The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at SDSU offers the following degrees:

Graduate Programs of Study


SDSU provides excellent opportunities for graduate work in chemistry at the M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degree levels. All major areas of chemistry are represented: analytical, inorganic, physical, and organic chemistry as well as biochemistry. Whether you are a student who has definite degree objectives or a student who is not entirely sure about your degree objectives, we offer a program that may be right for you!

The chemistry graduate program at SDSU is large enough to offer a variety of course and research options, yet small enough that you will not get lost in the crowd. Each of our graduate students is important to us and we strive to give each student the personal attention needed to make sure his or her graduate career at SDSU is both successful and rewarding.

UCSD-SDSU Joint Doctoral Program

The Ph.D. degree is offered jointly with the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry through the Joint Doctoral Program (JDP). Students in the JDP are admitted into the graduate programs of both institutions, and spend one year in full-time residence at UCSD, in which they take courses and serve as teaching assistants for one quarter. The remainder of the coursework and research for the Ph.D. degree are carried out under the direction of a faculty member at SDSU. Students in the JDP are required to pass a qualifying examination in order to advance to candidacy for the degree. Candidates for the Ph.D. degree then complete a dissertation based on their research, which must be successfully defended to a joint committee consisting of faculty members from both UCSD and SDSU. Please also see UCSD’s description of this program. There are two ways to enter the JDP program, one directly, and the other by way of one year in the masters program; details appear below.

SDSU M.S. Degree Program

We offer a strong Masters of Science program with both coursework and research requirements. The M.S. degree at SDSU is a respected degree, not merely a “consolation prize” for those students who don’t succeed in the Ph.D. program. Graduates from our M.S. degree program have been very successful in obtaining jobs, particularly in the Southern California area. Requirements for the M.S. degree include the completion of 30 units of graduate credit and the successful oral defense of a research thesis. This program is ideal for students who want essential research experience but do not wish to advance or wish to postpone advancement toward the Ph.D. degree.

SDSU M.A. Degree Program

Students in this program are required to complete 30 units of graduate credit, at least 24 of which are in chemistry. The student is free to take any course listed as acceptable in the Graduate Bulletin; however, the student must take courses in areas in which he or she is deficient (as demonstrated by the orientation exams). The final requirement is to write a paper approved by the departmental graduate advisor or take a written comprehensive exam. This program is ideal for students who do not feel that they need research experience. Many people employed in local industries choose this route. To accommodate these people, we try to offer graduate courses in the evening whenever possible.

All graduate students are admitted into our M.S. and M.A. graduate programs with unclassified status. Although the requirements for advancement to classified status can vary, all students are required to show competency in four of the five general areas of chemistry either by passing orientation exams or by taking courses in the appropriate areas of chemistry. The orientation exams are given 1–2 weeks before classes begin in both the Fall and Spring semesters.

Application to the Graduate Program

NOTE: Scores for the GRE are not required

No matter what Chemistry graduate degree program you choose, you will first apply through Cal State Apply and then fill out a Program Application (a second part of your application that goes directly to the Department) in Interfolio.

First: Cal State Apply for application to university

  • Cal State Apply is the application to the university -- all applicants must use this system to apply.
  • Cal State Apply is managed through the Admissions department.
  • Applicant questions about the application can be directed to the Cal State Apply FAQs website.
  • Applicant questions specific to applying to the university can be directed to the Graduate Admissions.

Second: Interfolio for secondary application to Department

  • Interfolio is used by our department to collect program-specific application materials (e.g., letters of recommendation, personal statements, etc.)
  • Interfolio is managed by the Division of Research and Innovation IT team (
  • Applicant questions can be directed to Interfolio support or to the department, using the appropriate option below:
    • Option 1: Check the Interfolio - FAQs and Instructions section of the Graduate Affairs Program Applications page.
    • Option 2: Interfolio provides technical support to applicants and recommenders. Support can be reached in the following ways:
    • Option 3: Questions about the application process, application requirements, and other questions/concerns should be directed to the Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate advisors, Prof. Doug Grotjahn ( or Prof. Tom Cole (

User guides are available for Applicants here.  

JDP Direct Application Requirements

There are two pathways to enter the JDP program: (1) direct and (2) indirect by way of one year in the masters program.

The typical qualifications for successful direct application to the JDP program are the following. Students who do not meet the standards in all categories may still be considered for direct application if the overall application is strong.

  1. A minimum GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0, both overall and in chemistry courses. Lower GPA values above 3.0 may be considered if other qualifications are particularly exceptional.
  2. A bachelors degree in chemistry or a related subject. Quality of the undergraduate and master's (if applicable) university are considered.
  3. U.S. residency. Applicants who qualify as U.S. residents for tuition purposes may apply directly; all others must first apply to the M.S. program.
  4. If medium of instruction was in a language other than English, a satisfactory score on the TOEFL exam (, SDSU Institution Code 4682) within the last two years. Acceptable minimum scores are as follows: 80 on the Internet-based TOEFL, 220 on the computer-based TOEFL, and 550 on the paper-based TOEFL. A phone or Skype interview may also be required.
  5. Three current recommendation letters acknowledging the applicant's academic and research capabilities.
  6. Research experience. Tangible evidence of productivity in research in the form of publication(s) and conference presentation(s) is important, though not absolutely required.

