Students can pursue graduate programs in fisheries biology at the master's and doctoral levels. The curriculum for these programs is generally flexible and may or may not require a thesis or dissertation, depending on the level. Here we discuss the subtle differences between a few graduate programs in the field.
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Types of Graduate Programs in Fisheries Biology
Master of Science in Fisheries Biology
Master of Science (MS) in Fisheries Biology programs are typically on-campus programs that require full-time study. Students may need to complete around 30 credits for the degree and are usually able to choose from a thesis or non-thesis option, which may still require a final creative paper or project. Some of these programs may offer additional areas of concentration, such as conservation biology for a broad perspective on conservation and restoration or fisheries management to work as fisheries managers. These programs are often interdisciplinary and may allow students to take courses outside of the department, but in general, students in these programs are likely to study topics in various aquatic ecosystems, fisheries management, restoration and conservation of aquatic environments and plant and animal monitoring.
Master of Science in Fisheries Science
Students may also choose to pursue an MS in Fisheries Science, which are also usually full-time, on-campus programs and may include an added emphasis in wildlife. These programs may require around 30 credits and typically require students to complete a thesis, which may also include an oral examination as a part of the thesis defense. Some of these programs may offer specific concentrations, such as wildlife health, or various areas of study and/or research topics, like marine research, fish genetics, toxicology, stream ecology, aquaculture and more. Courses in these programs may vary based on a student's research and career interests, but students may take courses that discuss topics in areas such as fisheries techniques, fish physiology, fisheries management, aquaculture and population analysis.
Doctor of Philosophy in Fisheries Biology
It is fairly common for institutions that offer MS in Fisheries Biology to offer a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Fisheries Biology program as well. These programs may be similar to the MS program by offering similar concentration areas, such as fisheries management or conservation biology, but they typically require more coursework. The total number of required credits may greatly vary by school and program, with some requiring 48 or 60 credit hours and other programs consisting of 72 credit hours. They also usually require a dissertation and comprehensive exams that include written and oral components. Coursework for these programs are very flexible to allow students to study various topics of interest, but students usually take various seminars and coursework that may cover topics in statistics, fisheries, freshwater systems, ecology, marine populations and more.
Common Entrance Requirements
Applicants for graduate programs in fisheries biology need at least a bachelor's degree and some programs may require that a student's undergraduate program be from a particular area, such as wildlife, fisheries, forestry or another related field and/or that students meet a minimum GPA around a 3.0. Most of these programs require or suggest that prior to admission, students contact and try to identify a potential faculty advisor. Some programs may not admit students if a faculty advisor has not committed to a student. Typically, applicants will need to submit their official transcripts, GRE scores and letters of recommendation. It is also common for some of these programs to require students to submit a personal statement with their application.
Several MS and PhD degree programs in fisheries biology are available and train students in fisheries management, ecology and research skills. Some of these programs require a thesis or dissertation, based on the degree level, and are usually only available on-campus.