Jul 17, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Biological Sciences (Ph.D.)

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Program Overview

The Ph.D. is the highest degree in biology and offers general track as well as specializations in integrative biology or neuroscience. Become an expert in your field and have opportunities to collaborate with the Sanford School of Medicine, the USD Missouri River Institute, the USD Sustainability Program, South Dakota State University and other institutions nationally and internationally. Faculty are currently researching areas of aquatic and terrestrial ecology, conservation biology, sustainability, ecotoxicology, plant and animal physiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, cell biology, developmental biology, genetics and evolution. Learn more at usd.edu/grad-biology.

DELIVERY: On campus

Doctor of Philosophy: Total 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree

Biology courses 60-72 credit hours to include:


  • NSCI 792/other topics courses will fulfill the four course topics requirement. Courses taken under a different prefix will be considered supporting coursework and will not count toward the required 60 credit hours of BIOL courses.
  • 50% of the program of study must be at the 700-level or above.
  • Up to 18 credit hours from a previous master’s degree can be applied towards Biology or supporting courses.

Conservation Biology Specialization (15 credit hours Optional)

Integrative Biology Specialization (16 credit hours Optional)

Neuroscience Specialization (15 credit hours, at least 3 credit hours must have the BIOL prefix, Optional)

General Application Requirements

  1. Completed application
  2. $35 application fee
  3. Official transcripts*
  4. Letters of recommendation*
  5. Statement of purpose
  6. Resume/CV*

*Requirements for admission vary by program and may require different documentation and have different deadlines. This list is not all-inclusive, to view specific program requirements and submission deadlines, follow the “Admissions Information” hyperlink at the top of this page OR visit the specific program/dept. page found here: link.usd.edu/grad-catalog

Dissertation Research

The area of concentration for this degree may be selected from the various biological specialties (e.g., ecology, cell biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, evolution, neuroscience, physiology). Completion of the degree requires a demonstrated ability to conduct original and independent research. Each doctoral student is required to take a comprehensive oral examination before the beginning of the third year, after completion of most of the coursework. Candidates for the Ph.D. degree present a departmental seminar and take a final oral examination that addresses the dissertation as well as evaluates the student’s knowledge of broader aspects of biology. See http://www.usd.edu/arts-and-sciences/biology/phd for a description of the advisory committee, the annual progress report, the comprehensive oral examination, the dissertation proposal, and recommended timetable for completion of the degree.

Location Matters for Non-Licensure Track Programs

This program is not designed or advertised to lead to a professional license or certification required for employment.

USD is permitted to operate under the terms of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA) policies and standards in offering online courses/degree programs to residents in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  Online courses/programs may also be offered to residents of California (a non-SARA state) because it does not regulate out-of-state public institutions.

Additionally, this program is authorized to offer supervised field study experiences (internship, externship, clinical, rotation, practicum, independent study, study away, etc.) in South Dakota. Please be aware that there may be some restrictions on your ability to engage in supervised field study outside of South Dakota. Please contact a program representative if you have questions regarding supervised field study.

Distance education courses or programs will not be offered outside of the United States without prior written approval from the University, which may be withheld for any reason. If you are taking distance courses while physically located outside of the United States, it is your responsibility to confirm the following: (a) if the country will recognize an online degree; (b) the availability of supervised field study opportunities in the country; and (c) if the country charges any additional taxes, withholdings or fees associated with online distance education programs.

For more information, please visit USD’s State Authorization page or contact your admissions counselor.


Department of Biology
605-658-6700 | biology@usd.edu | usd.edu/Academics/Colleges-and-Schools/college-of-arts-sciences/biology

Graduate Admissions
605-658-6140 | gradadmissions@usd.edu  | usd.edu/grad


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