Graduate Program Biology

PSU graduate biology student working in a lab

Biology Master's Degree and Doctorate Overview

Find your footing as a natural scientist with a master’s or doctoral degree in Biology from PSU. In our cutting-edge labs, you will conduct research, learn grantsmanship, gain teaching experience, and pursue an academically rigorous program that will allow you to succeed beyond graduate school.

We cultivate our students to become confident, exploratory scientists in their own right. Our graduates design and conduct research that pushes the limits of knowledge and often nets our student's publication in leading peer-review journals.

Our graduate programs offer several tracks — from the general master’s programs to the biology teaching program to the doctoral track — that allow students to hone in on their scientific passion.

Public oral defense is required of both the thesis and dissertation tracks, and presentation of results at regional, national, and international scientific conferences is encouraged. Coursework has a larger role in the Master of Arts and Master of Science tracks, but is replaced by a written and oral comprehensive exam for Ph.D. students.

Our faculty is driven to provide the best possible graduate and working experience for our students. We are proud to offer funding to most students who also have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants.

Degree Details

Biology Master's Degree or Doctorate: Why PSU?

Our department’s supportive faculty maintain nationally and internationally recognized biology research programs that brings meaningful scientific discoveries into the graduate classroom.

In our collaborative program, students are in frequent contact with faculty. Our weekly seminar series also offers students the opportunity to meet and learn from professionals from outside the PSU environment. Research facilities such as greenhouses, natural history collections (botanical, and both invertebrate and vertebrate), and the Center for Life in Extreme Environments serve as resources for much graduate research.

Faculty receive research funding by high-profile organizations, such as the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Howard Hughes Foundation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Our department maintains close collaborations with a number of local institutions that provide additional research opportunities within easy reach of the PSU campus, including the Portland Zoo, Oregon Health and Science University, and Oregon National Primate Research Center. Faculty at these institutions can serve on graduate student committees.

What can I do with a Masters's degree or Doctorate in Biology?

A graduate degree in biology offers a solid foundation in the sciences that can provide an avenue to careers in medicine or to a profession as a scientist.

Many of our graduates also pursue careers in wildlife management or conservation. Undergraduate degrees with an emphasis in molecular biology, cell biology and/or microbiology also have the potential to enter fields within the biotechnology sector. And for students of all areas of Biology, an undergraduate degree is a virtual prerequisite for continuing graduate degree programs that then open opportunities at the next level.

Featured Courses

  • BI 598 Graduate Research Prospectus
  • BI 599 Graduate Grant Writing
  • BI 520 Ethical Practices in the Life Sciences
  • BI 607 Seminar (12 terms; doctoral only)

Featured Electives

  • BI 512 Animal Behavior Behavioral
  • BI 536 Behavioral Endocrinology
  • BI 522 Bioinformatics and Genomics
  • BI 552 Cancer Biology
  • BI 518 Comparative Animal Physiology
  • BI 529 Conservation Biology
  • BI 527 Evolutionary Genomics
  • BI 540 Evolutionary Medicine
  • BI 528 Human Genetics
  • BI 517 Mammalian Physiology
  • BI 697 Advanced Topics in Mammalogy
  • BI 692 Advanced Topics in Marine Mammals
  • BI 523 Microbial Ecology
  • BI 524 Molecular Genetics
  • BI 525 Natural History of Antarctica
  • BI 550 Phylogenetic Biology
  • BI 537 Physiological Adaptation to Extreme Environments
  • BI 532 Plant Diversity and Evolution
  • BI 576 Population Ecology
  • BI 514 Ornithology
  • BI 562 Neuroscience I: Physiology of Synapses and Circuits
  • BI 563 Neuroscience II: Sensory and Motor Systems
  • BI 530 Theory of Recombinant DNA Techniques
  • BI 521 Virology


Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).