Marine Biology, M.S.


Program Description

Marine Biology

Master of Science (30 Credit Hours)

Welcome to the Graduate Program in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston. Our Masters-only program is designed to prepare students for careers in marine science or biology.

The majority of our graduates gain immediate employment as professional marine scientists, whereas a sizable minority goes on to further graduate work leading to a Ph.D. A combination of rigorous core and elective courses provide students with a comprehensive overview of marine biology.

Students gain greater specialization in their field of interest while performing cutting-edge thesis research. Located at the Grice Marine Laboratory on James Island, our program offers the unique opportunity to collaborate and work with a large, diverse group of dedicated marine scientists at the Fort Johnson Marine Science Center.

Coastal South Carolina provides an excellent setting in which to study and explore a variety of marine ecosystems as well as a wonderful place to enjoy the great outdoors.

Our marine biology program will prepare you for an array of subject areas including conservation, ecology, evolution, fisheries, genomics microbial processes and toxicology.

More than 100 researchers serve as mentors, providing the education you’ll need to make you more competitive for opportunities such as Knauss and Fulbright fellowships, doctoral programs, and employment after graduation.

Program Requirements

  • 30 credit hours.
  • By the second semester in the program, a graduate student is expected to choose a major professor, establish a graduate committee, and file a plan of study in the program’s office at Grice Marine Lab. This plan must be approved by the student’s committee.
  • Oral Comprehensive Examination - Successful completion of an oral comprehensive examination is required. This exam must be taken no later than 45 days after completion of the second semester of courses. Successful completion of the comprehensive exam formally admits students to candidacy for the degree.
  • Thesis Proposal - A formal written presentation of the research problem is required. This presentation to the student’s committee will include a detailed description of the scope of the research, the method(s) of approach and a timetable. The proposal is expected by the time the student has completed the first 15 months of the program.
  • Thesis - A formal written presentation of the student’s research, the thesis, is required. The student’s committee reviews the thesis and, if it is satisfactory, formally certifies its acceptance following an oral presentation and defense of the thesis by the student. A description of the required format for the thesis is available to students from the program office at Grice Marine Laboratory.
  • Students must maintain continuous enrollment in the program. Continuous enrollment can be maintained by enrollment in at least one graduate course per semester. This will entitle the graduate student to a valid ID card, full service of the campus library, and such support from faculty and facilities of the program as the plan of study authorizes.

Core Courses. Complete 3 of the 4 courses from the following list:

  • BIOL 600 Physiology and Cell Biology of Marine Organisms (4)
  • BIOL 601 Ecology of Marine Organisms (4)
  • BIOL 610 Physical Oceanography (4)
  • BIOL 611 Biometry (4)


Core course requirements may be waived if their content overlaps with prior undergraduate coursework. Petition for such waivers should be presented to the GPMB Director. Students receiving a core course waiver must take additional elective graduate courses to fulfill the 30 credit hours required.

Seminars. Complete the following:

  • BIOL 620 Graduate Core Seminar (1)
  • BIOL 621 Graduate Core Seminar (1)
  • BIOL 650 Seminar in Marine Biology (1)


  • BIOL 690 Independent Study (1-4)

Complete at least 11 additional credit hours of elective courses from the following:

  • BIOL 502 Special Topics in Marine Biology (1-4)
  • BIOL 503 Special Topics in Ecology (3-4)
  • BIOL 506 Conservation Biology (3)
  • BIOL 523 Genomics (4)
  • BIOL 544 Plant Ecology (4)
  • BIOL 545 Systematic Biology (3)
  • BIOL 549 Biology of Coral Reefs (3)
  • BIOL 600 Physiology and Cell Biology of Marine Organisms (4)
  • BIOL 601 Ecology of Marine Organisms (4)
  • BIOL 610 Physical Oceanography (4)
  • BIOL 611 Biometry (4)
  • BIOL 612 Conservation Genetics (4)
  • BIOL 627 Marine Tetrapod Biology (4)
  • BIOL 630 Marine Invertebrate Zoology (4)
  • BIOL 632 Ichthyology (4)
  • BIOL 635 Marine Botany (4)
  • BIOL 641 Marine Parasitology (4)
  • BIOL 643 Fisheries Science (3)
  • BIOL 644 Aquaculture (3)
  • BIOL 646 Aquatic Toxicology (3)
  • BIOL 649 Comparative Genomics (4)
  • BIOL 650 Seminar in Marine Biology (1)
  • BIOL 690 Independent Study (1-4)
  • EVSS 549 Geographic Information Systems (4)
  • EVSS 569 Advanced GIS: Environmental and Hazards Models (4)


Students are encouraged to take at least one organismal course as per the discretion of the thesis advisory committee. An organismal course is defined as one that surveys the biodiversity of a taxonomic group in the context of how its species are defined and how they fit into populations and ecological communities; such a course also covers multiple sub-disciplines of biology (e. g., structure and function, ecology, evolution). Organismal courses include BIOL 627, BIOL 630, BIOL 632, BIOL 635


Complete 4 credit hours of BIOL 700 Research and Thesis (1-4).

Transfer Credit Policy

Acceptance of transfer credit(s) for the fulfillment of the Marine Biology program requirements will be determined by the Marine Biology Graduate Council. A maximum of 12 credit hours may be transferred into the Graduate School of the University of Charleston, SC.

Credits to be applied toward the degree remain valid for five years from the date of enrollment. In unusual circumstances, exceptions may be made by the Marine Biology Graduate Council and with the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School. Courses with grades of “S” or “P” are not transferable unless the student or department provides written documentation from the instructor(s) of the course, a department administrator, or the registrar at the transfer institution that the “S” or “P” graded course was equivalent to at least a “B” grade.

Admissions Criteria

  • Official transcripts from all academic institutions
  • Official GRE scores
  • TOEFL scores if your primary language is not English
  • A personal statement/statement of goals
  • Résumé
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • 20 semester hours of upper-division biological courses, including a course in cellular or molecular biology (or the equivalent) and a course in ecology (or the equivalent0
  • Chemistry - at least one upper-level course beyond general chemistry
  • General physics - two courses
  • Calculus - one course

Application Deadlines

  • Fall: February 1
  • Spring: November 1

Contact Information

Craig Plante
program director

Last updated Jan 2020

About the School

Located in the heart of historic Charleston, South Carolina, the College of Charleston is a nationally recognized public liberal arts and sciences university. Founded in 1770, the College is among the ... Read More

Located in the heart of historic Charleston, South Carolina, the College of Charleston is a nationally recognized public liberal arts and sciences university. Founded in 1770, the College is among the nation’s top universities for quality education, student life, and affordability. Its beautiful and historic campus, combined with contemporary facilities, cutting-edge programs and accessible faculty attracts students from across the U.S. and around the world. Read less