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Biology M.S.

The Biology Department’s Master of Science program emphasizes research and preparation for further graduate study as well as employment with public agencies and private businesses. A major strength of the program is the option to custom-tailor the overall curriculum to meet the needs and objectives of individual students. Students may pursue a general biology curriculum or may choose to focus their studies in one or more of the following specialization areas: botany, cell and molecular biology, ecology, genetics, microbiology, physiology, or zoology. Students also have the opportunity to study in a state-of-the-art facility with the Fall 2014 opening of the innovative $147 million science building comprising more than 250,000 square feet for teaching, research, and collaborative learning. The Biology master’s requires a minimum of 30 semester hours of graduate credit and six hours of research tools or foreign language. The degree also includes written oral comprehensive exams and a research thesis. Program completion typically requires two to three years.

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Scholarship funds grad’s Ph.D. research in Australia

Scholarship funds grad’s Ph.D. research in Australia

Eric Nordberg landed one of two International Postgraduate Research Scholarships at Australia’s James Cook University (JCU) after earning his M.S. in Biology at MTSU in December 2013. Nordberg moved to Townsville, Queensland, to start his doctoral research investigating the effects of cattle grazing on arboreal lizards. Most of his work involves describing the ecology and behavior of a common yet understudied arboreal gecko, the Dubious Dtella (Gehyra dubia). Nordberg lives near the Great Barrier Reef, with the rainforest an hour north and the dry tropical savanna an hour west. “JCU is a well-respected and highly ranked (top 4%) in global universities for studies in tropical biology and marine sciences,” Nordberg says. “Australia also has a tremendous diversity of reptiles and other wildlife found nowhere else in the world. My master’s thesis project at MTSU with Dr. Vince Cobb on the hibernation ecology of timber rattlesnakes prepared me well for entering into the research intensive program here at JCU.”

M.S. alumnus supervises corporate labs in two states

M.S. alumnus supervises corporate labs in two states

Spring Nolin, a 2013 Biology M.S. graduate, was promoted in January 2014 to quality control supervisor at Vi-Jon, a manufacturer of health and beauty care products, in Smyrna, Tennessee. Nolin oversees four labs (raw materials, product release, stability, and methods development) in two states including in Missouri. While working on her master’s, she had moved up to senior chemist at Vi-Jon. Nolin earned undergraduate degrees in Chemistry from MTSU (2006), where she played rugby, and in Biology from Martin Methodist College (2005), where she competed in soccer and softball. She was finishing her intermediate EMT license and contemplating medical school when she began working at Vi-Jon and decided to work on her master’s. “Dr. Otter’s work in environmental chemistry worked in closely with my instrumental and analytical work I was doing at Vi-Jon,” Nolin said. Nolin works closely with the microbiology lab and the environmental safety department. Her thesis involved three different MTSU departments (Concrete Industry Management, Chemistry, and Biology). “I believe MTSU gave me the tools to reach for loftier goals,” she said.

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Recent M.S. graduates have followed a variety of career paths, including pursuit of advanced research degrees (Ph.D.) and professional degrees (M.D. for medicine, D.D.S. for dentistry, M.T. for medical technology); employment with a variety of private, university, state, or federal laboratories and agencies; and teaching in high schools and junior colleges. Possible professional positions with this degree:

  • Bioinformatician
  • Biologist
  • Biology teacher
  • Biotechnology operations manager
  • College laboratory coordinator
  • Community college faculty
  • Commercial farm operations manager
  • Ecologist
  • Ecological/environmental consultant
  • Environmental scientist
  • Food technologist/safety specialist
  • Information technologist
  • Laboratory scientist
  • Molecular biology analyst
  • Museum curator
  • Research assistant/associate      
  • Senior biochemist
  • Senior chemist
  • Surveyor
  • Technician
  • Water quality specialist
  • Wildlife biologist
  • Zoological park curator 

