Graduate Schools

UNC Asheville has an extremely strong track-record of steering graduates into some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the country. With advanced graduate degrees, individuals may seek employment as field biologists, resource technicians, laboratory researchers, and educators. For further assistance in selecting specific career options, contact UNC Asheville’s Career Center and talk to your departmental advisor!

Choosing a Program

One of the most difficult issues is determining which graduate program and school is most appropriate for you. By the end of your junior year you should have a grasp of the major subdisciplines in biology and should begin narrowing your choice down with respect to subdiscipline (e.g., ecology versus cell biology) and organismal group (e.g., plants versus animals versus microbes). Hopefully at this time you will have narrowed your primary interests to the point where you can begin exploring specific programs at universities (e.g., primatology, microbial genetics, plant systematics, aquatic ecology, animal physiology, wildlife ecology, immunology, cell biology, cancer research).

If you are not sure what these sub-disciplines entail, spend some time in the library or on the web reading abstracts in specialty journals to get a better feel for current research. Most professors at research institutions have web pages that explain their specific areas of interest, so spend time exploring websites for details. If you find a school and program that seems ideal, contact a professor via email to introduce yourself, to express your interest in their laboratory’s work, and to determine if there is room for another graduate student in the lab. Plan to apply to several schools that range in quality and acceptance standards. If you are accepted to two or more programs of your choice, then campus visits may be in order before making your final choice.


Biology faculty at UNC Asheville are extremely knowledgeable regarding graduate school application processes, so lean on them for help! Your faculty will assist you all along the way, from advising you on programs and degrees, to looking over your application materials, to coaching you for interviews. We are here to help you navigate this process, and this is something that really sets us apart.


Acceptance to graduate programs is highly competitive and is based primarily on your grade point average, your performance on the Graduate Record Examination, and recommendations and evaluations from faculty. Many schools require scores for both the general and advanced GRE exams. These exams are normally taken during the summer or fall of your senior year. The advanced GRE (subject test) specifically tests your knowledge of biology. Study guides with sample test questions are available in bookstores or over the Internet. Your advisor can be particularly helpful in providing hints on how to prepare for this exam.