Graduate Programs

Master of Science or Arts

in Biology

Masters in Biology at WLU

The Masters Programs for Biology Majors at West Liberty University is designed to offer a flexible curriculum that meets the needs of students locally, nationally, and internationally. Students will enhance their educational and employment opportunities in the biological sciences. The MA and MS Biology program at WLU offers students the opportunity to choose from a traditional MA or MS in Biology, a MA or MS in Zoo Science, or the MA in Biomedical Science (WVSOM Bridge Program). For those interested in Zoo Science, this program will facilitate career advancement of trained zookeepers holding bachelor’s degrees from accredited 4-year institutions of higher education.

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“When I started graduate school I wasn’t competitive enough to get a job in this field with the experience I had. Now I’m graduating with my master’s degree and I’ve been working my dream zoo job for months!”

-Sarah Johanson, MS Biology, Zoo Science graduating December 2020 

This program is unique to the animal care industry providing one of only three animal care specific Master’s degree opportunities in the country where students are trained in exotic animal husbandry, and is the only program in the country that will offers direct hands-on applied experience to students in a zoo setting with a collaborating Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institution.The nature of this program encourages participation from students at the local, state, national, and international level.

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Program Options Overview

The traditional MS in Biology is a 30 credit hour program. Students take 14 credit hours of graded biology coursework, the option for independent study, and a traditional thesis. 

  • Students must complete at least 30 hours of biology graduate coursework, including the thesis. A maximum of 9 credit hours may be earned for the thesis.
  • Candidates for the MS degree must register for and participate in Graduate Seminar (seminar will be 1 credit hour per semester) each semester, except the thesis semester, while they are actively enrolled in the graduate program. No more than 3 credit hours of seminar may be used to complete the 30 credit hour requirement.
  • Students must complete 14 credit hours in graded graduate biology courses including BIO510 Graduate Research Skills.
  • Students may take up to 9 credit hours of “Independent Study” per semester. However, no more than 4 credit hours in “Independent Study” may be used to complete the 30 credit hour requirement. Moreover, these Independent Study credits may only be applied beyond the required 14 credit hours in graded biology graduate courses.
  • Successful completion of the graduate program in biology requires a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and no more than 6 credit hours of “C” grades may be applied to the total hours for graduation. Upon completion of course requirements and the thesis, MS candidates must pass an oral thesis defense.
  • Download the MS in Biology, Traditional Curriculum Guide.

3+2 MS in Biology allows undergraduate students to be admitted as freshmen to the combined program; the accepted students will take a slightly heavier (17-18 credit hour) course load per semester for the first three years of study. From the standard undergraduate coursework, these students will be allowed to count 14 credit hours of dual-listed courses toward the bachelor’s and master’s degree enabling them to complete all undergraduate and graduate requirements, including thesis, in a 5-year timespan.

  • Students must complete at least 30 hours of biology graduate coursework, including the thesis. A maximum of 9 credit hours may be earned for the thesis.
  • Candidates for the MS degree must register for and participate in Graduate Seminar (seminar will be 1 credit hour per semester) each semester, except the thesis semester, while they are actively enrolled in the graduate program. No more than 3 credit hours of seminar may be used to complete the 30 credit hour requirement.
  • Students must complete 14 credit hours in graded graduate biology courses including BIO510 Graduate Research Skills.
  • Students may take up to 9 credit hours of “Independent Study” per semester. However, no more than 4 credit hours in “Independent Study” may be used to complete the 30 credit hour requirement. Moreover, these Independent Study credits may only be applied beyond the required 14 credit hours in graded biology graduate courses.
  • Successful completion of the graduate program in biology requires a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and no more than 6 credit hours of “C” grades may be applied to the total hours for graduation. Upon completion of course requirements and the thesis, MS candidates must pass an oral thesis defense.
  • Download the MS in Biology, 3 + 2 Curriculum Guide.

The traditional MA in Biology provides a bridge program for students desiring coursework at the graduate level to prepare them for more competitive professional school entrance or for advancement in the workplace. Coursework in the traditional MA in Biology can be selected from a variety of dual-listed electives to allow focusing of study as needed. The use of dual-listed courses (upper-level courses in undergraduate biology offered with differentiated learning at the 500-level to graduate students) allows maximum efficiency in programming without any detriment to the undergraduate student population.

