PhD in Nursing Admission Requirements

Please read through the admissions requirements carefully, and review the Ready to Apply? page for more information.

Engagement With Faculty

  • Applicants should first contact School of Nursing faculty to discuss their questions or interests. It is important that the research interests of the applicant match the expertise of faculty in the School of Nursing. To identify at least one faculty member who shares a similar research focus, visit UCSF Profiles and in the search tool, enter your research topic and select the School of Nursing. The Student Affairs Office can also supply names of faculty with academic interests in specific areas. We recommend interested applicants contact faculty to discuss their interests in doctoral study, and ask questions before submitting an application.

Prior Degree in Nursing

  • Students should have either a Bachelor's degree in Nursing (minimum 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale, verified by official transcripts) or a Master's degree in Nursing (minimum GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, verified by official transcripts)
  • If you have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, a minimum GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, verified by official transcripts, is required. The usually shorter career trajectory and lack of previous graduate training will be taken into account in evaluating past accomplishments. An interview may be required to assess (1) vision for and commitment to nursing, (2) attitudes toward learning, knowledge and science, and (3) clarity of focus of study. If the student enrolled in the doctoral program wants to earn a master's degree, it will be awarded after the student has successfully completed 36 units of academic work, 8 units of postgraduate professional work, and the master's comprehensive examination. The completed academic units must meet the faculty requirement for specialization in the student's area.


The GRE is not required for admission to the PhD program

Official Transcripts

  • Uploaded to your application or mailed to the Office of Student Affairs in an official, stamped envelope.
  • Applications will not be considered complete until all educational institutions listed have corresponding official transcripts uploaded or mailed.
  • For courses still in progress at time of application: unofficial transcripts may be uploaded to your application. However, official transcripts are required to remove conditional admission status.
  • The School of Nursing requires all applicants who have completed degrees and/or coursework outside of the United States to submit their transcripts for validation and evaluation before they may be considered for admission. Start this process as soon as possible. The evaluation process can take several weeks up to several months. Non-English transcripts must be translated into English by a certified translator, and then evaluated.

    Applicants may send their transcripts and credentials to any evaluation agency which requires submission of original transcripts and/or certificates directly from the education institution to the evaluation agency. The purpose of the evaluation is to verify that your degree/coursework is the equivalent to that of a U.S. bachelor or master's degree.

    Evaluation agencies provide a variety of services. Be sure to request an evaluation that provides the following:

    • Lists all subjects/courses completed at the post-secondary level
    • Provides a U.S. semester credit and grade equivalent for each course
    • Provides a U.S. grade point average (GPA) for the Bachelor's, Master's, or their equivalents on a 4.0 scale, and
    • Designates the level (upper or lower) of each undergraduate course
  • In our experience, World Education Services (415-677-9378; 212-966-6311; [email protected]) provides the information we need in a format that is useful for the admissions decision. However, applicants may choose to use any agency which meets our criteria and can perform an evaluation meeting the four points as mentioned above.


  • Completion of a college-level course within three years prior to matriculation at UCSF is required.
  • For example, for Fall 2020 entry, statistics courses completed prior to Fall 2017 do not meet this requirement. Transcript must reflect statistics course grade and credits earned at an accredited college, university, or online institution. Please review the Statistics FAQs for more information


  • Completion of a college-level course within five years prior to matriculation at UCSF is required. Course content should be equivalent to the N262A Advanced Scholarship in Research I course at UCSF.
  • For example, for Fall 2020 entry, a research course taken and completed prior to Fall 2015 does not meet this requirement.

English proficiency for non-native English speakers:

English proficiency for non-native English speakers as verified by one of the following:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) – minimum total score of 92 with a minimum score of 24 in both the speaking and writing sections. To report your scores, use UCSF institutional code 4840 and department code 43.
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – minimum score of 7 mailed to the Office of Student Affairs.
  • Note: test scores may take up to six weeks to reach the university. Admission decisions will be conditional upon meeting this requirement if scores are not available at the time that the application is reviewed.

RN Licensure

  • Applicants must be licensed as a Registered Nurse in California or in home state of residency. While studying in California, international students must be licensed as Registered Nurses or the equivalent in their country of origin.
  • Non-California applicants should review "Licensure by Endorsement / Reciprocity" rules from the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN).
  • California BRN regulations 2729 and 2732 require licenses for all practicing nurses in the State of California.
  • Information regarding recognition of licensure in other states, or other matters related to licensure may be obtained from the BRN at the following address: Ca. Board of Registered Nursing, P.O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100

RN Experience

  • A minimum of one year of professional nursing experience is preferred.

Goal Statement

A comprehensive well-written goal statement essay is an essential component of a successful PhD application. The goal statement should:

  • Demonstrate original scholarship and research in nursing, and evidence of the ability to communicate in a scholarly manner. Most students demonstrate this commitment by describing their research goals.
  • Highlight relevant publications, presentations and experience in clinical, teaching or research areas.
  • Explain how your goals and scholarly interests align with the program's goals and resources.
  • Address future career goals and the contributions you expect to make to nursing after completing the PhD program and how the program will help you achieve those goals.

Your goal statement should be no more than five double-spaced typewritten pages and show your full legal name and page number at the top of each page. Elsewhere, your application will also include a (one-sentence) summary statement of your proposed area of research interest.


A minimum of four recommendations are required (a maximum of five is permitted). While there is no minimum academic degree required from referees, applicants are strongly encouraged to request letters from individuals who are experienced with the requirements of rigorous doctoral-level educational programs.

  • For currently matriculated students, at least two recommendations should come from faculty members or mentors in the current academic program. For recent graduates (less than 5 years) at least one letter should come from faculty members or mentors in the most recent academic program.
  • At least two letters should be provided by the most recent employer(s), preferably nurses.
  • One or two letters may come from individuals (not relatives) who are well acquainted with your professional preparation and experience.

Each recommendation should address the following areas, as appropriate: [1] research, [2] leadership, [3] creativity, [4] self-direction in learning, [5] writing, [6] teaching, [7] relationship to applicant, and [8] clinical practice. An overall numeric rating is also requested.

The applicant will initiate the referral process through the online application by entering contact information for each recommender. Each identified recommender will receive an email with individualized instructions to access the application site. The recommender will have the option of uploading a reference letter or answering a short survey.

Within the system, applicants can verify when each of their recommenders has submitted their reference/recommendation. Applicants may send reminders to unsubmitted recommenders through the application system. Recommenders will have access to submit their reference for applicants even after the applicant 'locks,' or submits their application. However, the admissions committee will only review complete applications with the minimum of four recommendations.

Résumé or curriculum vitae

A current resume or C/V, including all research, work and volunteer experiences

Application fee (subject to change)

  • $105 for U.S. citizens and permanent residents and $125 for international applicants.
  • U.S. citizens and permanent residents who demonstrate financial need, or who would have significant difficulty in paying application fees, may be eligible for a fee waiver.

International Applicants

International applicants are encouraged to write to the UCSF School of Nursing's Student Affairs Office asking for an informal evaluation before filing a formal application. A statement of goals of study, past educational experience, and professional work experience should accompany the request for an informal evaluation.

The School of Nursing requires all applicants who have completed degrees and/or coursework outside the United States to submit their transcripts for validation and evaluation before they may be considered for admission. To be successful, international applicants must begin translation and/or evaluation of their transcripts as soon as possible.

Prospective international doctoral students should review the following resources: