Graduate Degree Information



Thank you for your interest in graduate study programs in the Department of Ecology. The Ecology Department includes the Fish and Wildlife Management Program at Montana State University. The graduate degree programs provide opportunities for students to pursue M.S. and/or Ph.D. degrees in various disciplines under the guidance of our faculty.  The Master's degree and the PhD degree will require a thesis or dissertation and research publication. Graduate students may conduct research on a diversity of topics pertaining to their individual areas of interest: terrestrial and aquatic ecology, fish and wildlife management, evolutionary biology, quantitative ecology, and conservation biology. 

At this time no degree program is offered online.


Summary of Ecology Department Application Requirements

  Standards Minimum Minimum
before July, 2011
All Applicants GRE Test Scores (Verbal and Quantitative Combined)
Cummulative GPA
BS Degree (or BA plus post baccalaureate or graduate level course work) 3/4 science coursework equivalent to BS in Biological Sciences from MSU
Program support agreement with department faculty required before applicant can be recommended for admissions by the department
International Applicants English Second Language Test (one)
TOEFL-iBT PTE Academic
Minimum scores
Financial Certificate
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Application Deadlines Starting Semester Fall (August) Spring (January) Summer (May)
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Domestic Applicant
8 Jul
24 Nov
25 Mar
International Applicant
8 Jun
24 Oct
25 Feb
Additional Ecology Department Requirements for Review for Admission (only when requested)
All Applicants Official college and/or university transcripts
Official GRE test results (and ESL if required)
3 letters of recommendation
Funding agreement with specific department faculty members(s)


A list of these degrees offered through the Department of Ecology is provided here with basic details about each degree program directly below the list. Links will provide specific information about the degree requirements.

NO ONLINE Graduate Degree from the Department of Ecology is offered at this time.

M.S. in Biological Sciences

The M.S. in Biological Sciences covers a broad array of ecological topics and serves the needs of students whose thesis research addresses basic, fundamental ecological principles or of those conducting applied research not involving fish or wildlife management. It may be a terminal degree leading to professional employment as an ecologist, but may also lead to a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences or other discipline. Coursework associated with this degree tends to emphasize fundamental principles of ecology. The M.S in Biological Sciences currently makes up about 27% of our graduate students with 11 M.S. degrees granted in the last four years.

M.S. in Fish & Wildlife Management

The M.S. in Fish & Wildlife Management serves the needs of students whose thesis research addresses an applied fish or wildlife management problem. It may be a terminal degree leading to professional employment as a fisheries or wildlife biologist, but may also lead to a Ph.D. in Fish & Wildlife Biology or other discipline. Coursework associated with this degree tends to emphasize applied fish and wildlife management. The M.S. in Fish & Wildlife program has been our largest degree program for many years, and currently makes up about 45% of our graduate students, with 17 degrees granted in the last four years.

Ph.D. Ecology and Environmental Sciences

The Ph.D. in Ecology and Environmental Sciences was developed jointly by the Departments of Ecology and Land Resources & Environmental Sciences as a broad interdisciplinary Ph.D. program open to graduate students in several departments in the Colleges of Letters & Science and Agriculture. The degree program was approved by the MUS Board of Regents in 2006, and now meets the interests of graduate students in Ecology in a broad array or subjects. Currently there are six Ph.D. students in the program in our department (additional students are in LRES), and four Ph.D. degrees have been granted to date by our department. Other departments participating departments include Earth Science and Plant Science and Plant Pathology.

Ph.D. in Fish & Wildlife Biology

The Ph.D. in Fish & Wildlife Biology serves the needs of students whose dissertation research addresses an applied fish or wildlife management problem. It serves the interests of students primarily interested in research careers in federal or state fish and wildlife agencies or in academic careers in fish and wildlife departments. Coursework associated with this degree tends to emphasize applied fish and wildlife management. The Ph.D. in Fish & Wildlife Biology is currently our largest Ph.D. program with nine graduate students. Four students have completed this degree in the last three years.


Graduate Coursework

Note: No program or coursework is currently available online for completion of a degree off campus.

