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Application Deadlines:

Application are now open for our 2022-23 cohort! Apply now.
See our Admissions page for program requirements.
To apply, visit UC San Diego Graduate Admissions website.
Please note, we only accept students during the Fall of each academic year.

UC San Diego’s Master of Arts (MA) in Global Health is a one year degree program that provides interdisciplinary training that equips students to examine, understand, and address pressing issues concerning wellbeing, illness, and healing across global contexts. The goal of improving health at the individual, population, and global levels, requires appreciating how illness and healing practices are shaped by cultural, biosocial, and other contextual forces amid the uneven circulation of resources, technologies, infrastructures, and people. We instill in students an ability to identify and analyze health equity challenges and opportunities to enhance health care in under-resourced communities around the world. We welcome students from a wide range of academic and employment backgrounds. 

The UC San Diego Global Health Program is a collaborative integration of multiple disciplines and perspectives within and beyond the health sciences. We offer a synthesis of population-based prevention, individual-level clinical care, and cross-cultural understanding of the causes and experiences of illness, becoming and staying well, and the practices of healing. We achieve this unique interdisciplinary emphasis by:

  • balancing quantitative and qualitative methods
  • acknowledging health issues from global, regional, and individual perspectives
  • harmonizing pragmatic methods for addressing global health problems in the field with academic approaches for understanding how health problems arise and affect communities and individuals

Our one-year curriculum (three academic quarters) engages knowledge and skills from the domains of social epidemiology, global health policy and diplomacy, medical anthropology, and global health research methodology.

Program Core Competencies include:
  • Social Epidemiology -- factors creating the global burden of disease
  • Global Health Research Methodology -- design, execution, and analysis of research studies
  • Medical Anthropology -- cultural variation in the experience of illness and treatment
  • Global Health Policy & Diplomacy -- programs and strategies for effective intervention
  • Program Management -  program development, capacity strengthening

The program offers two degree options;

  • A contiguous degree option for current UC San Diego Global Health majors and minors and
  • A standalone MA degree option designed for non-Global Health majors and outside students. 

We integrate leadership and collaboration opportunities and professionalization activities into the curriculum to help you create a professional portfolio, identify jobs, network, and build your career. And we offer individualized attention, an option to focus on a specific region and global health issue, and the opportunity to take electives from Departments across UCSD. Students can also take advantage of the various global health organizations, seminars, and events on and off-campus.

What can you do with a MA in Global Health?

Our program prepares students for a range of domestic and international careers in global health with NGOs, government agencies, multilateral aid organizations, and grassroots programs. Graduates might work in areas such as program development and implementation, health policy, health administration, social services, health development, advocacy, project management, humanitarian aid, and research. The program also prepares students pursuing training in allied health professions, medical school, and advanced training (Ph.D) in many of the academic fields contributing to global health. Resource: Career Options With A Masters Degree In Global Health

Learn more:

"Medicine is a social science and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale. Medicine as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and to attempt their theoretical solution; the politician, the practical anthropologist, must find the means for their actual solution". - Rudolf Virchow (1879) – Founder of Social Medicine



Why a MA in Global Health?

What is unique about a social science focused MA in global health?

Effective global health policy, research, and practice calls for a dual perspective that brings together the public health sciences with the interdisciplinary study of society, culture, relationships, and experience—a view that moves beyond biomedical definitions of health and disease to include local understandings and considerations of how broader contexts and determinants shape illness and wellbeing. A social science emphasis can be qualitative or quantitative (or mixed) and be exploratory, conceptual, or empirical. Many social science-oriented global health researchers use participatory and community-based methods and they advocate for and empower vulnerable or oppressed communities to speak out or make changes (see Greenhalgh 2018). This is a human-centered approach—a paradigm that places people at the core of global health inquiries.

There is a paradox in global health. Successful community health programs require locally informed solutions, not a global one-size-fits-all magic bullet. Social science trained global health professionals have the theories and methods needed to help planners, policymakers, researchers, and healthcare providers interpret how culture, social structures, political-economic forces, and globalization shape vulnerability, experiences of illness and healing, and how people understand health services. Besides attending to local perspectives, expectations, and concerns, a social science approach can, for example, attend to:

  • Risk perceptions and illness experiences
  • The role of ethnicity, gender, and social class
  • Marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated populations
  • Caregiving practices and help-seeking behaviors
  • The accessibility of services
  • The movement of people and resources
  • Inequalities
  • The legacies of colonialism and other historical forces and events
  • Structural violence and social suffering
  • Political discourses
  • The impact of loans, policies, conditionalities, conflict, and trade on health
  • The assumptions shaping policies and practices
  • The unintended consequences of interventions and policies
  • How representations can stigmatize people and shape healthcare access

Want to learn more? 

What will this program prepare me for?

The MA in Global Health will provide students with the knowledge base to address urgent questions of global health equity and;

1) Will prepare students to enter the field of global health working for NGOs or governmental agencies at what the CUGH has defined as the Basic Program-Oriented Operational Level;

2) In addition, the master’s thesis curricular option will prepare students to pursue advanced training (Ph.D.) in academic fields that contribute to the interdisciplinary field of global health; and

3) In combination with a pre-medical curriculum will prepare students to attend medical school or pursue training in allied health professions with an emphasis in global health.

What is the difference between a MA, MS and MPH degree?

The UC San Diego MA in Global Health is grounded in the social science understanding of the global burden of disease and the social bases of complex, ever-changing health challenges in low-resource community settings and a globalizing world, emphasizing skill sets for analyzing global health challenges with respect to health-related social processes, the relation between health and social justice, health consequences of structural violence, and cultural factors influencing illness and treatment. 

The MPH is grounded in the five competencies traditional to public health, including epidemiology, biostatistics, behavioral health/health education, environmental health, and health services administration. 

A Master of Science (MS) degree places relatively more emphasis on quantitative skills and biological sciences.

Is financial aid available?

Can I use courses taken as an undergraduate towards my MA degree?

No, courses taken as an undergraduate cannot be applied towards coursework for the MA degree.

Should I choose the comprehensive exam or thesis?

The answer depends on your academic or career goals, interests, and strengths. Students who are interested in pursuing employment opportunities in government agencies, NGOs, or other human service organizations and those interested in clinical training after their MA often choose the comprehensive exam. Students interested in research-focused careers or continuing with Ph.D. studies might benefit most from the thesis track. The thesis is a significant undertaking and students have a limited time to complete it. Successful thesis students will have a clear project in mind and will have considered potential thesis advisors early in the Fall Quarter.

What will the comprehensive exam cover?

The exam will require demonstration of expertise in:

1) Global Burden of Disease

2) Institutions and Practices of Global Health Care Delivery

3) Expertise in a topical problem area (maternal and child health, infectious disease, mental health, nutrition and food security, refugee and immigrant health, natural and human caused disasters)

4) Expertise in a particular geographical region and the range of its global health challenges.

How do I choose a thesis topic?

Think of your career goals and the substantive area you want to pursue. The topic should be something in which you are interested and about which you are passionate. It should also be something that is realistic to address and about which there is already literature you can draw on. 

When do I start my Thesis?

Your writing will begin in Winter Quarter. However, we recommend you begin to develop your research questions, jot down ideas or notes, and start on an annotated bibliography during the Fall Quarter. Remember that writing is a form of thinking and it is best to start as soon as possible.

Can I write on the same topic as my undergrad thesis?

You can write on a related topic but not on the same topic, and the thesis must be all together different from your senior thesis.

If I have additional questions about the program, who can I contact for more information?

If you have further questions about the MA in Global Health program, feel free to contact the Global Health Program department at