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Marine Biology

M.S. in Marine Biology

This course of study is designed to equip students with a substantial understanding of the nature and ecology of marine life and grounding in the other overlapping areas of marine science. Program flexibility provides preparation for further graduate study, secondary education career enhancement, or employment in technical research institutions, government agencies, or environmental consulting firms. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree in biology, oceanography, or a closely related field, including science education.

Learning Outcomes

Expected learning outcomes are:

Delivery System

On campus graduate classes typically meet one evening per week in a three hour session. Exceptions are field courses which may entail several days of intensive study. On-line courses meet periodically at the convenience of faculty and students  

Degree Tracts

There are two tracts for completing an M.S. degree.


All entering M.S. students are accepted in the Capstone. Students take a minimum 13 regular courses in their selected degree for 39 credits.  Students must take Capstone Review Paper courses totaling a minimum of 6 credits (which involve submitting and defending a capstone review paper.  This is typically done at or near the completion of formal coursework.  The Capstone review paper is a scholarly review, based upon a comprehensive literature search, review, and synthesis of the chosen topic. Carrying out a Capstone review paper takes place with guidance from a major professor. Typically, Capstone students find a major professor by approaching faculty in the student's area of interest. Students will be assigned a Capstone advisor if they have difficulty in identifying a major professor. Prior to beginning a Capstone review paper and registering for Capstone Review Paper credits, the student must write a proposal which must be approved by the student's major professor, committee, and the Chair of the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences.


A thesis is an original contribution to knowledge resulting from the systematic study of a significant problem or issue. A thesis track requires a minimum of 10 regular courses for 30 credits.  In addition, a minimum of 9 Thesis credits is required. To be allowed entry into the Thesis track the student must secure agreement from a faculty member to be the student's major professor. There must be adequate funding to carry out the proposed research.  Students are not provided with a thesis advisor. Prior to beginning thesis research and registering for thesis credits, the student must write a proposal which must be approved by the student's major professor, committee, and the the Associate Dean of Academic Programs, and be submitted to the Director of Academic Support and Administration in the Program Office. The Thesis option is typically a longer duration track and number of credit hours than the Capstone track.

For further details, students are referred to section 3.8 of this catalog and to the online guidelines for the capstone or thesis track found on the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography Student Information page

M.S. Credit Hour Requirements

The Capstone track requires a minimum of 45 credits. This includes five 3-credit core classes, eight 3-credit specialty courses and a minimum of two 3-credit Capstone Review Paper courses (consisting of an extended literature review of an approved subject). Once a student starts registering for capstone course credits, they cannot stop registering for credits until the capstone is completed and defended. It is expected the Capstone review paper can be completed within two terms or less.  The completed Capstone review paper is presented in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.
The Thesis track requires a minimum of 39 credits. This includes five 3-credit core classes, five 3-credit specialty courses, and at least nine credits of master's thesis research. The number of thesis research credits above the minimum is dependent upon the length of time needed to complete the thesis research, which may be more than the typical minimum three terms. The final thesis is formally defended in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.

Elective Courses

Students in a single degree are allowed to take up to two elective courses outside their degree orientation and have them count towards their final credit count.

For both the Capstone and Thesis degree tracks, once the proposal has been accepted, enrollment in the chosen track must continue until completion of the degree.

Joint M.S. Degrees

Also offered are Joint M.S. Degrees

The joint specialization M.S. degrees require a minimum of 57 course credits (19 courses) or 51 course credits (17 courses) (for Capstone or Thesis respectively) including nine credits minimum thesis research or the six credits minimum for the capstone. For the joint programs, students take approximately equal numbers of courses within each of the two specialties. The final thesis is formally defended in an open defense that includes the student's committee.


Core Courses - 15 Credit Hours
Marine Biology Electives - 24 Credit Hours (Capstone Track) or 15 Credit Hours (Thesis Track)