Masters Degree Credit Guidelines

  • The minimum credit requirement for a master's degree is 30 credits, and at least 20 credits must be from course work other than thesis work.  A minimum of 10 thesis credits must be successfully completed. Minimum thesis registration is one (1) credit for a semester.   
  • Two-thirds of the minimum number of credits (including not more than ten (10) credits for the thesis) required for a degree must be taken from MSU
  • Non-thesis Credits: In all programs, at least twenty (20) credits must be for coursework other than the thesis.
  • Major Area: 50% of the degree minimum credit requirements must be taken in the major area of study. (This does not mean with a specific course rubric.)
  • Transferring Credits: A maximum of nine (9) credits total of all 400 and graduate level courses taken at MSU prior to completion of a baccalaureate degree may be reserved and applied toward any graduate program requirements with the approval of the student's graduate committee and Graduate Dean. (For more information, refer to the section on Petitions, Appeals and Grievances.)
  • Limit on Age of Courses: Course work more than six years old at the time the degree is granted will not apply towards credit requirements.

Masters Degree Department Program of Studies Requirements

Please click to view the complete program of studies requirements for the Department of Ecology for each MS degree. The full program of study is determined by the graduate committee following these requirements in addition to the credit guidelines above.

Doctoral Degree Credit Guidelines

The full program of study is determined by the graduate committee following the guidelines below.

All students earning a doctoral degree from Montana State University must complete a minimum of 60 credit hours post-baccalaureate. For those who have completed a masters, a maximum of 30 credits may be applied to the PhD program of study. To complete the PhD, a minimum of 18 credits of dissertation credits and 12 course credits are required on the program of study. For candidates who have not earned a M.S. degree the program of study must include a minimum of 28 dissertation credits and 32 course credits in order to earn a PhD.

  • Special Topics (591): Credits allowed toward degree requirements for Special Topics (591) courses may not exceed the number defined by each degree program.
  • Individual Problems (592): Not more than six credits of Individual Problems (592) courses may be included on a doctoral Program of Study.
  • Pass/Fail CreditsA maximum of nine credits (excluding dissertation) may be included on a doctoral Program of Study. 4XX level courses may be used on a Program of Study: a maximum of 9 credits are allowed.
  • Limit on Age of Courses: The age of courses at the time of graduation for a doctoral degree may not exceed 10 years.
  • Courses from a Master's program: The Graduate 'Program of Study' lists those courses the student's committee feels are required to earn the doctoral degree.
  • Resident Credit Requirement: A minimum of thirty (30) credits applicable to the degree must be taken from MSU.
  • Dissertation Credit Requirement: All Ph.D. candidates are required to register for and complete a minimum of eighteen dissertation (690) credits. An unlimited number of 690 credits may be taken to finish a dissertation; however, only the required18 dissertation credits are applicable toward degree requirements.

Courses taken while in a master's degree program at MSU, beyond those listed on the graduate Program of Study, may be used on an additional master's program or a doctoral program at a later time.

For further information regarding Masters and Doctoral programs and requirements, please consult the on-line Graduate Catalog. The on-line catalog has the most current and up-to-date information. All graduate students are required to know the information provided in the catalog as stated by the Graduate School.


Most graduate students in the program are supported on Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA's) provided by their major professor from grant funds. A limited number of Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA's) are chosen during the semester before the next academic semester and reflect teaching needs and financial assistance needs. GTA's carry tuition fee waivers, and in 2013/14 the stipend was a total of $5134/semester. Part of this amount may be used for medical insurance which is not provided directly by the department. (For further graduate school expenses, consult the MSU fee schedules as provided in the Graduate Catalog.) Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA's) are research project-specific and are awarded by individual faculty as funds are available. GRA stipends have a considerable range of amounts, and some fee waivers and health insurance may be available with GRA's depending upon funding sources.

Available Graduate Positions 

Some positions are posted online. Please see the web pages of individual graduate advisors in the Ecology Department to obtain more information about graduate positions that may be available. Our professors do not provide a list of openings with funding for grad students that is available to share.