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Northwest Missouri State University


Master of Science in Biology

M.S. degree; 32 credit hours

The Department of Natural Sciences offers a Master of Science degree in Biology.  Graduate students within the program specialize in fields such as cellular / molecular biology, organismal biology, ecology, and environmental science.  Although there are common courses for all biology graduate students, each individual student selects his or her field of specialty and specific coursework, in consultation with the biology graduate advisor and their primary scholarly mentor. 

The graduate program is designed to strengthen the student’s content knowledge, problem solving skills and research capability. Students who complete the degree will have an increased specialization in a biological discipline and an enhanced ability to do research. Students will be able to demonstrate their ability to interpret data and communicate such data in both a written and oral manner.  Students will be prepared to work in the discipline of biology and will have sufficient background to be successful in future professional or doctoral studies.

Graduate students within the program are able to follow two options:



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Option 1: Thesis

Students are advised to pursue this option if they wish to maximize their exposure to hands on research methodology.  Students in this option design and carry out laboratory experiments or field research to address specific hypotheses related to unknown aspects of biology.  Students select a thesis advisor with experience in that field of biology to help guide them through the process.  Upon completion of the laboratory / field research, the results are communicated in both a formal thesis document and a seminar presentation.

Coursework would involve a total of 32 hours of graduate credit (500 or 600 level).  16 of those hours must be at the 600 level and come from the Biology discipline within the Department of Natural Sciences.  Additional coursework may come from the Chemistry or Geology disciplines within the Department of Natural Sciences, Statistics, Agriculture or other departments, as approved by the biology graduate advisor and the thesis advisor.

Courses Hours

Approved Electives 20-23
Bio 04-680 Graduate Seminar in Biology 1
Bio 04-698 Thesis Research in Biology 5-8
Bio 04-699 Thesis 3
Total Hours Required 32

Option 2: Scholarly Paper

Students are advised to pursue this option if they are seeking a MS degree that puts a greater emphasis upon traditional classroom coursework and does not involve as extensive involvement in novel experimentation or field research.  Students select an advisor to oversee the development of a scholarly paper.  This document may involve a certain amount of experimentation, which is not as extensive as the thesis option.  The scholarly paper will review and synthesize various aspects of the established scientific literature related to a specific, narrow biological question.

Coursework would involve a total of 32 hours of graduate credit (500 or 600 level).  16 of those hours must be at the 600 level and come from the Biology discipline within the Department of Natural Sciences.  Additional coursework may come from the Chemistry or Geology disciplines within the Department of Natural Sciences, Statistics, Agriculture, or other departments, as approved by the biology graduate advisor and the scholarly paper advisor.

Courses Hours

Approved Electives 26-28
Bio 04-680 Graduate Seminar in Biology 1
Bio 04-697 Scholarly Paper in Biology 3-5
Total Hours Required 32

Departmental Admission Requirements

Candidates for admission to the MS in Biology program should meet the following requirements and submit the following materials:

  • Compliance with all of the eligibility requirements of the Graduate School as set forth in the graduate catalog and acceptance to graduate study by the Dean of the Graduate School.
  • Completion of a four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university with an undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 2.75 (4.00 scale).  Please submit a complete set of undergraduate transcripts from all institutions attended.
    • An applicant with a GPA of 2.50 to 2.74 can apply to be accepted conditionally. If accepted, the student would need to complete the first eight graduate hours with a 3.0 GPA or be subject to suspension for one calendar year.
    • A student who does not meet the GPA criteria could apply to the university as a non-degree seeking student and seek full admission at a later date.   If the student achieves a 3.0 in his/her first eight hours of graduate study, the student may reapply but must undergo the full application and admission review process. Admission to the department is not guaranteed.
    • Applicants must have completed minimum coursework in the following areas:
      •  At least 24 semester hours in acceptable undergraduate courses in biology.  This coursework should include:
        • Zoology
        • Botany
        • Genetics
        • Microbiology or Cell Biology
        • Ecology
  •  At least 13 semester hours in chemistry
  • At least precalculus mathematics
  • At least 4 hours of physics
  • Additional courses (such as calculus, computer science and statistics) may be required depending upon the anticipated graduate program of the applicant. 
  • Acceptability of courses and additional requirements will be determined by the Biology Graduate Committee.
  • Students may be accepted into the program with coursework deficiencies in these areas, but these deficiencies must be corrected in addition to the regular coursework associated with the program.  Deficiencies should be corrected before completion of the first 15 graduate hours.
  • A satisfactory score on the GRE general test. A composite score (quantitative (Q) plus verbal (V)) of at least 286 (800 old version) is considered minimal. The analytical writing section must also be submitted. A student who does not meet the required GRE score may be accepted conditionally to the program. However, the minimal score listed above must be attained during the first trimester of enrollment. In extenuating circumstances, the student may appeal to the Biology Graduate Committee.
  • Two letters of recommendation describing the suitability of the applicant for graduate study.
  • Submission of a statement of purpose.  This short essay should describe 1) a description of why the applicant wishes to pursue a MS in Biology and 2) include the specific type of research project that the applicant would like to conduct.  Applicants are encouraged to view the research interests of faculty within the department and contact them about potential projects within their laboratory.  Priority is given to applicants who have identified a research advisor willing to guide them through completion of their thesis or scholarly paper.
  • A writing sample is also to be evaluated by the graduate advisor and two other members of the Graduate Committee, as required by the graduate catalog, during the initial trimester of enrollment. A student will be required to compose a handwritten, impromptu composition on a subject provided by the Biology Graduate Committee. An unacceptable ability to write will necessitate some remedial work and a subsequent writing sample.  This is to be completed within the first trimester in the program.