Jump to main content

Doctorate of Biological Education

Contact: Dr. Mitchell McGlaughlin, 970-351-2139 (telephone), Mitchell.McGlaughlin@unco.edu (e-mail).

University catalogs:  http://unco.smartcatalogiq.com/

Application deadline: Applications are accepted at any time during the year.


This program leads to a Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Biological Education. 

How does this degree program work?

This Ph.D. degree program requires the defense of a dissertation as the culminating demonstration of achievement.  The degree program specializes in training biologists to be experts in their disciplines and outstanding college biology teachers.  This is accomplished through the completion of course work, an intensive research project, and a supervised teaching experience.  Before beginning this program, you should identify a potential faculty research mentor (or mentors) from among the research active faculty in biology.  Thereafter, in the pursuit of this degree, you will work closely with your faculty mentor who will help you to customize your program of study as well as identify a research question and formulate a research design appropriate to testing your question.

In the Ph.D. degree program, you can choose between an emphasis on the content of your chosen biology specialty or an emphasis on biology pedagogy.  Regardless of which emphasis you choose, you will be trained in some of both to give you a rounded skill-set and the expertise to seek a career as an independent scientist, a college biology teacher, or both!  For this reason, our Ph.D. degree is awarded in the area of Biological Education.  The graduates of our doctoral program have found 100% employment in their fields.  Many of our students have multiple job offers even before they graduate.  We can do the same for you.

Who is this degree program for?

This degree is appropriate for talented students who already possess a Bachelor's or Master's degree in the sciences and who want the requisite training appropriate for a professional career in teaching, research, advocacy, government, or other advanced scientific positions.  It can be used as a stepping stone to post-doctoral training in related fields. 

Degree requirements

This degree requires completion of 64 credits of study.  The UNC catalogs contain the official descriptions and requirements of all programs at the university. 

What we mean by...


Content is the meat of science.  In other words, "content" refers to the facts, concepts, technical skills, and critical thinking skills that you must master to be a scientist.


Pedagogy is the art, practice, or profession of teaching.  Pedagogy also refers to the principles and methods of teaching.

Applying to the program

Prior education

Before admission, you must have completed all of the following:

  1. A Bachelor's degree
  2. At least four courses in biology
  3. A combined total of three courses in the areas of chemistry, calculus or physics

Application materials

A complete application will include the following five things to be submitted as indicated:

  1. Official undergraduate and graduate (if applicable) transcripts -- to be submitted directly to the UNC Graduate School by the institutions you attended
  2. General GRE scores -- to be submitted directly to the UNC Graduate School by Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  3. A completed application form -- to be completed on-line through the UNC Graduate School
  4. Three letters of recommendation -- to be submitted by your referees/letter writers using this online reference form
  5. A letter of intent -- to be submitted on-line to the UNC Graduate School during the application process

Reference letters

What letters should include

Letters of recommendation (also called letters of reference) are extremely important to your application. Choose the people that you ask to write these letters wisely. These persons should be able to comment on your potential for successful graduate work from a position of experience. A good letter of reference will be printed on letterhead stationary and include the following:

  • A statement of how the person knows you and for how long
  • An indication of the person's professional expertise
  • Comments on your intellectual ability, creativity, time-management skills, work ethic, collegiality, and ability to work under pressure
  • Comments on your writing and verbal communication skills
  • Percentile rankings of your potential and abilities based on others at your level of education and experience

Make it easy for your recommender

  • Ask each potential recommender if they are willing to act as a professional reference on your behalf.  If they decline your request, move on. 
  • Be sure to let each potential recommender know the deadline for submission of the recommendation because this may influence their decision.
  • Provide your recommender the list of expectations (above) for what should be included in the letter.
  • Supply a copy of your Curriculum vitae to each recommender to refresh their memory about your past education and achievements. This is particularly important if you haven't kept in touch with them for a while.
  • Supply a copy of your letter of intent to each recommender. This will help them to understand why you are applying to graduate school and what you want to do with your advanced education.

The letter of intent

What your letter should include

At a minimum, your letter of intent should include these two things:

  1. Your academic interests
  2. Your career goals

What your letter could include

In addition to the required components of the letter of intent (listed above), you may choose to add more information that you believe is important for the School to consider in reviewing your application.

A letter of intent can be used to explain who you are, the path that you have chosen to reach your current educational standing, your accomplishments along the way, and how you have prepared yourself for graduate school. Your letter can explain why the School should consider you over other persons for a graduate position -- in other words, why you are likely to succeed. Tangible examples of past successes are useful to support your argument. The letter of intent is also your opportunity to present compelling information that you do not feel is adequately communicated in the other application materials.

In addition to the obvious use of the letter of intent for communicating to the School, it also serves the School as an example of your communication skills.

Funding options to pay for school

There are several options available to you for obtaining living expenses while pursuing your graduate education. These are:

  • Graduate teaching assistantship (GTA): A teaching assistantship is the most common mechanism used by UNC biology graduate students for earning an income while working on a degree. These are available for both Master's (thesis) and doctoral students. Teaching responsibilities vary, but students typically teach in an area related to their program of study. 
  • Graduate research assistantship (GRA): Research assistantships are available through individual faculty persons (typically the research mentor) who pay a student to work on one of their research projects. These are available to both Master's (thesis) and doctoral students. 
  • Scholarships: These are typically awarded based on merit. To be eligible for most scholarships, you must have completed the financial aid application with the University -- even if you don't expect to receive financial aid of any other type!