Traditional Master's Program, requirements, and funding
The Traditional Master’s degree program is flexible and serves a variety of career objectives, such as teaching at secondary schools, employment in a variety of research-oriented jobs, interpretive work in parks and nature centers, preparation for further professional training, or future study within a Ph.D. program. In EEB, Traditional M.S. students usually undertake a course of study that includes both graduate course work and research that results in development of a M.S. thesis (i.e. a “thesis-based” M.S.) A Traditional M.S. degree can be earned through graduate course work alone, but this is less common for those admitted directly to the EEB Traditional M.S. program.
The Rackham Graduate School has no governance over the development, oversight or completion of M.S theses and all thesis-related requirements are at the discretion of the EEB department. In turn, the department relies upon the student’s thesis committee for setting appropriate research goals, timelines and formatting, and the decision that that the written thesis is “completed.” However some guidance for accomplishing these goals is provided below.
The Traditional M.S. degree is NOT a prerequisite for admission to the EEB doctoral program, nor is it intended as probationary admission to the doctoral program. It is anticipated that earning traditional M.S. degree within EEB will take approximately 4 academic terms, or two years.
Initial advising: New Traditional M.S. students attend a one-day EEB orientation in late August/early September, the week prior to the start of classes. During orientation, students meet with the graduate chair and their faculty advisor. At this meeting, the advisor and grad chair (1) advise the student regarding course selection for the fall (and winter) terms, (2) review departmental requirements, and (3) discuss various approaches to achieving the student’s goals within the framework of EEB’s Traditional M.S. requirements. An Initial Counseling Report Form is signed by the student, Grad Chair and advisor during this meeting and submitted to the grad staff for inclusion in the student's file.
It is strongly recommended that a mentoring plan (examples of which can be found in Appendix D) be developed between the student and advisor as early as possible in the student’s first term. Discussion topics should include the development of a research project including the research proposal, supporting coursework, literature review, research and data analysis and a timeline of how to complete the student’s thesis work within the timeframe of their expected graduate date (i.e. two years.)
*Please note that it is strongly recommended that a student meet with their advisor on a bi-weekly basis to regularly discuss coursework and research progress throughout their entire time within the program.*
Second term advising: During their second term, Traditional M.S. students form a thesis committee in consultation with their advisor. It is recommended that a student’s committee include three members, a second EEB faculty member (in addition to their advisor), and a cognate faculty member, representing another, related department. The thesis committee should be formed by the end of the second term, and students should hold a first meeting with their entire committee prior to their first field season to discuss their proposed research and thesis work. Potential modifications to the student’s plans can then be made based on faculty input. The student must submit a signed Traditional M.S. Thesis Committee Form and an Initial Committee Meeting Form to the Graduate Office to finalize their committee formation. The initial meeting form allows committee members to sign off on having reviewed/approved a student’s thesis proposal.
The thesis committee is charged with the oversight of a student’s thesis activities. The entire committee is intended to be a resource upon which the student may draw throughout their course of study. It should guide and encourage the student in the design and execution of all aspects of the research program and written dissertation work. The thesis committee is responsible for (1) providing advice concerning the conduct of the thesis research, (2) monitoring progress in research, (3) providing advice on other aspects of professional development, (4) administering the final oral thesis defense, and (5) certifying that the completed thesis meets the requirements for the Traditional M.S. degree. See also: Things to consider when selecting thesis committee members, pg. 27.
Finally, early in their second term, students should discuss with their advisor plans for applying for research funding, whether it be participation in the EEB block grant funding competition, or application for other sources of research funds. This discussion should include review and feedback from the advisor regarding the written text of funding proposals prior to their submission.
Third term advising: Following the first field season, students and their advisor should meet to review the original mentoring plan and discuss how the student is progressing toward meeting research and thesis goals. If necessary, modifications should be made to the student’s mentoring plan. Analysis of field data and plans for writing the thesis should begin with the advice and consent of their committee/advisor.
Early in the term, the student should discuss with their advisor any plans to apply to Ph.D. programs, (UM EEB and/or elsewhere.) These discussions should include recommendation letters, and students should be encouraged to make contact with potential advisors within potential Ph.D. programs.
Fourth term /final term advising: Students should hold a second meeting with their full thesis committee to provide a comprehensive update of research and thesis writing progress and timeline for completion. The student should submit an Annual Committee Meeting Form, signed by all committee members, to the graduate program coordinator.
Students should discuss with their advisor/committee plans for finalizing the thesis, and set a timeline a thesis defense – including a tentative defense date. See more on Thesis Defense, below.
The student should work with their committee and the graduate program staff to plan for the thesis defense. Please note that the Rackham Graduate School does not oversee the M.S. thesis defense process, (as it does for Ph.D. students defending their dissertation.) Successful completion of the process outlined below fulfills all requirements necessary for a student to receive a thesis-based M.S. from the University of Michigan, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.
With the approval of their committee, the student should select a date and time for the thesis defense. Upon finalizing the date/time, the student should contact the graduate staff, who will reserve a room for the presentation, and provide the student with the required form(s) for the defense. According to a timeline developed by the student and their committee, the student should submit to their committee a final version of their written thesis. It is recommended that this be undertaken at least two weeks prior to the student’s planned defense date, to allow for appropriate faculty review prior to the defense. In addition, as soon as possible prior to the defense, the student should contact John Megahan (email@example.com), the department graphic designer, to develop a flier for advertising the thesis presentation. This should be undertaken at least two weeks prior to the defense date.
