Degree Requirements

All graduate students must conduct M.S. or Ph.D. research projects, in addition to course work chosen in consultation with an advisory committee. Research projects are designed in a student-written research working plan that is approved by the advisory committee. In almost all cases, students are funded on research contracts or teaching assistantships, both of which require substantial work outside of degree requirements. Most graduates are expected to satisfy certification requirements for either the American Fisheries Society or The Wildlife Society; this may require additional course work by students entering the program from other disciplines. All students must deliver at least two seminars and write a semi-technical manuscript about their research. Doctoral students are required to take a diagnostic exam within the first semester in residence and must teach at least one semester, regardless of funding source. All students are expected to participate in the professional and collegial life of the department and its professional specialty by attending seminars and professional meetings, participating in student organizations, and serving on departmental and professional committees.

Meeting with your Committee

Each student's Advisory Committee is required to meet with the student before the end of the first semester, during the second semester and at least yearly thereafter. While these meetings should center around the research project and coursework, an additional function will be evaluating the student's performance and making recommendations for improvement. It is the obligation of the student to arrange these required meetings in consultation with the student's major advisor and the obligation of the department head to enforce this policy.

A student evaluation will be made during the second semester of residency. The purpose of student evaluations is to help the graduate student improve and identify deficiencies in his/her program or performance. Included in the evaluation process will be a self-evaluation by the student and an evaluation by the student's Advisory Committee. Both evaluations will be completed using the same form. Copies of the self-evaluation will be given to all members of the Advisory Committee prior to the committee meeting. The Advisory Committee will discuss the self-evaluation and its own evaluation with the student. The Advisory Committee evaluation must be discussed with the student and signed by everyone. Signed copies of the committee's evaluation will be placed in the student's official file.


Course Requirements

In addition to the credit hour and course requirements established by the Graduate School and the College of Natural Resources and Environment, the following coursework is required by the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation:

The Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and the Graduate School requires at minimum 12hr credit enrollment per semester for a student to be eligible for graduate assistantships. All students are required to meet the minimum requirements for a GS5 level position as a federal fisheries or wildlife biologist. All students also are required to complete the coursework necessary for certification as either a fisheries scientist (American Fisheries Society requirements) or a wildlife biologist (The Wildlife Society requirements). Students may request a waiver of this requirement.

FIW 5004 Departmental Seminar

Departmental graduate seminars will be scheduled and conducted during both semesters (fall and spring) of the academic year. All new, incoming graduate students are required to register for seminar during the first fall semester in residence. All graduate students are required to register for and successfully complete two (2) departmental graduate seminars as a part of their graduate degree program. Unless so directed by a student's advisory committee, formal registration and enrollment in seminar is not required for students having already completed 2 credits. However, all graduate students will be expected to attend and participate in seminar during each semester in which they are in residence.

Fall seminar classes will be initiated by faculty and/or graduate students on topics of mutual interest. In addition to providing a forum for presentations by prominent individuals in ecology and natural resources, spring seminar will feature presentations of graduate students' proposed research. Each first-year graduate student will be required to prepare and present a formal seminar of his/her proposed research. Faculty and other graduate students will participate in an oral and/or written critique of each presentation. A passing grade for seminar will be given only if the Thesis Working Plan has been approved in the second semester of residing for M.S. candidates and one year for Ph.D candidates.

Working Plan Guidelines

A formal plan for thesis/dissertation research is required. The plan must be approved and signed by the student's Advisory Committee before the student begins data collection. The working plan must be completed by the end of the second semester in residence for M.S. students and by the end of the first calendar year in residence for a Ph.D. student. 

Purpose and Philosophy

A thesis or dissertation working plan is a description of the intended research project of a graduate student. The purpose of the plan is to help the student design a project that is explicit, well justified, has clear objectives, can be performed with resources and time available, and has methods that achieve the intended results.

