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Common Questions


Should I get an M.S. or Ph.D. degree?

Some schools only offer Ph.D. degrees.  Other schools offer M.S. degrees only if you decide not to complete the Ph.D. degree after working on your Ph.D. degree for a few years.  At other schools, you can select to complete a M.S. degree from the start.

What graduate schools should I choose to apply to?

By the time you have reached your junior or senior year you have probably chosen an area of interest in biology and have done some research.  Your readings of the literature probably introduced you to some scientists whose work you admired. Look into the graduate programs that do the kind of research that interested you.  If you get an opportunity, visit the graduate schools and/or visit the labs of scientists that are investigating issues that you could feel passionate about.   Many graduate programs have open houses set up to recruit graduate students. Contact the graduate departments in your junior year to find out about these open houses. This site will try to keep up with the listings under Local Events.

DO take advantage of the rich scientific environment in Atlanta and attend lectures (see Local Events).  Many interesting and distinguished scientists travel to Atlanta to give talks at the local universities. 

And DON'T FORGET the lecture series that the Biology Department has in the spring.  You do not have to be signed up for the seminar to attend the lectures.

What tests are required to get into graduate school?

Take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).  The scores must be less than 5 years old.  Some schools require both the general and subject tests and some only the subject test.  Your scores are important but if you did not do well or your undergraduate GPA is not that high, then you can strengthen your application by doing research. consider getting an M.S. before pursuing a Ph.D. Often getting into an M.S. program is not as competitive and you can prove your abilities and improve your grades by getting an M.S. degree before you pursue a Ph.D.

When should I apply for graduate school?

 The application deadlines for many schools is January 1.  Start working on your applications in the summer and fall of you graduate.  Make sure that you have taken the GRE exam by the proper date so that the schools will receive your scores in time.

What are graduate schools looking for in their applicants?

  • A strong GPA.
  • Good GRE scores, particularly in your science of interest
  • Research experience
  • Enthusiasm

Research experience is highly favorable whether you do it at Clayton State or in a research  lab elsewhere. Working as a lab technician for a year or two before applying to graduate school may help you to determine if you are really interested in research.  Getting experience in research will also show graduate schools that you have carefully considered this career

If you get a chance to present your work at a conference, jump at the opportunity. This experience will also look good on your application. If you have collected enough data to produce a paper or have collaborated with others, make an effort to write up your work so that you can publish it.  The drive and motivation it takes to produce a paper makes a very favorable impression.

However, if your GPA and GRE scores are good, it is possible to get into graduate school without lab experience. If you want to apply for graduate school in a particular area, it is important that you have taken one or more classes in that area.

Who should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

You get letters from professors who had you in class and any professor who served as an advisor for your research.   how are you problem solving skills and what are you like personally.  It is important that you have received a letter of recommendation from someone who you do research with.

How are you going to pay for graduate school?

Remember that each school has an application fee.  You will probably want to be selective in how many schools you will apply.

Many schools provide fellowships and stipends so that you will not have to pay tuition.  At some schools, you must serve as a teaching assistant inorder to get the stipends.  You should think about whether or not you are interested in teaching.

It is also important to think about the cost of living of the city where you want to go to school.  Will the stipend allow you to cover the cost of living in this city.  Stipends vary a little but it might be easier to go to school in a city that is less expensive to live in.


Local Graduate Programs


CSU Biology Alumni


CSU biology students have been quite successful in their applications to Graduate School.  There has been a 100% success rate in graduate school acceptance.  Following is a list of graduate schools that CSU alumni are attending or have attended.

Emory University, Neuroscience Program

Georgia Institute of Technology, Biology and Bioinformatics Graduate Programs

University of South Carolina, Biotechnology Graduate Program

Georgia State, Biology Graduate Program

Northwestern University


General Information


Careers with an M.S. or Ph.D.



Teaching positions are available for biologists with an M.S. degree at two year and some smaller four year institutions.  More frequently higher education institutions require a Ph.D.

With a Ph.D. you can get teaching positions at smaller four year institutions and small liberal arts colleges.  If you want a teaching position, then it is important to seek out opportunities to teach while you work on your Ph.D.

Positions at larger research institutions require postdoctoral experience. Postdoctoral fellowships are available at academic institutions and at a government agencies such as the National Institute of Health.  Then, you can setup and run your own lab at a major research university.

Chronicle of Higher Education


With an M.S. you can work as a technician in industry.  After getting lab experience, it may be possible to move into an administrative position. 

With a Ph.D., you generally work as a postdoc to acquire additional and specific experience before leading a group of scientists.

Atlanta Biotech Companies

Government agencies

The government operates similarly to industry. Technician positions are available with a master's degree.  Scientists more often get postdoctoral positions before getting their own lab. run your own lab.  You can work for the  (center for disease control), (national institutes of health), (federal drug administration)  (department of defense), (naval medical research institute), (uniformed services university health services) as well as many others.

Center for Disease Control (CDC)

National Institute of Health (NIH)

Federal Drug Administration (FDA)

Department of Defense (DOD)

Naval Medical Research Institute (NMRI)

Uniformed Services University Health Services

Career Links

Science Next Wave has a wealth of information for young and aspiring scientists and scientists early in their career.

New Scientist is a UK science magazine that has accessible information on all the sciences and has a career site.