M.S. Programs

The graduate programs in marine biology and biology are designed (1) to prepare students for further graduate work leading to a Ph.D.; (2) to provide professional biologists with advanced research and educational opportunities; (3) to prepare students as managers of coastal and marine resources, trained to deal with contemporary problems in the environment; and (4) to provide students with a broad-based graduate program allowing for specialization in the diverse fields of inquiry represented by the faculty of the department.

M.S. Biology and Marine Biology Student Learning Outcomes

Admission Criteria

Applicants seeking admission to the graduate programs in marine biology and biology are required to submit all of the following to the Graduate School (please do not send items to the Biology and Marine Biology department):

  1. An application for graduate admission
  2. Official transcripts of all college work (undergraduate and graduate)
  3. Official scores on the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination (verbal, quantitative, analytical writing)
  4. Three recommendations by individuals in professionally relevant fields
  5. Resume
  6. Research Areas Form/Statement of Interest Form

Scores on the verbal, quantitative and analytical writing portions of the GRE test in the 50th percentile or above are desired. A score of at least 550 on the paper version (213 on the computer version) of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for applicants whose native language is not English. A baccalaureate degree in a field of biology from an accredited college or university in this country or its equivalent in a foreign institution is required for admission, as well as an average of "B" or better in the undergraduate major. Undergraduate grades, GRE scores, and recommendations are used in concert to determine acceptability. Acceptable students are admitted to the program upon being selected by a faculty member who will serve as the student's advisor. Selection by a faculty member is a requirement and thus students are encouraged to contact potential advisors.  Individuals desiring to take graduate courses as a non-degree-seeking student must have completed a baccalaureate degree in a field of biology. Non-degree candidates must submit an application for graduate admission and official transcripts of all college work. Courses taken at UNCW as a non-degree student will not count toward the hours required for the completion of a degree program upon subsequent acceptance.

Application tips for graduate programs in biology and marine biology

Application Deadlines

Students may be admitted to the programs at the beginning of any academic semester. The Graduate School must receive completed applications by June 15 midnight EST for fall enrollment and November 30 midnight EST for spring enrollment.  Assistantships are generally awarded to students prior to the beginning of the fall semester.  To be considered for an assistantship, completed applications for fall admission must be received by the Graduate School no later than March 15 midnight EST. 

Teaching Assistantships

Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are responsible for teaching 2 to 3 laboratory sections each semester in introductory (100 & 200 level), intermediate (300 level) and some advanced (400 level) courses. GTAs are not responsible for lecture sections of any course. Teaching responsibilities of GTAs are restricted to a short introduction to the laboratory, to the oversight of the conducting of the laboratory, and to the grading of laboratory reports and quizzes. GTAs teaching 2 laboratory sections generally have some preparatory responsibility for a laboratory. All GTAs are under the direct supervision of the faculty member in charge of the course.

Program Attributes

The Department of Biology and Marine Biology of the University of North Carolina Wilmington began offering the master of science in marine biology program in 1980 and the master of science in biology in 1989. Since the inception of these programs, we have graduated 408 students. The programs have gained an international reputation and have averaged 110 applications per year over the past six years for fall admission. The programs are selective, admitting 20% of applicants on average. The rate of matriculation of accepted students has also been high, with a mean of 88% for the past three years.

The programs have been highly successful based upon a number of performance measures. Over the past seven years, the modal time to graduation was 2.5 years and the placement rate for graduates in Ph.D. programs and jobs in the field has been 92.4%. Graduate students have been extremely prolific in both publishing scientific papers and making presentations at regional, national and international scientific meetings. The number of such publications over the past five years has exceeded 70 and presentations number in excess of 120. This represents approximately 1.5 presentations and 1 publication per graduating M.S. student for these years.

The graduate programs operate in a dynamic and growing department with a strong and productive faculty. The graduate faculty are all engaged in active research programs, have substantial records of publication and grant support. External funding in the department has more than doubled over the past five years with new grants exceeding $3.2 million this year. The graduate programs also integrate well with strong undergraduate programs in biology and marine biology. Graduate students serve vital roles as teaching assistants for numerous undergraduate laboratory sections.

All of the students in the graduate programs are supported with stipends, either as teaching or research assistants. The stipend levels have increased over the period of this review and are currently $11,000. Presently, all of our students who are not classified as North Carolina residents receive a 6-8 credit hour out-of-state tuition remission or grant that pays the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. Out-of-state tuition remissions are competitive.

Degree Requirements

  1. The program requires 30 semester hours of graduate study.
  2. Six semester hours of credit may be transferred from another accredited institution. Grades earned on transfer work must be equivalent to “B” or better.
  3. A minimum of 24 semester hours of graduate study must be completed in residence.
  4. No more than nine hours of graduate level courses offered by other science departments at UNCW may be applied toward the degree.
  5. Undergraduate courses taken to make up deficiencies will not count toward the 30 hours required.
  6. All deficiencies must be remedied prior to graduation.
  7. The student must successfully complete a comprehensive examination based on prior coursework and an oral defense of the thesis.
  8. Each student will present a thesis, based on original research, acceptable to the thesis advisory committee, prior to graduation.
  9. Each student must complete an approved course of study within five years of the date of the first registration for graduate study.

Requirements for Master of Science Degrees

Core Courses

Courses required of all students seeking a Master of Science degree in biology or marine biology:

BIO 501 Introduction to Scientific Research and Presentation (2)

BIO 599 Thesis (3-6)

Master of Science in Biology

In addition to the core courses listed above, each student, in consultation with his/her thesis advisory committee, shall devise a program of study that meets the requirements below, complements the thesis research, and satisfies individual needs and interests.

Select two of the following:

a) BIO 519 Advanced Topics in Cellular and Molecular Biology (4)

b) BIO 530 Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Biology (3) and BIOL 530 Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Biology Laboratory (1)

c) BIO 534 Advanced Topics in Ecology (3) and BIOL 534 Advanced Topics in Ecology
Laboratory (1)

d) BIO 549 Advanced Topics in Physiology (4)

A minimum of 14 hours of elective credit; select from any 500 level biology course, BIO 601-605 and BIO 694. Graduate courses from other disciplines may also be selected, with approval of the student’s thesis committee.

Master of Science in Marine Biology

In addition to the core courses listed above, students shall complete the following courses and, in consultation with their thesis advisory committee, select electives to complete a program of study that meets individual needs and interests.

Select two of the following:

a) BIO 519 Advanced Topics in Cellular and Molecular Biology (4)
or

BIO 530 Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Biology (3) and BIOL 530 Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Biology Laboratory (1)
or
BIO 534 Advanced Topics in Ecology (3) and BIOL 534 Advanced Topics in Ecology
Laboratory (1)
or

BIO 549 Advanced Topics in Physiology (4)

b) BIO 560 Estuarine Biology (4)

c) BIO 564 Biological Oceanography (3) and BIOL 564 Biological Oceanography Lab (1)

A minimum of 14 hours of elective credit; select from any 500 level biology course, BIO 601-605 and BIO 694. Graduate courses from other disciplines may also be selected, with approval of the student’s thesis committee.


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