M.S. Degree Requirements

Masters Plan I (Thesis) or Plan II (Comprehensive Examination)

Plan I requires that the student complete at least 30 units of course work, and a thesis. Course work may include a combination of upper division undergraduate and graduate level courses, but must include at least 12 units from graduate courses in the major field. Courses taken prior to admission to the program may be used to satisfy course work requirements, but may not be counted in the 30 unit requirement.

Plan II requires that the student complete 36 units of course work, and a comprehensive final examination (no thesis required). Course work may include a combination of upper division undergraduate and graduate level courses, but it must include at least 18 units from graduate courses in the major field and not more than 9 units of research (299 or equivalent) may be used to satisfy the 18-unit requirement. Courses taken prior to admission to the program may be used to satisfy course work requirements, but may not be counted in the 36 unit requirement.

Course Requirements (Plan I: 30 units min; Plan II: 36 units min)

a) Core Course Requirements (22-28 units)

All students are required to complete these courses, substitutions are not allowed except for equivalent courses taken elsewhere that are approved by the Guidance Committee.

  • Principles of Ecology, ECL 200 A and B: 5 units each
  • Evolution, EVE 100 (or equivalent if taken elsewhere): 4 units
  • Ecology 290, ECL 290 student participatory seminar; one is required I: variable units
  • Field Course Requirement: One of the following courses: ESP 123, ESP 124, ECL 225 (4, 10 and 4 units, respectively) or equivalent if taken elsewhere.
  • Ecology and Evolution Seminar Series, ECL 296, taken each quarter of the first year in residence: 1 unit each, 3 total

b) Area of Emphasis (AOE) Core Course Requirements (3-8 units)

Students complete the core course requirement according to the Area of Emphasis that they have chosen at the time of admission.  Please see Areas of Emphasis for additional information.  

c) Area of Strength Coursework (6-8 units)

In addition to the entrance requirements, core courses and Area of Emphasis course work, students desiring a master’s degree must complete a designated Area of Strength. An area of strength is defined as any sub-discipline within ecology and is subject to approval by the guidance committee and the program chair. The designated area of strength may be the same as the Area of Emphasis. This area of strength must be supported by two courses. Courses to support an area of strength may be either graduate level or upper division undergraduate level courses with at least one course at the graduate level. Courses taken at other institutions may qualify to demonstrate strength, as deemed appropriate by the guidance committee.

Guide to Matriculation

Advancement to Candidacy 

M.S. students are eligible and expected to file for advancement to candidacy no later than their fourth quarter of residence, after completing at least half of their required coursework.  A completed form includes a list of courses the student will take to complete degree requirements.  Any later changes to the form must be approved.  

M.S. Plan I: Thesis

The thesis committee will consist of the major professor and two other faculty members. Two thesis committee members must be selected from the graduate group faculty.  In recognition of the importance of a publication record for obtaining academic appointments, the GGE has elected to emphasize a format where chapters of the thesis take the form of individual publishable papers. Typical expectations are a minimum of at least one manuscript paper for the M.S. thesis. Co-authors are allowed with the approval of the thesis committee. Otherwise, the thesis should conform to any existing guidelines of Graduate Council and Graduate Studies.

Dissertations and Theses Guidelines

M.S. Plan II: Comprehensive Examination 

The examination Committee will determine if the candidate has adequate knowledge of the subject areas to qualify for an M.S. degree through an oral examination. The examination is two hours in length and covers three examination topics.  The three examination topic areas must include Principles of Ecology and Research Methods/Quantitative 7 Skills. Non-GGE faculty members may not be examiners in either the Principles of Ecology or Research Methods/Quantitative Skills exam areas.

Normative Time to Degree

For Plan I students, advancement to candidacy is expected in the 4th quarter, and completion of the thesis is expected by the end of the 9th quarter or before the beginning of the following Fall quarter. Entrance deficiencies may delay this timeline, but are not expected to delay more than 2 quarters.

For Plan II students, advancement to candidacy is expected in the 4th quarter, and completion of the comprehensive exam is expected by the end of the 6th quarter.

MS Degree Timeline