Combined BS and MS Degrees in Botany, Entomology, and Zoology (Four Plus Program)

Four Plus Advantage

Four Plus programs are designed to allow highly dedicated SBE students to obtain both B.S. and M.S. degrees in five to six years given successful completion of all program requirements. For comparison, completing these degrees consecutively often requires seven years or longer. In addition to saving time, enrolling into our Four Plus programs allows counting nine graduate course credits taken during the senior year towards both the B.S. and M.S. degrees. Furthermore, the cost of the degree is reduced because students pay graduate tuition only for the courses taken after they graduate with the BS degree at the end of the senior year.*

Core Program Requirements

Students enrolled in our Four Plus programs are expected to meet the same core requirements as all B.S. and M.S. students enrolled in our programs. It is expected that M.S. requirements will be completed within no more than two years after the B.S. degree is awarded. Therefore, students are required to conduct their thesis research during the summers before and after obtaining their B.S. degree. The core requirements include:

1. Course work

  • A minimum of 30 graduate-­‐level course credits (400-­‐level and above), including credit for the thesis.
  • A minimum of 12 credits (exclusive of thesis) of 500-­‐ and/or 600-­‐level course work.
  • The minimum amount of credit for the thesis is six credits and in no case may it exceed 15 credits.
  • During the senior year, which serves as a bridge year between B.S. and M.S. programs, take at least nine graduate-­‐level course credits that can count towards both the B.S. and M.S. degrees; additional courses may be taken for graduate credits if approved by the student’s advisory committee, but such courses may not be counted toward both degrees. Only courses passed with a grade of “B” or better can be counted for the M.S. degree.
  • At least one graduate-­‐level course in statistics, such as MAT 437 (Statistical Methods in Research), PSE 509 (Experimental Design), or equivalent.

2. Seminar courses

  • BIO 502: Professionalism in Biology
  • At least one additional seminar course; any seminar course, including those offered by other departments, will qualify as long as it is approved by the student’s advisory committee

*For current tuition rates, please click here.


3. Graduate Advisory Committee and Program of Study

Each student will be advised by a graduate advisory committee consisting of at least three graduate faculty members. The advisory committee should be formed during the last semester of the junior year shortly after the student is admitted to the Four Plus program. If this is not possible, it must be formed early during the first semester of the Four Plus program. A Program of Study that includes specific courses to be taken and a thesis topic, approved by the student’s graduate advisory committee, is due by January 1 of the senior year.


4. Written Research Proposal and Pre‐thesis Seminar

A written research proposal must be approved by the student’s advisory committee no later than 12 months from the time of provisional admission into the Four Plus program. A pre-­‐thesis seminar, outlining the research planned or presenting preliminary results, is required. This requirement may be fulfilled as part of a seminar course or as a non-­‐credit presentation.


5. Thesis Submission and Defense

Students must submit a thesis describing the results of an original research investigation. The acceptability of the Master’s thesis shall be determined in a final oral thesis defense conducted by the student’s graduate advisory committee. Preceding the thesis defense, each candidate must present a public seminar describing the results of the research. Normally this seminar will be scheduled immediately before the defense of the thesis. The thesis defense must be completed no later than August 15 of the last year of the Four Plus program. Students who do not complete by this deadline may no longer double-count graduate credits taken as an undergraduate and used toward the bachelor’s degree without special permission from the Graduate School.



1. Students are eligible to apply during the junior year (at least 60 but no more than 100 completed credit hours applicable towards B.S. degree); the application deadline is January 1 of that year. Students with two or fewer semesters (i.e., 30 credits or less) remaining to complete their B.S. degree do not qualify for the Four Plus program.

2. Students complete an application for the Four Plus program supplied by SBE and submit it directly to the SBE Graduate Coordinator rather than to the Graduate School.

3. Students must find a graduate faculty member from SBE who is willing to serve as their graduate academic advisor before being provisionally admitted into the program.

4. Students must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher.

5. Students must complete the following courses by the application deadline: MAT 126, Calculus; CHY251/253 or BMB 221/222, Organic Chemistry; and one General Education writing-­‐intensive course.

6. The Graduate Committee makes a decision on provisional admission of the applicant no later than March 1 of the applicant’s junior year.

7. During the summer after their junior year, provisionally admitted students must successfully (grade of “B” or above) complete three credits of Research Capstone in Biology or Honors Thesis, working on a research project directed by their graduate advisor.

8. During the senior year, provisionally admitted students must take at least nine credits of graduate-­‐level courses toward the M.S. degree. These courses will also count towards the B.S. degree (joint credits), but must be part of the Master’s Degree Program of Study.

9. Formal application for admission to the graduate program through the Graduate School (including payment of the application fee) should occur no later than spring of the senior year of the B.S. program.

10. Upon graduation with a B.S. degree, and with satisfactory performance (defined as 3.5 cumulative GPA and no grade below “B” in the courses to be double-­‐counted for the M.S. degree) in courses taken as an undergraduate, the student may be formally matriculated into the Master’s program. The GRE requirement is waived for such students.


Students who meet the above requirements must matriculate in their M.S. program within three months after receiving their B.S. degree in order to use the joint credits. Under extraordinary circumstances, a student may petition to delay matriculation up to an additional 12 months.


Financial Aid

1. Undergraduate tuition is charged for all graduate courses taken in the senior year.

2. Limited research and teaching assistantships may be available on competitive basis during the last two years of the program.


Approximate Timeline

Junior Year

Fall semester – graduate faculty advisor secured based on career goals and shared research interests

January 1 – application submitted to the SBE Graduate Coordinator

March 1 – decision on provisional admission made by the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee will communicate the names of all provisionally admitted 4+ students to the Graduate School.

Summer – student registers for research credits and starts working on a project under the advisor’s supervision; the research can count towards fulfilling the Capstone requirement for the B.S. degree

Senior Year

Formal application for admission to the graduate program is submitted to the Graduate School.

Fall semester – graduate advisory committee assembled; the committee meets with the student and designs the Program of Study

January 1 – Program of Study approved by the student’s graduate advisory committee is submitted to the SBE Graduate Coordinator

Spring semester – written research proposal is approved by the student’s advisory committee; pre-­‐thesis seminar is presented

May – student graduates with a B.S. degree and at least nine credits counted towards M.S. degree.

June 1 – student matriculates in the M.S. program

Summer – student registers for thesis credits and works on a research project

Post­‐baccalaureate Years

Course work completed to meet the program requirements as described above

Thesis defense and graduation deadlines met as required by the Graduate School (