Progression Timeline and Milestones

Appropriate progression through the Masters program requires that students meet the Progression Deadlines outlined below. If a student cannot meet a required deadline, they should submit a Request for Extension.

Failure to meet progression deadlines without approved extensions may negatively influence the ability to receive financial aid and can result in termination from the program.

Nonthesis MS students are required to complete a Student Progression Report at the end of each semester after final grades have been assigned and before the beginning of the next semester of graduate study. The form must be signed and dated by the student and the Major Advisor and submitted to the Graduate Coordinator.

Progression Requirements:

1. Grades Required. A student must maintain a cumulative average of 3.0 in all course work taken for graduate credit. Two grades of C are acceptable, but a third C will lead to termination of the student’s enrollment in the graduate program. A grade of U in any course will lead to termination of the student’s enrollment in the graduate program.

2. MS students must establish a Major Advisor by the first day of ful-time enrollment in the Program. Students will not be admitted into the MS program without a tentative major advisor identified by the Department.

  • Only Biology Graduate Faculty can serve as Major Advisors. Associate Graduate Faculty or Graduate Faculty associated with the Biological Sciences department can serve as co-advisors. If a student has a co-Advisor, they must also have a Major Advisor who is a member of the Graduate Faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences.
  • A student may switch Major Advisors at any time without negative consequences, although switching may delay the ability to meet Progression Requirements for the degree.
  • A major advisor can dismiss a student at any time because of poor performance under their direction or failure to demonstrate timely progression towards the degree. If a student is dismissed by his/her Major Advisor, it is the student’s responsibility to arrange for a replacement advisor within 4 months. If no faculty member has agreed to serve as the Major Advisor within the designated time period, the student will be terminated from the program. The student must notify the Graduate Program Director of the new Major Advisor.

3. By the end of the 2nd semester of graduate study, establish a Supervisory Committee: must be completed. The Supervisory Committee, selected by the student in consultation with his/her Major Advisor, must include three members from the Biology Graduate Faculty. A typical Committee consists of a Major Advisor and two additional Committee members. All members of the Supervisory Committee must have Graduate Faculty Status or Adjunct/Associate Graduate Faculty status. The student must submit a Request to Establish a Supervisory Committee.

4. By the end of the 3rd semester of graduate study, non-thesis track MS students are required to take an oral Comprehensive Exam which evaluates the student’s knowledge in his/her specialty area/capstone project, as well as general knowledge of basic biological concepts. Successful completion of the Comprehensive Exam is required for continuation in the program. The final date allowed for the Comprehensive Exam is the same date as the final date for the Project Approval if the student plans to graduate in the same semester.

  • Oral Exam Format: A block of no less than 2 hours should be reserved for the examination in order to allow for adequate time for questions and answers (though the examination may last longer or shorter than this time). The examination is not public. Questions from the members of the Supervisory Committee will assess the student’s knowledge of his/her specialized areas of interest, graduate course work, and basic/general biological knowledge. When the questioning is finished, the student is excused and the Committee then evaluates the student’s performance. After this discussion, the Committee will vote on the student’s performance. The student will be informed as to whether or not they have passed immediately following the Committee vote. The student will not be informed of the vote tally.
  • Forms for the Comprehensive Exam: It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the following two forms are taken to the exam and subsequently filed with the Graduate Programs Director
  • Examination Retake: In the event the student’s performance is judged not satisfactory, the Supervisory Committee may recommend a retake, which must occur within two months (including summer) of the original exam. Students who fail both the oral exam and the retake oral exam will be dismissed from the program.

5. In consultation with the major advisor and in conjunction with the completion of BIOL6800 Tutorial, each student will complete a Final Assignment or Capstone Project that will be submitted to the Supervisory Committee for evaluation. Specific works are tailored to the interests of the student but recent projects have included a term paper, a review article in the field, a pedagogical study, a laboratory learning module, an online learning module. Acceptance by the Major Advisor and Supervisory Committee is reported using the Master’s Capstone Report for Comprehensive Exam, Portfolio Presentation, Study Report, and Project. Select Capstone Project to indicate a non-thesis MS degree.

6. Time limits for completion. No courses older than seven years (including transfer credits) may be applied toward the MS degree; no course revalidation option exists; courses would need to be retaken. The Graduate School may consider requests for a single extension of the time limits for one (1) year in cases with rare, extenuating circumstances and with supporting documentation. In such cases, the student and graduate program must provide a signed timeline for program completion that does not exceed one year. Failure to adhere to the approved timeline for completion will result in automatic termination of the student’s enrollment for a lack of satisfactory academic progress. Multiple extensions will not be approved.

These time limits are maximums; students will typically be expected to complete all the degree requirements in one-three years.


1. See Graduate Programs Director at the end of the semester/summer session BEFORE you plan to graduate to review the process and consult your DegreeWorks file to ensure all milestones and courses are correct. View the Graduation Checklist for the appropriate semester.

2. Apply for Graduation. To apply to graduate with a graduate Doctoral, Master’s, or graduate certificate degree: Log into, select Banner Self-Service, Student Services, Student Records, and Online Graduation Application. Click “Continue” if this is the first time a graduation application has been submitted, or “Create a New Application” if one has been submitted previously. After completing all sections, click the “Submit” button.

​3. Non-thesis Final Capstone Project completion: In conjunction with the completion of BIOL6800 and in consultation with the Major Advisor, the student will complete an appropriate written assignment or project for submission and acceptance. Completion and acceptance of the product by the Major Advisor and the Supervisory Committee is reported on Master’s Capstone Report for Comprehensive Exam, Portfolio Presentation, Study Report, and Project. Select Capstone Project to indicate a non-thesis MS degree. Check Box marked Project.

Forms and other Graduation Information Click here for additional graduation information available from the UNC Charlotte Graduate School.