Decisions will be made on a rolling basis, starting mid-December, with final offers extended by April. Early application is highly recommended for early consideration. The official deadline for submission of a completed application for JDP direct application on Cal State Apply is March 1, with deadline for receipt of all documents (transcripts, test scores, letters) by April 1, though serious applicants are encouraged to submit earlier. Those who are not recommended to the JDP directly can have their applications changed to the M.S. program, which is the second (and perfectly common) way that students start their JDP career. The indirect admission process occurs near the end of the first year in the masters program, by which time students have started their graduate research with an SDSU faculty member and are recommended by that faculty member.

M.S. or M.A. Application Requirements

The requirements for admission into the M.A. or M.S. program are the following.

  1. A minimum GPA of 2.85, both overall and in chemistry courses.
  2. A bachelors degree in chemistry or a related subject.
  3. If medium of instruction was in a language other than English, a satisfactory score on the TOEFL exam (, SDSU Institution Code 4682). Acceptable minimum scores are as follows: 550 on the paper-based TOEFL, 213 on the computer-based TOEFL, and 80 on the Internet-based TOEFL. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) may substitute for the TOEFL exam for graduate students for whom English is a second language. The SDSU minimum acceptable score for this test is 6.5. For information on the exam please see
  4. Three current recommendation letters acknowledging the applicant's academic and research capabilities.

Application Steps for all graduate degree programs: JDP (direct application), M.S. and M.A.

  1. All applicants to the program must first fill out an online application on Cal State Apply and pay the required fee.
  2. Complete the program application, accessed using the linked Interfolio "Apply Now" page. See details below.

Official transcripts (in sealed envelopes) from all postsecondary institutions attended, GRE, and TOEFL scores should be mailed to:

Graduate Admissions
Enrollment Services
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-7416
Telephone: (619) 594-6336

  • Students who attended SDSU need only submit transcripts for work completed since last attendance.
  • Students with international coursework must submit both the official transcript and proof of degree. If documents are in a language other than English, they must be accompanied by a certified English translation.
  • GRE and TOEFL scores can be submitted through, SDSU institution code 4682.

Interfolio Application Instructions

The place to start the application process is the graduate admissions page.

Additional information for the five steps listed above:

  1. A $70 fee must first be paid before your application to SDSU can be submitted. A tutorial for the Cal State Apply will help you walk through this process. The link to this tutorial is is found in the window below the Graduate Steps to Apply.
  2. Create an SDSU WebPortal account. After submitting your Cal State application, sometime between 1-14 days, SDSU will send you an email prompting you to create an SDSU WebPortal account. In this email is your SDSU student identification, RedID number. The WebPortal is used for most all SDSU transactions for both the application process as well as a SDSU student.
  3. Submit Official Transcripts after you have submitted your Cal State Apply application.
  4. Submit Official Test Scores; in this COVID era, that would be Proof of English Proficiency if required.
  5. After you have your RedID number you can begin the supplemental program application by creating an Interfolio account at:

Additional information on the Interfolio process can be found in this flyer.

The Interfolio account is used to upload your: statement of purpose (required), unofficial transcripts for all colleges and universities attended (required), GRE general exam score (required), (subject score for JDP direct admit, required), 3 letters of recommendation (required) and publication reprints or presentation abstracts (optional) and English language proficiency test score results (if applicable).

Application Status

Application status once you have paid your application fee and started the application can be checked on SDSU Webportal, using your 9-digit RedID assigned by SDSU. Additional questions about application status should be addressed to:

Attn: Graduate Admissions
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-1030 USA

Many doctoral students are initially admitted into the masters program. After a one-year residency, masters students can apply for candidacy into the Joint Doctoral Program. Our program is unique because it allows students with a relatively weak undergraduate record to strengthen their academic record and to begin focusing on research projects before committing themselves to the rigors of Ph.D. work. For these students, admission into the JDP is based on a review of graduate course grades, GRE scores, and recommendations, particularly from the student's research advisor.


Financial Assistance

Financial support for qualified graduate students may be provided in the form of research and teaching assistantships. Typically, most candidates admitted to the program are supported on teaching assistantships, and may be supported on research or teaching assistantships for subsequent years. Research assistantships are arranged between the student and their faculty research advisor, whereas teaching assistantships are administered through the department.

Please be aware that the printed Graduate Bulletin is the official publication for San Diego State University regarding graduate requirements and procedures.

If you have any questions concerning our graduate programs, please do not hesitate to contact us by email ( or phone (619-594-5595).

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