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A Master of Science Program

Why get a Master of Science in Biology?

The Master of Science in Biology is a 32-credit hour program designed to strengthen students’ content knowledge, problem-solving skills and research capabilities. Students will have an increased specialization in a biological discipline and an enhanced ability to do research. Through tailoring coursework to meet students’ interests, faculty ensure students can demonstrate their ability to interpret and report data in written and oral formats. Graduate are prepared to work in their focus area of biology and be successful in additional professional or doctoral studies.

View Curriculum

Choose a thesis or non-thesis track

Thesis track

Students are advised to pursue this option if they wish to maximize their exposure to hands-on research methodology. Students design and carry out lab experiments or field research to address specific hypotheses related to unknown aspects of biology. Upon completion of the laboratory or field research, the results are communicated in both a formal thesis document and a seminar presentation.

Non-thesis track

Students are advised to pursue this option if they are seeking a master’s degree that puts a greater emphasis on traditional classroom coursework and does not involve extensive involvement in novel experimentation or field research. Students select an advisor to oversee the development of a scholarly paper. The paper will review and synthesize various aspects of the established scientific literature related to a specific, narrow biological question.

Admission requirements

Candidates for admission to the graduate program should meet the following requirements and submit the following materials:

  • Meet the requirements of the Graduate School as set forth in the graduate catalog  and acceptance to graduate study by the dean of the Graduate School.
  • Prior to submitting an application to the graduate program, students must contact and secure an appropriately qualified graduate faculty advisor. Application should not be made until a faculty member has agreed to accept the applicant as an advisee. A listing of biology graduate faculty is available at For assistance, contact Graduate Coordinator Katie Spears. 
  • 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). Submit a complete set of undergraduate transcripts from all institutions attended.
  • An applicant with a GPA of 2.50 to 2.74 may apply to be accepted conditionally. If accepted, the student would must 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:

  • Zoology
  • Botany
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology or cell biology
  • Ecology
  • Minimum of 13 semester hours in chemistry
  • Pre-calculus mathematics
  • Minimum of four 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.

GRE requirements

  • Composite score of a minimum of 286 (800 old version);
  • the analytical writing section must be submitted; and
  • a student who does not meet the required GRE score may be accepted conditionally to the program. However, the minimum 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.

A statement of purpose including:

  • a description of why the applicant wishes to pursue a Master of Science in biology;
  • the specific type of research project the applicant intends to conduct.
    • Applicants are encouraged to review 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 will 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.

Submit official documents by mail to:

Amber Duis, Graduate Records Specialist
Northwest Missouri State University
800 University Drive
Maryville, MO 64468-6001