Program Requirements

Program Overview

The M.S. non-thesis option is designed primarily for non-resident students who would like to acquire greater expertise in modern biology. In lieu of a thesis defense, students completing this option are required to pass a written comprehensive examination covering the courses within their program. This option is ideal for professionals in select Biology-related fields who are currently engaged in research or do not require research for their profession.

GPA Requirement for Non-Thesis Biology M.S. Degree

Students must maintain a 3.0 G.P.A. (B) in all courses counting toward the Master’s degree. Grades of C or above are acceptable but grades of C- and below are unacceptable.  Any course with a grade of C- will not count toward graduation but will still be included in overall G.P.A.  Students failing to meet this requirement will be warned and placed on probation for one semester.  If the G.P.A. requirement is not met by the end of the probationary period, the student will be removed from the program.

Time to degree

A total of 36 credit hours must be completed.  The usual time to complete these hours for the majority of our students is two and a half to three years.

MS in Biology - Non-Thesis Option (36 hours)

REQUIRED COURSES (12 credit hours):

  • BIOL 802, Organic Evolution - 3 hours
  • BIOL 820, Introduction to Graduate Study - 3 hours
    (Students are encouraged to take Intro to Graduate Study during their first 9 hours of graduate work in Biology.)
  • BIOL 827, Biological Statistics - 3 hours
  • BIOL 881, Current Issues in Biology - 3 hours
    (Current Issues is 1-credit hour and must be taken three semesters for a total of 3 hours.)

ELECTIVES (24 credit hours): 
As approved by the student's graduate advisor, all graduate level Biology courses (BIOL) will fulfill the elective requirements for the degree. This includes courses with a P designation (have an undergraduate counterpart). See Course Descriptions for elective course options.


The non-thesis degree option can be completed entirely online. When enrolling in courses through MyBlue, distance students should be sure to select web-based courses.  A variety of online courses are offered fall, spring, and summer terms.

This degree is considered a comprehensive degree, and students are encouraged to take coursework in a variety of areas within the field of biology. Classes are broadly divided into the following themes: physiology, genetics, cellular and molecular biology; ecology, evolution, environmental and organismal biology; and biological tools and applications.

Some courses have a “P” designation.  This simply means the course has an undergraduate equivalent that may be taken by seniors. For example, Plant Physiology can be taken by both undergraduate (BIOL 403) and graduate students (BIOL 803P). Graduate students will have an additional requirement for successful completion of the course. New courses are often introduced as a “Special Topics” course, BIOL 430/830P. This gives the department an idea of the level of interest in the topic before it is formally developed into a course with a unique number. Students may enroll in BIOL 830P multiple times.

No more than 18 hours of coursework with a "P" designation may apply to the degree program.

Research Elective Option: BIOL 831 Biological Research

This option is for an elective course series (6 credits), during which students develop, conduct, and write up a research project of their own design. The 6 total credit hours correspond to 1) development of testable hypotheses and justification of the project, 2) methodology, 3) annotated bibliography, 4) data collection, 5) data analysis, and 6) manuscript preparation. Students will only receive program credit if all 6 credits are completed satisfactorily.

  • Students are required to take BIOL 820 plus 6 graduate Biology credit hours as a prerequisite for BIOL 831. During BIOL 820, students will receive further details on how to be accepted as a research student with a faculty mentor if interested in completing this option.

All students in the non-thesis degree program will be advised by the Director of the Distance M.S. program, Dr. Letitia Reichart.  Distance program coordinators Brian Peterson and Robyn Schoenebeck ( should be your first point of contact for general information and program questions.