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Department of Biology

Graduate Students

Degree Requirements | Study Plan | Policies & Resources

As part of the MS degree, graduate students conduct research under the guidance of a faculty mentor in the Department of Biological Sciences, culminating in the writing of a Master's thesis.

Students are expected to meet regularly with their adviser, to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0, and to make progress in their thesis research. Completion of formal coursework and the thesis research can occur in two years but usually takes longer, mostly due to

  • failure to complete the research thesis and write the thesis, or
  • the need for students to work in or outside the University

Please regularly check the Division of Research & Graduate Studies website for all deadlines or procedural matters and forms related to your degree.

MS Degree Requirements

Achieve Classified Standing

A maximum of 10 units of course work to be applied towards the M.S. may be completed before classification. This does not include those units being taken to fulfill prerequisites. Units taken during the semester in which classification is obtained are considered post-classification units.

Enter as Conditionally Classified: Flowchart

Enter as Classified: Flowchart

Advance to Candidacy

(including completion of the Graduate Writing Requirement)

Only 6 units of Biol 290 (Independent study) and/or Biol 295 (Research) are allowed to be applied to the degree. Only 9 units of upper division undergraduate coursework, completed while a graduate student, may be applied to the M.S. in Biology. Only 9 units of coursework may be transferred from another program.

Enter as Classified: Flowchart

Complete 30 units of coursework and thesis research

Note that graduate students who have Teaching Assistant positions earn an additional ~four percent once classified, and an additional ~four percent again once they have advanced to candidacy.

Enter as Classified: Flowchart

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Study Plan

Students are expected to develop a graduate study plan in consultation with the adviser. This plan includes 30 total units of coursework and should consist of courses needed to provide the academic foundation for the thesis research. The plan must be approved by the thesis adviser, the graduate coordinator, and filed with the Department by the end of the first semester in the program.

Semester Course Number Units
Fall 1 Writing BIOL 250 3
Experimental design:
A: molecular or
B: behavioral and ecological
BIOL 251 or BIOL 274 3
Colloquium BIOL 280 1
Objectives: establish thesis committee; complete GWR draft    
Spring 1 Applied Bioethics BIOL 273 1
Colloquium BIOL 280 1
Elective   3
Research BIOL 295 3
Objective: pass GWR    
Fall 2 Elective   3
Independent study BIOL 290 3
Seminar BIOL 281  1
Objective: meet with committee    
Spring 2 Thesis BIOL 299 4
Elective   3
Seminar BIOL 281  1
Objectives: finish thesis; present graduate seminar    

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Policies and Resources

Division of Research & Graduate Studies (DRGS)

Students are strongly encouraged to read these DGS e-Publications:

  • Graduate Student Guidebook
  • Financial Aid Sourcebook
  • Policy on the Mentoring Relationship

Time Limit

Each student has a maximum of five years to complete their degree from the date of the earliest course listed on their advancement petition. In the event that the student passes this deadline, they may petition the Division of Research & Graduate Studies for an extension of up to two additional years. Such a petition requires substantive documentation of serious and compelling reasons for requesting the extension. Virtually the only reasons ever allowed are serious medical problems or military service. Even so, extensions are rarely granted. If granted and the student still fails to finish, their time is up according to Title V of the California Educational code, and the student is dismissed.

Fresno State Academic Policies

235 (Cheating and Plagiarism)

236 (Academic Integrity Honor Code)

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