General Biology, M.S.

General Biology, M.S.


PLNU offers California’s only part-time master’s degree in general biology that’s specifically designed for working professionals. Our program offers a thesis and a non-thesis track, so you can tailor your program to fit your needs. Whether you intend to become an educator at the college level, improve your teaching in middle/high school, or advance your career in 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 with face-to-face meetings that allow you to keep your full-time job while earning your degree.

Invigorate Your Passion for Science

PLNU's unique approach to the graduate experience in biology provides working professionals with the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of biological principles and methods, as well as explore the relationship between science and faith. You’ll 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 designed to support you while you're working and completing this graduate degree. Classes are offered through a hybrid method that allows you to complete your coursework online but attend any in-person classes or labs on our 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

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?

  • Pursuing a Master of Science in General Biology at PLNU will help you advance your career by:
  • Gaining greater knowledge in the field of biology. 
  • Forming connections and enhancing your professional network.
  • Increasing your earning potential.

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.

Anderson, Dianne


Dianne Anderson, Ph.D.

Dr. Dianne Anderson, Program Director of the MS in General Biology, earned her MS in Microbiology at San Diego State University, as well as a Ph.D. in Math & Science Education jointly from San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego.

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Choose either the thesis or non-thesis option:

Master of Science in General Biology: Non-Thesis Option

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. You’ll also have the flexibility of more electives, including additional biology coursework, research internships, workshops, or seminar series. 

Choosing a non-thesis track allows you to customize your graduate degree to fit your needs and interests. This option requires a comprehensive exam in lieu of a thesis. 

Master of Science in General Biology: Thesis Option

If you’re passionate about topics surrounding teaching and learning in biology and would like to pursue original research — or a thesis is required to further your education — this is the right track for you. Research in biology education will play a large role in your studies if you choose this path. 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.
science professor and students all wearing white lab coats discussing a topic in a laboratory

What Can You Do with a Master's in Biology?

A master’s in general biology will allow you to pursue a variety of vocations. Unlike earning a more specialized graduate degree, PLNU’s general biology program allows you to broaden your scope of job options based on your passions. 

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):

  • Fall 2024 Quad I — September 2, 2024
  • Fall 2024 Quad II — October 28, 2024
  • Spring 2025 Quad I — January 13, 2025
  • Spring 2025 Quad II — March 17, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad I — May 12, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad II — July 7, 2025

Application Deadline(s):

  • Fall 2024 Quad I — August 21, 2024
  • Fall 2024 Quad II — October 16, 2024
  • Spring 2025 Quad I — December 11, 2024
  • Spring 2025 Quad II — February 28, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad I — April 25, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad II — June 20, 2025

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

Start Application

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 undergraduate upper division GPA requirement of a 2.75, 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:

  • Submit a completed application for admission to the biology program.
  • 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.
  • Obtain an undergraduate upper-division grade-point average of at least 2.75.
  • Interview with the appropriate graduate director or coordinator.

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. Once you have submitted your admissions application, your two selected professional recommenders will automatically be sent the auto-generated document to complete on your behalf. If you'd life to include a written letter in addition to this required document, you may do so, but it's unnecessary.

  5. Test requirement: Either a Major Field Test (MFT) for biology (administered by PLNU with a $33 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.

Start Application

Career Opportunities

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 biotech, 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.

PLNU’s M.S. in General Biology will prepare you to further your career as a working professional in numerous professions, such as: 

  • Biotechnology 
  • Research
  • Education 
  • Medicine
  • Agriculture 
  • Zoology

Before embarking on your educational journey, it’s important to know what jobs a master’s in biology will qualify you for. Individuals in the biotech industry can leverage a master’s degree to further career pursuits in title and pay. Those seeking to teach biology in a middle or high school must earn a single subject teaching credential to receive the certification necessary to teach in a classroom. There are other avenues a master's in biology can help you pursue. Below are a few examples.

Careers you can pursue with an M.S. in General Biology

Molecular Biologist 

Average National Salary: $83,929

Molecular biologists are a specific type of research scientist whose work largely revolves around the study of molecules and organisms. Their aim is typically to develop new treatments and pharmaceuticals to help treat various diseases and ailments. This is the perfect career for technically inclined individuals who like the process of in-depth laboratory research.

Biomedical Engineer

Average National Salary: $92,620

Biomedical engineers help improve human health by blending biology and engineering. They do so by identifying problems in healthcare that patients, doctors, and other professionals experience, and then developing solutions to those problems. This can be done by designing or developing new technologies and researching cutting-edge technologies. This is the perfect career for an analytical individual who enjoys problem-solving in medical environments. 

Research Scientist

Average National Salary: $111,094

Research scientists work in labs (i.e. government, environmental, specialist, or university labs) to conduct research in various fields. This can include anything from clinical trials for new medications to researching wind turbine efficiency for an energy company. Research scientists can work for both private organizations and public institutions such as governments or nonprofits. In addition to being a lucrative source of income, research science can be a fulfilling career that allows you to pursue areas that interest you and be at the forefront of new innovations.

Postsecondary Biological Science Teacher 

Average National Salary: $98,710

Post-secondary, or college-level biological science teachers teach various biology courses to students. The job itself varies based on the class or school, but typically a college biology professor needs a master’s degree to teach at this level. This may be a great career to pursue for middle school or high school teachers looking to increase their wages and step further into academia.

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

Headshot photo of Matt Nasont

Student Profile

Matthew Nasont

Matthew Nasont wants his high school biology students to always be curious about the world around them, how it works and operates. He’s taught biology for the last eight years at Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, Calif., where he chairs the science department.

Read More

Frequently Asked Questions

What is required to be admitted into this program?

If you have a degree in another field other than biology, you‘ll 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. Since this isn’t a cohort model, the courses are designed to fit your schedule. We encourage students to take the number of units in a semester that works best for them. 

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 scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available to me?

You’ll have the option to apply for a number of scholarships through PLNU’s 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’s possible to complete the program in a little over two years, although some students choose to complete requirements at a slower rate.

How many days a week do classes meet?

It depends on the type of class you’re enrolled in. Most classes meet once a week, others twice a week, and some only meet in person four to five times in a semester.

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.

We also will accept a 110 minimum score from DuoLingo as proof of proficiency. 

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.

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’ll do our best to find an internship that will coincide with it.

If I have 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.

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, there aren’t any courses offered completely online. We offer hybrid courses that involve online distribution of materials and use of threaded discussions, but each class will meet in person 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