Master of Arts in Biology


The Master of Arts in Biology program helps students update and deepen their knowledge of the biomedical sciences, prepare for employment in related fields, and advance their professional standing—while obtaining a graduate science degree on a part-time basis through evening, weekend, and online courses.

Designed to be adaptable to each individual's unique background and goals, the program provides a flexible curriculum and close individual advising for each student. Students include science and health professionals, teachers, technicians, and individuals in biology-related businesses.

Note: the MA in Biology is a terminal graduate degree awarded on the basis of course work rather than research. Except in rare cases, it is not intended as preparation for a PhD degree. No more than 6 of the 30 credits may be earned in research courses. Those interested in graduate research or in earning a PhD should apply to the PhD programs offered by Washington University's Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences.


The Master of Arts in Biology program is open to qualified applicants with a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution who have completed previous undergraduate course work in biology, mathematics and chemistry.

Prospective students are urged to discuss admission and tentative course schedules, including prerequisite courses, with the biology program coordinator or other members of the Program Committee. Upon admission, each student will be assigned a faculty advisor.

The MA in Biology program is co-sponsored by the Washington University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the Washington University Department of Biology, and University College.

required course work

Required courses: 30 units

Students have the freedom to select courses that match their own interests. Students must complete 30 units of graduate course work in the biological sciences, including a required capstone experience.

All students admitted to the program are required to take at least 50% (15 units/5 three-credit courses) of the 30 units of course work required to complete the program at Washington University.


A pre-requisite for enrollment in MA in Biology courses is admission, through formal application, to the MA program in Biology. Occasionally, a student whose application is pending, or whose record suggests he or she should take one or two courses on a trial basis, will be allowed to register for a course, but only after consultation with a University College graduate advisor or the Biology Program Coordinator.

To obtain approval, students not yet formally enrolled in the program must submit a course application form and collegiate transcripts to the program director for permission to enroll. Students admitted to the Master of Arts in Education program may enroll in graduate-level biology courses with the approval of the student's academic advisor.

Prospective students are urged to discuss admission and tentative course schedules, including prerequisite courses, with the biology program coordinator or other members of the Program Committee. Upon admission, each student will be assigned a faculty advisor; course registration and performance will be reviewed each semester.

Capstone Experience

Students are required to complete one of the following:

  • either a three-unit capstone course: students must have completed a minimum of 24 units in order to be eligible for a capstone experience, or
  • a six-unit Master's thesis: students with appropriate backgrounds, interests, and academic qualifications may, with authorization, write a Master’s thesis based on original library or laboratory research.

Learn more about the capstone experience in Biology.

Optional Concentration in Neurobiology

Admitted students have the option of choosing a concentration in neurobiology for deeper, more focused study. This optional concentration requires 12 units of course work.

Neurobiology is the study of the structure and function of the nervous system, helps prepare students for careers in biomedical fields, including research and clinical practice in medicine, neuroscience, and cognitive science.

Choose four of the following courses:

  • Neurobiology (U29 435)
  • Neural Basis of Behavior (U29 436)
  • Neuroscience: Sensory Systems (U29 478)
  • Synaptic Change in the Nervous System (U29 4851)
  • Biology of Membranes (U29 4721)

admissions requirements

Transferring Credit

A maximum of six units of related, comparable graduate-level course work may be transferred from another university or from a related graduate program at Washington University with the approval of the program director. These must be graduate-level units not used to fulfill undergraduate degree requirements. Transfer credit may be granted only for authorized courses for which the student received a grade of B or higher. 

Baccalaureate Degree

Qualified applicants should have completed previous undergraduate course work in biology, mathematics and chemistry and obtained a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution.

application requirements

Completed application form

The online application is available online on our Apply page. Applications are ready for review when all fields on the application form are completed, required documents have been received, and the application fee is paid.

Official transcripts from all previous college work

Contact the registrar at each previous college or university attended to request an official transcript. Official transcripts must be sent directly from the registrar to University College.

Personal Essay

Tell us about yourself in a brief essay (about 250 words). Why are you applying to University College? What are your goals, both academic and professional? Is there additional information we should know about you when considering your application?

TOEFL scores (if applicable)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, official TOEFL scores must be forwarded to University College.

Graduates of a U.S. university or college or Canada, Australia, and U.K. residents are exempt if they have earned a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree from such college or university.

$35 application fee

You may pay by credit card online, or via check or money order payable to Washington University in St. Louis. You may also pay the fee by cash at the University College office. 

This fee is waived for all WashU staff.

Three Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should be completed by teachers or professional associates. They can be submitted as part of your online application or mailed to University College.

Back to All

Still have questions?

Program Coordinator: Ian Duncan | (314) 935-6719 |

Academic Advisor: Shawn Cummings | (314) 935-6783 |

Administrative Assistant for Academic Programs: Holly Schroeder | (314) 935-6759 |