ICS Ph.D. Frequently Asked Questions


What is the ICS Ph.D. program?

The Integrated Coastal Sciences, Ph.D. program is a research-intensive doctoral degree program at ECU that educates students to resolve complex problems facing coastal systems, using multidisciplinary solutions that integrate across both natural, health, and social science disciplines.

Why choose this doctoral program?

The program provides a unique, integrated, interdisciplinary approach to coastal studies that emphasizes students obtaining expertise through coursework as well as hands-on research. Students receive state-of-the-art training in the acquisition, interpretation, and synthesis of scientific information on coastal environments and populations. Instructors and mentors foster the pursuit of individual interest in the context of a structured, but flexible, program of classroom instruction, field research, work experience, and a doctoral dissertation.

Can I be admitted to the program with a bachelor’s degree, or is a master’s degree required?

Although a master’s degree in a fundamental discipline is not required, it is strongly encouraged, prior to admission to the ICS program given the highly interdisciplinary nature of our program.

How long will it take to complete the program?

Most full-time students complete their degrees within 4-6 yrs. Progress depends on the student’s commitment and energy. Nonetheless, institutional funding provided to the student is based on successfully completing academic milestones in a timely manner, ideally leading to a 5 y completion.

If my overall GPA is low or I don’t have a background in a coastal subject area, will that prevent me from being accepted into the program?

The admissions committee considers each student’s application package in a holistic manner, including a variety of factors: previous research experience,  co-authored peer-reviewed publications, GPAs, professional work and volunteer experience, communications skills, and personal references attesting to the applicant’s academic capabilities and performance and clear indication that the ICS program is a good fit for applicant and their long-term career goals.

What is the residency requirement?

Out-of-State Tuition Remissions (OSTR) are extremely limited. Therefore, students are strongly encouraged to declare themselves a resident of the state of NC as soon as possible after enrolling in the program. In most cases, if they are US Citizens, they can apply for state residency after demonstrating 365 days of residency in NC, paying utility bills, having an NC driving license, paying taxes in NC, etc. Additional information may be found here: https://ncresidency.cfnc.org/residencyInfo/guidelines. International (F1) students are generally not allowed state residency status.

What are the requirements for completing the degree?

The Integrated Coastal Sciences Ph.D. degree requires a total of 68 S.C.H. These are distributed across Core Courses (16 S.C.H.) Concentration Area (Natural or Health/Social Sciences), 6 S.C.H. of Research Methods, 6 S.C.H. from a Secondary Concentration Area (the area NOT chosen as a Primary Concentration Area), 6 S.C.H. of Integrative Coursework, and Ethics (2 S.C.H) as well as dissertation credit hours (see below). Students are required to complete a doctoral candidacy examination which includes successfully passing the written Core Competency Examination, and successfully defending the oral dissertation proposal. Each doctoral student is to write and successfully defend orally, a dissertation of high quality, representing original and meaningful interdisciplinary research that contributes to the literature in the field of integrative coastal sciences. Students will need a minimum of 24 S.C.H to fulfill their dissertation credit requirements.

Can I hold a full-time job and still be enrolled in the ICS program?

The demands of a doctoral program, especially an interdisciplinary research-intensive Ph.D. usually preclude full-time students from pursuing any external employment opportunities.  To offset such a need to seek employment elsewhere, students, if admitted, receive a stipend of $24,000, free in-state tuition, and health insurance, if they remain full-time students.

Do I have to have an undergraduate background in biology, geology, marine biology, or archaeology to be admitted?

No. We do, however, find that students with strong undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences, with well-rounded foundations in the natural, physical, social, and mathematical sciences are well prepared for the challenges of an interdisciplinary program such as ICS. It may also be necessary for students to enroll in or audit undergraduate courses to prepare them for graduate work in fields for which they have little or no academic background.

 What kinds of career opportunities are open to a graduate of the ICS program?

The program emphasizes breadth and diversity to prepare students for service in academia, advocacy groups, consulting firms, private companies, resource management agencies,  and non-profit organizations. In addition, students with strong research interests, a record of publication, and interest in an academic career will be competitive for the increasing number of college and university positions in interdisciplinary environmental studies.

How should I go about applying?

Prospective students should apply through ECU Graduate School. More information regarding the application process can be found online at https://gradschool.ecu.edu/prospective-students/. Students must meet all requirements for admission to the Graduate School of East Carolina University.

Where can I find more information about the program?

You can find out more about the ICS program and admissions procedure via its website at https://coastal.ecu.edu/coastalstudies/integrated-coastal-sciences/. Prospective students are encouraged to reach out to the program director, Rosana Ferreria, and any of the affiliated faculty members to learn more about ongoing research and connecting with potential advisors.

Does the program host any recruitment events?

Yes, the ICS program hosts a recruitment event once a year. Check the ICS program homepage for addition information about recruitment events. Prospective students will have the opportunity to visit the ECU campus, meet with other prospective students, current ICS students, and faculty members.

When should I start applying?

You are encouraged to contact a potential advisor, and start your application process as early as possible. January 15th is the priority deadline for Fall admissions.  Institutional funding may not be available after the priority deadline.

Do you accept applications for spring enrollment?

Under rare circumstances, we may accept a student into the spring semester. However, this is highly discouraged as the structure of the curriculum presents a distinct disadvantage to a student admitted in spring.