Graduate Program

The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture offers graduate education leading to the Master of Science in Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture. The Masters of Science degrees requires 24 hours of course work, including one graduate course in statistics, a thesis and a comprehensive oral examination. A Ph.D. degree is offered in Forest Resources with emphasis in wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture. The Ph.D. requires a comprehensive written diagnostic examination, one graduate level statistics course, variable hours of course work (determined by graduate committee), oral and written comprehensive preliminary examinations, a dissertation and oral defense of dissertation. Visit the MSU Online Graduate Catalog for course descriptions and more information.

If you are considering graduate studies in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, please follow these steps:

Determine your specific research interests using the following tier system:

  • Are you interested in game vs non-game, the animal populations, their habitats, the humans who use wildlife (i.e., human dimensions), or an application (censusing, spatial mapping, etc.)?

  • If animal populations, which species groups, carnivores, herbivores, or perhaps specific species such as bear, deer, birds, reptiles, butterflies, etc.

  • Or, perhaps you are interested in the physiology, pathology (diseases), etc. of wildlife?
  • Are you interested in rivers or lakes or impounded systems?

  • Game or non-game fishes? Which species groups?

  • Or, are you interested in the humans who use fish?

  • Are you interested in the fish populations or their habitats?

  • Or, like wildlife, are you interested in the physiology, diseases, etc. of fishes, or integrity of aquatic systems?

  • Applications within fisheries such as aging, censusing, spatial mapping, etc.?
  • What type? Marine or freshwater?

  • What species of fish? Food fishes, game vs non-game?

  • Fish or their physiology, diseases, etc?

  • Perhaps, conservation aquaculture?

Once you determine your interest, visit our faculty website and see if there is a faculty member whose research interests are similar to your interests.

Contact that faculty member via email or phone call and see if he/she has any assistantships open, or perhaps is negotiating a research contract in which there may be an assistantship in the near future. Faculty are busy, so don’t give up, it may take a few follow-up calls before you catch him/her in the office.

Apply for that specific assistantship. You can apply online.

There is another way. You can simply apply for graduate studies at MSU and indicate that you want to matriculate into Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture. Once your file is complete, it is sent to the Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture faculty for review. This method is less effective because you have not made contact with a specific faculty member. You are instead hoping that a faculty member sees your file and has a project that matches your interests.

Here are some other facts about our graduate program:

  • We only accept graduate students on a funded project and therefore a funded assistantship.
  • Most M.S. projects in our department last 2 years, doctoral projects last for 3-4 years.
  • All tuition is either waived (e.g., out of state) or paid for by the department.
  • Health insurance is paid for by the department.
  • A thesis or a dissertation is required. We do not have a non-thesis degree program.
  • We do not accept correspondence or distance learning courses towards specific course requirements for M.S. or Ph.D. students.
  • Students must take 24 hours of in-class coursework plus 6 research hours to comply with graduate program requirements for a M.S. degree.
  • Students must take either 2 semesters, each with 6 hours of in-class coursework, or one semester of 9 hours of in-class coursework, plus whatever additional courses the doctoral committee requires to comply with graduate program requirements for a Ph.D. degree.
  • Primary research costs and equipment are supplied by the faculty advisor
  • The GRE must be taken but we do not have any specific score concerning acceptance.
  • GPA must be > 3.0 for M.S. students and > 3.2 for doctoral students to be accepted without probationary status. The GPA for M.S. students is based on the last 60 hours of the B.S. program.
  • We do accept a limited number of students on probationary status, but without an assistantship. Probationary students must take 3 graduate level courses (at least 3 credit hours each) during their probationary semester, and receive a grade of B or greater in each class.

Graduate Studies

Graduate studies in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture may entail a diversity of research projects and topics in wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture science, ecosystem management and restoration, human-dimensions, policy, and economic studies. At least 45 graduate level courses are offered within the department. Also, student organizations, such as Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society and the WFA Graduate Student Association, provide networking and service opportunities for enrolled graduate students.

Graduate student enrollment in the department typically exceeds 30 MS and 20 PhD students. Graduate students are funded primarily through assistantships recruited through extramurally funded projects sponsored by federal and state agencies, industry, non-governmental organizations, institutions, foundations, and international interests. Limited teaching assistantships may be available annually. Acceptance to graduate program in Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture is often linked to a funded project and acquisition of stipends associated with these projects is competitive. For more specific information on research opportunities, perspective graduate students should contact professors in the department who are conducting research compatible with their interests.

Master of Science Distance Learning

The Master of Science in Conservation Education provides students with conservation-focused educational, scientific, and leadership skills founded in coursework designed to meet industry standards. Successful graduates of this program are prepared to become leaders in the field of conservation education. You may qualify for individual certification; it’s granted on the state or provincial level. Designed for both full and part-time students, our classes are 100% online with asynchronous weekly tasks that can easily fit into your schedule. The non-thesis, M.S. in Conservation Education degree requires a minimum of 30-credit hours and a final comprehensive exam. Visit the Distance Learning website.

Accredited Status

The Graduate Program (M.S., Ph.D.) of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture has been accredited by the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society since 1994. The most recent accreditation was received in 2010.

Fernando Rafael Vizcarra Memorial Travel Award

The Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture graduate student association annually sponsors a photography contest. The contest has been renamed in memory of graduate student Fernando Rafael Vizcarra. Download the flyer.