General Biology, M.S.

General Biology, M.S.


Are you fascinated with the infinite complexity, rich beauty, and meaningful study of life? Is increasing your knowledge and understanding — in breadth as well as depth — in this vast field of study important to your career goals?

PLNU offers California’s only part-time master’s degree in general biology that’s specifically designed for working professionals. Whether you intend to become an educator at the college level, improve your teaching in middle/high school, or move into research or biotech, the program is designed to allow you to continue to advance in your professional pursuits while completing your degree. The deep foundational knowledge you gain will serve you equally well in the laboratory, boardroom, field, or classroom. A flexible program offers online courses during the year with monthly face-to-face meetings and summer intensive sessions that allow you to keep your full-time job while earning your degree.


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Invigorate Your Passion for Science

PLNU's unique approach to the graduate experience in biology provides working professionals, particularly teachers, with the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of biological principles and methods, as well as explore the relationship between science and faith. You will once again be a student in the field of study you love. As you gain deeper knowledge in several areas of biology, your passion for science will grow even stronger. 

Earn Your Degree While Working

This part-time program can be completed in just over two years. Courses are scheduled around a typical school calendar, with light course loads in the fall and spring that require monthly meetings on campus (in Bakersfield or San Diego), and heavier coursework in the summer on the main campus in San Diego. The 34-unit program includes 10 units of required coursework in the history and philosophy of science, science education, and research design, and a research pilot study. The other 24 units include a variety of biology courses with labs, as well as options for internships.

Advance Your Career

Prepare for further graduate work in biology, advance on the pay scale within your district, open up new opportunities to teach at the community college level, or seek advancement in your biotech company. Field and lab experience, internships, small class sizes, published faculty, and courses that explore the intersection between faith and science all provide the experience and knowledge needed to further your career.

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Dawne Page, Ph.D.

Dr. Dawne Page, chair of the Department of Biology, holds a Ph.D. in immunology from the University of California, San Francisco, and teaches courses in genetics and immunology. Her research involves exploring B cell development and maturation in zebrafish.

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Choose either the thesis or non-thesis option:

Master of Science in General Biology: Non-Thesis Option

Have the flexibility of more electives, including additional biology coursework, research internships, and summer workshops or seminar series. This flexibility allows you to customize the degree to fit your needs and interests. If you’re looking to gain more expertise in various areas of biology or acquire internship experience in the field, the non-thesis option is a great fit. This option finishes with a comprehensive exam.

Master of Science in General Biology: Thesis Option

Research in biology education will play a large role in your studies if you choose to go down this path. Original research is required for a thesis on some aspect of teaching and learning in biology. If you’re an independent student and a good writer, the thesis option is a great fit.

Upon completion of the program, you’ll be able to:

  • Discuss major concepts and theories in biology.

  • Carry out and communicate various experimental methods and types of data analysis.

  • Demonstrate knowledge and skills in critical thinking, such as analysis and synthesis, as applied to primary literature in the field of biology and in science education.

  • Distinguish between science and faith, and discuss the potential compatibility of both.

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Application Information

Are you ready to take the next step and apply?

We’re here to make the entire process a simple one. We’ll walk you through the application process, answer your questions, and get you one step closer to earning your degree.

Program Start Date(s):

  • Spring 2023 – January 9, 2023

  • Summer 2023 – May 8, 2023

  • Fall 2023 – August 28, 2023

Application Deadline(s):

  • Spring 2023 – December 19, 2022
  • Summer 2023 – April 19, 2023
  • Fall 2023 – August 9, 2023

All applications submitted after these dates will be reviewed based on availability of space.

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The Selection Process

The educational context at PLNU will challenge you to live a full life that integrates the pursuit of knowledge with beliefs, values, and actions. While honoring diverse perspectives and beliefs, Christian values and principles are woven into the educational experience. We understand your application is not only a reflection of you as a student; it reflects you as a person. At PLNU, we holistically evaluate your academic history, work and life experience, background, and circumstances to determine admission into a graduate program. Your undergraduate GPA is an important piece of your application, but if you do not meet the minimum GPA requirement of a 3.0, you may still be eligible for admission based on your application package as well as an exceptions policy per your particular program.* Therefore, we strongly encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor, who will advise you regarding your qualifications and provide specific information about the admission-under-exceptions process.

To be admitted into PLNU's Master of Science in General Biology program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript from the institution that indicates the completion of an undergraduate degree.

If you have any questions about your qualifications or the program in general, we encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor.

*Exceptions Policy: If you have a GPA below 3.0 in your baccalaureate degree, you will need to speak with your enrollment counselor for more information on the exceptions materials needed for your particular program.

Application Checklist

Note: The application is completed entirely online with the exception of transcripts, which can be submitted electronically or directly to PLNU, and test scores, which should be submitted electronically.

  1. Submit your online application for admissions (including a $50 non-refundable application fee, which is waived for PLNU alums, current or former military and their dependents, and PLNU employees).
  2. Submit official transcripts with proof of earned baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution.* (If you are a PLNU alumnus, please notify your counselor to have your transcripts retrieved. You do not need to request transcripts from the PLNU Office of Records.)

    Official transcripts must be sent to:
    Point Loma Nazarene University
    Office of Graduate Admissions
    3900 Lomaland Dr.
    San Diego, CA 92106

    Official electronic transcripts must be emailed to:

    *Please note, official transcripts must be sent directly from the regionally accredited institution.
  3. Submit two personal essays (200-300 words each) on the following topics:
    • Describe your reason(s) for pursuing your graduate degree in general biology and indicate your personal goals for the next five years.
    • Explain why you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in a Christian setting.
  4. Submit two professional recommendations.

