Master of Science Program: Academic Overview

New admissions to the Master of Science and Post-Master's Certificate programs are closed.

The UCSF School of Nursing will be expanding its doctoral programming to meet the growing demand for doctorally prepared nurses who will lead innovative change in an increasingly complex health care environment.

The school plans to launch a new Post-Baccalaureate Pathway to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, pending approval of the curriculum by the California Board of Registered Nursing. This new pathway will enable nurses with a BSN to pursue an advanced practice specialty and DNP degree. Applications are expected to open in mid-late summer 2023 for admission in 2024. Please check back soon for information about the pathway and how to apply.

(Posted June 2, 2023)








The Master of Science program prepares leaders in the advanced practice roles of nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse-midwife, health policy expert, community/population health expert, administrator, teacher and consultant. Courses from nursing and other disciplines provide advanced theoretical knowledge, assessment skills, role/leadership development, and advanced clinical practice in a selected specialization. The curriculum offers an opportunity to critique and apply nursing theory and research as a scientific base for nursing practice. Most applicants applying to this program are experienced registered nurses who have successfully completed a bachelor's degree.

Upon graduation, all have a base of knowledge in a specific area of nursing; can participate knowledgeably in research activity and application; and are capable of contributing to the formulation of theory and to the application of theory to nursing practice. The Master of Science program is ordinarily a two-year program. The vast majority of students are on full-time status at the university (although many undertake part-time paid work concurrently with their study schedule). All of our master's students begin the program during fall quarter as full-time students and are expected to finish in two years; in extreme circumstances, part-time status is granted to master's students. There is no entry into the program any other time of the academic year. 

The Master of Science degree program in Nursing at UCSF is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The nurse midwifery and nurse practitioner specialties are approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing.


Upon completion of the Master of Science Program, students will be eligible to apply for certain certifications. More detailed certification information for each specialty is outlined on each specialty webpage. Please also see the following notification regarding professional licensure and notification.


The master's core curriculum serves students from all specialties. It provides advanced preparation in research, theory and clinical judgment in nursing practice, health care economics and policy, leadership, and the scientific basis for selected concepts in advanced nursing practice.

In addition, there are two clinical cores, one for clinical nurse specialist (CNS) students and another for primary health care students. For CNS students, the core includes health assessment, program management, case management, and outcomes evaluation. For primary health care students, the core includes health assessment, health maintenance and promotion, and clinical care management.

Each specialty (listed below) also has a series of courses that provide substantive content for the specialty. For the convenience of students juggling career and family obligations, many specialties arrange course meeting times to fit a two-day-per-week schedule.

Please note: The curriculum is subject to periodic revision at the discretion of the faculty.

Curriculum Objectives

  • Engage in advanced clinical practice
    • Apply current knowledge in the specialty area to manage or meet client needs within the client environment
    • Analyze clinical problems based on theoretical and research literature
    • Communicate, cooperate, and/or collaborate with persons from this and other disciplines to provide the best possible care for clients
    • Establish lifelong learning patterns that facilitate the incorporation of new theoretical and research findings into advanced practice
    • Assume a leadership role within the profession by:
      • Participating in professional organizations and activities
      • Developing an advocacy stance and position related to the focal client population
  • Evaluate and apply theory as it relates to the science base of nursing
    • Demonstrate discriminating use of specialty-based content reflective of particular client focus
    • Value the diversity of theoretical models relevant to practice
  • Critique and evaluate research as to its scientific and clinical value
    • Demonstrate ability to critique and synthesize relevant research literature
    • Demonstrate ability to use research findings to develop approaches to problems in advanced practice
    • Identify researchable problems, demonstrate skills essential to research participation, and assist in the dissemination of findings
    • Articulate linkages among theory, research, and practice; and recognize limitations of the current science base for advanced practice
  • Interpret relationships between social, cultural, political, and economic issues and health care delivery
    • Analyze major health care issues affecting the focal client population
    • Evaluate the impact of economics, politics, and demographics on the development of social and health policy and political action
    • Identify barriers to the availability of and access to health care
    • Identify cultural factors relevant to clinical practice, the conduct and critique of research, and the development of health care policy.

Graduate Core Courses and Clinical Core Courses

Graduate Core Courses

  • Prologue (N200)
  • Research and Theory (N262A, N262B)
  • Clinical Prevention and Population Health (N245A, N245B)
  • Leadership (N211.01)
  • Project Planning: Evidence-Based Practice for Advanced Practice Nurses (N234A, N234B)
  • Epilogue (N200.01)
  • Essentials of Human Genomics for Nurses (N294D)

Clinical Core Courses

  • Advanced Health Assessment (N270)
  • Advanced Pathophysiology (N208)
  • Essentials of Pharmacology Across the Lifespan (N232.01)
  • Advanced Clinical Pharmacology (N232.02)

Characteristics of the MS Graduate

Graduates of the master's program will have:

  • Knowledge and skills in providing care that promotes health and prevents illness.
  • Knowledge concerning current and projected health care systems and the economic, political and philosophical base.
  • Knowledge of research methodologies, research critique and outcomes research.
  • Knowledge and skills to manage client care needs across the health/illness spectrum. 
  • Knowledge and skills to coordinate client care needs across institutional boundaries. This may be as a generalist, a specialist or an administrator. Coordination of care must be done in partnership with client and lay caregiver.
  • Knowledge concerning health care issues for ethnically and culturally diverse populations as the basis for practicing cultural humility and provide culturally competent care.
  • Knowledge required to be proactive in the health care system. This will necessitate knowledge of the legal, legislative and regulatory issues for advanced practice nursing, consumer rights, systems management and change theory.
  • Knowledge and skills to participate in the ethical decision-making process.
  • Theoretical knowledge and some experience in role development as an advanced practice clinician, consultant, educator, administrator, researcher and coordinator.


MS Specialties