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Western Kentucky University

Biology Graduate Degrees and Requirements

A Five–Year Plan

For highly motivated students, especially those planning to pursue graduate study, the department offers a five-year program leading to both B.S. and M.S. degrees in biology. Typically, students will also participate in the University Honors Program as undergraduates. Completion of the M.S. portion of the program requires enrollment in summer terms during the fourth and fifth years. A key component of this program is early and sustained involvement in undergraduate research, beginning in the sophomore year. As such, interested students must work closely with their undergraduate advisor early in their freshman year to design their five-year plan and identify a faculty mentor and area of research.

Graduate Degree Programs

Students interested in graduate study in biology should consult the University’s Graduate School Catalog for detailed information concerning the various programs available. The department offers: (1) M.S. degree with research thesis for students interested in a career in biology or in preparation for Ph.D. studies; (2) M.S. degree without research thesis; (3) M.A. degree in Education (major or minor in biology) which places less emphasis on specialization and research and more on breadth in biology; 4) Peace Corps Master's International (

For further questions regarding:

  • Biology graduate program, please contact Dr. Carl Dick, Biology Graduate Program Coordinator, at or 270-745-2043. 
  • Biology non-thesis graduate program including the online option, please contact Dr. Michael Collyer, On-line Non-Thesis Graduate Program Director, at or 270-745-8765.
  • Biology MAE program, please contact Dr. Cheryl Davis at or 270-745-6524.
  • Peace Corps Master's International Program, please contact Dr. Lawrence Alice at or 270-745-7029.

An academic semester is considered a 15-week fall or spring term in residence.  If a student is conducting research away from WKU and not enrolled full-time, or if the student takes a leave of absence for some reason, then these would not count as an academic semester.

M.S. Thesis Student Guidelines (Fall, 2014) – Summary

Academic Semester 1

· Begin BPMCT (teacher) Training

· Create Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) of three faculty

· Thesis Proposal to GAC

· Complete Program of Study Form (formerly known as Form C & B/C)

· First committee meeting to discuss research proposal and Program of Study

· Apply for a Graduate School Research Grant for funding, if needed

· A mock oral exam may be scheduled, if desired by the committee

Academic Semester 2

· Finalize thesis proposal by first two weeks of semester two (if not previously finalized)

· Ensure status as Graduate Assistant Instructor (certification from BPMCT Training)

· Mock oral (if applicable) completed, feedback received

· Schedule and complete Oral Exam

· Re-apply to for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (Biology Form A)

Academic Semester 3

· Meet with committee to discuss thesis progress

· Apply for graduation (using TopNet) as soon as 18 hours have been completed

Academic Semester 4

· Completion of all courses for a total of 30 credits (if not already done)

· Submit Program of Study Change forms for any courses not on the original Program of Study form

· Submit a grade change via TopNetThesis Writing (599) for credits taken

· Thesis and supporting forms (Form E, signed signature page, approved reader form, any grant reports or contract, Authorization Form) due to the Graduate School

· Successful completion of thesis

· Graduation

All GTAs will be required to complete the Best Practices in Mentoring and College Teaching program (BPMCT).

An oral examination is required of all degree candidates. Thesis students have oral (qualifying) exams with their committee. The oral exam should be taken by the end of the second semester in residence.

M.S. Non-Thesis Student Guidelines (Fall, 2014) – Summary

First 12 hours

· Enroll in and pass BIOL 500, Introduction to Graduate Study and Research. Non-thesis section is currently offered in Spring Semesters.

· Complete Program of Study Form (formerly known as Form C & B/C). Non-thesis students only complete the first page of this form.

· Study for oral exam.

12 – 18 Hours

· Work with advisor to form oral exam committee.

· Study for oral exam.

· Schedule the exam to be completed during the semester that 18 hours have been accumulated, or the first semester after. (However, summer semesters should be avoided for the exam.)

· Register for BIOL 516, Investigations in Biology (if offered with open enrollment), or work with a Biology faculty member to develop a BIOL 516 topic (if offered as a special topic course). Note: BIOL 516 is often offered as a special topic course to multiple students, but it can also be offered to one student, if a student and instructor have worked on a specific plan for the course. 3 hours are required, but BIOL 516 can be offered as 1-3 hours over multiple semesters.

18 – 24 Hours

· Pass the oral exam.

· Reschedule second oral exam, if not passed on first attempt.

· Finish BIOL 516 projects.

· Apply for graduation (using TopNet) as soon as 18 hours have been completed.

24 – 30 Hours

· Completion of all courses for a total of 30 credits.

· Submit Program of Study Change forms for any courses not on the original Program of Study form. (The Graduate School will perform an audit and inform students if this form is needed.)

· Submit a grade change via TopNet for BIOL 516 if grade is still pending.

· Register for BIOL 598.

An oral examination is required of all degree candidates. Non-thesis students may take an oral (comprehensive) exam in person or via distance media. Arrangements for the type/format of exam will be made with the advisor and a committee of two other faculty (typically, faculty from whom the student has taken courses). The oral exam should be taken shortly after the passage of 18-24 hours of coursework.


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 Last Modified 9/24/14