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Master of Science in Biology: Marine Biology Focus

Master (ISCED 2011 level 7)


Duration 6 semesters
Cost $8,304 per semester (full time)/$5,292 per semester (part time)

Marine Biology Concentration

This M.S. degree area is designed to provide students with contemporary research skills and expertise in the study of marine organisms and ecosystems. Research in this area ranges from studies of the physiological and behavioral studies of individual organisms, to the phylogeography and evolution of marine taxa, to the conservation and management of coastal habitats and communities. In addition to our state-of-the art laboratory facilities, including an onsite saltwater aquarium system, students take advantage of the proximity of coastal marine habitats, ranging from wetlands and estuaries, rocky intertidal reefs, sandy shores, kelp forests, and soft-bottom systems to human-made harbors. Access to laboratory space in Los Angeles Harbor and use of several ocean-going vessels are provided through our affiliation with the CSU Ocean Studies Institute and the Southern California Marine Institute, which in turn provides opportunities for use of laboratory and living space at the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Santa Catalina Island.


The program can be completed in two years, but most students take longer because of the amount of time required to complete a rigorous, research-based thesis, especially if the student works on- or off-campus, or devotes considerable time to activities other than research, e.g., teaching.

M.S. Degree Requirements

  • Completion, with an average grade of B or better, of 30 units of thesis committee-approved coursework
  • Completion of a committee-approved, scholarly research thesis
  • Satisfactory performance on a final oral examination (defense) of the thesis
  • Public presentation of thesis research
Structural components
Ship training
Industry partners
Laboratory training
Practical/Field work

Application procedure

Full information about the application procedure including application deadlines and requirements, can be found here

Grant opportunities

Aside from the Horn Fellowship described below, there are no formal graduate stipends or scholarships available to graduate students by the Department of Biological Science. The Department does hire some qualified students to work as Teaching Associates (TAs) and Graduate Assistants (GAs). In addition, some students are hired as Research Assistants by faculty members with grant funds. The number of TAs and GAs varies each semester depending on departmental needs, as does the number of students being supported by grant funds. Upon admission into the program, an application for a TA/GA position will be sent to applicants who request to be considered for these positions on their Departmental applications.

Many graduate students are eligible for financial aid ( IMPORTANT: For federal financial aid, such as grants and loans, the deadline for priority consideration is 1 March. If you are even considering applying to our graduate program, you should submit your federal financial aid application (FAFSA) by this date.


Teaching & Graduate Assistantships

Teaching Associates are hired to teach laboratory sections for certain departmental courses. These include non-major's biology (BIOL101 Elements of Biology), undergraduate biology core courses (BIOL151 Cellular and Molecular Biology, BIOL152 Evolution and Organismal Biology, BIOL253L Cellular and Molecular Biology Skills Laboratory, BIOL254L Research Skills for Ecology and Organismal Biology), and some upper-division courses. Semester salaries for TAs depend on qualifications and experience as well as workload. Graduate Assistants help in the preparation of laboratories, grading and other activities and can work up to 20 hours per week during the semester, although most assignments are 5-10 hours per week. Semester salaries of GAs vary depending on the assignment, student qualifications and experience.


Research Assistantships

Inquiries about Research Assistantships should be made directly to prospective faculty advisers. Salaries for Research Assistants vary widely depending on funding source, qualifications and the nature of the work.


University & College Scholarships

In addition to financial aid, several merit- and need-based scholarships are available from the University. Others are available to historically underrepresented groups in the sciences and higher education. Information on scholarships is available from the Financial Aid Office and the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS). Note that the deadline for applying for most College and University scholarships is early in the spring semester.

Highly qualified international students and students from outside of California may be eligible for a Non-Resident Tuition Fee Waiver from the OGS. Nominations are usually made at the time of application to the program. If you are interested in one of these waivers, please indicate your interest on your Departmental application.


Violet Horn Graduate Research Fellowship in Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology

The Violet Horn Graduate Research Fellowship in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology was established in 2015 by a generous gift from Dr. Mike Horn, a long-time faculty member in the Department of Biological Science.  The fellowship honors the memory of Violet Horn (pictured at right), who was an award-winning K-12 teacher, a devoted supporter of her family's learning aspirations (including her nephew Mike), and a tireless advocate for educational opportunities in the Cherokee community.  

Each year one outstanding MS Biology applicant will be selected to receive the fellowship based on information in his/her application (academic record, relevant research experience, letters of recommendation) and potential for success as a research student at CSUF.  Upon successful completion of BIOL500A and 500B with a grade of A or A+ in the first year, the recipient will be awarded $10,000 to support her/his thesis research during the second year.

Learning outcomes

The purpose of the M.S. in Biology program is to provide students with advanced learning opportunities in biology through the performance and completion of original research. The program is designed to prepare students for: 1) admission to Ph.D. programs in the biological and biomedical sciences; 2) professional careers with governmental agencies and in the private sector; 3) technical work in education, medical, and environmental settings; and 4) teaching at the two-year college level. Additionally, the program provides opportunities for students to enhance their knowledge of science and the scientific process for teaching at the secondary level and for professional work in other fields.


Applicants seeking admission to the M.S. Program in Biology must have: a B.S. or B.A. degree in biology or related field from an accredited college or university; a GPA of 3.0 in all biology or biology-related courses (e.g., biochemistry); and a GPA of 2.5 in the last 60 semester units of coursework, and in all supporting coursework in chemistry, physics and mathematics. Students must submit the scores of one of the following: Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General test, Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), or Dental Admission Test (DAT). No absolute score is required for admission, but scores are used in the evaluation procedure. Applicants must also submit 2 letters of recommendation from professors, job supervisors, or other individuals familiar with the applicant's skills and qualifications for graduate-level work. To be admitted into the program, a student must be accepted by a full-time member of the graduate faculty in Biology who agrees to serve as the student’s thesis adviser.

ISCED Categories

Project management
Personal skills and communication
Conservation and environmental management
Physical and chemical oceanography