Steps for Completing Your MS Degree

Requirements for Completion of the MS Degree Program

The Department of Biological Sciences offers an MS in the Biological Sciences with three possible concentrations: Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Physiology, and Ecology and Evolution. The MS in the Biological Sciences is a degree program emphasizing research and is designated as either Plan A: Thesis by the university. As, such, all students will be expected to successfully complete a research program as part of the degree requirements (more details below).

Application Procedure

Minimum requirements for admission into graduate level programs at San Jose State University are described at the Graduate Admission and Program Evaluation (GAPE) website. Applicants must apply to the university through GAPE. In addition, applicants must submit to the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Biological Sciences, a description of potential research project, and two letters of recommendation. Applicants must also be accepted by a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Personal Statement

  • In no more than 500 words, address the following prompts:
    1. Why do you want a Master’s degree from the SJSU Department of Biological Sciences?
    2. What is your career goal, and how will a Master’s degree from SJSU help you to achieve that goal?
    3. Please indicate 1-3 tenured or tenure-track faculty that you would be interested in working with for your Master’s degree, if accepted.
  • This statement should be submitted by e-mail to the Department of Biological Sciences Graduate Coordinator

Letters of Recommendation

  • These letters should be written by people who can evaluate your potential to succeed in a graduate program.
  • Electronic submission: Signed letters can be included as PDF file attachments in emails submitted to the Department of Biological Science Graduate Coordinator  by the recommender.
  • Mail submission: Letters can be sent by the recommender to: Graduate Coordinator, Department of Biological Sciences, San Jose State University, 1 Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0100.  If the applicant wishes to submit letters of recommendation, the letters must be in a sealed envelope with the signature of the recommender written across the seal.

Acceptance by Tenured or Tenure-Track Faculty Member

  • In order to be admitted into a MS Biological Sciences degree program,  an applicant must be accepted by a tenured or tenure-track faculty member of the department and that faculty member will become the major advisor of the candidate (see Faculty Acceptance form [pdf]).
  • Applicants are encouraged to also submit their research scenarios to potential advisors prior to or coinciding with the application process.

Acceptance Classification

  • Students may be accepted conditionally or as classified.
  • Conditional acceptance means that the candidate must fulfill specific requirements in order to be eligible to apply for advancement to candidacy. These conditions will be stipulated as part of the acceptance agreement between the faculty adviser and the applicant.
  • Classified acceptance means that students may apply for candidacy as per university requirements  and have completed BIOL 202 with a grade of “B” or better, have met the minimum university requirements for candidacy, and have completed the MS Candidacy Worksheet with advice of their major advisor. 

Timeline for Meeting MS Degree Requirements

See university requirements for completing a graduate degree (see Steps for Completing Your Master’s Degree).

Year 1

  • (Usually first semester) Assemble MS Advisory committee consisting of the major advisor and, at least, two additional members. The additional members must have appropriate academic credentials or expertise (usually a Ph.D.).  The role of the committee is to help guide the research effort to approve the final thesis or project generated from that research.
  • (Usually first semester) Work with Major advisor to create a 2 yr academic plan for completion of required coursework. Students and faculty are encouraged to use the MS Candidacy Worksheet to help plan the appropriate coursework.
  • Each semester, submit a Graduate Advising Worksheet to the department Graduate Coordinator to indicate the courses you will be taking.
    • You should enroll in BIOL 201 and BIOL 297 (two units) each semester
  • (Usually first semester) Work with Major advisor and MS Advisory committee to develop a research plan.
  • (Usually first semester) Complete BIOL 202 with a grade of “B” or better within the first year. This course meets the Competency in Written English requirements specified by the university.
  • Maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better
  • Conduct your research and develop a plan for your thesis or project.
  • If you have been accepted conditionally, complete the conditional requirements specified on the Faculty Acceptance form and file the Change of Classification form [pdf] to change your status to Classified.

Year 2

  • File for Candidacy in the first semester (by Oct 1)
    • In order to file, you must have successfully completed 9 units with a GPA of 3.0, have completed BIOL 202 with a grade of 'B' or better and are a Classified student.
    • Using the MS Candidacy worksheet (see above), complete and sign the Petition for Advancement to Graduate Candidacy [pdf] form.
    • Have your advisor sign the form and submit it to the department Graduate Coordinator.
  • Each semester submit a Graduate Advising Worksheet [pdf] to the department Graduate Coordinator to indicate the courses you will be taking.
    • You should enroll in BIOL 201 and BIOL 297 (two units) each semester.
    • In the semester that you are completing your coursework, you must enroll in BIOL 298.
  • Complete coursework with a GPA of 3.0
  • Conduct and complete your research and develop and complete your thesis (see Thesis Guidelines [pdf]) or written project. Note many students are not able to complete their research by the second semester of the second year; see below for instructions.
    • If you have completed your research, you must have your thesis approved by your MS Advisory committee and you must submit your thesis in its final form by April 1. See Thesis Forms and Documents on the GAPE website for submission details.
    • If you have completed your research, you must have completed an oral defense seminar by the end of the semester in which you wish to graduate. After completion of the seminar and approval of your manuscript or thesis, as indicated by your committee signing the Committee Approval Form, your Major advisor will submit the signed Committee Approval Form to the department Graduate Coordinator who will submit a Completion of Culminating Experience [pdf] form to GAPE.
  • File for Graduation with the Application for Award of Master's Degree form [pdf] (by Feb 1). Please send a copy to the department Graduate Coordinator.

If you have NOT completed your thesis in the same semester in which you have completed your coursework.