  • Students who select the MA option must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate coursework. MA students must take Graduate Seminar (1 credit per semester) during each semester they are actively enrolled in the program. No more than 4 credit hours of the seminar may be used to complete the 30 MA in Biology credit hour requirement.
  • MA students must complete a minimum of 26 credit hours of graded biology graduate coursework. No more than 6 credit hours of “C” grades may be applied to the total hours for graduation.
  • MA candidates do not conduct thesis research.
  • Successful completion of the graduate program in biology requires a GPA of 3.0 or higher and a comprehensive examination score of 75% or higher. Students may take the comprehensive examination a total of two times to achieve or surpass the minimum score.
  • Download the MA in Biology, Tradition Curriculum Guide.

The MA in Biology, Zoo Science option is specifically for professionals in animal management fields holding 4-year degrees from accredited institutions of higher education who wish to extend their education at the graduate level. The designated 30 credit hours of coursework required is specific to the challenges within animal management fields and will be offered in an online format to facilitate program completion across the nation.

  • Students who select the Master of Arts option must complete a designated 30 credit hours of graduate coursework including the 19 credit hour Zoo Science core curriculum.  All credit hours are graded biology graduate courses.
  • No more than 6 credit hours of “C” grades may be applied to the total hours for graduation.
  • MA candidates do not conduct thesis research.
  • Successful completion of the MA in Biology Zoo Science option requires a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and a comprehensive examination score of 75% or higher.  Students may take the comprehensive examination a total of two times to achieve or surpass the minimum score.
  • Learn more about the MA in Biology Zoo Science program

The MA in Biology, Zoo Science option is specifically for professionals in animal management fields holding 4-year degrees from accredited institutions of higher education who wish to extend their education at the graduate level. The designated 30 credit hours of coursework required is specific to the challenges within animal management fields and will be offered in an online format to facilitate program completion across the nation. 

  • Students who select the Master of Arts option must complete a designated 30 credit hours of graduate coursework including the 19 credit hour Zoo Science core curriculum.  All credit hours are graded biology graduate courses.
  • No more than 6 credit hours of “C” grades may be applied to the total hours for graduation.
  • MA candidates do not conduct thesis research.
  • Successful completion of the MA in Biology Zoo Science option requires a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and a comprehensive examination score of 75% or higher.  Students may take the comprehensive examination a total of two times to achieve or surpass the minimum score.
  • Learn more about the MA in Biology Zoo Science program

The Master of Arts in Biology, with a major in Biomedical Sciences (MAB), is designed for students to demonstrate they can be successful at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM). Students will take West Liberty University graduate-level courses in human biology and medicine to improve their overall academic credentials and prove they can handle the rigors of medical school.

  • Students must have an overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher with a science GPA of 2.8 or higher.
  • Taken the MCAT and scored above a 485 or taken the GRE and scored above a 300 on the verbal and quantitative reasoning section.
  • Learn more about the WVSOM Bridge program and guaranteed admissions requirements. 

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Program Outcomes

MS in Biology (MS Biology 3+2, MS Biology Traditional, MS Biology Zoo Science option) Upon completion of the MS in Biology (MS Biology 3+2, MS Biology Traditional, MS Biology Zoo Science option), graduates will be able to:
  • Demonstrate an in-depth mastery of field-specific advanced concepts in biologicalsciences and/or non-clinical biomedical sciences. [MSO1]
  • Conduct research in a laboratory and/or field settings using appropriate basic equipment and discipline-specific techniques. [MSO2]
  • Apply biometric principles to experimental design, and to the analysis and interpretation of data. [MSO3]
  • Effectively communicate research and findings in a professional context (oral & written). [MSO4]
  • Demonstrate independent scientific thinking. [MSO5]
  • Design and implement an original research project. [MSO6]
  • Effectively write papers suitable for publication and/or proposals suitable for funding. [MSO7]
  • Upon completion of the MA in Biology (Traditional and Zoo Science option), graduates will be able to:
  • Demonstrate an in-depth mastery from a range of fundamental biological concepts and subjects, including cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, evolution and ecology, and principles of conservation biology. [MAO1]
  • Critically review and analyze primary literature. [MAO2]
  • Effectively communicate scientific ideas in both written and oral formats. [MAO3]
  • Demonstrate independent scientific thinking. [MAO4]

Application Process

All applicants must provide a complete application file, which contains the following items to be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies:

  1. Complete the online application for admission to the program.
  2. Have all official transcripts and test scores sent to the Office of Graduate Studies (208 University Drive, CUB 192, West Liberty, WV 26074).
    Please note: West Liberty University graduates do not need to provide transcripts.
  3. Check the status of your recommendation letters through your admissions portal.
  4. Once you have a complete application, your file will be reviewed by the admission committee. Check on the status of your application at any time through your admissions portal.

