Biology, PHD

At a Glance: program details

You can have the largest amount of flexibility in your course choices in a program that complements other, more specialized life science degree programs. Develop your research skills and acquire high research competency in one or more specialized areas while receiving a broad, solid grounding in biological sciences.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Biology

The PhD program in biology offers individualized courses of study tailored to students' interests that include laboratory, field and theoretical work. Flexibility in the program is achieved by requiring only one core class, which is a choice between two topics that cover the breadth of the research directions in this program.

Electives are also as flexible as possible and include areas outside of biology. The major goal is to provide students with the opportunity to create an adaptable and general degree program that allows both traditional and interdisciplinary approaches in any area of biology.


  • BIO 792 Research
  • BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 507 Advanced Evolutionary Medicine
  • BIO 521 Landscape Ecology
  • BIO 530 Scientific Teaching (required in first semester for students that will TA at any point in degree)
  • BIO 533 K-12 STEM Education & Outreach
  • BIO 539 Computing for Research
  • BIO 541 SOLS Seminar Series
  • BIO 542 SOLS Current Topics in the Life Sciences
  • BIO 591 Society and Natural Resource Management
  • BIO 591 Social-Ecological Systems & Adaptation
  • BIO 591 Drylands in a Changing Earth
  • BIO 591 Population Genetic Reading Group
  • BIO 591 Communication for Scientists
  • BIO 591 Genetics and Genomics of Behavior
  • BIO 620 Research Prospectus Writing
  • EVO 501 Current Topics in Evolutionary Biology
  • EVO 601 Principles of Evolution
  • EVO 610 Research Areas of Evolution

Application and admission information

Applications open September 1 for admission in Fall of the following year. The application deadline is December 1. We accept applications for Fall semesters only. We cannot guarantee that applications received after the December 1 deadline will be considered for admission.

All applicants must apply by filling out ASU's Graduate Admissions application. All application materials must be submitted through the application or to Graduate Admissions directly. Please do not mail or email any documents to the School of Life Sciences. 

Required materials and information include the following:

  • 1-2 page personal statement
  • An up to date CV or resume
  • The names of relevant SOLS faculty you have been in touch with who you might be interested in being supervised by
  • Unofficial transcripts and English proficiency test scores (if applicable)
  • The names and emails of at least 3 recommenders to write you letters of recommendation

Following the December 1 deadline, faculty will begin reviewing applications. Applicants should monitor their My ASU priority tasks to ensure there are no missing materials in their application.

Faculty will decide which applicants they would like to invite to our Graduate Recruitment Weekends (GRWs), typically held in February. Applicants will hear from the School of Life Sciences in January if they are invited to participate in the GRWs.

Admission decisions will begin after the GRWs, and applicants typically receive final decisions by April 1.

Minimum requirements for admission include the following:

  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • International applicants must satisfy university minimum requirements for English proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, PTE)
    • There are other ways to demonstrate English proficiency beyond the tests, so please refer to ASU's English proficiency webpage to review how you might satisfy requirements

Desired qualifications typically seen in competitive candidates:

Please note that the GRE is not required.

Students offered admission to a PhD program in the School of Life Sciences will typically receive a funding offer as well. While individual funding offers may differ to some degree, they typically include teaching assistant and/or research assistant positions each semester (summer optional) for 5 years. These positions provide financial coverage through the following:

  • A standard salary stipend paid biweekly
  • Tuition remission covering enrollment in 6-18 credit hours for fall and spring semesters and 1-14 credit hours for summer semesters
  • Health insurance coverage

To discover more, check out the ASU Graduate College's funding opportunities!

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core (3 or 4 credit hours)
BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology (4) or
BIO 620 Research Prospectus Writing (3)

Electives (67 or 68 credit hours)

Other Requirements (1 credit hour)
BIO 610 Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research in Life Sciences (1)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
BIO 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
The program is tailored to the needs of the individual student. The plan of study is developed by the student and a supervisory committee consisting of a major professor and three additional faculty members. The electives credit hours are comprised of coursework showing breadth in biology subdisciplines, seminars and research.

An oral comprehensive examination is required in order to advance to candidacy, and a formal defense of the final written dissertation is required prior to graduation.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in biology or a related discipline from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

Applicants must submit the following:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. three letters of recommendation
  7. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

Research experience is desired for entry into this program.

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Learning Outcomes

  • Able to communicate the findings and originality of their research, both orally and in writing.
  • Able to perform research that they have designed to address important and challenging questions in the field of biology.
  • Able to review scholarly literature as they develop specialized expertise in their selected research area.

Career Opportunities

Those who have earned a doctorate in biology are prepared for academic careers at every level, from community colleges to research universities. Their skills and knowledge are also valuable for government careers with federal and state agencies responsible for wildlife management and conservation, and for careers in industry and nongovernmental organizations.

Career examples include:

  • food, agriculture and health care scientists in academic, private and industrial labs
  • principal investigators in government labs and nonprofit organizations
  • professors or instructors in universities and colleges
  • science teachers in elementary and high schools
  • wildlife, animal and conservation scientists

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.