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Master of Biological Sciences

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The Master of Biological Sciences (MBS) is a unique, individualized professional graduate program designed to meet the needs of working adults seeking to advance their expertise in a particular area of modern biology.

Why Choose the MBS Program?

The MBS is:

  • Career-focused—You can design a program of coursework and directed research tailored to your specific professional or academic goals.
  • Flexible—You can pursue either Plan B (research project) or Plan C (coursework only).
  • Multidisciplinary—You can select among courses offered by multiple colleges within the University.
  • WelcomingWe aim to promote diversity, inclusivity, and equity to provide an enriching and rewarding experience for everyone. 

Which plan is right for me?

You can choose between a research focus (Plan B) or a coursework focus (Plan C), depending on your individual career goals. You will automatically be admitted into Plan C and can switch to Plan B by notifying your advisor.

Plan B – Research with Final Project Plan C – Coursework Only
For students interested in an intensive research experience in a particular area of the biological sciences under the direction of a faculty member. For students seeking up-to-date, graduate-level knowledge in one or more areas of the biological sciences.
Completion requirements include a paper and an oral defense of the project. For students who do not need research experience to reach their career goals.
Recommended for students interested in a research-based career or in pursuing an advanced degree in a PhD or professional program. Benefits working professionals who may not be able to fit an intensive research project into their degree program.
MBS 6110 Graduate Seminar Series (optional) MBS 6110 Graduate Seminar Series (required)
MBS 6002 Final Project
Students write their final paper under the direction of a faculty mentor and defend their Plan B project to a three-member committee.
MBS 6003 Capstone Course
Students write an intensive capstone paper that will be presented and defended in front of their peers and the program staff. Students take this course in their final term.

Requirements and Courses

In the Master of Biological Sciences, you can choose from a wide range of courses offered at the University of Minnesota to fulfill your degree plan. Coursework may come from multiple colleges within the U of M, including the College of Biological Sciences; the Academic Health Center; the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.

For more information, check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Degree Requirements

Courses Credits Plan B Plan C
Required Courses      
MBS 6001 Introduction to Research in the Biological Sciences 1 Required Required
BIOC 6021 Biochemistry 3 With evidence of proficiency, may be substituted with another 3-credit course With evidence of proficiency, may be substituted with another 3-credit course
Final Project Course 3 MBS 6002 required for Plan B MBS 6003 required for Plan C
MBS 6110 Graduate Seminar Series 1 Optional for Plan B Required for Plan C
Individualized Courses      
Core Courses 17–23 Selected in consultation with advisor. This may include up to 6 credits of directed research or directed study. Selected in consultation with advisor. This may include up to 6 credits of directed research or directed study. MBS 8110 credits count toward these requirements.
Elective Courses outside the Biological Sciences 0–6 Elective coursework may be taken in other fields to support career goals. Elective coursework may be taken in other fields to support career goals.
Total Required Credits   7 8
Total Individualized Credits   23 22
Total Credits   30 30


Prerequisites may be completed at the University of Minnesota or another educational institution. All applicants are required to have general coursework in science at the undergraduate-level or above including the following:


One general biology course

Chemistry coursework through the first semester of organic chemistry, which usually consists of two semesters of general chemistry followed by one semester of organic chemistry.

Introductory Coursework

As part of your degree requirements, you may need to complete foundational coursework in Molecular Biosciences, Cellular and Organismal Biology, or Environmental and Population Biology, in consultation with your academic advisor.

Course Options

The core of our program is biology broadly defined. The following lists are just a sampling of the courses you can apply to your degree. For detailed course information, visit the U of M Schedule Builder.

BIOC 6021 Biochemistry
BIOC 5309 Biocatalysis and Biodegradation
BIOC 5351 Protein Engineering
BIOC 5361 Microbial Genomics
BIOL 4003 Genetics
CSCI 5465 Introduction to Computing for Biologists
GCD 8008 Mammalian Gene Transfer and Genome Engineering
GCD 8073 Genetics and Genomics in Human Health
GCD 8131 Advanced Molecular Genetics and Genomics
NUTR 5625 Nutritional Biochemistry
MICE 5355 Advanced Fermentation and Biocatalysis Laboratory
PHCL 5110 Introduction to Pharmacology
PHCL 5111 Pharmacogenomics

