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MS in Biology

The biology master of science degree program is a research degree that prepares students for a variety of careers in the life sciences and may also serve as an intermediate degree for those intending to pursue further graduate study. Graduate students have the opportunity to gain experience in scientific methods and experimental design in the laboratory and in the field.  

The Department of Biology offers courses and research opportunities in the life sciences, with an emphasis on:

  • evolution and development
  • phylogenetics and systematics
  • molecular biology, genetics & genomics
  • microbiology
  • cell biology
  • ecology
  • neurobiology

Biology master’s students conduct their own research projects and benefit from one-on-one faculty mentorship. The Department of Biology is a thriving group of young, dynamic faculty and students who work with a strong collaborative spirit on many diverse research projects. 

Research and teaching laboratories are well-equipped and constantly updated. Students also have the opportunity to collaborate with investigators at some of the nation's most prestigious biological research centers, including the National Institutes of Health and the Smithsonian Institution. 

More than 95% of American University biology graduate students have assistantships, stipends, or other financial aid and finish the program in less than two years. Detailed information about assistantships can be found on the graduate research funding webpage

To visit the department and meet with graduate students and faculty, email Dan Fong at dfong@american.edu or Nancy Zeller at nzeller@american.edu to set up a time.


Admission to the Program

In addition to meeting the minimum university requirements for graduate study, applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination, including the General Test and the Advanced Test in Biology. International applicants whose first language is not English are required to submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation. Preference is given to applicants with a clear interest in working in the research laboratory of one of the full-time faculty members in the department. 

The application deadline to be considered for a merit award is March 1. See also: How to Apply


Degree Requirements

  • 30 credit hours of approved graduate work 
  • Comprehensive examination 
  • Advancement to candidacy, which requires the acceptance of a research proposal by the student’s advisor, the graduate studies committee, and the chair of the department at least one semester prior to the oral defense of the thesis. 
  • Completion, oral defense, and the acceptance of thesis by the thesis committee, chair of the department, and the university 

Course Requirements

  • BIO-566 Evolutionary Mechanisms (3) 
  • BIO-583 Molecular Biology (3) 
  • BIO-697 Research Methods in Biology (3) 
  • BIO-797 Master’s Thesis Research (6) 
  • STAT-514 Statistical Methods (3) (satisfies tool of research requirement)  
  • An additional 12 hours of approved graduate course work

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