Employers of MTSU alumni include

  • Aegis Science Corp.
  • Barrett Firearms Mfg.
  • Boston Medical Center
  • California University of Pennsylvania
  • Central Medical Lab, Sulaimani, Iraq
  • City of Franklin Water Resources Dept.
  • Environmental Science Corp.
  • Genetic Assays
  • Grundy Greens Farm
  • Harpeth High School
  • ICON Clinical Research
  • Illinois Natural History Survey
  • Motlow State Community College
  • Nashville State Community College
  • Pope John Paul II High School
  • Premiere Orthopedics
  • Rockvale Middle School    
  • Siegel High School
  • Site Engineering Consultants
  • Stones River National Battlefield
  • Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency
  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • University of Connecticut Health Center
  • Vanderbilt University

Doctoral/professional programs where graduates have been accepted include

  • Arizona State University   
  • Indiana State University
  • James Cook University, Australia
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Sao Paulo State University, Brazil
  • University of Alabama-Birmingham
  • University of Kentucky Medical School
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Memphis
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Tennessee  
  • Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Utah State University
  • UT-Memphis Medical School
  • Vanderbilt University


The Department of Biology offers the Master of Science as well as a minor at the graduate level.

The department additionally offers courses in three interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs: Molecular Biosciences; Computational Science; and Mathematics and Science Education (concentrations in Biological Education, Chemical Education, Mathematics Education, and Interdisciplinary Science Education) .

The Biology Department also participates in the Master of Science in Professional Science interdisciplinary degree that combines business management skills with advance learning in specific science fields. The six concentrations are Actuarial Sciences, Biostatistics, Biotechnology, Engineering Management, and Healthcare Informatics.

MTSU is an affiliate of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Mississippi. Certain courses in marine biology may be taken for graduate credit and transferred to MTSU.

Applicants for the Biology M.S. program must have an undergraduate minor (19 hours) in biology or its equivalent, and 12 hours of chemistry (must include one semester of organic chemistry or biochemistry).

For admission the General GRE is required with scores typically above the 50th percentile. Additionally, undergraduate grade point averages in biology and overall near or above a 3.0 are strongly preferred.

Applications are accepted year-round, but preference for admission will be given to students adhering to the following deadlines: Summer/Fall enrollment, March 1; Spring enrollment, Oct. 1.

Graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs) are available to students who show academic promise and potential as effective students. In general, application for a GTA should be made at the same time as the general graduate admissions application.

Master’s candidates must pass written and oral comprehensive examinations; present and successfully defend a research thesis; and complete 6 semester hours of approved research tools or two semesters (6 hours) of a foreign language in addition to the 30 hours.

For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS button to the right.


Students in the Department of Biology can pursue a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree with one of four concentrations: Genetics and Biotechnology; Organismal Biology and Ecology; Microbiology; or Physiology. The department is one of the participants in Forensic Science, an interdisciplinary major leading to a B.S. 

A minor in Biology is also offered.

Professional Licensure Disclosure

The Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) College of Education’s teacher licensure preparation programs are accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and are eligible for accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology with teacher licensure program at MTSU is designed to meet the licensure requirements set by the Tennessee Department of Education. Students should be aware that licensure requirements vary from state to state and are subject to change. MTSU has not made a determination whether a specific program will meet all of the requirements of another US state or territory. MTSU recommends that students who plan to seek licensure outside the state of Tennessee contact the appropriate licensing agency and discuss their plans with their advisor. To obtain current information about each state’s and territory’s licensure requirements and any additional regulations, students should consult the US Department of Education’s website for state contacts at

Graduates of MTSU teacher education programs certified to teach in Tennessee are eligible for certification reciprocity in many states. Reciprocity is not an automatic or complete transfer of certification, thus individuals should consult the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) site at and the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) site at as well as the US Department of Education state contacts site for information about any additional state requirements.

Biology, M.S.

Dr. Chris Herlihy
(615) 898-2611

The Department of Biology offers the Master of Science in Biology.

Please see undergraduate catalog for information regarding undergraduate programs.