BIOL 4004 Cell Biology
GCD 4151 Molecular Biology of Cancer
GCD 5036 Molecular Cell Biology
MICA 8002 Structure, Function, and Genetics of Bacteria and Viruses
MICA 8003 Immunity and Immunopathology
MICA 8004 Cellular and Cancer Biology
NSCI 5101 Neurobiology I: Molecules, Cells, and Systems
NSC 5461 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
NSC 5661W Behavioral Neuroscience
PHCL 8026 Neuro-Immune Interactions
PHSL 5700 Cell Physiology
PHSL 5444 Muscle
PMB 5516 Plant Cell Biology
PMB 5601 Topics in Plant Biochemistry
VPM 4131 Immunology

BBE 5608 Environmental and Industrial Microbiology
ENT 5361 Aquatic Insects
ENT 4251 Forest and Shade Tree Entomology
FW 5401 Fish Physiology and Behavior
MICA 8002 Structure, Function, and Genetics of Bacteria and Viruses
MICE 5355 Advanced Fermentation and Biocatalysis Laboratory
FSCN 5122 Food Fermentations and Biotechnology
PHSL 5115 Clinical Physiology I
PHSL 5116 Clinical Physiology II
PHSL 5510 Advanced Cardiac Physiology and Anatomy
PMB 5212 Fungi – A Kingdom of Their Own
PMB 5111 Microbial Physiology and Diversity

BIOL 5272 Applied Biostatistics
CSCI 5465 Introduction to Computing for Biologists
EEB 5371 Principles of Systematics
EEB 5409 Evolution
EEB 5534 Biodiversity Science
EEB 5601 Limnology
EEB 5609 Ecosystem Ecology
ESPM 5575 Wetlands
FW 8452 Conservation Biology
MICE 5035 Personal Microbiome Analysis
PUBH 6320 Fundamentals of Epidemiology

APS 6313 Data for Decision Making
APS 6314 Leading Projects and Teams
APS 6315 Legal and Ethical Issues in Business Sciences
BTHX 5100 Introduction to Clinical Ethics
FW 5625 Wildlife Handling and Immobilization
GRAD 8101 Teaching in Higher Education
PUBH 7415 Introduction to Clinical Trials
STAT 5021 Statistical Analysis

Sample Specializations

One strength of the MBS program is its flexibility, which allows you to take courses across disciplines. The program areas described below are suggestions; we encourage you to pursue your own interests and objectives in consultation with your academic advisor.

Female student with microscope and headphones


For students who want to learn more about the ways that biology can be applied in industry, from the production of biologics to brewing or biofuels



Woman working at computer in office space

Computational Biology and Genomics

For students who are interested in data analysis on a large scale and applying these skills to questions ranging from genomics, proteomics, or evolutionary biology to clinical trials



Male student looking at a plant in a forest

Environmental Biology

For students who seek to expand their knowledge of biology on the level of ecosystems and populations, with an interest in conserving our natural world



Man in modern facility wearing medical hair net

Biomedical Sciences

For students who are broadly interested in biomedical biology, ranging from physiology and neurobiology to topics in pharmacology, epidemiology, immunology, and cancer biology


Fall Semester Application Deadline: March 15
Spring Semester Application Deadline: October 15

Admission to the Master of Biological Sciences program is competitive, and all applications are reviewed to ensure a good fit for academic success. Notification of admission decisions is made within four to six weeks of the application deadline.

We strive to be equitable in the admissions process. Our program thrives with the inclusion of students from different backgrounds and cultural experiences. Our admissions committee reviews applications holistically, including all components of the application, and does not require standardized test scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). If you have questions about the admission requirements or would like advice on how to put together application materials, please contact us.

The following items are required for admission:

  • a bachelor's degree from an accredited post-secondary US institution or its foreign equivalent
  • a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0*
  • an undergraduate major in science or science coursework at the undergraduate or graduate level (see Prerequisites above for more information)
  • completion of organic chemistry
  • work experience preferred*

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is not required.

* In exceptional circumstances, promising applicants with lower GPA or less work experience may be considered for the program. An explanation for GPA, and evidence that academic success at the graduate level is achievable, must be addressed in the application (extenuating circumstances).

  1. First, access the online application. (In the application, select University of Minnesota Twin Cities, College of Continuing and Professional Studies, Biological Sciences MBS)
  2. All required application materials  must be electronically attached to your application.

Applicant Statements

  • Professional statement: Typically one or two pages, double-spaced, should describe your personal and career goals.
  • Diversity statement: Optional.
  • Extenuating Circumstances statement: If your undergraduate GPA is below 3.0 or you have less work experience, please provide an explanation.

Letters of Recommendation

Two letters of recommendation are required. Letters should be solicited from individuals who can provide a candid assessment of your abilities (including strengths and weaknesses), personality, character, and potential for graduate-level academic success and professional achievement. 