Following the public portion of the defense presentation, the student defends his/her thesis before their thesis committee, usually in the same room, directly after the thesis presentation. Afterward, the thesis committee decides upon the acceptability of the thesis. The committee may accept the thesis as is, or recommend further work and/or revision, which must then be undertaken by the student in a timely manner.
Once all suggested changes have been made to the committee’s satisfaction and the committee agrees that the written thesis is final and approved, the student has their committee complete the appropriate portions of the Traditional Master of Science Program Graduation Form. The form must then be submitted to EEB graduate program staff for completion and final approval.
With final approvals in place, when the student “applies for graduation” it will be recommended to Rackham that the student receive a “M.S. Thesis” notation on their final official transcript – thus completing their Traditional M.S. degree. (See more on Applying for graduation, below.)
Required course work:
Within EEB, a Traditional M.S. degree requires completion of 24 graduate credit-hours in EEB and other science-related courses, including the following requirements:
- Election of courses to be determined in consultation with the faculty advisor or thesis committee, based on the goals of the individual student.
- Only graduate-level courses (numbered 400 and above) can be included in the required credit toward the program.
- At least 16 credit hours must be selected from courses in the department of EEB.
- No more than six (6) credit hours of independent study research coursework (i.e. EEB 700/730) may be included in the required minimum 24 credit hours.
- Coursework must include one EEB 800 seminar course which requires an oral presentation, or a written report.
- By Rackham requirement, students must complete four (4) hours of graduate-level cognate course work offered by a department other than EEB (or cross-listed with an EEB course). Cognates should be a science-related course, or one that is relevant to the program, and options should be discussed with the faculty advisor. For a list of suggested cognate courses, consult the EEB website.
Applying for graduation:
To be recommended by the EEB department for a Traditional M.S. degree, students must have their advisors complete the Traditional Master of Science Program Graduation Form which they then submit to the graduate coordinator for additional signature and approvals. Upon submission of the form to the graduate office, students should “apply for graduation” through the “Student Business” section of Wolverine Access. Application deadlines for each term are published by Rackham and deadline reminders will be sent to students by EEB graduate staff.
If a student fails to complete all requirements during the term in which they apply for graduation, the student must reapply for consideration during the term in which the requirements have been met. Master's diplomas are not distributed at commencement, but are mailed seven to eight weeks later.
Please note that (unlike Ph.D. students) M.S. students do not have to be registered for classes during the term in which they graduate.
Rackham requirements for M.S. students:
The Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies specifies the general requirements for admission and degree programs as well as other general standards. Therefore, in addition to the specific requirements of the EEB program, applicants and students should also be familiar with, at minimum, the following Rackham requirements.
Time limit: A student in a terminal master's program is expected to complete all work within five years from the date of first enrollment in the program. Students exceeding this time limit must file a petition for modification or waiver of regulation with Rackham OARD. Petitions must describe explicitly the amount of work remaining and a timeline for completion. A student who fails to complete degree requirements within five years may be withdrawn and required to apply for readmission (section 1.3.8).
Residence requirement: The graduate school requirement involves credit hours and should not be confused with state residency requirements.
Minimum average grade of “B”: An overall grade point average of “B” (5.00) is required for all graduate courses taken for credit and applied toward the Master’s degree.
Transfer of credit: A maximum of six semester hours (inter-University), or half of the program (intra-University and inter-University combined) may be transferred.
Cognate requirement: Rackham recognizes the value of intellectual breadth in graduate education, and the importance of formal graduate study in areas beyond the student's field of specialization. Cognate courses are those that are in a discipline or area different from a student's field of study, but may be related to some aspect of this field. Cognate coursework must be approved by the department or program, and may be satisfied by:
- Completing 4 credit hours of cognate coursework in approved graduate-level courses with a grade of B- or better.
- Using coursework within the same department or program but in a subfield different from the student's own. A course in a student's program that is cross-listed as a course in another program may satisfy the cognate requirement. In this case, the department or program should notify Rackham OARD.
- Using credit officially transferred from another institution in another field of study.
- Completing graduate coursework at another institution that meets the expectation of the cognate requirement without officially transferring the credit to the transcript. The student must provide Rackham OARD with an official transcript, including the courses and credit hours, and the department or program should notify Rackham OARD. These courses do not apply toward the minimum requirement for the degree, and do not appear on the University transcript.
Funding is not guaranteed for Traditional M.S. students. Students in the Traditional M.S. program are eligible to apply for Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) appointments within the Department of EEB (or any other department). However and they must reapply for positions during each term during which they are enrolled in classes – with no guarantee of securing a position.
Other external sources such as loans and work-study programs are available through the University’s Office of Financial Aid, 2011 Student Activities Building. Students planning to enter the Traditional M.S. program are eligible to apply for external fellowships, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) or NASA fellowships. These provide substantial stipends plus full tuition and students are urged to apply. Some students may wish to hold a part-time position with a University unit and carry a reduced academic program, or they may be able to obtain fellowship support. Positions are variable in kind and availability, and are best found by applying in person to the Student Employment Office, 2503 Student Activities Building, in the summer prior to the fall term registration.
For more information on University and external funding, see Graduate Funding Opportunities.