Improving health and reducing inequities worldwide


How to Apply

The online application for the 2016-17 academic year will open in September 2015.

Application requirements include the following:

  • Résumé (<3 pages) summarizing education, professional experience, publications, languages spoken, honors and awards, local and international experience, extracurricular interests, and special skills.
  • Personal statement (<750 words) that addresses reason for applying, prior global health experience in underserved populations (local and international), expectations from the program, and global health career goals.
  • Three letters of recommendation assessing the applicant's academic strengths, personal qualities, and accomplishments. Letters should address how the MS degree will contribute to the applicant's career growth. Two of the letters should be from academic referees. All letters must be on letterhead and signed. Requests and instructions for letters are sent directly to the referees after the applicants list their names and contact information in the online application.
  • Original transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools from which a degree was granted. Instructions for submission are in the online application. 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). All transcripts from institutions outside of the United States will be evaluated by the UCSF Graduate Division to verify degree equivalency.
  • Application fee payable to the UCSF Graduate Division.

GRE scores are not required but should be submitted by applicants who have taken the test. Please see the online application for complete instructions.

International Applicants

International applicants from non-English speaking countries must demonstrate proficiency in English 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 IELTS (International English Language Testing System):

Test TypeMinimum Score
paper based TOEFL 550
computer based TOEFL 213
internet based TOEFL iBT 80

International applicants must have taken the TOEFL within the last five years prior to the date of application. If the test was taken more than five years ago, applicants will need to retake it. Please request that scores be sent to UCSF with the code 4840.

Admissions FAQs

When can I apply?

Online applications open in September of the year before program entry. For the 2015-16 academic year, applications are open September 3, 2014 until February 15, 2015.

When will I hear about admission?

Most applicants will be informed of their acceptance/denial/waitlist status approximately one month after the application deadline. Highly qualified candidates will be accepted on a rolling admissions basis.

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. To request the waiver, select the "application fee waiver" option in the payment area of the online application. Please see http://graduate.ucsf.edu/application-fee-waivers to determine your eligibility for this exemption.

What is the cost of the program?

The student tuition and fees for the 2014-15 academic year are $41,500. Fees for the following academic year are subject to increase. The fees do not include the cost of books, housing, personal expenses, and capstone project expenses.

Are scholarships available?

Global Health Sciences has limited funding available for small, need-based scholarships. To become eligible, applicants must complete the UCSF financial aid application, which includes the Free Application for Federal Student aid (FAFSA). The GHS scholarships will be determined in late August of the matriculating year. Students are also encouraged to seek scholarship money independently. Learn more about scholarships and financial aid.

Is the program fully accredited?

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

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) either abroad or in an underserved population in the US in the spring and summer quarters. 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 master's degree curriculum emphasizes research methods, population health, and health determinants in a globalized world. We welcome applicants who are not health care professionals but bring scholarship from health related disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, economics, policy, and environmental studies.

What kind of student are you looking for?

The MS degree is academic, not professional. 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 for hard work and graduate level scholarship.

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 master's degree.

I want to apply to medical school. Should I get my master's degree first?

We generally encourage pre-medical students to consider dedicating a "gap" year during or after medical school to pursue master's programs (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 master's degree in global health as a credential to enhance a medical school acceptance. Pre-med students also must be aware that completing MCAT examinations and applying to medical schools during the MS degree will add considerable time constraints to a very full and demanding academic schedule, and therefore is generally discouraged.

I am just finishing my bachelor's 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 in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, an NGO, or an international multilateral or governmental organization.

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. We do not require GRE scores.

Applicants should 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

Please see the online application for complete instructions.

What are the selection factors?

The Admissions Committee selects applicants 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 within each class. There are three possible outcomes after the interview is complete: accept, deny, or waitlist. We anticipate the entering class size to be approximately 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 can I do with this degree?

We caution candidates not to expect to master vocational and professional skills with this academic degree. This degree will be advantageous if you already have an idea of your specific global health interests. The program will teach students 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 the primary objective for students is to master the content and process of global health as a field of study and scholarship.

What are your graduates doing now?

An alumni survey distributed in the spring of 2013 indicated these outcomes from the degree program: all 89 graduates plan to remain or have remained in the field of global health in some manner; 79% hold paid employment at universities, public health departments, government organizations, or NGOs; 29% percent are involved in research and 32% are 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. Please see selected alumni profiles for more information.

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

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 a new application 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 and summer quarters, be conducted in a safe and mentored environment, and be of benefit to the host entity. The project can be conducted abroad or domestically with an underserved population. The program allocates a small bursary to cover round trip airfare and certain project-related expenses. See a map and titles of previous student capstone projects.

Where are classes held?

All master's classes will be held at the UCSF Mission Bay campus beginning September 2014.

Will I have an opportunity for part-time work during the program?

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