Unofficial transcripts or academic records for each institution (even if you didn’t receive a degree) should be uploaded directly to the online application. International students should also upload an English translation if the transcript is not in English. If possible, make sure the institution has put your name on the transcript/record.

Resume or CV

Submit a current resume or CV.

GRE Scores

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is not required.

Application Fee

A nonrefundable application fee must be paid on submission. 

You may be able to transfer up to 10 credits of graduate-level coursework completed prior to admission, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Transfer coursework requirements:

  • Taken at the University of Minnesota or another accredited institution 
  • Completed at the graduate level and listed on a graduate transcript
  • Earned a grade of B or better
  • Completed no more than five years prior to admission to the program 

Transfer Coursework Taken as an Undergraduate

You may be able to transfer up to six of the ten transfer coursework credits taken as an undergraduate, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies and the Associate Director for Graduate Programs. 

Please email an MBS advisor to learn more.

If your native language is not English, please submit scores from the TOEFL, MELAB, or IELTS English proficiency examination. Read more about required scores.

  • Required TOEFL scores are 84 or above, with section scores of at least 21 on writing and at least 19 on reading.
  • Required IELTS score is 6.5, with section scores of at least 6.5 for both on writing and reading.
  • Required MELAB score is 84.

International students interested in the Master of Biological Sciences should contact the International Student and Scholar Service for information on visa status.

How to Register for Undergraduate Courses to Satisfy Prerequisites

Complete steps 1−5 found on the registration page for nondegree undergraduate students. Please note that undergraduate courses used to satisfy prerequisites will not count toward your degree requirements. 

How to Register for Graduate-level Courses BEFORE Being Admitted to a Graduate Program

Credit courses taken before admission may be applied toward this degree. You can take a graduate-level course before being admitted if:

  • the course is graduate-level (4xxx-level or above), and
  • you register for credit as a nondegree graduate student and pay graduate-level tuition.

Follow these steps to register:

  1. Download and submit a Registration Request for Graduate Credit for Nondegree Students Form. Registration for nondegree students is not available online.
  2. Send the form to the department offering the courses for authorization. This form must be used each term until you are admitted to a program.
  3. Upon authorization, the department offering the graduate course will forward the form to the registrar or provide you with further instructions.
  4. You will receive confirmation and payment instructions by email.

More information can be found on the registration page for nondegree graduate students.

To find available courses, use the Schedule Builder.

Career Outlook

  • $73KMedian income*
  • 10%
    Expected employment growth in Minnesota in the biological sciences between 2019-29*

Some positions of MBS graduates could include:*

  • General Researcher
  • Health Researcher
  • Medical Researcher
  • Quality Control
  • Quality Assurance
  • Scientist
  • Quality Manager
  • Biotechnologist
  • Research Manager

MBS graduates have gone on to work for:

  • Masonic Cancer Center
  • BioTechne
  • Takeda Pharmaceuticals
  • Medtronic
  • Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
  • Beckman Coulter
  • Minnesota Zoo
  • Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation
  • Pace Analytical
  • 3M
  • Cargill
  • Boston Scientific
  • Mayo Clinic
  • University of Minnesota
  • J.R. Simplot Co.
  • St. Paul Community College

* Burning Glass Technologies: Program Insight™, accessed 08/5/21

Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid

MBS students are not provided any financial support from the program in the form of fellowships, research/teaching assistantships, etc.

MBS students fund their own degree program through personal savings, loans, off-campus employment, and/or other external sources of financial aid. In addition, many students receive tuition reimbursement from their employer. To learn more about financial aid or CCAPS scholarship eligibility, talk to our scholarship advisor.

If you would like to be considered for any available scholarship funding for newly admitted graduate students, you must complete the annual FAFSA for the upcoming academic year. Choose the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities as your school within FAFSA.

COVID-19 Information

Prospective Students: Please connect with enrollment advisor Steve Wicks with your questions or to schedule an appointment.

Current Students: Reach out to your academic advisor with any questions.

The U of M Online website offers helpful tips and resources for students for successful online learning.

Let's Connect

You can learn more about the Biological Sciences program in a way that works for you. Enrollment Advisor Steve Wicks is here to help.

Steve Wicks headshot

Or you can give Steve a call at 612-301-6127.

Do you have a more detailed question or want to tell us a little bit about yourself before the meeting? Fill out this brief questionnaire.

Meet Steve

Steve works with prospective students who are interested in one of our graduate programs or certificates. He is happy to answer your questions about our degrees, admission requirements, and the application procedure. In his free time, he can usually be found in the woods or on the water, or cheering on all the Wisconsin sports teams.