Improving health and reducing inequities worldwide



Frequently asked questions (FAQs) from applicants for the UCSF Masters Degree in Global Health Sciences.

When Can I Apply?

Online applications will be available starting September 4, 2013 on the GHS website. The application deadline is March 7, 2014. Applications for the 2015-16 class will be available online in early September 2014.

Can I Get an Application Fee Waiver?

Certain applicants may qualify to have their application fee waived if they are participants in specific programs or can demonstrate financial need. Requesting the Application Fee Waiver is done by selecting the Application Fee Waiver option in the Payment Area of the online application. Please see the http://graduate.ucsf.edu/content/application-fee-waivers/website to check your eligibility for this exemption.

Who Should Apply?

The MS degree is an accredited full-time, four quarter program designed for students and practitioners in health science professions or related fields who wish to achieve mastery and leadership skills in global health. A "related field" may be anthropology, sociology, geography, environmental studies, law, or international studies — defined as a discipline that interacts with and informs the field of global health.

It is beneficial if you have had a formative global health experience internationally or in the US, however, this is not an application requirement. You must be prepared to engage in an experiential project (referred to as the Capstone project) t either abroad or in an underserved population in the US in the spring quarter. In the application you will need to clearly state why you are interested in global health and what you hope to learn from the program. Candidates from the non-health sciences should demonstrate relatedness of their discipline and career goals to relevant topics in global health (e.g. policy, climate change, land use, behavioral studies). UCSF is a health sciences campus, and the masters degree curriculum emphasizes research methods, population health, and health determinants in a globalized world. We welcome applicants who may lack clinical skills but bring scholarship from health related disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, economics, policy, and environmental studies.

Can I Apply if I Am a Medical Student?

Yes, you may apply. Many clerkship rotations start in early August and this will be compatible with completing a full academic year for the masters degree.

I Want to Apply to Medical School. Should I Get My Masters Degree First?

We generally encourage pre-medical students to consider dedicating a "gap" year during or after medical school to masters degree pursuits (e.g. MPH, global health, epidemiology, etc.) because they have then accrued some basic health science knowledge and have had an opportunity to seek out a "specialty" area. Global health is an immense field, and mastery is greatly facilitated when the learner has identified and pursued a specific area of study and interest (e.g. women's health, infectious diseases, environmental studies). We do not recommend getting a masters degree in global health as a credential to enhance a medical school acceptance. Pre-med students must also be aware that completing MCAT examinations and applying to medical schools during the MS degree add considerable time constraints to a very full and demanding academic schedule and is generally discouraged.

I Am Just Finishing My Bachelors Degree. Can I Apply?

You are eligible to apply but please be aware that your application will be considerably more competitive if you have had at least 6-12 months' experience (or more) in a relevant global health pursuit in the field such as the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, an NGO, or an international multilateral or governmental organization.

Is the Program Fully Accredited?

The MS degree program has been approved by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities.

What Are the Admission Requirements?

We seek applicants with a diversity of backgrounds and disciplines and a commitment to career advancement in the field of global health. Candidates with prior experience in underserved populations or international health, particularly in low-resource countries, are especially encouraged to apply. Proficiency in a language in addition to English is desirable, but not required.

Prior education must include a bachelor's degree (BA/BS), or the equivalent, from an accredited institution, and a minimum of 3.0 (B) Grade Point Average (GPA) or better. We will consider applicants with a GPA of less than 3.0 if the circumstances are thoroughly explained in the Statement of Purpose.

Official transcripts must be sent to:

Laurie Kalter, Education Coordinator
UCSF Global Health Sciences
50 Beale St., Suite 1200
San Francisco, CA 94105

Please see the Education section of the online application for further instructions.

As part of the online application, we ask for three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement that reflects your career goals and reasons for choosing this degree program. The personal statement also serves as an example of your writing skills. These documents must be uploaded directly to your online application.

We prefer that applicants have successfully completed at least one college-level course in each of the following areas with at least a B grade:

  • Mathematics (e.g., calculus, algebra, statistics)
  • General biology
  • Health-related science (e.g., nutrition, microbiology, anatomy or physiology), OR another biology course

We do not require GRE scores.

International applicants from non-English speaking countries must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by completing one year of study with a minimum GPA of 3.00 at an accredited college or university in the United States, OR by obtaining the following minimum scores on the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - administered by ETS, or the IELTS - International English Language Testing System (administered by the University of Cambridge, the British Council, and IELTS Australia) You must have taken the TOEFL within the last five years from the date of application. If longer than that, you will need to retake it. You must request that scores are sent to UCSF with the code 4840.

Test TypeMinimum Score
TOEFL Paper Based Test 550
TOEFL Computer Based Test 213
TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test) 80

What Are the Selection Factors?

The Admissions Committee will review applicants for admission in early 2014. Selection will be based on a composite evaluation of the interview, academic record, interest and potential in global health, letters of recommendation, personal statement, potential for leadership, work experience, honors and awards, extra-curricular activities and interests, and potential contribution to the class. As a general criterion, we also seek diversity of background and interest in the class as a whole. There are three possible outcomes after the interview is complete; accept, deny or waitlist. . We anticipate the class size entering in 2014 to be 40-45 students. Foreign-born applicants from non-English speaking countries must be eligible to obtain an F-1 visa and demonstrate they have financial support to attend our program and live in the US.

What Percentage of Applicants Do You Accept?

