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Graduate Programs in Biology

biology student and professor Jim Costa studying rockhouse arthropods


Our inclusive curriculum prepares you to succeed at the next level of your career, whether that's working in an a biomedical research lab, an environmental testing lab, or a local, state, or federal agency such as the Centers for Disease Control or the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Master of Science (M.S.) Degree

Program Overview

Location: Cullowhee, Main Campus


Full-Time or Part-Time

App Deadline: Dec. 1, Aug. 1

Close proximity to research facilities

Located in a region of exceptional biodiversity

Virtual Open House

Tuesday, August 6, 2024: 5-6:30 p.m.

Join us at one of our upcoming virtual Graduate School Open House events on Zoom! You'll have the opportunity to learn more about Western Carolina University,  understand the Graduate School application process, and meet key program representatives.

Register Today

Completing an M.S. in Biology requires a minimum of 30 semester hours of graduate study, including a 3- to 6-hour thesis. An oral defense of the thesis is required.

Catalogs and application for admission, fellowships, or assistantships are available online from the Graduate School. Tuition waivers and teaching assistantships with a stipend of possible total yearly support ranging from $13,000 to $19,000 are awarded on a competitive basis to graduate students in Biology.

How to Apply

To be eligible for consideration, the applicant should have an undergraduate grade point average of 3.00 (out of 4.00) or higher and an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Biology or related life science from an accredited College or University for consideration of full admission.

Application materials:  a statement including the names of two WCU faculty members whose research is of interest; three letters of reference; official transcripts.  Applicants may submit GRE scores if they wish, but submitting GRE scores is not required.

Prospective graduate students are encouraged to apply to the Graduate School early.  Decisions on admissions and assistantships are usually made in spring for the following term.

Application Deadlines

  • Fall admission: March 1 to be given priority, but applications reviewed until August 1
  • Spring admission: November 1 to be given priority, but applications reviewed until January 1

Research Opportunities

WCU’s proximity to five national forests, two national parks, and some of the highest biodiversity in the world gives our program natural laboratories for ecological and organismal resesarch. Additionally, the Biology Department's mammalian cell culture facility, its microscopy imaging facility, its DNA sequencers and other biochemistry instrumentation, and its association with WCU's Forensic Science lab offer outstanding research opportunities for graduate students interested in genetics and physiology. Biology's Graduate Student Research page lists current and past projects.

The Station provides graduate students and senior scientists from throughout the United States with research and specialty course opportunities on Southern Appalachian biota.

Research funds and logistical support are available for qualified graduate students. The station is located 50 minutes from campus.
Learn more about Highlands Biological Station

Graduate students may become involved in research projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, both of which are International Biosphere Reserves. Research opportunities also are available in the Blue Ridge Parkway National Park and in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.

This research unit of the International Biological Reserve has been established and well known for its watershed research for over half a century. It is one of a few long term ecological research stations in the country. Cooperative research projects are encouraged by the permanent research staff as well as other universities working at the station.
Learn more about Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory

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