Graduate FAQ

Why should I enroll in graduate studies in Biology?

In today’s knowledge economy, an undergraduate degree is often not sufficient. A degree in Biology graduate studies opens students up to enhanced opportunities in many fields, including research, advanced health care, applied biology, education, law, business, and computing.


Graduate education is essential for a career in scientific research. Many biologists perform their research at universities where they teach in their area of specialty. Other biologists are employed by industries where they perform research in fields such as biotechnology, drug development, and food development and processing. Graduates from our M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree programs have gone on to research careers in diverse roles and institutions.


Healthcare workers apply their biological knowledge to help others. While most healthcare workers enter healthcare professional schools after a B.Sc. in biology or related fields, there is an increasing number of M.Sc. and Ph.D. graduates in biology entering these professional schools to be further trained as physicians, veterinarians, dentists etc.


Many individuals who have a love of the outdoors seek professions that require Biology degrees in B.Sc., M.Sc., and/or Ph.D., depending on their specific roles. Applied biologists enter into many different professions, including horticulturists, fisheries biologists, and zookeepers, all of them must be well trained in the life sciences. Employment opportunities in these areas can be found in private companies, not-for-profit sectors, and federal, state, and municipal government agencies.


Education is a continually growing field for graduating biologists. Graduates in our M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs are teaching at all levels, from primary to secondary, collegiate, university, and professional school levels. However, museums, zoos, and nature centers also hire educators, exhibition designers, and other specialists who have strong biology backgrounds to interact with a variety of stakeholders, plan and carry out exhibitions, give tours, plan and teach educational programs, and even give hikes through nature trails.


The problem solving, hands-on technical, and analytical skills learned in graduate research make Biology graduate degrees an important asset in the broad business world. For example, biologists are hired as consultants in investment companies. Lawyers that work with environmental issues, forensics, or biotech companies require a biological background. Businesses that sell biological products hire sales managers with degrees in biology. These businesses also hire regulatory affairs people with research background in biology to put together scientific information about their products for approval by regulatory agencies.


The Department of Biology at McMaster University has several mathematical biology professors working on diverse fields of research, from infectious diseases modeling to genome sequence analyses. The combined training in Biology coupled with some computer training has landed our graduates positions in web server design and management, bioinformatics, and scientific programming for companies and institutions.

How do I apply?

The most frequent questions we receive are about application procedures and eligibility to our program. You can find information on our application procedure:   Graduate Admissions in Biology

What do I need to submit?

1) Academic transcript(s) to date are to be submitted on-line with your application.

  • Students who accept an offer will need to provide official transcripts either to be sent directly from the issuing institution (or a certified/notarized copy of it) or in a sealed envelope from the applicant.  If the final transcript does not show that a completed degree has been conferred, an official/notarized copy of your diploma is also required.
  • Please note:  For the applications, electronic copies of “current” unofficial up-to-date transcripts must be submitted on-line with your application to expedite the review of your application.

2) A “statement of interest” in pursuing graduate studies.

  • This consists of a one-page double-spaced summary describing the area of biology that you may wish to study.    The statement of interest helps faculty members identify prospective graduate students for their program.  This is to be submitted on-line with your application in a pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format.

3) Two (2) letters of reference:

  • Strong letters of support from academic referees as they can often better assess your academic and research potential for graduate studies.
  •  Applicants are requested to complete this part of the application by submitting an email address of their preferred referees so that once the application is submitted, referees may be able to complete this request on-line.
  •  Applicants will be informed once the references have been completed.

4)  A CV

  • Applicants are encouraged to include relevant information such as work experience, volunteer/community experience and academic achievements.  This can also be submitted on-line with your application in a pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format.

Is there a deadline for graduate applications?

Domestic/Permanent Resident Biology Graduate Students can begin their graduate students in September, January or May.

Our preferred deadlines are as follows:

NEW EARLY APPLICATION DEADLINE – September 2018 is January 19, 2018  (prompt application eligibility result with TA position!)

September 2018 admission:  Applications will be accepted after January 19th; however, it is strongly recommended to apply before the early application deadline! Extended Deadline Update: March 31, 2018.

May 2018: Extended Deadline Update: February 16, 2018 for domestic/permanent resident applicants;

Deadline for international students – September 2018 admission:  January 31, 2018.

For international students, please note:

We receive far more applications than we can accept per year.  The selection process is very competitive and acceptance rates are approximately 2-3%.  Acceptance for international students only include the September term start-date.  International students must contact a potential supervisor prior to the application being reviewed.  The supervisor will then provide written confirmation of recruitment interest to the Biology Graduate Admissions Committee, to ensure that the graduate application is considered for recruitment availability during the ranking process.

