Information for Prospective Graduate Students
The Department of Zoology provides a wide variety of opportunities to students interested in graduate study in biology. Following are some issues you may want to consider in deciding whether these opportunities match your interests and goals.
- Find degree program that matches your career objectives
- Learn how to find a faculty advisor
- Consider an interdisciplinary program of study
- Learn about financial support
- Learn how to prepare your application
- Know whom to contact with other questions
Ph.D. This is a research-intensive degree leading to a dissertation based on high-quality, original research. Average time to completion is between five and six years.
M.S. (plan A) This is a research-intensive degree leading to thesis based on high-quality, original research that is more restricted in scope than a Ph.D.
M.S. (plan B) This is a course-work intensive degree that does not require a thesis but does require a one-semester independent project involving original scholarship
Professional Master's Degree in Zoo and Aquarium Science. This degree combines coursework in Zoology and in Business as well as an internship experience that is meant to prepare students for careers in the zoo industry. Students have the option of pursuing either a Plan A or Plan B M.S. degree.
The department only admits applicants who have been formally sponsored by a member of the faculty. Most faculty members scrutinize applicants' files to see if there is anyone they would like to sponsor, but to assure consideration of your file you must contact those faculty members whose interests match your own. Do this before you apply. You can find out about faculty members' research programs through the departmental directories, which list research faculty alphabetically, as well as by the following interest areas:
- Cellular and Developmental Biology
- Neurobiology and Behavior
- Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Science
Feel free to contact more than one member of the faculty, either by e-mail or by phone. Be prepared to send a curriculum vitae and a statement of your research interests and career goals. Ask the faculty member whether he or she is planning to accept new students for the coming year. Most of us have a limit to how many students we can advise at the same time, and so it may not be possible for a given individual to sponsor a new student even if that applicant is very accomplished. However, you do have an opportunity to convince that faculty member why you would be a good addition to his or her lab.
The Zoology Department is well positioned to help students prepare for careers in the increasingly interdisciplinary world of modern biological science. Most faculty members have a strong interdisciplinary component to their research programs, and maintain collaborations with scientists in other MSU departments. In addition, most Ph.D. and M.S. students working with Zoology faculty complete the requirements of one or more of the interdisciplinary graduate programs (see list at right). Depending upon the program, this may lead to a stand-alone degree or to a joint degree in addition to the Zoology degree.
Most Zoology graduate students receive some form of support to cover living expenses and tuition during their studies. Ph.D. students are guaranteed five years of support. Plan A M.S. students are guaranteed three years of support. Plan B M.S. students are not guaranteed any support, but are eligible for assistantships if available. An explanation of the various kinds of support can be found at the Financial Support page.
In addition to support for living expenses and tuition, you will need funds to cover research costs. These are often available from faculty research grants, but students are also encouraged to apply for funding to support their research once they have begun their programs. A small amount of money is available from the Zoology Department or from budgets of interdisciplinary programs; other sources of funds are available from the MSU Graduate School, and from organizations outside the university. You should discuss these options with your prospective advisor.
Following are the steps you should follow to prepare for your application to graduate program in Zoology.
Study list of faculty interests and contact individuals whom you think you would like to work with, and ask them if they will be accepting new students for the next year. Only those applicants who have been sponsored by a Zoology faculty member can be considered for admission (August-November).
Take the GRE exam; only General Test is required.
Consider the options for interdisciplinary programs, and consult with your prospective advisor about whether you should apply to one of these programs (October-November) as well as to Zoology.
Download relevant application materials and submit application(s) by the appropriate deadline(s) (1st of December for Zoology).
Line up strong letters of support and prepare strong essays. Create an account with the Embark Reference Letter System.
- Consider making a visit to campus in the Fall to meet with your prospective advisor and other members of the department.
The Graduate Secretary, Ms. Lisa Craft (517-355-4640; ), will be able to help you find answers to any of your questions about graduate study in the department. You will also find it helpful to talk with your prospective advisor(s).