Graduate Programs

We offer major programs of study toward master’s and doctoral degrees in a variety of animal science disciplines, including: Nutrition, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Growth Biology, Meat Science and Muscle Biology, Breeding and Genetics, and Reproductive Biology. Our department also formally participates in interdepartmental graduate minor programs in cell and molecular biosciences, ecology and environmental sciences.

Degrees Offered

Doctor of Philosophy (ph.D.)

Graduate programs leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree provide advanced education and technical training in preparation for careers in public and private sectors related to animal science and technology, food science and technology, animal biotechnology, agribusiness and university-level research and education.

The doctoral program emphasizes original, scholarly research and includes significant advanced course work. A minimum of 60 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree and a dissertation describing original research are required. Graduate students are not normally admitted directly into a doctoral program unless they have first received a research-based master’s degree (e.g., M.S., M.Sc.).

There is no foreign language requirement, but knowledge of a foreign language may be recommended by the student’s advisory committee.

Master of Science (M.S.)

The Master of Science (M.S.) degree program requires a minimum of 30 hours of graduate-level course work. The degree includes significant training in research. Students pursuing the M.S. degree achieve specialization in a particular discipline through course work and completion of an original research project under the supervision of a faculty advisor. All M.S. candidates must complete and defend a written thesis based upon results of their research.


Master of Agriculture (M.Ag.)

The Master of Agriculture (M.Ag.) degree program consists largely of course work and prepares students for careers in secondary education, agribusiness and other professions not requiring specialized training in research. A minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate-level course work is required and, while the M.Ag. degree does not require completion of original research and submission of a thesis, expectations for academic excellence and intellectual rigor are not different from those of the M.S. program.

Students pursuing this degree option are expected to engage in and report on some form of structured scholarly activity conducted under the supervision of the major professor and advisory committee. Examples of such mentored scholarly activity might include, but need not be limited to, completion of a field trial, writing a comprehensive literature review or professional paper on a focused scientific subject, development and validation of a novel laboratory procedure, or development of educational resources (software, Web-based resources, classroom/laboratory/extension manuals, etc.).

Conversion from the M.S. program to the non-thesis Master of Agriculture (M.Ag.) program is not permitted except in extraordinary cases and upon written approval of the major professor, all advisory committee members and the department chair.

Graduate School Information and Requirements

Regardless of the degree option being pursued or whether a student has been awarded a departmental research assistantship, all graduate students are expected to demonstrate a high degree of visibility and citizenship in the department and contribute to departmental teaching, research, extension/outreach and(or) administrative activities.

Appropriate types and levels of service are identified and judged accordingly by the major advisor based on needs of the department and consideration of student interest and capabilities. Candidates for all degree programs are expected to bring to their programs a high degree of self-motivation and maturity which will enable them to benefit from the highly individualized and special relationship which ideally develops between student and major advisor.

Graduate research assistantships are not viewed as compensation for services rendered, but rather as stipends awarded competitively to eligible students on the basis of academic merit, research potential and sustained scholarly achievement. Assistantship stipends for M.S. and Ph.D. students are currently $16,044 and $19,657 per year, respectively, including full tuition waiver; non-thesis M.Ag. students are ineligible to receive departmental research assistantships because of statutory restrictions on research expenditures from state appropriations and federal formula funds. Faculty support their graduate students on research assistantships with grant funds or other monies, and assistantship support is negotiated directly between the student and prospective major professor.

Students can start a graduate program any semester. Prospective students wishing to be considered for assistantship support beginning in the fall semester should have completed their application to the graduate program by March 1, and by September 1 in order to be considered for assistantship support beginning in the spring semester. U.S. citizens receive priority consideration for assistantship support, and continuation of financial assistance is dependent upon satisfactory performance and progress toward degree requirements.

The Department of Animal Sciences makes admissions decisions based on the compatibility of the applicant’s goals with departmental resources, the availability of spaces for new students and a holistic evaluation of the applicant’s potential for success in the program. Other considerations will routinely include standardized test scores, grades and(or) grade point averages and letters of recommendation and might also include writing samples, research or applied experience and(or) interviews.

To be considered for admission, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. The applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree in an agricultural, biological or related life science from an accredited U.S. institution, or the equivalent from an international institution. Applicants lacking suitable preparatory course work in the basic sciences will be required to correct deficiencies by satisfactorily completing additional courses. The Department’s Pre-professional curriculum option provides a model of preparatory course work at the undergraduate level that optimally prepares students for graduate study in the animal sciences.
  2. The applicant must be in academic good standing at the institution last attended.
  3. The successful applicant normally will be expected to have a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on all undergraduate course work, or of at least 3.0 on the last 60 semester hours of undergraduate course work. Applicants who hold a graduate degree should have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in all graduate work.
  4. All applicants must submit an official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score report to the Auburn University Graduate School.
  5. Applicants whose native language is not English must score at least 550 on the paper-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) (pBT), 213 on the computer-based TOEFL (cBT), 79 on the internet-based TOEFL (iBT) or 6.5 Overall Band Score on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to be considered for admission. On the iBT, students must score a minimum of 16 on the four component parts of the iBT (reading, listening, speaking and writing).

Prior to making formal application, prospective applicants are required to directly contact a faculty member(s) in the Department of Animal Sciences whose area(s) of research specialization are compatible with their interests, and inquire about availability of openings for new graduate students in their programs. The departmental graduate-program committee will not review an application from a prospective graduate student unless requested to do so by a prospective faculty advisor, nor will it recommend that a student be admitted unless a prospective faculty advisor agrees to sponsor the applicant’s graduate program.

Prospective graduate students should apply directly to the Auburn University Graduate School, indicating the degree program (M.Ag., M.S. or Ph.D) to which they are applying and designating “Animal Sciences” and area of specialization on the electronic application form. Applicants should arrange for official academic transcripts and standardized test (GRE and, if applicable, TOEFL) reports to be sent directly to the Auburn University Graduate School, Hargis Hall, Auburn University, AL 36849; phone: 334/844-4700.

Applicants are required to submit a letter of purpose/intent to the Department’s Graduate Program Officer that indicates the applicant’s area of interest and the basis of his/her motivation for undertaking a graduate degree program. Also, applicants are required to have three letters of recommendation forwarded to the Graduate Program Officer from individuals who can attest to the applicant’s scholarly aptitude and provide insight into the applicant’s qualifications and potential for success as a scientist/educator following completion of a graduate program. Letters of intent and recommendation can be ink-original hard copy sent by surface mail, or .pdf with electronic signature attached to an e-mail message.