluation of performance and progress for all students takes place at the end of spring quarter every year, with special attention given to the first and second years of study and at the time of qualification. The first-year evaluation is based in large part on the performance in foundations and issues courses. The second-year evaluation is based on the student's total performance, with heavy weight given to the student's second-year research project. The third-year evaluation focuses on the competency and depth requirements, and the fourth year on the progress made toward completion of the dissertation.

Special Events

The Department enhances student-faculty interaction and current awareness of active research issues by means of special events, which include:

  • Lectures by invited speakers or faculty members.
  • A full day of faculty/student overview and information at the start of each year, with emphasis on ongoing research activity.
  • Presentations of second-year research projects to the entire faculty at the end of each year.
  • Final defense of the dissertation accompanied by a public lecture and celebration.

Time Limits to Ph.D.

Students must be advanced to candidacy by the end of spring quarter of their fourth year. Total university support cannot exceed seven years. Total registered time at UCSD cannot exceed eight years.

Financial Support

Financial support is available to qualified students in the form of fellowships, loans, and assistantships. This information is subject to change.

2017/2018 Graduate Support Package

Guaranteed for first four years:

For California Residents

Academic year (9 month) base stipend/salary
Covereage of resident fees and health insurance*

Yearly Total for Residents:



For Non-California Residents

Academic year (9 month) base stipend/salary
Coverage Non-resdident fees & health insurance*
(non-resident fees for first-year only)

First Year Total for Nonresidents



For International Students

Academic year (9 month) base stipend/salary
Coverage Non-resdident fees & health insurance
(non-resident fees for first three years)**

First Year Total for International Students



*Non-California residents must establish California residency before start of the second year.
** International students must advance to candidacy before start of fourth year.

Full support is based on acceptable academic standing within the department.

Additional Funding Opportunities (not part of guaranteed package):

  • Typical Annual Travel Award for students presenting posters at conferences: $400- $500
  • Typical earnings for Summer:
    • Summer Session TAship: $1519 - $3,038 per course
    • For Advanced Students: Instruction for Summer Session or Academic Graduate Student Researcher (GSR): $1139 - $4,558 per month
    • Connections: $ 3,328

During academic year 2014-2015, average stipend/salary for students (years 1 – 4) enrolled full-time was $25,240. This includes guaranteed department support, and additional funding in the form of fellowships, and summer GSR support.

Students are encouraged to apply for outside sources of funding. Please see Graduate Division for more fellowship information.

This information is subject to change.

The Graduate Division Deadlines

Graduate Advising

Walk-in Advising: 
8 - 12 p.m. & 1 - 4 p.m.
Monday through Friday

Cognitive Science Building
First Floor, CSB 143

Virtual Advising: