10 Top Graduate Programs at UC Davis

This group of medical students from the Class of 2008 pose for their induction into the School of Medicine at UC Davis. (Debbie Aldridge/UC Davis)

Nationally Ranked Graduate and Professional Schools Prepare for High-Potential Careers

Did you know that UC Davis is home to over 7,000 graduate and professional students across 99 different master’s and doctoral degree programs?  In 2017, UC Davis welcomed more than 2,200 new graduate students in the colleges and professional students in medicine, nursing, law, veterinary medicine, business and education. Altogether, it’s the largest incoming graduate class in UC Davis history.

Here are 10 graduate and professional programs that received the highest number of applications last year:

1. Medicine

Medical students Ifrah Ali, left, and Talin Arslanian, right, chat with a chats with an undergraduate volunteer, Simirin Atwal, during their shift at the Shifa Community Clinic in downtown Sacramento. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
Medical students Ifrah Ali, left, and Talin Arslanian, right, chat with a chats with an undergraduate volunteer, Simirin Atwal, during their shift at the Shifa Community Clinic in downtown Sacramento. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

The UC Davis Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree is a four-year program that provides comprehensive preparation for graduate medical training in any specialty. The curriculum for the degree provides flexibility for and encourages coordination with other advanced degree programs, such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) programs. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UC Davis School of Medicine among America's best medical schools for the quality of its educational programs in primary care and research.

2. Law

UC Davis law students worked with their professor, Jack Chin (center), to get a lawyer of Chinese descent admitted to the State Bar of California posthumously. He had been banned due to his ethnicity in the 1800s. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
UC Davis law students worked with their professor, Jack Chin (center), to get a lawyer of Chinese descent admitted to the State Bar of California posthumously. He had been banned due to his ethnicity in the 1800s. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

With its nationally recognized faculty, a world-class student body and an international reputation to match, it’s no wonder that the Juris Doctor (J.D.) program in the School of Law is one of UC Davis’ most popular. King Hall students complement classroom learning with experience participating in research and real-world lawyering. In the most recent U.S. News and World Report ranking, the UC Davis School of Law ranked among the top 40 Best Law Schools.

3. Computer science

Graduate students can work on creative projects, such as this one created by Kwan-Liu Ma, a UC Davis professor of computer science. Featured in a science museum collaboration, Ma's World Plankton Populations table that shows visitors small creatures and facts about them. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)
Graduate students can work on creative projects, such as this one created by Kwan-Liu Ma, a UC Davis professor of computer science. Featured in a science museum collaboration, Ma's World Plankton Populations table that shows visitors small creatures and facts about them. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Offering both Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees, the UC Davis computer science program offers interdisciplinary research opportunities through campus wide initiatives and national collaborative research projects. Computer scientists design, maintain and improve upon information systems, focusing on designing systems for application in science, industry and management. Students choose from a variety of different areas of research, from computer graphics and big data to human-computer interfaces. They benefit from UC Davis’ proximity to Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area by taking advantage of numerous internship and job opportunities. The program was ranked 34th in U.S. News and World Report’s most recent ranking of Best Graduate Computer Science Programs.

4. Veterinary medicine

Not only is the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) program one of the most popular graduate programs at UC Davis, it’s also ranked first in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of Best Veterinary Medicine Programs. The world-renowned program provides a solid foundation of comparative knowledge for research training and careers in veterinary care, public health, emerging infectious diseases and food safety. The School of Veterinary Medicine’s impact is evident in the accomplishments of clinicians who have developed novel treatments and basic scientists who continue to make major discoveries in animal, human and environmental health.

5. Electrical and computer engineering

Cristian Heredia, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, graduated as a data scientist in 2017. He now works for a Swedish-based video game company, King, as a platform data scientist analyzing the impact global campaigns have on the business. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
Cristian Heredia, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, graduated as a data scientist in 2017. He now works for a Swedish-based video game company, King, as a platform data scientist analyzing the impact global campaigns have on the business. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Among the top 40 programs of its kind in the country according to U.S. News and World Report, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Program also offers master’sand doctorate degree work in hardware, software, theory or electronics. It provides graduate instruction and cutting-edge research in a wide spectrum of areas including communications, control, networking and signal processing; computer engineering; electronic circuits; optoelectronics; radio frequency; micro- and millimeter waves; and physical electronics. The graduate program is tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual student. Interdisciplinary research is encouraged, and the graduate program works closely with other departments and programs on campus.