These preferred deadlines assist faculty and the department in determining future funding, lab space, scholarships, entrance awards and TA allocations.  Therefore prompt submission of applications will increase the likelihood of a successful admission.

However, applications submitted beyond these preferred deadlines may still be accepted for consideration.

What are the academic eligibility requirements?

Students holding a B.Sc. Honours (4 year program) with a minimum B+ average  (8.5/12 – McMaster University GPA) in Biology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Microbiology or related fields are welcome to apply for graduate studies in Biology.  Although the entire transcript is reviewed, emphasis is placed on senior “biology” or science courses, usually completed in the last two years.

Please note:  Acceptance is recommended on the basis of:

(i) academic ability (normally an upper second class degree or better, equivalent to a  8.5/12  McMaster University GPA in the final year of an Honours undergraduate program for M.Sc. degree; for Ph.D. degree requirements: distinction in previous M.Sc. graduate courses equivalent to at least a McMaster University B+ average),

(ii) availability of an appropriate supervisor who is willing to take the student, and

(iii) availability of both financing and space.

All three criteria must be met in order for acceptance to be recommended.  Official acceptance is made by the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies on the basis of the recommendation made by the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies.

Can I apply if I am still completing my B.Sc. Honours for the M.Sc. graduate program?

Yes, this is possible.

For M.Sc. graduate application submission:  

If you have not yet completed a four year B.Sc. degree, you can still apply to our M.Sc. program and offers of admission can be made conditional upon completion of your B.Sc. with a B+ (or better) standing.

For Ph.D. graduate application submission:  

If you have not yet completed a two-year M.Sc. degree, you can still apply to our Ph.D. program and offers of admission can be made conditional upon completion of your M.Sc. with a B+ (or better) standing.

As an international student, do I need to take the TOEFL or IELTS test?

Applicants whose native language is not English will be required to furnish evidence of their proficiency in the use of the English language.

Such applicants are required to supply this evidence as part of their application. This documentation must be submitted on-line with the graduate application process.

Applicants may be exempted from this requirement if they have completed a university degree at which English is the language of instruction.

Minimum TOEFL requirements are scores of:

– 92 (Internet-based)

– 237 (Computer-based)

– 580 (Paper-based)

Please note:  The University Code is: 0936 and the Departmental Code is: 35.

Minimum IELTS requirements are

– 6.5 min score overall.

– Academic, not General

– 5.5 min. score in each section.

Students who have completed an Academic ESL program through Canadian academic institutions may petition to have this considered in lieu of TOEFL.

Is the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) required?

At present, it is not a departmental regulation.  If available, this can be submitted on-line to be attached to your application.

Once I apply on-line, what is the next step?

– Once you have paid the graduate application fee ($110.00), please contact the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate).

-Received documents will be added to your application package for prospective faculty member/supervisor’s reviewing purposes.

-Once all documents have been submitted, your application will be distributed to the Biology Graduate Studies Admissions Committee for eligibility review.

-Applicants will be notified regarding their eligibility by the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate) by email.   You may contact the Academic Program Assistant for your application status at

Where do I send my application materials?

Applications will not be considered for acceptance until ALL application materials, including the application fee, have been received.

The following contents of the application can be submitted on-line:

  • statement of interest
  • CV
  • transcripts

For international students, the IELTS or TOEFL information can also be submitted on-line

If an official letter of offer recommendation is to be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, original transcripts may be sent directly to:

Barb Reuter, Academic Program Assistant (Graduate)

Department of Biology
McMaster University
Life Sciences Building – Room 223
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, ON  L8S 4K1

Once an application is deemed “eligible or eligible-pending”, does this mean “acceptance” into the program?

Program acceptance not only requires the applicant be eligible, but that he or she is accepted by a prospective supervisor.

For entry to the Masters program: ‘Eligible-pending’ status means pending successful completion of a four-year B.Sc. degree with a minimum GPA of B+.  If an applicant has not yet completed a four-year B.Sc. degree, a conditional letter of offer may be provided.  Proof of successful completion of the degree (meeting, or maintaining, the minimum academic requirements of our program) will be required at the beginning of your first term of graduate studies.

For entry to the Doctoral program: ‘Eligible-pending’ status means pending successful completion of a Master’s degree with a minimum GPA of B+.  If an applicant has not yet completed a Master’s degree, a conditional letter of offer may be provided.  As above, proof of successful completion of the degree (meeting, or maintaining, the minimum academic requirements of our program) will be required at the beginning of your first term of graduate studies.

Original required transcripts must be submitted to the Academic Program Assistant in order for the “letter of offer” submission to the School of Graduate Studies for their final review.  If originals are not available, a “conditional” letter of offer may be made.    This submission process will be requested by the supervisor in writing to the Academic Program Assistant.