For additional questions regarding the application process, please contact the Office of Graduate Studies at 304-336-8015.

Your Future in Biology

The applied knowledge and experience gained through the MS in Biology will prepare students for continued education through Biology PhD program matriculation. Obtaining the MS in Biology will significantly increase the likelihood that a student will be accepted into, and successfully complete a quality PhD program.

Completion of an MS in Biology from West Liberty University will qualify students for careers in industry working in laboratories at pharmaceutical, biotechnology, or biomedical companies. A recent search of Monster.com using Master’s in Biology as the search terms revealed over 1000 jobs, while the quoted phrase “Master’s degree in biology” revealed 131.

The education attained by completing the MA in Biology curriculum will substantially prepare students planning to enter professional programs such as medical school. These students will have shown that they are capable of completing graduate courses with the level of rigor associated with medical and other professional schools.

This will be especially helpful for students with identified academic challenges in the undergraduate background, as admission boards are more likely to accept these students when presented with evidence that they have had success beyond the undergraduate level.

The students achieving an MS or MA in biology from West Liberty University will be qualified to teach biology courses as an instructor at the collegiate level, or to begin a professional career that requires a graduate degree. For instance, thirty-six openings posted on “The Chronicle of Higher Education” were identified for instructor positions at colleges and universities that require a Master’s degree in biology.

Students who attain a Master’s degree in biology represent the preferred pool of applicants for a multitude of careers in the environmental sciences as well. State Departments of Natural Resources, Departments of Environmental Protection, Forestry Departments in addition to environmental non-profit organizations and private environmental consulting firms all prefer to hire applicants who have completed the requirements for a Master’s degree in biology over individuals lacking a graduate degree.

A job search conducted on 15 January 2016 on the Texas A&M Environmental Jobs Board found that nationally all full-time positions (n = 26) with both leadership roles and salaries above $40K/year required an MS in Biology or related fields. Federal employment in the U. S. Forest Service, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency is ceilinged for individuals lacking a graduate degree, and limited primarily to technician positions. Acquisition of a Master’s degree enables access to higher paying positions that often deal with environmental policy, regulation, and major national decisions. Acquisition of a Master’s degree at WLU will enable our graduates to join this workforce.

 

Students within the MS in Biology program will also have the opportunity to prepare for entrylevel and managerial positions within the animal care and husbandry industry. Training within the program will prepare students for research opportunities associated with this industry.

The United States Department of Labor reported that the rate of job growth for various positions related to animal care careers will increase at a more rapid (15%) rate than other job markets from 2012 – 2022.

Examples of potential careers within this line of work include: veterinary assistants and technicians; laboratory animal caretaker; zoo and aquarium animal keepers, curators, and research biologists; animal trainers; keepers and managers at sanctuaries, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, and nature centers; and managers within the pet care industry.

Other Potential Animal Husbandry Related Careers:

  • Animal Trainers – Service animal trainer; Zoo animal trainer; Equine industry trainer; Animal trainer for military and law enforcement
  • Exotic Animal Care – Keepers, managers, curators, registrars, and administrators at zoos, aquariums, nature centers, sanctuaries, rehabilitation centers, and fish hatcheries
  • Exotic Animal Research – Reproductive physiologists, animal nutritionist, endocrinologist, conservation biologist, and ecologist positions at zoos, aquariums, and conservation centers

As graduation rates increase, students will need to further their education to compete for research and management positions in a market of individuals who have successfully completed Bachelor degree training.

Percent Change in Employment 2028

Biological TechniciansBiological Technicians7%

Life, Physical and Soc. Sci. Tech.Life, Physical and Soc. Sci. Tech.6%

All OccupationsAll Occupations5%

source: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biological-technicians.htm#tab-6

Employment of biological technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Greater demand for biological and medical research is expected to increase the need for these workers.

Source: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biological-technicians.htm