MS in Biological Science (Molecular and Cellular Biology)

Total units required for MS: 30 includes units required in areas of concentration.

Program Description

The graduate programs in Biological Sciences lead to either a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) degree and provides an opportunity for students to receive advanced training and to pursue independent investigations in particular fields of biology. It allows students to upgrade their qualifications for educational advancement to doctoral programs or for professional advancement in teaching, laboratory work, or fieldwork. The MA degree requires the completion of a project which is a Grant Proposal, unless the student is in the Stem Cell Concentration which requires an Internship Project Report. The MS degree requires completion of a thesis which has concentrations in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation and in Molecular and Cellular Biology so as to provide advanced training and research experience in these fields.

All students are required to complete a project or thesis involving field, laboratory, or literature research. The project or thesis research may be conducted on campus with a biology faculty member or at an off-campus location. In either case, the student's research must make a new contribution to the field of biology. If the research is conducted off campus, a biology faculty member must be identified as the student's graduate advisor. Following admission to the program, students are advised by a temporary graduate advisor or by the faculty member who has agreed to supervise the student in their project/thesis research. Students should plan their academic programs in consultation with a graduate advisor as early as possible, preferably prior to enrollment in the program.

For additional information regarding the Biological Sciences Graduate Program, students may contact the Biological Sciences Department Office, Biological Sciences website, or consult the Biological Sciences Graduate Program Handbook, available through the Department's Web site.

Admission Requirements

Admission as a classified graduate student to the MA or MS program in Biological Sciences requires:

  • a baccalaureate degree;
  • completion of a major in biological sciences or closely related field; or completion of 24 units of upper division biological sciences courses or courses in closely related fields, each of which must be passed with a "C-" or better;
  • a minimum GPA of 2.75 in all biology courses and a minimum GPA of 3.0 in upper division biology courses;
  • GRE General Test scores;
  • a faculty member who has agreed to serve as their graduate advisor;
  • two letters of recommendation from persons qualified to judge the applicant's potential for successful graduate study; and
  • a statement of purpose.

It is important to note that meeting all admission requirements does not guarantee acceptance into the graduate program. Students who have deficiencies in admission requirements that can be removed by specified additional preparation, or who have not been accepted by a graduate advisor, may be admitted with conditionally classified graduate status. Admission as a conditionally classified graduate student does not guarantee fully classified status. Fully classified graduate status is conferred when all deficiencies identified at the time of admission are removed and a biology faculty member has agreed to serve as their thesis advisor. Any deficiencies in admissions requirements will be noted on a written response to the admission application.

Admission Procedures

Applicants must complete a university application by the posted application deadline date for the term applying. :

  • an online application for admission; and
  • two sets of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, other than Sacramento State.

For more admissions information and application deadlines, please visit

In addition, all prospective graduate students must submit the following application materials directly to the Department of Biological Sciences:

  • an online departmental application for admission;
  • one set of unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, other than Sacramento State;
  • GRE General Test scores (NOTE: GRE General Test scores will be accepted after the application deadline but only if the test was taken prior to the deadline);
  • two letters of recommendation; and
  • a statement of purpose.

Departmental applications for admission are due February 1. There is currently no general call for admission for students to begin in the spring semester. However a student may petition the department to begin the spring. Please contact your potential graduate advisor (i.e., a faculty member in your area of interest) to discuss this option. Approximately eight to ten weeks after receipt of all items listed above, a decision regarding admission will be mailed to the applicant.

No units from the following are acceptable toward the master's degree:

BIO 106Genetics: From Mendel to Molecules3
BIO 194Biology-Related Work Experience6 - 12
BIO 195Biological Internship1 - 2
BIO 197ALaboratory Teaching Assistant1 - 2
BIO 197BLaboratory Techniques1 - 2
BIO 197CCo-curricular Activities in Biology1 - 2
BIO 198AHonors Proseminar and Research2
BIO 198BHonors Research and Seminar2
BIO 199AIntroductory Undergraduate Research1 - 2
BIO 199BDirected Readings1 - 2

Minimum Units and Grade Requirements for the Degree

Units required for the MS:  30 includes units required in areas of concentration
Minimum Cumulative GPA:  3.0

Advancement to Candidacy

The Advancement to Candidacy process serves to ensure that a student is qualified for and making good progress toward successfully completing the Master's degree. Each classified graduate student must file an application for Advancement to Candidacy, indicating a proposed program of graduate study. This procedure should begin as soon as the classified graduate student has:

  • removed any deficiencies in admission requirements;
  • completed at least 12 units in the graduate program with a minimum 3.0 GPA, including at least one course at the 200-level;
  • begun a preliminary study for the thesis or project; and
  • taken the Writing Placement for Graduate Students (WPG) or taken a Graduate Writing Intensive (GWI) course in their discipline within the first two semesters of coursework at California State University, Sacramento or secured approval for a WPG waiver.

An Application for Advancement to Candidacy forms are available on the Office of Graduate Studies website and the Department of Biological Sciences Web site. The student fills out the form after planning a degree program in consultation with his/her Biological Sciences graduate advisor. After approval by the Biological Sciences Graduate Committee and the student's thesis committee, the completed form is returned to the Office of Graduate Studies for approval.


Supporting Fields: A maximum of 10 units from an approved supporting field (e.g., Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Studies, Geology, Physics) may be counted toward the degree, with graduate advisor and graduate committee approval obtained before taking the course(s).

No more than 10 units of BIO 299 and BIO 500 may be applied toward the 30 unit requirement.

Each student who receives a Master's of Science degree from the Department of Biological Sciences must submit a thesis based on original research in biology. A thesis can be based on either of the following sources of data:

  • data generated by the student's original research in which the student performs the fieldwork or laboratory experiments and/or
  • data obtained from sources other than the student's own fieldwork or laboratory experiments, provided the data are analyzed in an original way.

The use of data must result in an original contribution to the problem being investigated.

All requirements for the Master's degree must be completed within seven (7) years starting from the time the first course is used to meet the master’s degree requirements.

Program Requirements1

Required Core Courses (10 Units)
BIO 220Introduction to Scientific Inquiry 2
BIO 294ASeminar in Molecular and Cellular Biology 21
or BIO 294B Seminar in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
BIO 299Problems in Biological Sciences 31 - 4
Culminating Requirement (4 Units)
BIO 500Master's Thesis4
Additional Requirements for Concentrations (16 Units)
Select a concentration from the following:16
No Concentration
Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Molecular and Cellular Biology
Total Units30

Concentration in Molecular and Cellular Biology (16 units)

BIO 221ACell and Molecular Methods and Techniques2
BIO 222Molecular Biology3
BIO 224Genomics, Proteomics, and Bioinformatics3
Select 8 units of approved electives 18
Total Units16