Improving health and reducing inequities worldwide


How to Apply

Now accepting applications for the 2016-2017 academic year

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Information Sessions at UCSF


Application opens September 1, 2015
Application closes February 15, 2016
Applicants notified March 30, 2016 or sooner


Qualified candidates must have the following:

  • Bachelor's degree (BA/BS) or the equivalent from an accredited institution.
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 (B average). Applicants with a GPA of less than 3.0 will be considered if the circumstances are thoroughly explained in the Statement of Purpose.
  • Completion of at least one college-level course in each of the following areas, with at least a B grade: 1) mathematics (e.g., calculus, algebra, statistics), 2) general biology, 3) health-related science (e.g., nutrition, microbiology, anatomy or physiology), OR another biology course.
  • English proficiency demonstrated by TOEFL or IELTS minimum scores or at least one year of study at a US college or university with a GPA of at least 3.0 (details below).
  • GRE scores are not required, but should be submitted by applicants who have taken the test. See the online application for complete instructions.

Application Requirements

Applicants must submit the following materials:

  • 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) addressing reasons 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.
  • Transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools from which a degree was granted must be uploaded to your application. You may initially upload a copy of an official or an unofficial transcript. If you are selected to interview, you will need to order an official transcript (in a sealed envelope) that must arrive before your interview day. Instructions for submission are on the online application. All transcripts from institutions outside of the United States will be evaluated by the UCSF Graduate Division to verify degree equivalency. If transcripts are not in English, a translation must be included.
  • Application fee payable to the UCSF Graduate Division.
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores for non-native English speakers, or English proficiency demonstrated by completing one year of study with a minimum GPA of 3.0 at an accredited college or university in the United States. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) should be taken within the last five years prior to the date of application, and scores should be sent to UCSF with the code 4840.
paper based TOEFL 550
computer based TOEFL 213
internet based TOEFL iBT 80

Frequently Asked Questions


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. See Application Fee Waivers to determine your eligibility for this exemption.

When will I hear about admission?

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

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. We anticipate the entering class size to be approximately 40 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.

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, résumé, statement of purpose, or reference letters, unless significant changes have occurred.

Who should apply

Who should apply?

The MS program is 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, but 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 who 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.

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 of 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.

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 then they have 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 program will add considerable time constraints to a very full and demanding academic schedule, and therefore is generally discouraged.

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.

During and after the program

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, provided that it meets the program requirements. The program allocates a small bursary to cover roundtrip airfare and certain project-related expenses. See a map and titles of previous student capstone projects.

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.

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 2014 indicated these outcomes from the degree program: of 163 graduates, 73% hold paid employment at universities, public health departments, government organizations, or NGOs; 27% percent are involved in research, and 30% 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.