Graduate Degrees

The Department of Ecology does not offer online degrees at this time.

Application Process

The Department of Ecology admits a limited number of students into its graduate programs each year. Ecology faculty advise an average of four graduate students per tenure track faculty member, with its graduate students comprising 12 percent of all graduate students in the College of Letters and Science. Potential students must meet minimum requirements based on their academic performance, recommendation letters, relevant experience, and potential for scientific and professional excellence. Qualified students must secure a position with a faculty member who agrees to serve as their graduate advisor for their degree. Generally, faculty will identify a research project and possible sources of funding, advertise the position in their chosen venue, and review requested application materials. Once chosen, faculty invite applicants to apply to The Graduate School at MSU, and students must indicate the name of their faculty advisor on the Graduate School application. We do not accept applications for the program unless a faculty advisor has first agreed to supervise the student.

Required Qualifications

In addition to identifying a major professor who has agreed to serve as advisor, an applicant must fulfill the following four qualifications in order to be eligible to apply to an Ecology degree program through the MSU Graduate School's online application. In exceptional cases, at the request of the applicant's identified advisor, the Department Head may waive one of the qualifications. (Note:  Montana State University Graduate Programs no longer require the GRE effective Spring 2022.)

  • A composite of the applicant's 3 letters of recommendation must indicate the student has good prospects of success in graduate school. 
  • The applicant should have at least the equivalent of three-fourths of the science courses required in the undergraduate curriculum at Montana State University in the option chosen for graduate study. 
  • The applicant should have maintained the following minimal undergraduate grade-point averages: 3.0 average in all biology courses; 3.0 average in all courses taken during the junior and senior years; and 2.5 average in all chemistry, physics and mathematics courses.
  • MSU requires applicants from countries where English is a second language to present evidenceof proficiency in the use of the English language.

Once the online application has been accepted at a departmental level, it will be sent on to the Graduate School where the Graduate Dean will give final approval. 

International students have some additional qualifications to meet for approval from the Division of Graduate Education. See International Application Process page for information in The Graduate School Policies. The Office of International Programs can provide assistance to international applicants.

Department Application Deadlines

Admissions can be approved at any time during any semester though it is recommended to apply a full semester in advance for timely admission. The application process for acceptance into a degree program in the Department of Ecology begins with contacting and solidifying a faculty advisor to work with you. See "Application Process" above for more information.

The interested faculty member should be the one to request that you complete a formal application with the Graduate School for the admissions decision. The formal online application includes the completed full application form, official transcript(s), three letters of recommendation, resume or CV, and a personal statement. You will receive all of the details of the final procedures at the time you are invited to submit the formal application. You will be able to track the progress of your application online.

Applications are accepted and evaluated year round, though many students begin studies in the fall semester. To be admitted for a specific term, the formal application must be completed by the dates below. 

Domestic Degree Seeking Applications
Fall Semester July 8
Spring Semester November 24
Summer Semester March 25
International Degree Seeking Applications
Fall Semester May 8
Spring Semester October 15
Summer Semester January 25

To be considered for teaching assistantships for the following fall semester, all application materials must be received by March 1st. 

Funding Sources and Assistantships 

Most graduate students in the program are supported on Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) provided by their major professor from grant funds. GRAs are research project-specific and are awarded by individual faculty as funds are available. GRA stipends vary between positions, and some fee waivers and health insurance may be available depending upon funding sources. A limited number of Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs) are chosen during the semester before the academic semester of the assistantship, and reflect teaching needs and financial assistance needs. GTAs receive tuition waivers and a monthly stipend. Part of this amount may be used for medical insurance which is not provided directly by the department. Many GTAs receive funding as GRAs concurrently. Details of graduate school expenses are available in the MSU fee schedule as provided in the Graduate Catalog. In addition to assistantships, the Ecology Department announces a small number of scholarships each fall semester, and announces other funding opportunities as they become available throughout the year.

Department Statement on Graduate Student Stipends

Our graduate students have determined that the minimum cost of living stipend for a single graduate student with no dependents in Bozeman is about $2200/mo. (as of spring 2023). Current base GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistantship) and GRA (Graduate Research Assistantship) stipends are about $1680/mo. Tuition waivers for up to 12 credits supplement GTA stipends, which are primarily available during the Fall and Spring semesters, with fewer available in summer.

Ecology Department faculty advisors have set a goal to make up the gap between the base stipends and the minimum cost of living using external funding sources (e.g., grant funding). Therefore, all grants written by Ecology faculty to support GRAs from June 1, 2023 onward will have a minimum stipend of $2200/month, including GAP (Graduate Additional Payment), and provided for 12 months/year. However, external funding sources are competitive and cannot necessarily be counted on to provide student income for the entire time that it takes to earn an advanced degree (average of about 3 yrs. for M.S. and about 6 for Ph.D.). Therefore, if external funding sources are unavailable or inadequate, some students may need to work with their advisor to apply for and secure additional grants or fellowships to make up the gap between base stipends and cost of living stipends. The department is currently working with the College of Letters and Sciences to increase GTA stipends.

We strongly encourage all students to talk with their prospective/current advisor about the specifics of their compensation. All ecology faculty are committed to providing transparency about funding and compensation. Estimates of the minimum cost of living stipend for graduate students in Bozeman will be re-evaluated every 2-3 years.

I'm Ready to Apply

Do you meet the qualifications required for eligibility to apply to a degree program in Ecology? Visit the Graduate School website for more information on the online application process. If you're unsure if you're eligible to apply, read the above information on application process and required qualifications.

Graduate School Policies and Procedures

If you have questions about your degree requirements, please contact the Academic Coordinator in the Department of Ecology. For more information on Graduate School Policies and Procedures, visit the Graduate School website.


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