Plant Biology Graduate Degree Requirements

Plant biology graduate requirements are intended to be consistent with the requirements of the NC State Graduate School. For any discrepancies, the requirements of the Graduate School take priority.

During your first year, plan to take the core course sequence:

  • PB 795
  • PB 513
  • either PB 570 or PB 503

In addition to the required courses, you must take any courses deemed important by your thesis advisory committee. It is important that you choose and meet with your committee by the end of your first year because many graduate course are offered only in alternate years. Delay in forming a committee will not remove the responsibility of completing courses deemed important for your degree program.

Your Graduate Plan of Work (GPOW) will list all of the courses you must complete to graduate. You will prepare a GPOW in consultation with your committee; it is subject to approval by the committee, the director of graduate programs and the Graduate School.


Research Opportunities

Graduate students have the opportunity to conduct research in diverse areas of contemporary plant biology. We encourage you to review information on faculty research programs, available through the faculty list.


The graduate curriculum provides a basic introduction to the two sub-disciplinary divisions in the department: ecology and biodiversity, and cell and molecular biology. You design your research project and coursework in association with your major advisor and advisory committee. We encourage interdisciplinary education, and some students elect to work under the joint supervision of faculty in plant biology and in other, related departments. Faculty who are associate members of plant biology can also serve as a major advisor for plant biology graduate students.

Course Number Course Title Hours
PB 795-003 Functional Plant Biology 3*
PB 513 Plant Anatomy Laboratory 2*
PB 570 or PB 503 Plant Functional Ecology or Systematic Botany 3* or 4*
PB 824 Plant Biology Colloquium 3
ST 511 Statistics for Experimental Biology Majors or an equivalent
advanced undergraduate course is required
PHI 816 Graduate level ethics course of students choosing (PHI 816 is what
is typically taken) and approved by her/his committee.

*= Class must be taken for a letter grade.

Other Plant Biology Courses

The program course requirements include taking one additional PB course at the 500 level or above. Students involved in teaching sections of laboratory courses must sign up for credit in either PB 685 (master’s students) or PB 885 (doctoral students). In most semesters, M.S. and Ph.D. students will also be enrolled in research hours (PB 693 for M.S. and PB 893 for Ph.D.). M.R. students do not take thesis credit hours (PB 695/696/699). Other students should consult with the director of graduate programs before including thesis credit hours (PB 695/696/699 or 895/896/899) on their GPOW.

Courses Other than Plant Biology

Students may take additional courses in other departments to fulfill the minimum degree requirements and should be select these courses in consultation with the advisory committee.

General Degree Requirements

M.R. Requirements

M.R. degree students complete the required courses and other courses for 36 total credit hours (at the 500 level or above); 18 hours must be letter-grade. They must also complete a project (and register for 6 hours of PB 693 related to the project) and pass a comprehensive oral exam on general plant biology.

M.S. Requirements

M.S. degree students complete the required courses and other courses for 30 total credit hours (at the 500 level or above); 18 hours must be letter-graded. They must also complete and defend a thesis.

Ph.D. Requirements

Ph.D. degree students complete the required courses and other courses for 72 total credit hours (at the 500 level or above). They must also pass a written and oral preliminary exam, and defend a dissertation.

Graduate Minor

Graduate students in other degree programs may obtain a minor in plant biology after declaring the minor to the director of graduate programs, including the minor on the Plan of Work (POW) submitted to the NC State Graduate School.