Program goals

The Department of Biology prepares graduate students to:

  1. Acquire training in a chosen subdiscipline of biology
  2. Learn research techniques used in the subdiscipline
  3. Develop presentation skills
  4. Develop publication skills

Student learning outcomes

Upon completion of the M.S. in Biology, students will:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of a chosen subfield, including the most recent advances in research
  2. Apply appropriate research techniques (i.e., field or lab)
  3. Effectively communicate research and findings in a professional context
  4. Effectively write papers for publication

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.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

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.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on 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.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

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

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Degree: Semester(s) of entry: Deadline dates: Test requirements:
M.S. Fall Jan 15 GRE
Spring and summer 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)

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

Course Title Hours
Required courses11
BIOL 693Current Topics in Biology2
BIOL 698Thesis6
BIOS 543Graduate Research Methods I 13
or STAT 543 Statistical Methods I
Recommended electives
Choose courses from the following list in consultation with adviser:19
BIOL/BNFO 601Integrated Bioinformatics3
BIOL 606Quantitative Ecology3
BIOL 610Conservation Applications3
BIOL 618Ecosystems Ecology3
BIOL 626Physiological Ecology4
BIOL 630Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction3
BIOL 640Evolution and Molecular Markers3
BIOL 650Conservation Genetics3
BIOL/ENVS/URSP 654Environmental Remote Sensing3
BIOL 660Developmental Biology3
BIOL 676Plant and Animal Cell Biology3
BIOL 690Biology Seminar1-4
BIOL 691Special Topics in Biology1-9
BIOL 692Independent Study1-4
BIOL 693Current Topics in Biology1-5
BIOL 698Thesis1-3
Any 600-level course in CHEM, EDUS, GRAD, MATH, PHYS, PSYC or URSP

 Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 30


Students should take STAT 543 or BIOS 543 as early as possible. Students entering the program with a statistics background equivalent to one of these courses may petition to have this requirement waived.

Students will work with faculty mentors during the first semester of enrollment to provide a plan of elective courses relevant to the subdiscipline.

Note: At least 19 credit hours must be courses designated exclusively for graduate students.

Graduate program director
James M. Turbeville, Ph.D.
Director of graduate studies
Phone: (804) 828-0561

Program website: