Criminology, Law and Society Ph.D. program

​​The Ph.D. program in Criminology, Law and Society is ranked #2 in the US News and World Reports rankings. The program focuses on the causes, manifestations, and consequences of crime; the impacts of crime on society; social regulation; the civil justice system; the social and cultural contexts of law; and the interactive effects of law and society. With high-caliber faculty and an interdisciplinary perspective, the program aims to develop students’ theoretical and methodological sophistication to prepare them for faculty positions at major universities and colleges or for research, training, and administrative work in the justice system.   

Program Overview Graduate Student Emphases Research Centers 23-24 Tentative Course Schedule
Financial Support Award Opportunities Housing Options Program Learning Outcomes

Program Overview

In this doctoral program, students must pass nine (9) required courses and four (4) electives, all with a grade of B or higher. For a description of the following courses and others, please visit the UCI Course Catalogue.


C201 Research Methods C202 Research Methods II C203A Qualitative Research Capstone*
*Only one or the other is required; *students are welcome to take the other as an Elective. C203B Quantitative Research Capstone*
C228 Criminology: Micro Approaches C239A Law and Society I SE264A Data Analysis I
C229 Criminology: Macro Approaches C239B Law and Society II SE264B Data Analysis II


C225 Consequences of Imprisonment C252 Issues in Environmental Law and Policy
C232 Juvenile Delinquency C263 Eyewitness Testimony
C234 Anthropology of Law C265 Memory and the Law
C249 Law and Morality C275 Special Topics in Criminology, Law and Society

Students are also required to complete a Second Year Project, pass comprehensive examinations (comps), prepare & defend a dissertation proposal, and prepare & defend a dissertation.

Second Year Project/Master's Thesis

Beginning in their first year, students initiate independent research projects under faculty supervision. Approaches to research vary widely and may include questionnaire and survey analysis, systematic field observation, computer simulation, archival searches, ethnographies, oral histories, and legal analysis. This project is further expanded on and completed during the second year. This Second Year Project is designed to introduce students to developing their own research projects and writing for an academic audience. The report of the Second Year Project should be comparable in scope and format to articles that appear in leading journals within the field of criminology, law and society. Each project is evaluated and approved by the advisor and one other faculty member.

Students may submit the written report of their Second Year Project as a Master's Thesis for an M.A. in Social Ecology. For the Ph.D. degree, however, an M.A. is not required, and most students move directly to the completion of the doctoral requirements.

Comprehensive Exams

The comprehensive examination (comps) is an untimed take-home written exam consisting of two essays, to be completed in the third year of graduate study. The goal of comps is to allow graduate students to demonstrate mastery of major theoretical, substantive, and methodological issues in both criminology and law & society. The examination consists of two sections – criminology, and law & society. Beginning in 2021, students must complete the exam by the first day of classes in the Winter Quarter of their third year (adjusted for any Leaves of Absence), and must pass all sections of the exam by the last day of classes in Winter Quarter of their third year (adjusted for any Leaves of Absence). Students who do not pass one or both sections on the first attempt will retake the failed section(s) in the subsequent quarter. Students are allowed to take the exam twice, but must pass all sections according to this timeline.


During the fourth year of study, students draft and defend a proposal for dissertation research. The proposal is developed under the guidance of a faculty advisor, and clearly presents the research questions, theories, and methods which will inform the doctoral dissertation project. Once students complete the proposal, they must defend the proposal to a committee comprised of the faculty advisor and four other faculty members. Upon approval of the defense, the student will advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. Students generally complete the proposal defense by the end of the fourth year.

Once students have advanced to candidacy, they spend their remaining time at UCI completing data collection and analysis for their dissertation. Following the completion of the written dissertation, students must orally defend their project to a committee comprised of the faculty advisor and two other faculty members. The dissertation defense usually occurs in the fifth or sixth year. Upon passage of the oral defense and approval of the committee, the student has completed all of the requirements of the Ph.D. program.

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Program Learning Outcomes


Graduate Student Emphases

UCI offers graduate students the opportunity to earn emphases in several substantive areas. Many of our students earn one or more of these emphases, and several of our faculty are associated with the emphases-granting departments.

Asian American Studies

This graduate emphasis is a formal component of graduate studies at the University of California, Irvine, in addition to the fulfillment of requirements towards the Ph.D. or M.F.A. degree in an array of fields in the Schools of Humanities, Social Sciences, Social Ecology, and the Arts. Designed to complement existing graduate degree-granting programs by providing interdisciplinary training in Asian American Studies, this particular specialty is comprised of four courses: two foundation courses introducing theories, methods, and historical and contemporary special topics in Asian American Studies; one elective course in Asian American Studies; and one related elective course in a student’s specific discipline or area of study. Learn more...

Critical Theory Emphasis

The Critical Theory Emphasis (CTE) graduate specialty is the curricular arm of UCI's Critical Theory Institute (CTI). Scholars of Critical Theory explore and develop theoretical models to analyze and critique cultural forms from literature and art to more general systems of information, social relations, and symbolic categories of race, gender and ethnic identity. The goal of the CTE is to promote the study of shared assumptions, problems and commitments of the various discourses in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Learn more...

