Plant Biology and Conservation, MS

At a Glance: program details

Plants are fundamental to life on Earth. Conducted jointly by ASU and the Desert Botanical Garden, this program nurtures future plant and environmental biologists by equipping them with quantitative skills and human dimensions in dealing with global climate change, food insecurity and loss of biodiversity.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: MS Plant Biology and Conservation

The MS program in plant biology and conservation provides students with advanced training in plant molecular and cellular biology, biotechnology, functional genomics, paleobotany, ecology, evolution and floristics, as well as in theory and practice of conservation biology.

Students have the opportunity to work with faculty and researchers from ASU and the Desert Botanical Garden, located in Phoenix near ASU's Tempe campus.

Courses and electives

  • BIO 521 Landscape Ecology
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 526 Sustainability Science: Interactions Between Human and Environmental Systems
  • BIO 527 Environmental Ethics and Policy Goals
  • BIO 549 Phylogenetic Biology & Analysis
  • BIO 591 Drylands in a Changing Earth
  • BIO 598 Seminar: Topics in Plant Biology
  • BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology
  • BIO/PLB 591 Botany 
  • ESL 501 Environmental Life Sciences: Grand Challenge: Global Climate Change
  • BIO 591 Grasses of Arizona
  • BIO 591 Drylands in a Changing Earth
  • BIO 591 Communication for Scientists
  • BIO 598 Marine Plankton
  • EVO 601 Principles 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. Admission decisions will begin in March, 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.

In the School of Life Sciences, there is no funding guarantee for students admitted to a master's degree. If admitted, master's students are able to request teaching assistant positions each semester. However, positions may only be assigned on a first come, first serve basis pending position availability. Research assistant positions are uncommon for master's students but ultimately depend on the student's faculty research supervisor. Teaching and research assistant positions for master's students come with a salary for the semester assigned, but do not include tuition or health insurance assistance.

Given the lack of position guarantee, master's students should ensure they understand the tuition costs they will be responsible for. Tuition varies depending on a student's residency status. To review anticipated tuition costs, please utilize ASU's tuition estimator.

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 30 credit hours and a thesis

Required Core (3 credit hours)
PLB 502 Perspectives in Plant Biology (3)

Research (3 credit hours)
PLB 592 Research (3)

Electives (17 credit hours)

Other Requirements (1 credit hour)
BIO 591 Seminar (1)

Culminating Experience (6 credit hours)
PLB 599 Thesis (6)

Additional Curriculum Information
Students should see the academic unit for a complete list of approved electives.

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, botany or a closely related field 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.

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Learning Outcomes

  • Able to review the literature relevant to a research question in plant biology and conservation.
  • Able to communicate research findings clearly and accurately in oral presentations and in writing to the scientific community and to the public.
  • Able to execute a research plan of their own design to address a scientific question about plant biology and conservation.

Career Opportunities

The conservation field demonstrates a growing need for botanists and conservation biologists in academic institutions; agricultural, biotechnological and landscape companies; government agencies; and nongovernmental organizations.

A master's degree in plant biology and conservation provides strong preparation for academic careers. The skills and knowledge obtained in this program are also valuable for government careers in federal and state agencies responsible for management and conservation, and for careers in industry and nongovernmental organizations.

Career examples include:

  • conservation scientists at parks and natural resource centers, museums and national forests
  • food and agriculture scientists in academic, private and industrial labs
  • instructors at community colleges
  • researchers and technicians in government labs and nonprofit organizations
  • science teachers in elementary and high schools

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.