Degree Requirements

Degree RequirementsPhD in Biology

The PhD in Biology is a research degree requiring graduate-level coursework, completion of a dissertation, and two semesters of participation in teaching (usually as a teaching fellow in laboratory or discussion sections of lecture courses led by biology faculty). For most students, this typically involves five or more years of full-time study. The Biology Department guarantees academic year support for five years for all PhD students, contingent on satisfactory performance in the program.

Students admitted with a bachelor’s degree complete the equivalent of 16 full-semester courses with a B or better grade point average. At least eight of these courses are lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses; students enroll in directed research for the remaining credits. For students admitted with a master’s degree, the requirement is eight full-semester courses, of which four are lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses. Seminars generally count for half a course; thus two are required to replace a full-semester course.

Details of the graduate curriculum are planned in consultation with the major professor and advisory committee. Certain core courses are required in the Cell and Molecular Biology and Neurobiology programs, with the remaining courses chosen as electives. For more details, see the individual graduate program areas: 1) Cell and Molecular Biology, 2) Neurobiology, 3) Ecology, Behavior & Evolution, or 4) Marine Biology. With departmental approval, a student may register for courses at the Boston University School of Medicine or School of Public Health and may cross-register for graduate-level courses at Boston College, Brandeis University, and Tufts University. Visit the GRS Bulletin to view procedures for cross-registration.

The Biology Department does not require mastery of a foreign language for the PhD, but students involved in international fieldwork may be encouraged to complete language training.

MA in BiologyMA in Biology

The Department of Biology offers both research and non-research MA degree programs.  The non-research MA can be completed in a year and a summer, whereas the research MA typically requires two years to complete a research project and thesis. In both programs, students are assigned to a faculty advisor in their area of interest at the time of acceptance. The Biology Department does not guarantee financial support for MA students.

In either MA program, students complete eight semester courses with a B or better grade point average. For the non-research degree, all courses must be lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses. In addition, the student completes a review paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the faculty advisor.  For the research degree, at least five courses must be lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses. The remaining courses may be satisfied by research credits.

BA/MA in Biotechnology

The BA/MA program in biotechnology is a five-year program open to Boston University undergraduates. Students earn both degrees by completing a total of 38 courses that comprise many of the elements of standard degree programs in biology and chemistry, augmented by advanced-level courses in recombinant DNA techniques, molecular cell biology, and protein technology. View a more detailed description of the program on the GRS Bulletin website. Further information may also be obtained from the Undergraduate Programs Coordinator for the Department of Biology.

Grad Students