Admission Requirements

Required application materials include official transcripts, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Students receiving admission typically will have a 3.00 overall (and in biology coursework) undergraduate grade point average and overall GRE scores above the fiftieth percentile.

All students in the graduate program must have at least an undergraduate minor (19 hours) in biology or its equivalent and 12 hours of chemistry (including one semester of organic chemistry or biochemistry).

Application Procedures

All application materials are to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.

Applications for admission are accepted year-round; preference for admission will be given to students adhering to the following deadlines: Summer/Fall enrollment, March 1; Spring enrollment, October 1.

Applicant must

  1. submit an application with the appropriate application fee (online at Once this initial application has been accepted, the applicant will receive directions on how to enter the graduate portal to be able to submit other materials.
  2. submit official scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE);
  3. submit official transcripts of previous college work;
  4. submit three letters of recommendation from professors or professionals that address the applicant's potential to successfully complete an M.S. in Biology;
  5. submit a personal statement. The personal statement should outline the student's interest in graduate study and indicate a potential area of research interest and thesis advisor.
  6. identify a thesis advisor.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Science in Biology requires completion of 30-42 semester hours with at least 21 hours at the 6000 level.

Candidate must

  1. complete BIOL 6620 Biological Research and defend the thesis proposal before the end of the end of the second semester of study;
  2. successfully complete both written and oral comprehensive examinations (may be taken no more than twice) the semester before graduation;
  3. present and successfully defend the thesis in a public forum.

Curriculum: Biology

The following illustrates the minimum coursework requirements. In addition, a maximum of 15 hours of thesis research may be required to fulfill degree requirements.

Required Courses (6 hours)

  • BIOL 6620 - Biological Research

    3credit hours

    Prerequisite: Permission of department. Selection of a research problem, review of pertinent literature, and execution of the research.

  • BIOL 6650 - Seminar  1 credit hours  

    BIOL 6650 - Seminar

    1credit hours

    Discussion and critical evaluation of the primary scientific literature. Responsible conduct of research topics including data management, publication practices, peer review, and collaborative science emphasized. One two-hour session.

  • BIOL 6660 - Seminar  2 credit hours  

    BIOL 6660 - Seminar

    2credit hours

    Development of written and oral communication skills relevant to obtaining research funding and presenting research results. Responsible conduct of research topics including mentor/trainee relationships, human subjects, animal research, research misconduct, and conflicts of interest emphasized. Two one-hour sessions.

NOTE: Students are expected to complete both seminars during the first year of graduate study.

Electives (21 hours)

  • Must be selected from BIOL courses or other elective courses approved by the thesis advisor and MS program director.

Thesis Research (3-15 hours)

NOTE: No more than 15 hours of thesis research may be applied toward degree requirements.

  • BIOL 6640 - Thesis Research  1 to 6 credit hours  
    (3 credit hours required)(3 credit hours required)  dotslash:(3 credit hours required) title:(3 credit hours required) 
    (3 credit hours required) 

    BIOL 6640 - Thesis Research

    1 to 6credit hours

    Prerequisites or corequisites: BIOL 6620 and permission of department. Completion of the research problem begun in BIOL 6620; preparation of the thesis. Once enrolled, student should register for at least one credit hour of master's research each semester until completion. Minimum of three credits required for M.S. degree. S/U grading.

Our adjunct faculty bring outstanding professional experience to our programs. Many are industry leaders with decorated careers and honors. Importantly, they are innovative educators who offer hands-on learning to our students to prepare them to enter and thrive in a dynamic, and oftentimes emerging, industry and professional world. They inspire, instruct, and challenge our students toward academic and professional success.

Online or Hybrid Programs at a Glance

This program is available .

For More Information or Explore Your Options​

Contact your department / program coordinator or advisor for more details about the program OR work one-on-one with your advisor to explore your options.

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Contact Information

Dr. Chris Herlihy

Who is My Advisor?

Dr. Chris Herlihy

Mailing Address

Department of Biology
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 60
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

College of Graduate Studies
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 42
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

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