A-Z Index


A Master of Science Program

Why get a Master of Science in Biology?

The Master of Science in Biology is a two-year, 32-credit hour program designed to strengthen students’ content knowledge, problem-solving skills and research capabilities. Students will gain an increased specialization in a biological discipline, an enhanced ability to perform independent research, and be trained in scientific study design and concept application pertinent to their discipline of focus.

Through tailoring coursework to meet students’ interests, specially-selected faculty mentors ensure students can demonstrate their ability to interpret and report data in written and oral formats. Graduates are prepared for employment in their focus area of biology and to be successful in subsequent professional or doctoral studies.

View Curriculum

Choose a thesis or non-thesis track

Thesis track

The Thesis-track MS degree is most ideal for students who wish to maximize their exposure to hands-on research methodology. Thesis 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 degree experience culminates in a formal thesis defense presentation in which each student communicates the results detailed in their thesis document. 

Students who desire training in bench and field research techniques, project management, scientific writing, and publication are encouraged to pursue a thesis-based degree. Student work may also be presented at regional or national conferences, and their research may foster publication of their results in scientific journals. Comprehensive exams are required for this track upon completion of content coursework.

Non-thesis track

A non-thesis track MS degree is preferred by students who seek a degree that qualifies them with extensive background knowledge in a specific field of study, with expert exposure to the published literature of their field. This degree track puts a greater emphasis on traditional classroom coursework and does not involve extensive lab experimentation or field research. Students select an advisor to oversee the development of a scholarly paper, which is an in-depth composition that reviews and synthesizes various aspects of the established scientific literature related to a specific, narrow biological question.

Students who are looking for experience in scientific literacy, data analysis, scientific information management, writing, and theory application will benefit from the design of this degree.  After graduation, non-thesis students often pursue higher education at the professional or academic level, industrial employment, or a post in education, where they are prepared to put these skills into action. Comprehensive exams are required for this track upon completion of content coursework.

Coming Soon: Professional Development Experience track

This track is highly customizable option designed to develop the professional application skillset desired by the student. In addition to personalized graduate coursework, a students is matched with a faculty mentor who works in partnership with the student to develop, execute, and document a professional development experience that directly applies to the student’s professional goals.

A professional development experience may take the form of an internship, designated capstone class project, or other prescribed experience appropriate to the specific graduate discipline. Other notable qualifying examples include independent research, web/application design, or teaching/instructional program development. Comprehensive exams are not required for this track; graduation deliverables include completion of content coursework and Professional Capstone.

* This degree track is slated for availability in Fall 2022 on the Maryville, MO campus. If interested, please contact the Graduate Coordinator for advance details.

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.
  • A condition of acceptance to the Biology Graduate program is that applicants must contact and secure in writing the mentoring consent of an appropriately qualified graduate faculty advisor. This advisor must have a terminal degree (PhD) in a field suitable to advise the applicant’s intended area of concentration. If an advisor match cannot be made, the applicant cannot be accepted to the program. 
  • 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.

Applications to the Biology graduate program are evaluated holistically and on a rotating admissions basis by the Biology Graduate Committee.  Students may submit their complete application at any time during the academic year. A student who does not meet the GPA or other criteria could apply to the university as a non-degree seeking student and seek full admission at a later date.  Applicants may also be accepted on a provisional basis to the graduate program depending on the quality of their application portfolio as a whole. 

If the student achieves a 3.0 in his/her first eight hours of graduate study, the provisional status may be lifted depending on accompanying evidence of appropriate progress. Admission to the program is not guaranteed.  Application approval date will dictate the matriculation term(s) for which an applicant is eligible.

It is advisable for applicants to the MS Biology program to have earned an undergraduate degree with coursework experience in life science, physics, chemistry, and mathematics.  It is not necessary for an applicant’s undergraduate degree emphasis to precisely match the area of concentration declared in their MS application. However, undergraduate transcripts will be evaluated for each applicant as part of the admissions process to determine whether they have been properly prepared by their undergraduate program for academic success in Natural Sciences graduate coursework.

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.  Deficiency requirements will be determined by the primary degree advisor, and verified by the Graduate Coordinator and Graduate Committee.

Additional Application Materials

In addition to a complete set of undergraduate and graduate transcripts, applying students are required to submit the following materials:

  • 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 to the program on basis of the strength of their overall portfolio. The accepted student may be asked to re-take the exam at a later date to achieve the minimum score.
    • GRE Accessibility Mitigation: Due to recent complications with GRE testing site access, admissions understands that applying students may have difficulty completing the GRE requirement for application. Initial applications may therefore be considered without a GRE score, but applicants may be asked to complete the exam at a later date. Do not delay completion of your application due to GRE access; communicate with Graduate Admissions about your circumstance if flexibility is needed.
  • 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 and how they wish to professionally apply their training after graduation;
    • the area of concentration for the specific type of research project, scholarly paper, or professional capstone experience the applicant intends to conduct (organismal biology, micro/molecular biology, environmental biology, etc.)
      • Applicants are encouraged to review the research interests and areas of expertise of faculty within the department and contact them about potential projects within their laboratory. Priority is given to applicants who have identified an advisor willing to guide them through completion of their thesis or scholarly paper research, or mentor their professional capstone.
      • Applicants must arrange for written confirmation of their advisor’s consent to be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator.

Submit official documents by mail to:

Zachary Ragan, Graduate Records Specialist
Northwest Missouri State University
800 University Drive
Maryville, MO 64468-6001