Upon final successful review/confirmation of the application by McMaster University’s School of Graduate Studies Admissions recruitment team, a “letter of offer” will be sent by email.    Applicants may accept or decline the offer on-line.

Do I need to contact a supervisor before I apply?

Applicants are strongly encouraged to correspond with potential supervisors.

Please visit:  Areas of Biology Research Interest and the Faculty Profile information

Electronic copies of graduate applications are provided to prospective supervisors/faculty members on Red Folders (our on-line department graduate application database).

The availability of all graduate applications helps identify a suitable match between the applicant and potential supervisor.

Acceptance into our program requires both meeting the academic eligibility requirements and obtaining a research supervisor by the applicant.

As previously noted, as international acceptance is limited, international students must contact a supervisor prior to application.

How will I know if my application is eligible?

The Academic Program Assistant (Graduate) will send an email to the applicant once the result of the Biology Graduate Admissions Committee’s review has been completed.   Applicants can also send an email to to inquire details of their application status.

Once a potential supervisor agrees to offer a position in his/her lab – what happens next?

Once a potential supervisor confirms in writing that he/she will accept an applicant to join his/her lab, the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies (Biology) recommends to the School of Graduate Studies that an official letter of offer be provided to the applicant.

The Academic Program Assistant (Graduate) will communicate with the applicant during this process as the graduate application and the department’s recommendation is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies.    At this time, all original transcripts must be provided, unless in some cases, a “conditional” letter of offer can be requested.  To clear the condition, once accepted, students must present their up-to-date transcripts to the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate).

To be accepted, the School of Graduate Studies “Admissions Recruitment Team” will review and consider the Biology department’s recommendation for the graduate applicant’s acceptance, and if all is in order, an official letter of offer should be forth-coming via email.  Depending on the volume of applications, a full review and letter of offer process may be delayed.

If the applicant is accepted, an email will be sent by the School of Graduate Studies.  He/she may officially accept or decline this offer on-line.

How long is the Biology M.Sc. program?

Expected completion of a M.Sc. program is two years. M.Sc. candidates are guaranteed salary support for two years as per the letter of offer.

Candidates may also consider transferring to the Doctoral program.  Please see Biology Guide Graduate Guide – Transfer to Ph.D. for further information.

How long is the Biology Ph.D. program?

The expected completion time is within four years.  Ph.D. students are guaranteed salary support for four years.

What type of financial aid can a Biology graduate student expect to receive?

Salary information for the current academic year will be forthcoming.

For 2017-18, minimum salaries are as follows:

M.Sc. Domestic and/or Permanent Resident Students: $20,820
M.Sc. Visa Students: $30,582
Ph.D. Domestic and/or Permanent Resident Students: $22,820
Ph.D. Visa Students: $35,572

Domestic/Permanent Resident Salaries consist of:

– TA Position

– Research Stipend

– Graduate Scholarship

Visa/International Student Salaries consist of:

– TA Position

– Research Stipend

– Graduate Scholarship

– Tuition Bursary

– UHIP coverage

External scholarships can supplement these base salary levels.

For incoming students, entrance awards may also be awarded, dependent on GPA average.

Will I need to pay tuition and incidental fees? What are the current tuition/incidental fees?

Yes, there are annual tuition and incidental fees for each new academic year.  The academic year duration is from September 1st – August 31st.

This information can be found at: 2017-18 Graduate Program Fees and Tuition.

Final confirmations of fees are determined on an annual basis for the academic year.

Are there scholarships that I can apply for?

Yes, there are external scholarship competitions throughout the year.  Current graduate scholarship competition with internal deadlines and eligibility requirements information is found at:

Biology Graduate Scholarships

As noted, various scholarships have departmental deadlines.

Please also visit:

School of Graduate Studies – Scholarships

For further information, please contact Barb Reuter at 

Once accepted, how do I find suitable housing?

If you are interested in applying to any of the University’s residences, applications must be submitted several months in advance (before the residence application deadline).

Housing and Conference Services, Residence Admissions
McMaster University, Commons Building, Room 101
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1
Telephone: (905) 525-9140, Ext. 24223
Fax: (905) 529-3319

The Off-Campus Housing Office is located at the University Student Centre (MUSC) Basement – B112 lower level of the centre. They will be pleased to help you locate accommodation when you arrive in Hamilton.

Note: Most apartments in Canada are unfurnished and it is not normally economically feasible to rent furnished apartments. Prices do not often include heating, light and telephone. Please allow extra for these expenses.

Helpful Websites for your information…

McMaster Campus:

If you require further assistance, please contact Barb Reuter at 

Updated February 2018