Master of Science in Biological Sciences

What is it?

 The Master of Science Program in the Department of Biological Sciences is a research-based Master’s degree.  It is distinct from our course-based Master of Arts  degree. Through in-depth research experience with a faculty mentor, preparation of an independent thesis or publications and broad coursework, students gain experiences that prepare them for careers involving field and laboratory research in biological sciences.

Most M.S. students are funded through teaching assistantships, which cover tuition and an academic-year stipend.

why choose an m.s. at western michigan university 

The M.S. program offers students options to prepare for various career goals, such as:

  •  You want a graduate research experience with one of our dedicated faculty mentors
  •  You want more experience developing hypotheses and thinking about experimental design
  •  You want to conduct laboratory or field studies and gain experience analyzing and interpreting data
  • You want to improve your scientific writing skills and prepare your work for peer-review and/or thesis publication
  •  You want experience presenting your work at professional conferences in your field
  •  You want to improve your grantsmanship skills
  •  You are interested in getting teaching experience with undergraduate students
  •  You want more upper-level course experience focused in a particular area
  •  You want to boost your resume for job or PhD program or professional school applications
  •  Pending approval from your faculty mentor, you are currently a full-time employee, and an M.S. degree will open up promotion possibilities at your job


 This program is open to applicants who meet the following:

  • You have already identified and communicated with a WMU faculty member who agrees to support your graduate research in their group.  This may be a commitment for your entire degree period or just for a first-semester rotation. Take a look at the list of faculty mentors and their areas of research expertise and reach out to faculty directly who are working in areas that interest you.
  • You graduated with your B.S. degree in Biological Sciences or a closely related field, or intend to graduate prior to the start of your graduate work (i.e. you can apply in your last spring of your B.S. degree to begin the M.S. program the following summer or fall)
  • You have not already earned an M.S. degree
  • You earned a minimum GPA of 3.0 during your B.S. degree
  • You apply by the February 1 deadline at 11:59pm ET for admission. There is one application deadline per year. See requirements below.

Admissions and enrollment

Admission is contingent upon meeting the following eligibility requirements:

1.     Apply for admission to the M.S. program in biological sciences by clicking the Apply Now button below.  If applicable, select the term after your anticipated undergraduate graduation term on your application. (If you graduate with your B.S. in Spring 2021, list Fall 2021 as the start term on your application.

For your application, you must provide the following:

  •  Completed application with personal statement addressing why you want to enroll in the Master of Science program and the faculty mentor(s) with whom you intend to work
  •  Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcript from undergraduate institution(s). For WMU students only, you may include an unofficial transcript instead.
  •  Resume
  • Application fee
  • GRE scores are not required for application
  •  For international students, you must include IELTS (minimum score of 6.5) or TOEFL (minimum scores of 80 (paper) or 550 (internet) with your application

Decisions on admission are made about one month after applications are due.  For questions about the admissions process, Biological Sciences Graduate Admissions.

2.     Once you are admitted, you will be required to respond to accept admission and participate in a New Graduate Student Orientation immediately preceding the next Fall semester that you are enrolled. The Graduate College will also contact you about other orientation activities and training sessions.
Apply now 

Financial support for MS students

There are several opportunities for you to obtain financial assistance to cover the cost of attendance. Teaching assistantships carry a tuition waiver, and are available on a competitive basis for the fall and spring semesters. A limited number of summer session teaching assistantships are also available to outstanding students.

Information about additional assistantships and fellowships, special assistance for minority graduate students, tuition grant, and research funds may be obtained from Graduate College.

Information about student loans and other federal, state and University need-based financial aid programs may be obtained from the Student Financial Aid and Scholarship office.

You may also be eligible for a variety of support mechanisms through federal and state agencies that support scientific research, as well as private foundations.  You are encouraged to talk with your faculty mentor about the best options for your area of study. Additionally, check out the Internal and External Funding Sources for Students listed through WMU’s Office of Research and Innovation.


The program requires completion of 33 total credit hours

  •  Two selected from any of the separate pairs of 6000-level courses listed below, OR

 ANY two of the following 6000-level course with committee approval (6 credits)

BIOS 6110 — Eukaryotic Cell Biology Credits: 3 hours
BIOS 6120 — Prokaryotic Cell Biology Credits: 3 hours
BIOS 6130 — Animal Physiology Credits: 3 hours
BIOS 6140 — Plant Physiology Credits: 3 hours
BIOS 6150 — Ecology Credits: 3 hours
BIOS 6160 — Evolution Credits: 3 hours

  • 2 semesters of Biological Sciences Colloquium (2 credits)

BIOS 6050 — Biological Sciences Colloquium Credit: 1 hour

  • 19 credit hours of other elective courses. You will select elective courses that support your research experience and career goals.  Work with your faculty mentor and committee to select courses that are best suited to your needs. The majority of these credits will come from research activities, enrolled as BIOS 6010 with your faculty mentor.  Electives can also be selected from BIOS 5000 and 6000-level courses, or other cognate courses. Up to 9 credit hours or coursework in related fields from other departments can be included. Courses that are below 5000-level may also be approved for graduate study. Contact the graduate advisor for the Department of Biological Sciences for help enrolling.

 For course information, please view the graduate catalog.

  •  6 credit hours of (final) research credits.  By the time you are 1-2 semesters away from your defense, you should work with your faculty mentor and committee to choose which of these two tracks is most suitable for you.

Thesis Option – You must enroll continuously for 6 credit hours in BIOS 7000 - Master’s Thesis.  This option is for students who intend to prepare a thesis and submit it to the Graduate College.

Manuscript Option – You must enroll continuously for 6 credit hours in BIOS 7100 - Independent Research. This option is for students who will be ready to submit a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal at the time of their M.S. defense.

 timeline for the MS

Additional program information can be found here.


If you are interested in the ongoing research in the Department of Biological Sciences, visit this page.  Reach out to faculty members directly to ask whether they are looking for new graduate students and to begin a conversation about conducting research in their group.

If you are a prospective graduate student with a question about the program requirements, application process or general questions about the department contact Biological Sciences graduate admissions.

If you have applied to the program and have questions about your application paperwork, contact Stephanie Stanton.

Current graduate students at WMU who have questions should contact Dr. Devin Bloom, graduate advisor.