Frequently Asked Questions

Does the BMS Program offer a masters degree program?

No, the BMS program offers a PhD program only.

How long does it take to complete a PhD?

We expect most students will complete all degree requirements, including coursework and a research project, in about five and a half years.

How many international students are admitted each year?

We admit a small number of international students per year.

I am interested in applying for admission to a BMS sub-program. How do I apply?

The BMS thematic areas describe areas of research conducted by BMS laboratories rather than distinct degree-granting programs. Admitted students may choose to work with any BMS faculty member regardless of research interest, and the eventual diploma granted to graduating students will be under the name "Biomedical Sciences." Faculty in our thematic areas are well-organized and maintain robust programs that include elective courses, journal clubs, seminars, retreats and symposia. These program events help foster collegiality and collaboration among research labs within that area. As a result, the training provided in each thematic area is as rich as that provided by separate degree-granting graduate programs, while inclusion in the BMS umbrella also provides the benefit of a broad biomedical sciences training.

In addition to the BMS program, UCSF also has separate degree-granting programs in Neuroscience and Developmental & Stem Cell Biology that are distinct from BMS. Students with a direct and focused interest in these fields of research may wish to apply to these programs.

What is the difference between the BMS Program and other programs at UCSF such as the Tetrad Program, Neuroscience Program, or Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Program?

There is sometimes confusion between BMS and other UCSF programs due to overlapping research areas and faculty membership. However, BMS is a distinct program that maintains a separate curriculum and separate admission process. If you are unsure which program may be right for you, we encourage you to review the curriculum pages and faculty roster on each program's respective website to help you in your decision-making. A list of all UCSF graduate programs is available at the UCSF Graduate Division's website.

Can I apply to more than one UCSF graduate program?

No. You may apply to only one UCSF graduate program in a single academic year. It is therefore important to consider which program suits your interests and apply to only that program. Each graduate program maintains its own admissions procedure.

What is the minimum undergraduate GPA required for admission to the BMS Program? What are the minimum GRE requirements?

University of California's minimum requirement for admission is a 3.0 undergrad GPA, but the successful applicant is usually distinguished by a strong undergraduate academic record and prior research experience in university or corporate laboratories.  The GRE is no longer a requirement for admission to the BMS program.  Scores will be accepted, but are completely optional.

Can I substitute the MCAT for the GRE?

No.  We currently only accept scores from the GRE general test and those scores are optional.

May I submit more than three letters of recommendation in support of my application for admission to the BMS Program?

You may submit as many as 5 letters. However, only three are required. It is helpful if letters are provided by individuals who can attest to prior research experience or training.

Is there a word count or character limit for the written statements?

There is a preferred 3000 character limit for the research statement, and at most the statement should be 1-2 pages; however there is no word/character limit for the Statement of Purpose. In both written statements, please remember that Admissions Committee members have limited time so being concise is a good rule of thumb.

Can you clarify the difference between the Research Summaries and Comprehensive Research Statement?

The research summary sections should focus on the specific work you are doing/have done in one specific lab/research environment, and the research statement would be more of an overview of your experience and cover the content below. It is okay if there is some overlap between the summaries and the statement. The summaries should indeed be summaries, 1-2 paragraphs max. Please keep your research statement to 2 pages at most.

Research Statement: We consider prior research experience to an important part of applying to our graduate program for two main reasons: 1) it helps us evaluate your potential as a researcher, and 2) it shows us that you have an understanding of how the intensive experience of graduate school aligns with your future career goals. Use the research statement to tell us about your prior research experience, whether it be in academic labs, industry, or elsewhere. Some students have worked in multiple labs, whereas others have worked solely in one or concentrated primarily on independent study - there is no single 'best' way to have prior research experience. In the statement, we would like to know what questions you attempted to answer (even if you didn't answer them), the goals of your research, your specific contributions to projects, information about any publications or future authorship expectations, and anything else you think may be important about your experience. It is important to indicate what your independent contributions to a project where, both in terms of experiments and intellectual contributions. Tell us about what your lab experience was like. Did you go to conferences? Did you present at lab meetings? Write a thesis? We want to know as much as possible.

What is more important for admission, good grades, high GRE scores, or research experience?

The BMS admissions committee looks at applications holistically. Successful applicants are typically distinguished by their strong academic records and by prior exposure to scientific research. Such research experience might include undergraduate thesis projects, laboratory internships, technician positions or summer research programs in university or corporate laboratories.

What kinds of jobs do BMS students get after graduation?

BMS students typically go on to academic postdoctoral positions and ultimately faculty positions, but many students choose industry, policy and teaching positions, or become entrepreneurs. Please see BMS: Career Outcomes.

How can I apply for a teaching assistantship to help pay my costs?

BMS is a full-time research program leading to the PhD degree. Because outside employment is not permitted, all students who are admitted to BMS and who remain in good academic standing will receive an annual stipend plus tuition/fee remission until graduation, regardless of citizenship. Therefore, while teaching is a required part of our curriculum, it is not used as a scholarship mechanism. We do encourage all students to apply for extramural funding, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. Please see Funding & Fellowships for more information about how students are funded in BMS.