  5. Test requirement: Either a Major Field Test (MFT) for biology (administered by PLNU with a $25 exam fee; contact admissions for more information), or a GRE subject test in biology. The MFT is preferred because the score is available immediately upon completion.

After all application materials are submitted, you will be contacted by PLNU's Department of Biology about scheduling an interview.

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Career Opportunities

PLNU’s M.S. in General Biology will prepare you to further your career as a working professional. For teachers, our program will enable you to teach life science and biology courses within middle schools, high schools, and community colleges. For professionals in biology-related nonprofit organizations or other specialized fields, this degree will grow your passion for science, provide you with expertise in various areas of biology, and empower you to advance in your company.


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A Practical Guide to Finding A Career You Love

Finding your life’s work takes, well, a lot of work. But don’t let that keep you from starting the journey of finding a career you love. Read this comprehensive guide to find out how to begin the journey today!

Financial Aid and Student Support

We take seriously the role of providing you with financial, academic, and career support so you have the tools you need to be successful at PLNU and beyond. That’s why we offer a holistic support system that focuses on your unique experiences, particular needs, and personal and professional goals — resulting from our deep concern for you, our student.

With a focus on authentic relationships and personalized attention, our goal is to help transform you so you can follow your calling in your own career and life.

Financial Aid and Student Support

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Student Profile

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is required to be admitted into this program?

If you have a degree in another field other than Biology, you will need to complete a two-semester sequence of Biology courses with a lab designed for Biology majors, one focused on Cell & Molecular Biology and one on Ecology & Evolution or Organismal Biology.  Many community colleges in the Greater San Diego area offer these courses. For example they may be listed as BIO 201A - Introduction to the Biological Science I and BIO 210B - Introduction to the Biological Sciences II.

Can I work while completing the program?

Most students complete the program on a part-time basis, although a full-time option to finish in four semesters may be possible depending on when a student begins the program. The courses are designed to fit around a typical school schedule, with a lighter course load in the fall and spring, and a heavier load in the summer so that working teachers can complete the program on a part-time basis.

What scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available to me?

You will have the option to apply for a number of scholarships through Student Financial Services. This program qualifies for state and federal financial aid options. Contact your enrollment counselor for more information.

How long does it take to complete the program?

It is possible to complete the program in two years and three summers, although some students choose to complete requirements at a slower rate.

How many days a week do classes meet?

In the fall and spring semesters classes meet face-to-face once a month for 16 weeks. Summer sessions meet Monday through Thursday from 1 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. for three consecutive weeks.

How large will the classes be?

Class sizes are estimated to be 15 to 20 people.

Are international students eligible to apply?

Yes! As an international student, you can apply as a senior in university or any time after you obtain your bachelor’s degree. If you earned your baccalaureate degree outside of the United States, all documents must be translated into English and evaluated by members of National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). You must also submit official proof of English proficiency (TOEFL). Please contact Graduate Financial Aid and Student Support Services for more information.

PLNU is a Christian university, but I am not a Christian. Would I feel out of place in this program?

We welcome and encourage people of all backgrounds as students in our programs. Issues that relate to science and faith will be discussed in some classes, and engaging in discussion with individuals with alternative points of view will be encouraged as learning opportunities. Students will work within a learning community that is supportive academically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Is the program based on a cohort model, with a group of students starting and finishing together?

No. To maximize flexibility, the program is designed so students can finish courses on a schedule they develop with the program director.

Will all students take two summer courses each summer?

No. Students may choose to take one course each summer, but this will obviously extend the length of the program. To finish the program in a two-year time frame, students will need to take two summer modules each summer.

Do students need to decide on the thesis or non-thesis option when they apply?

No, this decision does not need to be made until the second year of the program.

What time of day will the summer classes be offered?

The three-week summer courses will be held in the afternoons Monday through Thursday, with no class on Friday.

What types of internships are offered?

PLNU has working relationships with a number or organizations, such as museums, research institutes, community colleges, and biotechnology companies, so internships can be arranged in a variety of settings. This is a very flexible option that can be specifically tailored to the needs of the student. If a student has a particular interest, we will do our best to find an internship that will coincide with it.

If I have years of experience teaching biology or working in a biological field, why is a test score (GRE biology test or MFT in biology test) required as part of the application?

Students in the program should have a basic understanding of all areas of biology. These assessments provide a means for PLNU faculty to evaluate applicants’ knowledge of many areas of biology. The score will be considered as part of the overall application, but we do not have minimum scores.

Is on-campus housing available during the summer classes?

We anticipate that most students will commute, but we do have a limited number of one- and two-bedroom apartments available on campus for students to rent (families are welcome).

I am not available when the MFT is offered at PLNU. What should I do?

Ask your counselor to help you arrange a two-hour block of makeup time.

What types of electives are offered?

Students choosing the thesis option will need six units of electives, while students choosing the non-thesis option will need 12 units. These units fall into several categories:

• Graduate level or upper division biology courses
• PLNU internships
• Perspectives on science seminar with additional assignments (extra fee)

What courses may I transfer in?

Graduate level or upper division biology courses may be transferred in from an accredited university, as long as they were not used toward earning another degree. All transfer courses must have been taken within seven years of the request for acceptance. Up to six units may be transferred from another university. Units taken at other universities as electives do not count toward the three-unit minimum per semester to qualify for financial aid.

Do the summer classes include lab experiences?

Yes, the summer courses will be a combination of lecture/discussion and lab experiences, both in the field and in a traditional lab setting as appropriate to the topic.

Are the online courses completely online?

No, the online courses offered during the fall and spring semesters will involve online distribution of materials and use of threaded discussions, but each class will also meet in person once a month during each semester at a day and time agreed on by the students and the professors.

Course List

For information about the courses required for the General Biology, M.S. program, view the PLNU Catalog. 

Course Information

Department Faculty