VCU Bulletins

Biology, Master of Science (M.S.)

Graduate program director
Jennifer K. Stewart, Ph.D.
Director of graduate studies
(804) 828-0650

Program website:

Refer to the program search function of the online VCU Bulletins for a complete listing of all programs, concentrations and related curricular options.

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Biology, Master of Science (M.S.)

of entry:


Spring and Summer

Jan 15

By special permission of graduate director


In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, the following requirements represent the minimum acceptable standards for admission:

  1. Bachelor’s degree in biological or related science or equivalent
  2. Appropriate college-level background in mathematics, chemistry and physics
  3. Three letters of recommendation pertaining to the applicant’s potential ability as a graduate student in biology
  4. Student’s written statement concerning career and research interests
  5. Transcripts of all previous college work
  6. Satisfactory scores on the GRE (general test)

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university.  These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

General academic regulations for
all graduate students in all graduate programs at VCU

Program goals

The Department of Biology prepares graduate students for:

  1. Admission to doctoral programs
  2. Employment in laboratory and field programs in private industry or government agencies
  3. Teaching in secondary schools
  4. Admission to schools of medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine

Student learning outcomes

  1. Acquire training within the chosen subdiscipline of biology through course work and thesis research
  2. Learn the most recent advances in the respective field through classroom instruction, seminars and informal discussions with faculty and peers
  3. Learn cutting-edge research techniques through thesis research
  4. Develop skills for presentation of thesis research
  5. Develop skills for publication of research

Degree requirements

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students are required to complete course work in core and elective courses and to conduct significant research.

  1. Credit hour requirements: Master of Science degree candidates are required to take a minimum of 30 graduate credit hours. A maximum of six credit hours from graduate course work taken at other institutions may be transferred if they meet approval of the department.
  2. Grade requirements: Receipt of a grade of C or lower in two courses constitutes automatic dismissal from the graduate program in biology. Courses with a grade of C or lower cannot be applied to satisfying the degree requirements.
  3. Other requirements: All graduate students are required to write a thesis proposal and a formal thesis following a prescribed format. In order to initiate thesis research, the thesis proposal must be approved by the student’s graduate committee and the chair of the department, and the student must be approved for degree candidacy. Each student will be required to pass a final examination, which will be primarily a defense of the thesis. Students may specialize within many areas, such as molecular and cellular biology, genetics, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, systematics, physiology, neurobiology and developmental biology. Students also may develop an interdisciplinary focus to their degree programs, for example, within areas such as bioinformatics, cancer biology, forensic science and environmental science.

Curriculum requirements

Courses Credit hours
Required courses 11-16
BIOL 693 Current Topics in Biology 2-4
BIOL 698 Thesis 6-9
BIOS/STAT 543 Statistical Methods I (Students should take STAT 543 as early as possible. Students entering the program with a statistics background equivalent to STAT 543 may petition to have this requirement waived.) 3
Recommended electives 14-19
Choose courses from the following list of recommended electives in consultation with adviser.  
BIOL/BNFO 601 Integrated Bioinformatics 3
BIOL 606 Quantitative Ecology 3
BIOL 610 Conservation Applications 3
BIOL 618 Ecosystems Ecology 3
BIOL 626 Physiological Ecology 4
BIOL 630 Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction 3
BIOL 640 Evolution and Molecular Markers 3
BIOL 650 Conservation Genetics 3
BIOL/ENVS/URSP 654 Environmental Remote Sensing 3
BIOL 660 Developmental Biology 3
BIOL 676 Plant and Animal Cell Biology 3
BIOL 690 Biology Seminar 1
BIOL 691 Special Topics in Biology 1-4
BIOL 692 Independent Study 1-4
Any 500-level course in BIOS or STAT (six credit hour maximum includes BIOS 543/STAT 543) 6 (maximum)
Any 500- or 600-level course in BIOL, BIOC, BNFO, CLSE, EGRB, ENVS, HGEN, LFSC, MICR, NEUS, PCEU, PHTX or PHIS 6 (maximum)
Any 600-level course in EDUS, GRAD, PSYC or URSP 6 (maximum)
Note: At least 19 credit hours must be courses designated exclusively for graduate students.  
Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 30

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Degree candidacy requirements

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Graduation requirements

Other information

Details on the M.S. degree in biology can be found in the Guidelines for Graduate Studies in Biology at



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Last update: 1/14/2015

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