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Graduate Education

We offer M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. Students specialize in either Fish or Wildlife Conservation. Coursework is tailored to the interest and needs of the students in consultation with the student's graduate committee.


Our Program

Successful applicants to our program usually have grade point averages above 3.5/4.0 (over the last 60 semester hours) and GRE scores at or above 160 in verbal and in quantitative and analytical areas. Discipline-related experience is always a plus. Students with backgrounds in fisheries, wildlife, or natural resource management tend to be accepted at a higher rate than students with degrees in biology or environmental sciences. Although obviously there are many similarities between the fields, having a solid ecological background, an applied perspective, and background in policy and management is very helpful as you pursue an advanced degree in fish and wildlife conservation.

If you do not have a B.S. in a resource management field, and you have the opportunity to take courses in natural resource management or fisheries and wildlife management, you would increase your chances of acceptance. You also might gain a better feel for whether you'd prefer enrolling in an ecology program or a fisheries and wildlife program. We accept students into the Ph.D. program only if they have completed an M.S. degree. We accept students only when a faculty member has a sponsored contract to support stipend, tuition, and research expenses. 

Updated lists of available positions are posted here. Please check the list of available positions on a regular basis to see if there are opportunities for the upcoming semesters that match your research interests. Please be aware that we receive some funding opportunities at the last minute. It will be worth re-checking this website periodically. Students are encouraged to check the list of faculty research and academic interests, listed here, and correspond with a particular faculty member about likely openings in the next year or two. If you submit a formal application, you will be considered for any openings. 

Virginia Tech has a strong commitment to the principle of diversity and, in that spirit, seeks a broad spectrum of candidates including women, minorities, and people with disabilities. Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of race, sex, disability, age, veteran status, national origin, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.


Curriculum and Facilities

The comprehensive curriculum covers fish and wildlife biology and ecology, habitat analysis, and human dimensions of natural resource science and management. Faculty specialties include endangered species management, cold water stream management, conservation genetics, tropic ecology, recycling aquaculture systems, wildlife physiology and ecotoxicology, habitat analysis and management, geographic information systems, human dimensions, policy and administration. M.S. programs stress preparation for professional careers in public agencies and private organizations with fisheries and wildlife responsibilities; doctoral programs stress preparation for research and leadership positions in public agencies and for university faculty positions. M.S. students must complete a minimum on 30 credit hours, while Ph.D. students complete a minimum of 90 credit hours.

The department hosts cooperative units with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service, and works closely with a related National Park Service unit. These cooperatives provide students with access to lands, waters, animals, facilities, and equipment throughout the nation. The department maintains facilities in Cheatham and Latham Halls for laboratory analysis, small-scale aquatic experiments, small-animal holding, computer analysis, and geographic information systems. Latest computer technology is available. The department collaborates frequently with the Conservation Management Institute, a research, survey, and outreach organization that grew out of the department's research. Three aquaculture laboratories provide state-of-the-art facilities for endangered species and food fish aquaculture. Center Woods is an on-campus woodlot housing captive animal facilities for deer, bear, grouse, and other animals. Most student research, however, is conducted in field locations; most projects are in Virginia and adjacent states, but current projects also occur in Mexico, Belize, Brazil, Indonesia, Botswana, Ghana, Madagascar and other countries.


Special 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.


Application Process

Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to speak with faculty to determine if openings are available before submitting an application to the Graduate School. Applicants are also encouraged to apply online. This will expedite the processing of your application. For those who are not able to apply online, paper applications are available. There is a $75 non-refundable application fee, which is valid for one year. Additional information is available at www.graduateschool.vt.edu

GRE & TOEFL Requirements

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) General Test is required for all applicants to the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. A passing grade on the TOEFL (Test of English as a foreign Language) test is required for all international students whose first language is not English, except those applicants who have graduated from an accredited university where English is the language of instruction. All test scores should be sent to the Graduate School. 


During the application process, scanned copies of your official transcripts will be needed. Please do not mail your official transcripts to the Graduate School until you have received an offer of admission from Virginia Tech. Additional information is available at http://graduateschool.vt.edu/admissions/how-to-apply/submitting_transcripts.html.

Letters of Recommendation

During the application process, applicants are strongly encouraged to provide the name and email address for each reference for online submittal. If applicants choose to have paper letters of recommendation submitted, the letters should be sent to:

Dana Keith
Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation
310 West Campus Drive
Cheatham Hall, RM 100, Virginia Tech (MC0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Common Resources

Student Life

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There are a number of scholarships available for students within the department and college. Most scholarships have need-based and/or merit-based restrictions with varying award amounts.

Graduate Assistantships

To learn more about our graduate study options, check out our faculty research and available assistantships



Dana Keith
Assistant to Department Head
Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Cheatham Hall, RM100, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Drive (MC0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Phone: (540) 231-5573
Fax: (540) 231-7580


Dr. Sarah Karpanty 
Graduate Program Coordinator 

Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Cheatham Hall, RM150, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Drive (MC0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Phone: (540) 231-4586
Fax: (540) 231-7580
Email: karpanty@vt.edu


Stephanie Hart, Director
The Advising Center
Cheatham Hall, RM138, Virginia Tech
310 West Campus Drive (MC0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Phone: (540) 231-5482
http://cnre.vt.edu/students Email: cnre_students@vt.edu