Master of Science in Biology

The Department of Biology offers two Master's Degree Programs. Plan A (thesis option) is a program culminating in a research thesis for students interested in pursuing further advanced degrees or employment in biological research. Plan B (non-thesis option) is a program leading to a non-thesis Master's Degree and is intended as the terminal degree for students seeking careers with government agencies, or in industry, education, or other areas. Students in the Plan B program may select from one of the following three areas from which to concentrate their study: (1) Cell and Molecular Biology, (2) Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology, or (3) General Biology.

Plan A (thesis program)

The student is required to complete an independent research project and a written thesis suitable for publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal. At the end of the student's research program and following acceptance of the written thesis by the Faculty Advisor and Advisory Committee, the student will make a public presentation of the thesis research. Following the public presentation, the student's Advisory Committee will administer and judge a final oral examination that serves as defense of the candidate's thesis, and an examination of the student's general knowledge.

A minimum of 30 graduate credits in biology or related fields must be completed with an average grade of B or better, with not less than 21 credits to be earned in residence at UNR. At least 18 credits must be in 700-level courses, including six thesis credits. Course selection will be determined in consultation with the Faculty Advisor and Advisory Committee.

Plan B (non-thesis program)

A minimum of 32 semester graduate credits in biology or a related discipline must be completed with an average grade of B or better, with not less than 23 credits to be earned in residence at UNR. At least 15 credits must be in 700-level courses. Course selection will be determined in consultation with the Faculty Advisor and Advisory Committee. A research thesis is not required, but a scholarly paper must be prepared. The paper may be in the form of a scholarly review, analysis, and synthesis of a current topic in biology, or may be presented as a grant proposal in a format appropriate to a specific funding agency.

Following an oral presentation of a written paper to the student's Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee will administer an oral examination, which covers both general knowledge of the candidate's field and a more in-depth analysis of the topic of the candidate's study. Passing the oral examination is determined by the Advisory Committee, and is necessary to complete the degree requirements.

View the detailed course catalog information for the following areas of specialization:

Admission to study

Prospective students must apply to both the University of Nevada, Reno Graduate School and the Department of Biology. Admission to the Graduate School follows the procedures outlined in the University General Catalog. Since these steps are similar to procedures within the Department of Biology, the student is advised to consult the UNR catalog, as well as the following information.

To be considered for admission to graduate study in the Department of Biology (Graduate Standing) a student must submit all necessary materials for admission prior to February 1 for the following Fall semester, or prior to 1 November for the following Spring semester. Note that some of the required materials are to be sent to both the Graduate School and to the Department of Biology.

Application deadlines:

  • February 1 for the following Fall semester
  • November 1 for the following Spring semester
  • Apply to the Graduate School

    Admission to the Graduate School follows the procedures outlined in the University General Catalog. Since these steps are similar to procedures within the Department of Biology, the student is advised to consult the University catalog, as well as the following information. Note that some of the required materials are to be sent to both the Graduate School and to the Department of Biology.

    Graduate School Admissions

  • Apply to the Department of Biology

    To be considered for admission to graduate study in the Department of Biology (Graduate Standing) a student must submit all necessary materials for admission prior to February 1 for the following Fall semester, or prior to 1 November for the following Spring semester.

    Required materials

    • A completed application for admission to the Department of Biology Graduate Program
    • Photocopies of transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions attended
    • Photocopies of GRE test scores for general aptitude (and advanced tests, if taken)
    • Three letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with the applicant's academic record
    • Copies of TOEFL test results (required for international students)

    You may submit your application and all required materials online, or send everything by mail to:

    Department of Biology - 314
    Graduate Admissions
    University of Nevada, Reno
    Reno, NV 89557

    Online application

    The Biology Special Programs Committee will review all complete files. Applicants will be notified of admittance, denial, or placement on a waiting list within two months of the application deadline. Admitted students will have one month to indicate acceptance. Students on the waiting list will be notified of final disposition as soon as possible after acceptances have been received. Applications completed prior to the application review date will receive first and full consideration.

  • Admission standards

    The Department of Biology offers two master's degree programs, Plan A (research thesis program) and Plan B (non-thesis program). The academic requirements for admission are the same for both programs. To compete successfully for admission, applicants should have:

    • Minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.00
    • combined verbal and quantitative GRE score of 1100 or greater, with a minimum of 400 in each test; an advanced test is recommended
    • course work in physical sciences (3 credits), mathematics (6 credits), biology (18 credits), and chemistry (6 credits), or equivalent
    • for international students, a minimum TOEFL score of 600 (paper exam) or 250 (computer exam)

    Before admission into the Plan A (thesis) master's degree program, a full-time faculty member of the Department of Biology, must be identified and agree to serve as Faculty Advisor. Potential advisors can be identified by reviewing faculty research interests or the "Peterson Guide". If a mutually satisfactory match of student and faculty interests and field of study cannot be obtained, admission into the research thesis program (Plan A) cannot be granted. Alternatively, the student may apply to the Plan B (non-thesis) master's program, or undertake advanced studies as a Graduate Special student. Students accepted into the Plan B master's program will be advised by the Special Programs Committee during the first semester of study until an Advisory Committee is established.

  • Financial support

    Acceptance into the Master's Degree program does not obligate the Department of Biology or University to provide financial support. It is the responsibility of students to provide for the expense of their studies. However, there are a number of research and teaching assistantships in the Department of Biology for which students may apply. A typical teaching assistantship includes a stipend of $14,000.00 ($1400 per month for 10 months), non-resident tuition ($8193.00), the allowable portion of course fees ($166.21 of $246.50 per credit for 9-12 credits per fall and spring semester), and medical insurance coverage ($1720.00), bringing the financial package for each recipient to more than $26,000.00. In addition, there are opportunities for supplementary income working on faculty grants and contracts, and the University administers an extensive program of financial aid services. Potential students are advised to check with the graduate school and discuss options for support with their prospective advisors. The Department of Biology does not guarantee financial support.

    Graduate School funding opportunities

    Department of Biology graduate student scholarships