Department of Ecology

310 Lewis Hall, Bozeman, MT 59717-3460
Tel: 406-994-4548   Fax: 406-994-3190

The department offers advanced work leading to Master of Science degrees in biological sciences and fish and wildlife management. The Master's degree generally requires a thesis and research publication. At the doctoral level, the Doctor of Philosophy degree is offered in ecology and environmental sciences, biological sciences and in fish and wildlife biology. At both the Master’s and Doctoral level the following areas of study are available: terrestrial and aquatic ecology, fish and wildlife management, evolutionary biology, quantitative ecology, and conservation biology. Successful applicants are accepted into both the department and The Graduate School.


Only a limited number of graduate students are admitted to our program each year. We accept students into the program based on their academic performance, graduate record examination scores, recommendation letters, experience, and potential for scientific and professional excellence. Students must meet the minimum entrance requirements for the department to recommend admission. In exceptional cases, at the request of a faculty member, the Department Head may waive one of the qualifications. The following is a list of admission requirements:

  • A composite of the applicant's 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.
  • Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores must be submitted at the time the student submits the full application. The sum of the verbal and quantitative scores should be at least 1100 for GRE scores before July, 2011. The sum for the verbal and quantitative scores should be a minimum of 300 for the current GRE tests.
  • 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.
  • International student English Language Proficiency minimum requirements: TOEFL: 80-internet-based [iBT] or 550-PBT, IELTS: 6.5, or PTE Academic: 54

All qualified students must secure an agreement from a faculty member who is willing to serve as major professor, or graduate academic advisor, to be considered for admissions. We do not accept students into the program unless a department faculty member first confirms an agreement to mentor a student's degree completion. Generally the major professor will have identified a research project and possible sources of funding before seeking a new graduate student.

Program Requirements

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. There are two (2) one credits courses required for all master's candidates: BIOE 554 Foundations of Ecology & Mgmt  and BIOE 555 Communication in Ecol Sciences. Students are required to choose from a specific list of electives for part of the credits. The remainder of the program of study is determined by the graduate committee following The Graduate School guidelines. 

The minimum credit requirement for a doctoral degree is 60 credits beyond the bachelor's degree, and at least 42 credits must be from course work other than thesis work. A minimum of 18 thesis credits must be successfully completed. A maximum of 30 credits from a previously earned master’s degree may be applied toward the 60 credit requirement. No specific courses are required for a doctoral degree. The program of study is determined by the graduate committee following The Graduate School guidelines.

Financial Assistance

Available Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) appointments are assigned in the semester before the teaching semester and reflect teaching needs and financial assistance available. GTAs receive tuition fee waivers and a stipend. Part of stipend 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. A Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) appointment is project-specific and is 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 GRAs depending upon funding sources.