Graduate Feminist Emphasis

The Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies at UCI offers a graduate emphasis in Feminist Studies for students pursuing Ph.D. or Master's programs across the campus. Participating in the GFE provides students with advanced interdisciplinary training in Feminist Studies, and offers them an opportunity to become part a network of feminist scholars at UCI and beyond. GFE students are subscribed in our email listserv, which features current job openings, fellowship information, and important news about our upcoming events. Learn more...

Law, Society and Culture Emphasis

The Center for Law, Society and Culture sponsors the LSC Emphasis. This concentration is designed a) to instill an intellectual ethic on inter-disciplinarity among participating students early in their training and b) to create trans-disciplinary communities of emerging socio-legal scholars whose intellectual development is enhanced by formal and informal exchange across diverse fields. In the spring of each year, students in their first through third years of graduate study are invited to apply to the Emphasis, which is composed of 4 inter-connected components: 1) a year-long theory and research seminar, with each quarter taught by one faculty member from a different school at UCI; (2) cross-disciplinary mentorship and advising; (3) ongoing professionalization opportunities and responsibilities; and (4) a culminating intellectual project.  Each student is assigned a faculty mentor outside of his or her home department and will meet with that mentor on a monthly basis to discuss the student's ongoing research. Learn more...

Race and Justice Studies Emphasis

Students from any UCI state-supported graduate or professional program, including J.D., Master’s and M.F.A. students, are eligible to apply to the Emphasis in Race and Justice Studies (RJS), housed in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society (CLS). The Race and Justice Studies Emphasis is comprised of four requirements that promote inclusive excellence in graduate training at UCI: (1) A first-year mentorship proseminar offered over three quarters by faculty from across campus whose research and teaching foster inclusive excellence; (2) one RJS-approved course offered under the supervision of the Emphasis; (3) a writing seminar in which a paper developed through the Emphasis will be workshopped and revised toward publication; and (4) a public presentation which translates the student’s RJS-influenced research for an interdisciplinary audience. Learn more...

Visual Studies

The Emphasis in Visual Studies offers a focus on Visual Studies available to Ph.D. and M.F.A. students in all departments at UCI. Satisfactory completion of this concentration is certified by the Graduate Advisor in Visual Studies and is noted in the student's dossier. Learn more...

Research Centers

Students in the Ph.D. program often work with various Research Centers, including the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, the Center in Law, Society and Culture, the Center for Psychology and Law, the Newkirk Center, the Irvine Lab for the Study of Space and Crime, and the Metropolitan Futures Initiative.

Financial Support

Students in the Ph.D. program have a variety of financial support options. The most common sources of support are Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships.

Research Assistantship. Many students work with faculty on research projects funded by external grants or university monies. As with Teaching Assistants, RAs generally work for up to 20 hours per week and are involved in a wide variety of research activities (e.g., data collection and analysis, article preparation, etc.). Compensation for RAs is roughly equivalent to that for a Teaching Assistant, and covers fees and tuition.

Teaching Assistantship. Ph.D. students in CLS are eligible for 12 quarters of support as a Teaching Assistant (TA), making this the most common means of financial support. TAs work up to 20 hours a week, are responsible for assisting the professor with many common classroom tasks (e.g., creating exams, grading papers, etc.), assist students understand course material and meet course requirements, and experience the opportunity to practice the art of teaching (usually through discussion sections and/or guest lecturing). To maintain their eligibility, students must be in good academic standing and must have a satisfactory record as a Teaching Assistant. Some students may even receive a TAship after this 12-quarter period (subject to CLS and Graduate Divivsion approval). A Teaching Assistantship is not only an important means of financial support (a monthly salary plus fees and tuition coverage), but the work also serves a vital role in training Ph.D. candidates, particularly those who intend to pursue academic careers.

Additional funding is available through student loans, departmental and university fellowships, and outside funding sources. In addition to support during the academic year, students are often able to secure research grants from the Department for the summer. These grants are allotted on the basis of academic standing and financial need.

Award Opportunities

Listed below are the CLS Department awards current students have the opportunitiy to be nominated or apply for.

Graduate Student Housing

A number of housing alternatives are available for graduate students at UCI. Two apartment complexes and a residence hall are available exclusively for graduate students and those with families who wish to live on campus. In addition, there are many off-campus options, including apartments/houses at the beach or apartment complexes just across the street from the university. Due to their affordability and convenience, more than half of our graduate students choose to live on campus.

Among the on-campus options are Verano Place Apartments, Palo Verde Apartments, and Vista del Campo/VdC Norte. Verano Place includes 862 units which are one-, two-, or three-bedroom unfurnished apartments. Palo Verde is designed solely for graduate students and post-doctoral students, and consists of 204 apartments that range from studio to three-bedroom apartments. Vista del Campo is a privately owned and managed apartment community located on the UCI campus, offering furnished apartments to single students who are sophomores, juniors, seniors, or graduate students. For information on all of these housing options, please visit the UCI Housing website.

For more information, please contact:

Irice Castro
Assistant Director of Graduate Student Services


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