Dec 03, 2020  
2020-2021 Academic Catalog 
    
2020-2021 Academic Catalog

Biological Sciences, MA


The MA in Biological Sciences, offered by the Department of Biological Sciences , offers students broad training in areas of science that may include general biology, plant biology, cell biology, ecology, entomology, genetics, microbiology, immunology, systems physiology, toxicology, zoology, or, under special circumstances, marine biology. Students with an MA in Biological Sciences go on to careers in research, biotechnology, medical and health sciences, and teaching.

For more information visit the program website at www.sjsu.edu/biology.

Admissions Requirements

University Admissions

Candidates must apply through the CSU admissions portal, Cal State Apply, and meet all university admission requirements . Applicants will need to apply separately to the university to obtain approval for university-level admission and to the department to obtain admission into the MA in Biological Sciences.

Applicants from countries in which the native language is not English must achieve a minimum English-language proficiency test score as indicated on the Graduate Program Test Requirements webpage at GAPE. The program does not currently require the GRE for admission.

Admission to the Program

In addition, applicants must submit to the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Biological Sciences a personal statement and two letters of recommendation from people who can evaluate your potential to succeed in a graduate program.

Note: Applicants’ admission into the program is contingent upon their being accepted by a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences who will become their major advisor. Applicants must contact tenured or tenure-track faculty members.

Requirements for Admission to Classified Standing

Students can be admitted in either classified or conditionally classified standing. To be admitted to the MA in Biological Sciences program in Classified status, an applicant must meet all of the minimum university and departmental requirements for admission.

Admission to Conditionally Classified Standing

If an applicant’s preparation for advanced graduate work is considered inadequate to meet the course prerequisites or other departmental and/or faculty requirements, the conditions will include passing additional courses (specified by the student’s major advisor) in the first semester of the program with a grade of B or better. The program admissions letter will explain terms and requirements.

Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy

Each semester, students should consult with their graduate advisor as to develop a schedule of courses. Students admitted as conditionally classified must satisfy the requirements listed in their acceptance agreement before advancement to candidacy. Students who have completed matriculation and achieved classified standing in the master’s degree curriculum must next advance to candidacy for the degree. A student may advance to candidacy after completing a minimum of 9 units of graded work as a graduate student in letter-graded 100- or 200- level courses acceptable to the AE Department as well as fulfilling the other university requirements for advancement to candidacy , as detailed in the Graduate Policies and Procedures  section. Candidacy includes successful completion of the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) , which is satisfied in this degree by the completion of BIOL 202  with a “B” or higher.

Requirements for Graduation

University Graduation Requirements

Students must complete all residency, curriculum, unit, GPA, and culminating experience requirements as outlined in the Graduation Requirements  section of the Graduate Policies and Procedures .

Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement

At SJSU, students must pass the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) .

Culminating Experience

Students in the MA, Biological Sciences may complete the program Culminating Experience through either a comprehensive exam or graduate project. Students who have advanced to candidacy, and who have completed or are in the final semester of completing the 30 units of required coursework will choose, in consultation with their major advisor, one of two options for their Culminating Experience. The program does not offer a thesis option.

Plan B (Comprehensive Exam)

Students choosing the Plan B (Comprehensive Exam) will enroll in BIOL 298M , and successfully complete the written exam, followed by an oral exam as their culminating experience. The advising committee determines the format of the written and oral exams. Once the written portion of the exam is passed, students take a two- to three-hour oral examination. Successful completion of both exams is required for the award of the MA Biological Sciences degree. Students who are not successful in their first attempt will have one opportunity to retake one or both exams. Written and oral exams will include material from graduate-level coursework taken by the student. Successful completion of both the written and oral exams is determined by a majority vote of the student’s graduate committee.

Plan B (Project)

The student choosing the Plan B (Project) must enroll in the 1-unit BIOL 298M  and complete a research project that has been approved and supervised by their major advisor. This culminating experience option requires students to complete a written report in the style of a manuscript for publication that describes the project and to deliver an oral presentation describing the project to the advising committee. Research projects for the MA Biological Sciences are typically 1-2 semesters in duration. Successful completion of both the manuscript and the oral presentation is determined by a majority vote of the student’s graduate committee.

As shown below, the program consists of 30 semester units of approved work. The student consults with his or her advisor to select coursework.

Master’s Requirements (30 units)


Core Courses (15 units)


Foundations in Biology (3 units)


Complete one course:

Supervised Studies (4 units)


Complete 4 units:

Culminating Experience (1 unit)


Choose One Option:

Plan B (Project)


Plan B (Comprehensive Exam)


Total Units Required (30 units)


Elective courses must be planned in consultation with the Graduate Advisor.

The maximum number of upper-division undergraduate units that can be applied toward the master’s degree is 15.

Upon completion of the degree requirements, the student must have achieved minimum candidacy and SJSU Cumulative grade point averages of 3.0 in order to graduate.