Graduate Degree Programs


The primary objective of the Ph.D. program in Biology is to train scientists and scholars to perceive fundamental biological problems and to investigate them successfully. Predoctoral students undertake a diversified program of study that includes course work, seminars and laboratory research. Formal courses and seminars are offered in areas of biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, molecular biology and neurobiology. Equivalent graduate courses taken prior to entering the graduate program may substitute for one or more of these courses. With the guidance of a faculty advisory committee, all entering students plan a first-year academic program that includes lecture courses, seminars, and laboratory rotations aimed at broadening and strengthening their knowledge in the biological sciences.

Toward the end of the first year, each student selects a major professor with whom to pursue individual and specialized research in a selected area of biology (see Research areas). During the second year, students complete their qualifying examinations in which they present and defend their research proposals, thereby being admitted to Ph.D. candidacy. The research proposal will constitute the basis for the Ph.D. dissertation. The Ph.D. degree is awarded following the successful completion of all research work, submission and acceptance of a written Ph.D. dissertation, and oral defense of the Ph.D. dissertation.  All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed by the end of the seventh year of study.  Students seeking the Ph.D. degree gain teaching experience as graduate teaching assistants for undergraduate courses offered by the Department of Biology.  

A Master's degree is not required for application to the Ph.D. program in Biology. There are no general language requirements. Depending on a student's area of Ph.D. research, the faculty dissertation committee may require proficiency in one or more foreign languages, or in auxiliary disciplines such as computer science or statistics.

Additional information regarding graduate degree requirements of The University of Virginia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Biology can be found in the following links:

Graduate Record
Biology Graduate Student Handbook




The Biology Department offers graduate training leading to Master of Arts and Master of Science in Biology degrees. The scientific training provided by the Master's degree introduces students to areas of basic research in which they might subsequently pursue Ph.D. training; or, as a terminal degree, the M.S./M.A. provides an essential academic credential to enter research careers in industry or non-research careers in secondary education, law, science policy, or conservation.  A carefully planned and conscientiously executed Master's degree program can be completed successfully in approximately 2.5 years.  All requirements for the Master’s degree in Biology must be completed by the end of the fifth year of study.

Biology students working toward a Master's degree are required to complete 30 credits of graduate-level course work, including a minimum of 24 credits of graded coursework comprised of 4 graded lecture or laboratory courses and one colloquia or journal club.  Successful defense of a written thesis is required, with the M.S. thesis based primarily on independent laboratory research and the M.A. thesis based primarily on independent research.

Prospective MS in Biology degree students must identify and communicate with a Biology faculty mentor prior to submitting an application for the MS program in Biology and establish a mutually agreeable arrangement between prospective student and mentor.  Thus, applicants should consult the Research section to learn about the different research programs offered in the Department of Biology and correspond with faculty with interests that match their own.

A Mountain Lake Master’s degree program geared toward educators and other scholars can be earned with study during summers at the Mountain Lake Biological Station. Additional information may be obtained from the Director, Mountain Lake Biological Station, Department of Biology, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400327, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4327,

For additional information regarding graduate degree requirements of The University of Virginia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Biology check out these links:  

Graduate Record 
Biology Graduate Student Handbook