6. Statistics

UC Davis statistics graduate student Erin Melcon, one of eight winners of the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, teaches an undergraduate class of students. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
UC Davis statistics graduate student Erin Melcon, one of eight winners of the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, teaches an undergraduate class of students. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

UC Davis statistics graduate student Erin Melcon, one of eight winners of the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, teaches an undergraduate class of students. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Tied for 27th in the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings, the statistics graduate program at UC Davis offers both Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees. The master’s degree program provides students with broad familiarity with the most widely used statistical methods and with solid background in statistical computing, while the Ph.D. program combines advanced coursework in probability and theoretical, applied and computational statistics — balancing methodology, computing, and applications. The program offers the opportunity for in-depth concurrent study in an applied field for all graduate students, and Ph.D. students can elect a subspecialty in the area of biostatistics.

7. Civil and environmental engineering

UC Davis civil and environmental engineering graduate student Kaveh Zamani, right, teaches undergraduates in the hydrophonics lab in Bainer Hall. He was also a winner of the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
UC Davis civil and environmental engineering graduate student Kaveh Zamani, right, teaches undergraduates in the hydrophonics lab in Bainer Hall. He was also a winner of the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Master’s and doctorate students in UC Davis’ Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Program gain advanced knowledge of designing, building, operating and maintaining the physical infrastructure and protecting the natural environment. These together support human society in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. The program is one of the most highly regarded in the country, having recently nabbed the 12th spot in the U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of Best Graduate Civil Engineering Programs.

8. Physics

Rachel Houtz, a doctoral candidate in physics at UC Davis, shown here teaching a class, also earned a Master of Science in physics here. (UC Davis)
Rachel Houtz, a doctoral candidate in physics at UC Davis, shown here teaching a class, also earned a Master of Science in physics here. (UC Davis)

Tied for 29th in the U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of Best Graduate Physics Programs, the UC Davis graduate program in physics provides a dynamic and diverse environment for master’s and Ph.D. students alike. Students work with faculty experts in research areas such as condensed matter physics, cosmology and high energy/elementary particle physics, with smaller groups studying biophysics, complexity, gravitation, nuclear physics and physics education. Students in this program often travel to national and international facilities for parts of their Ph.D. work, and most students find physics jobs in industry, academia, or at national labs after graduation.

9. Mechanical and aerospace engineering

In the Robotics, Autonomous Systems and Controls Laboratory, graduate student Kenneth Lyons (far left) works with Sanjay Joshi, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering (standing behind him on the left), lab volunteer Adam Shapiro (right of Lyons)  who has quadriplegia and postdoc Maria Skavhaug (standing right) on a project developing brain-controlled robots. (UC Davis)
In the Robotics, Autonomous Systems and Controls Laboratory, graduate student Kenneth Lyons (far left) works with Sanjay Joshi, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering (standing behind him on the left), lab volunteer Adam Shapiro (right of Lyons)  who has quadriplegia and postdoc Maria Skavhaug (standing right) on a project developing brain-controlled robots. (UC Davis)

Offering both Ph.D. and M.S. degrees, the mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate program at UC Davis allows students to address fundamental issues in fields such as manufacturing, micro- and nano-technology, vehicles, biomechanics, aerostructures, sensors, controls, mechatronics, combustion and energy systems. Students graduate with the qualitative and quantitative skills necessary for professional research and teaching in mechanical and aeronautical engineering. The program earned the 23rd spot in the most recent U.S. News and World Report ranking of Best Graduate Aerospace / Aeronautical / Astronautical Engineering Programs.

10. Economics

UC Davis economics graduate student Henry Hao, an Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award winner, instructs students. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
UC Davis economics graduate student Henry Hao, an Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award winner, instructs students. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Housed in the UC Davis Department of Economics, this doctoral program attracts students from across the globe who are interested in conducting original research leading to new insights about financial structures in the global economy. Graduates of the program are prepared for careers with a wide variety of governmental and business organizations. The program was ranked 29th in the U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of Best Graduate Economics Programs.


Didn’t see your program of choice in this list? UC Davis offers graduate and professional degrees ranging from accountancy to viticulture and enology. Learn more about UC Davis graduate programs, admissions requirements and application deadlines by visiting our Graduate Studies programs.

Get great tips on what you should do to prepare for graduate school from “5 Ways to Get a Head Start on Graduate School.”

— Elizabeth Forrest Lambert, marketing and communications manager for UC Davis Graduate Studies

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