Graduate Programs

Appalachian's Master of Science in Biology program is designed to prepare students for competitive careers and continued training in the field of biology. The program provides students  with a comprehensive knowledge of broad fields and disciplines in biology while allowing specialization in an area of the student's choice. The Graduate Program in Biology has been twice named the Outstanding Graduate Program at Appalachian, and a number of our graduate students have been awarded grants or scholarships for their proposed and ongoing research. The program has three concentrations:

  • Cell and Molecular Biology (207B) – Students choosing this track conduct research aimed at understanding cellular and molecular processes that govern life at the molecular level and take coursework aimed that complement their research program.

  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (207D) – Students choosing this track are involved in research programs that address key questions in physiological, population, community and ecosystem ecology with emphasis on evolutionary principles and take coursework that complement their research program.

  • General Biology (207C) – Students choosing this track have the flexibility to customize their program to incorporate aspects of both of the above tracks. In addition, students who would like to focus their coursework and research on secondary science education can choose this track.

Students study under faculty experts who conduct active research in diverse fields including cell and molecular biology, genetics; conservation biology; ecology and evolutionary biology; microbiology, immunology, pathophysiology; physiology and organismal biology; and science education.

M.S. (Master of Science) Degree Requirements

Students pursuing an MS in Biology are required to complete 30 credit hours of course work and research, while maintaining a grade-point average of 3.0. Four to eight of the 30 credit hours are for thesis research, while the remaining 22 - 26 hours are chosen in consultation with the student's advisory committee. The student must pass a comprehensive written exam in his or her area, write a thesis on research conducted under the direction of an advisor and committee, present a seminar to the Department based on the thesis research, and pass an oral defense of the thesis.

Required Prerequisites:

Prerequisites for the Biology MS Degree are Organic Chemistry and either an Ecology-type course (Ecology, Organismal course, etc.) if choosing the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Concentration or a Cellular/subcellular-type course (Genetics, Microbiology, Cell Biology, etc.) if choosing the Cell and Molecular Biology Concentration. For the General Biology Concentration, either an Ecology or Cellular/subcellular course is required.  These prerequisites are not required for admission, but the faculty mentor would have to agree to accept a student without them and the student would be required to take prerequisite courses at ASU. If the prerequites needed are undergraduate courses, they would not count as credit hours towards the MS degree. 

Course requirements for the Master of Science in Biology

  • Required courses:
    • BIO 5500: Bibliography and Research (4 hours)
    • BIO 5999: Thesis (4 - 8 hours)
  • Concentration (choose one):
    • Cell and Molecular Biology (207B):
      • BIO 6615: Current Topics in Molecular Biology (6 hours)
      • One of the following courses:
        • BIO 5650: Bioinformatics (3 hours)
        • BIO 5777: Biostatistics (4 hours)
      • 8 - 13 hours of graduate elective courses
    • General Biology (207C):
      • BIO 5777: Biostatistics (4 hours)
      • 14 - 18 hours of graduate elective courses
    • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Concentration (207D)
      • BIO 5250: Current Topics in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (6 hours)
      • BIO 5777: Biostatistics (4 hours)
      • 8-12 hours of graduate elective courses

More information about the biology graduate program is available from the Graduate School website.

Application Essentials

Because of the COVID-19 disruptions to the availability of the GRE test, applicants for Fall 2020 admission are not required to submit GRE test scores.  Students with a GPA below 3.0 will need to contact the Cratis Williams Graduate School regarding other admission requirements in lieu of the GRE.

Required Entrance Exam: 
GRE (score must be no more than 5 years old)

Required number of references to specify in the online form: 3

Supplemental Information: Resume (required upload for application submission); Letter of Intent detailing graduate plans and expectations (upload on the Additional Information page in the online application).

Important: in order to be admitted to the Biology MS program, an applicant must be accepted by a faculty member who agrees to be the applicant's research mentor/adviser. Biology faculty research interest may be found here.

Deadlines for Application: deadlines for fall, summer and spring semesters are found below. Though applications are accepted up until a deadline, they are reviewed in the order in which they are completed. Therefore, early applications are encouraged. The priority screening date is an important consideration. For Fall semester applicants, this date is March 15. For Spring semester applicants, the priority screening date is October 1. Applications that are not completed by these dates risk denial of admission due to lack of available positions in the program.

A small number of out-of-state tuition scholarships are available to applicants with a GPA of 3.4 or higher from a degree-granting institution. Consideration for these scholarships for Fall semester begins on the priority screening date of March 15, with decisions made by early April. It is therefore important for students wishing to be considered for these competitive scholarships to apply by the priority screening date. Out-of-state applicants for Spring semester are considered on a space available basis and are encouraged to complete their applications by October 1. Please note that since the out-of-state tuition scholarships are awarded for an academic year, availability is much more limited for spring applicants.


Semester Application Deadlines:

  • Spring: November 1
  • Summer Session 1: April 1
  • Summer Session 2: April 1
  • Fall: July 1

Basic Conditions for Consideration of Admission: Meeting or exceeding the conditions below does NOT guarantee admission. All applications will be evaluated based upon the number of available positions in the program, the quality of the complete application package, and evidence of acceptance by a faculty adviser.

With special permission from the Graduate School, Biology may admit a limited number of students with exceptional circumstances who do not meet the graduate school minimums. In such cases receiving financial support in the form of a teaching assistantship may be affected (see below).

Graduate School Criteria: 3.0 GPA in the last earned degree and official scores from the appropriate admission test(s), OR 2.5 GPA in the last earned degree and official scores at the 25th percentile level from the appropriate admission test(s).

Accelerated Admission Program in Biology

If you are considering a Master's of Science Degree in Biology and (1) have earned 90 credit hours or more as an undergraduate student at ASU, and (2) have a GPA of 3.2 or higher, you may qualify for the Accelerated Admission Program. You can earn graduate credit towards your MS degree as an undergraduate and likely reduce your time to receive a graduate degree.

For more information click here and contact the Biology Graduate Program Director:
Dr. Ray Williams
217 Rankin Science North


Teaching assistantships (TA) not only helps students fund their education but also provide training to teach at the college level. The Biology Department works diligently to provide this support. For the most favorable TA consideration, an applicant is advised to apply as early as possible before the semester on their application. Students accepted into the program by regular admission, and who apply by the priority application deadline (March 15 for Fall semester), have a very high probability of receiving a TA. Applications after this date are still considered dependent on availability. The priority application deadline for TA consideration in spring semester is October 1. Every attempt is made to provide applicants for Spring semester admission a TA, but no assurances can be made that an assistantship will be available.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Ray Williams
Professor of Biology and Graduate Program Director

Department of Biology
572 Rivers Street
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608-2027

Telephone: 828-262-6511
Fax: 828-262-2127