The plan also has other benefits. It teaches the student how to approach and conquer a major project based on rational scientific methods. It stimulates communication among the student and Advisory Committee members. It demonstrates that collaboration and peer review are essential parts of professional endeavors--especially in science. It provides a basis for evaluating progress by the student and the Advisory Committee. In general, our faculty endorses planning as an essential part of science and as a skill to be mastered.

The signed and accepted plan is a good-faith agreement by the student to complete the planned work as part of the degree program. However, the plan can be changed if accomplishing the intended project becomes impossible. Minor changes are expected in any project and need not be approved formally. However, major changes--adding or dropping objectives, adopting entirely different methodologies, changing taxa or study locations, for example--must be approved explicitly by the Advisory Committee.

The plan should emphasize what information is being sought, how it will be sought, and how the project will proceed to its conclusion. Therefore, the written plan should be relatively short in total, brief in justification and literature review, detailed in methodology, and detailed in schedule.

Like all plans, the thesis or dissertation working plan will only serve its intended purpose if it is completed before the project begins. Therefore, the deadline for plan completion and acceptance is before data collection begins, but no later than the end of the second semester in residence for M.S. students and the first 12 months in residence for doctoral students.

Plan of Study

An M.S. Plan of Study should be submitted to the Graduate School prior to completing 2 semesters and a PhD Plan of Study should be submitted prior to 3 semesters. Your Plan of Study should be typed using the format described in the Graduate School Policies and Procedures, signed by the student's advisory committee, department head, and student, and given to Dana Keith in 100 Cheatham. The original draft will be kept in the graduate student's official file.

Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination is a requirement for all doctoral students. This examination must be taken at least 6 months before the Final Examination. The Preliminary Examination may be oral or written, or both.

The examination, conducted by the student's Graduate Advisory Committee , is comprehensive in nature and is intended to test a student's ability to integrate, synthesize, and apply concepts, facts, and techniques in solving new and complex problems associated with fish and wildlife conservation. The student may be tested on any aspects of fish and wildlife conservation, and will be expected to demonstrate competency in key areas of knowledge, including science and the scientific method, human dimensions of fisheries and wildlife management, ecology and evolution, natural resources management, and pedagogy. The structure of the oral and/or written examination is somewhat flexible and will be determined by the student's Graduate Advisory Committee. For example , the Committee may impose time or page constraints and restrictions as to open- or closed-book format on the written portion of the exam. The oral portion of the preliminary exam normally is a face-to-face exchange between the student and members of the Graduate Committee. It is recommended that the student meet with his/her Advisory Committee and other faculty members prior to preparing for the examination to discuss the nature of the examination and evaluation procedures. The student also is encouraged to experience a mock oral preliminary examination to be administered by fellow graduate students.

Final Examination: Master of Science

Each candidate for a Master of Science degree must pass a final oral examination in the last semester of enrollment. The examination will be a defense of the thesis and an assessment of the candidate's understanding of either fisheries or wildlife management. 

Final Examination: Ph.D.

Each candidate for a Ph.D. degree must pass a final oral examination in the last semester of enrollment. The examination will be primarily a defense of the dissertation, but other areas of questioning may be included.

  • Schedule your exam The Request to Admit Candidate to Final Exam must be submitted through the Electronic Signature System at least two weeks prior to your desired exam date

Degree Time Frame

In general, the department's faculty believes that 24 months for M.S. students and 36 months for Ph.D. students are appropriate minimum time frames for completion of a typical graduate program. However, it is recognized that some students will need and can justify additional time (e.g., for a scheduled multi-year field project).


Bound Copies for the Department

Each graduate will give the department a bound copy of their thesis/dissertation at the time the EDT is signed by the major advisor. The copies should be on 50/50 paper. An M.S. thesis is bound in maroon with the title, student's name, and date on the spine. A Ph.D. dissertation is bound in black with the same information. The thesis/dissertation will be place in the department library.