We have been receiving an increasing number of applications each year since the program began in 2008. We select approximately 35% of applicants to interview and offer admission to approximately 25% of the total applicant pool.

What Kind of Student Are You Looking For?

The MS degree is an academic, not a professional degree. We emphasize scholarship, evidence-based analysis, and critical thinking. We seek applicants who have had some seminal global health experience either in this country or abroad, who have worked with underserved populations, and who have a strong academic record. We also look for leadership potential to contribute to global health policy, service, and scholarship. We prefer applicants who have a clear idea of what they want to do with this degree and why it fits into their anticipated career trajectory at this time. We want students who have demonstrable leadership skills, have a strong commitment to global health, and who can contribute to the learning environment. This is a rigorous academic program with high expectations of hard work and graduate level scholarship.

What Can I Do with This Degree?

As an academic degree, we caution candidates not to expect to master vocational and professional skills. This degree will be advantageous if you already have an idea of your specific global health interests. It will teach you critical thinking, problem-solving, communication skills, and research methods at the graduate level. We offer ample opportunity to practice these skills in class and in the field, but our primary objective is to master the content and process of global health as a field of study and scholarship.

What Are Your Graduates Doing Now?

The program has completed its fifth year in August 2013. An alumni survey was distributed in the spring of 2013, and here are some of the results: All of our 89 graduates plan to or have remained in the field of global health in some manner; 79% held paid employment at universities, public health departments, government organizations or for NGOs; 29% percent were involved in research and 32% were in academic teaching, fellowships, or post-doctoral positions.. Many professionals have returned to their prior pursuits (e.g. medical school, residencies, fellowships, practice). About 75% of non-professional graduates continue in academia, seeking further advanced training in global health and related fields. A number of our graduates have remained at UCSF, working with faculty on global health projects and others are working internationally.

Although primarily an academic degree, the program does help students with career-building skills (e.g. resumes, networking) and the advantageous faculty: student ratio provides mentoring and counseling throughout the year.

Please see our alumni biographies for more information.

Can I Defer My Admission?

We do not defer admission. If you decide not to join our program after accepting our offer, you will have to reapply and pay the fee. We will evaluate your re-application within the new candidate pool and therefore cannot guarantee admission on the next round. If you reapply within one year, you will not have to resend your transcripts, resume, statement of purpose or reference letters unless significant changes have occurred.

If I Am Accepted, Can I Choose My Own Capstone Project?

Once you start the program, you will work closely with the Program Directors and your academic advisor to choose a Capstone project from a list of projects within UCSF, other UC campuses, or an affiliated program. Every effort will be made to assure the capstone project is in an area of interest to you, bearing in mind that it must be completed during the 10-week spring quarter, be conducted in a safe and mentored environment, and be of benefit to the host entity. The project can be conducted abroad or with an underserved population domestically. The program allocates a small bursary to cover round trip airfare and certain project-related expenses. Please see course information for more details.

Map of previous graduates fieldwork projects »

What Is the Cost of the Program?

The degree program is self-supporting, which means we do not receive any California state funds. The fee for FY 2014–2015 will be approximately $41,500. This is an estimate and is subject to change. It does not include the cost of books, housing, personal costs, and capstone project expenses.

Are Scholarships Available?

Because the masters degree is a self-supporting program, UCSF Graduate Division scholarship support is not available. Students may apply for federal financial aid (such as Stafford loans), from the UCSF Financial Aid Office and may be eligible for a work-study appointment. The program does not offer teaching assistantships, and part-time work should not exceed 10 hours per week during the academic quarter. We cannot guarantee work study positions within Global Health Sciences. GHS has limited funding for small need-based scholarships. To be eligible, you need to complete the UCSF financial aid application including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Determination for these scholarships will be made in late August of the matriculating year. We also encourage students to seek scholarship money on their own.

Where Are Classes Held?

Global Health Sciences is moving to the Mission Bay campus beginning September 2014, therefore all classes will be held at that location for the class of 2015.

Will I Have an Opportunity for Part-time Work during the Course?

Every effort will be made to provide blocks of free time during the fall, winter, and summer quarters. The academic workload, however, is arduous and we expect students to apply considerable independent study to each course. This we estimate at around 42 hours per week of combined contact time and independent study. We advise that students work no more than eight to ten hours a week, if they decide to get a job during school.

What Is the Difference Between Global Health and Public Health?

The MS curriculum is designed to emphasize the unique aspects of population health in a globalized world. Thus, for example, the lecture content and seminars will address health disparities and the roles of poverty, social class, and human needs in the causal pathways to illness. Throughout the didactic courses the ethics of cross-cultural research, health policy and development aid will be debated. The courses will address the disparate health systems of different world regions and the importance of history, geography, and ecology in human illness. A recurring theme is the cross-disciplinary framework of global health that emphasizes the interdependence of structural, economic, socio-behavioral and environmental determinants of health.

Public health curricula traditionally encompass biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental science, behavioral science, and health service administration to address population-level health. Many courses of study are required by the American Public Health Association. Global health has been defined more broadly. "Global health is area for study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. Global health emphasizes: transnational health issues, determinants and solutions; involves many disciplines within and beyond the health sciences and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration; and is a synthesis of population-based prevention with individual-level clinical care." (Lancet 2009; 373:1993-5) Global health is best understood in the context of globalization (Globalization and Health, 2005:1:14) where structural, economic, socio-cultural and environmental determinants affect population health through a series of intermediate steps. This framework expands the scope of public health to broader spheres of health determinants.