Degree Requirements

The M.S. in Biology degree program is designed for students who desire to pursue advanced studies in professional and graduate school or various vocational opportunities in biology and related areas.  The program provides the opportunity for broad training in a variety of biological areas, as well as specialization in areas of particular interest through the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCD) concentration and the Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B) concentration. 

Both the thesis and non-thesis tracks are offered within the M.S. degree.  The thesis track is designed for students whose career goals include formal research training.   The non-thesis track is designed for students whose career goals include graduate education, but not formal research experience.  Students interested specifically in the non-thesis track during admission must state so in the personal statement. Students may switch between the thesis and non-thesis tracks with written approval from their major advisor and the Graduate Coordinator. Please note that not all Professors will mentor students in the non-thesis track and students are responsible for obtaining a mentor.


1. Plan of Study and total hours required:

M.S. Degree: Thesis Track:  The program requires 30 total credit hours.
 All courses for graduate credit must be taken at the 5000-level or higher and at least 16 of the 30 hours must be in courses at the 6000-level including: 

  •       BIOL 6101 Hypothesis Testing

  •       BIOL 6102 Cellular and Molecular Biology

  •       BIOL 6140 Evolutionary Biology

  •       Either BIOL 6260 Professional Development and Responsible Conduct of Research or GRAD 6002 Responsible Conduct of Research

  •       Minimum of one Special Topics 6000 level course

  •       Maximum of 4 credit hours of Tutorial (BIOL 6800) 

  •       Minimum one credit hour and maximum of 8 credit hours Research and Thesis (BIOL 6900) 

  •       Students pursuing the thesis track ARE required to complete the oral candidacy exam (see #5 below).

  •       Students pursuing the thesis track ARE required to complete and defend a written research thesis (see #6 below).

M.S. Degree: Non-thesis Track:  The program requires 30 total credit hours. All courses for graduate credit must be taken at the 5000-level or higher and at least 12 of the 30 hours must be in courses at the 6000-level including: 

  •       BIOL 6101 Hypothesis Testing

  •       BIOL 6102 Cellular and Molecular Biology

  •       BIOL 6140 Evolutionary Biology

  •       either BIOL 6260 Professional Development and Responsible Conduct of Research or GRAD 6002 Responsible Conduct of Research

  •       minimum of one additional Special Topics 6000 level course

  •       minimum of 2 credit hours and maximum of 4 credit hours of Tutorial (BIOL 6800) --  must include a written assignment or project developed in consultation with the major advisor (see #7 below)

  •       Although not required, maximum 2 credit hours Research and Thesis (BIOL 6900) may be taken as electives to gain research experience.

  •       Students pursuing the non-thesis track ARE required to complete the oral candidacy exam (see #5 below).

  •       Students pursuing the non-thesis track are NOT required to complete and defend a written reaserch thesis         


2. Grades Required.

A student must maintain a cumulative average of 3.0 in all course work taken for graduate credit. Two grades of C are acceptable, but a third C will lead to termination of the student's enrollment in the graduate program. A grade of U in any course will lead to termination of the student's enrollment in the graduate program.


3.  Amount of Transfer Credit Accepted.

All transfer credit must be approved by the Student's Supervisory Committee and the Graduate Coordinator. Only courses with grades of A or B may be accepted for transfer credit. Courses taken to satisfy the requirements of a previously completed degree cannot be counted toward the Masters degree. No more than 6 credit hours of transfer credit or 6 credit hours of postbacclaureate courses taken at UNC Charlotte may be applied toward the Masters degree. 

Non-Biology Courses Accepted while enrolled in the M.S. program: Up to 8 credit hours of coursework taught by non-Biology Graduate Faculty and Adjunct Graduate Faculty can be applied towards the M.S. degree with approval of the Supervisory Committee. More than 8 hours can be applied with approval of the Graduate Committee and Graduate Coordinator. 


4. Departmental Seminars: All M.S. students (both thesis track and non-thesis track) are required to attend all seminars sponsored by the Department of Biological Sciences.


4. Teaching: Every student must act as a Teaching Assistant at least once while in the program. This requirement is satisfied by being a Teaching Assistant for one course. A GPA of 3.0 is required by the University to hold a Teaching Assistnatship.


5. Qualifying Examination.

Both thesis track and non-thesis track M.S. students are required to take an oral Qualifying Exam which evaluates the student's knowledge in his/her specialty area, as well as general knowledge of basic biological concepts. Successful completion of the Qualifying Exam is required for continuation in the program and Advancement to Candidacy. In the event the student's performance is judged not satisfactory, the Supervisory Committee may recommend a retake. Failing the retake exam results in termination from the program.  The Candidacy Exam must be approved by a student’s Supervisory Committee no later than the 3rd semester of graduate study

  • Results of the Oral Candidacy Exam must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator using the Report of Comprehensive/Qualifying Examination form. Additionally, each member of the student's Supervisory Committee must complete and return to the Graduate Coordinator a Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Form.

  • For thesis-track M.S. students, the oral candidacy exam must precede the presentation of the Thesis Proposal. The Qualifying Exam must occur separately from the formal defense of the thesis proposal. However, at the discretion of the Supervisory Committee, students can be required to give a brief presentation of the thesis research to date, which typically provides a starting point for questioning during the Candidacy Exam.


6. Thesis Proposal, Thesis, and Thesis Seminar and Defense  (thesis-track only).

 Each thesis-track M.S. degree candidate must prepare and present a written proposal for thesis research that is acceptable to the Supervisory Committee. The thesis proposal must be accompanied by a Cover Sheet and a Proposal Defense for Masters Thesis, both of which must be signed and dated by all Supervisory Committee members. The Proposal Defense and Thesis Proposal must be approved by a student’s Supervisory Committee by the 3rd semester of graduate study, and cannot be approved before the successful completion of the Qualifying Exam. 

A written thesis is required based upon original laboratory or field results. While a "traditional" thesis may be submitted, a format styled after a manuscript prepared for submission to a journal in the specialty area is acceptable and encouraged.

Each thesis-track degree candidate must present a seminar acceptable to the Supervisory Committee and the Department in defense of the thesis work. The seminar will be open to the public. Notice of each defense must be publicized at least one week prior to the defense. Results of the thesis defense must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator and Graduate School using the Defense Report for Doctoral Dissertation and/or Master's Thesis and checking the box marked "Thesis".


7. Non-thesis Final Written Assignment or Project  (non-thesis track only).

In consultation with the major advisor and in conjunction with completion of BIOL6800 Tutorial, each student will complete a written assignment or project that will be submitted to the Supervisory Committee for evaluation. Specific works are tailored to the interests of the student but recent projects have included a term paper, a review article in the field, a pedagogical study, a laboratory learning module, an online learning module. Acceptance by the committee is reported to the Graduate Coordinator and Graduate School using the  Defense Report for Doctoral Dissertation and/or Master's Thesis form and checking the box marked "Project".