• Master’s students can work on groundbreaking research projects with faculty
  • $147 million new science building offers state-of-the-art labs
  • Dr. Ryan Otter uses spiders to measure toxins after major environmental ash spill
  • Nadin Almosnid helps study antitumor potential of antidiabetic compound

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.

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.

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, Geosciences, 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 tab above.


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.

Contact and Student Information

Dr. Chris Herlihy

Dr. Chris Herlihy

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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