MA Student Handbook

Registration & Matriculation Policies

Requirements In Brief

  • 2 Residence Units (RU)
  • 9 Points in 3 Required Core Courses
  • 15 Points in Approved Elective Courses
  • 6 Points in Practical Training (Supervised Research or Internship)
  • MA Thesis

All requirements must be met independently to be eligible for graduation. 


Resident Unit Requirements

GSAS requires 2 Residence Units (RU) to be completed for the MA degree. Students can register for 1/4, 1/2, or 1 RU for each Fall or Spring semester.  (This is done by enrolling for that level of RU via SSOL each semester as if it is a class.)

The Registrar will determine the amount of tuition to be paid based on the amount of RU for which a student enrolls and how many courses are taken each semester. Enrollment in RU is independent of academic requirements and is unrelated to housing.

  • 1 RU indicates Full-time status (up to 18 points or ~6 courses)
  • 1/2 RU indicates Part-time status (3 or fewer courses)
  • 1/4 RU indicates Part-time status (2 or fewer courses)

Academic Requirements

  • 9 Points in 3 Required Core Courses
    • GU4034   Biotechnology
    • GU4300   Drugs & Disease
    • GU4305   Seminar in Biotechnology
  • 15 Points in Approved Elective Courses
    • list of pre-approved courses is posted on the program website. 
    • All electives must be 4000 level or above to count toward degree requirements.
    • Up to three approved electives can focus on biotechnology-related topics, such as law, business, or drug regulation.
    • Approved science electives may be offered by the Department of Biological Sciences and other STEM Departments on the Morningside and Health Sciences campus.
    • For any electives not listed as pre-approved, check with the program office first. Send the syllabus and be prepared to justify why it is relevant to a career in biotechnology. 
    • No course taken for P/F or R credit may be counted towards the Academic Requirements of the degree. 
  • 6 Points in Practical Training (Supervised Research or Internship)
    • BIOT GR5500 or BIOT GR5501 during the Fall or Spring semester (RU required, no Admin fee)
    • BIOL S4502 or BIOL S4503 during the Summer semester (no RU required, but $1000 Admin fee needed)
    • For all of these courses, Section 001 indicates 3 points (170 hrs) and Section 002 indicates 6 points (340 hrs).
    • Prior Program approval of Supervised Research or Supervised Internship Advisors is required.
    • Supervised Research will be conducted in a research laboratory, while a Supervised Internship will be performed in a Program-approved biotechnology-focused business setting in the New York City Metropolitan area.


Continuous Registration Requirement

Continuous registration during the Fall and Spring semesters is required. For October and February degree conferrals, registration for the last partial semester is not required if the thesis is near completion by the end of the previous term, evidenced by the timely submission of all materials. However, you will not have library, computing, health insurance, or university housing privileges during that time. See


Summer registration is required only if you are taking classes or completing practical training.  Enrollment in RU is not required for summer if BIOL S4502 or BIOL S4503 is the only course taken. Only a $1000 administrative fee will be required for the courses for practical training in the summer.

Matriculation & Facilities

Matriculation & Facilities (M&F) can only be used for the semester in which thesis is deposited if RU or Extended RU is registered in the immediately preceding terms. 

Leave of Absence 

If continuous registration is not possible, students may apply for a Leave of Absence (LoA) from the GSAS.  LoA is usually granted for 1 semester.  LoA for a second semester may be possible. Returning from LoA of longer than 1 semester requires an application for readmission.  Readmission is not automatic.

Academic Standards

We encourage all students to be academically rigorous in all their studies. Grades obtained in approved courses must be a C or higher to count toward the 30-point degree requirement. Repeated low performance in coursework may be grounds for academic probation.

GPA of 2.67 or higher calculated on all scientific courses counted toward the 30-point requirement. 

GPA of 2.67 or higher calculated on all courses counted toward the 30-point requirement. 

Practical Training

Supervised Research or Supervised Internship

Practical Training gives real world experience for students to hone crucial analytical skills and communication in the workplace.  Supervised Research (SR) or Supervised Internship (SI) requires the student to find a research faculty member or a biotechnology-focused business leader in the NYC Metropolitan area, respectively, who will act as an Advisor and permit an independent project to be conducted with oversight from the Advisor and possibly an intermediate (daily/weekly) supervisor.  Pre-approval of the SR/SI Advisor and the SR/SI project by the Program Director is required before the SR/SI begins.   Progress reports and a Final Report are required for completion of SR/SI.  

Refer to the detailed information, guidance and deadlines on the Practical Training page here.

MA Thesis

While enrollment in a thesis course is not required for completion of the MA Thesis, students should budget the same effort/time as a 3 point course for completing this required step of the MA in Biotechnology Program.  So that the MA Thesis reflects the culmination of the student's development in the MA Program, it must be undertaken in the last full-semester before the MA degree will be conferred.

There are three formats from which to choose for the MA Thesis.

  • Format I - A literature review on a topic of high research interest
  • Format II - A research proposal, akin to a pre-doctoral fellowship application 
  • Format III - A research report to describe experimental work completed while in the MA Program above and beyond that done for SR.

Refer to the detailed information, guidance and deadlines on the MA Thesis page here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I register for just 3 courses covers by 1 RU? 

A: Yes. 

Q: Is there a time limit to complete this 2 RU requirement? 

A: 2 years full-time, 4 years part-time. You must be continuously registered. 

Q: What if I completed 30 points but have only 1 1/2 RU? 

A: You still need to accrue the remaining 1/2 RU. You can pay the money without taking any classes OR take other electives, even those that may not be biotech-related, but instead may be of personal interest.  

Q: What if I completed 2 RU but have not completed the academic requirements? 

A: If you have more course requirements to complete, register for Extended RU, which can only be used after 2 RU have been accrued.  It allows more classes to be taken, but costs much less than 1 RU. 

Q: I have taken two graduate-level biology courses. Can I transfer those credits? 

A: The only transfer credits allowed are those from Columbia University School of Professional Studies taken by non-degreed students. Up to two biology courses from the "pre-approved list" with a grade of B or above may be considered for transfer. Credit transfer is not automatic. Send an e-mail request to the Program Director at the beginning of your matriculation with the course title and term taken. 

Q: How can I obtain academic advising?

A: Academic advising begins with accepting the offer of admission and is ongoing throughout a student's matriculation.  And Program Director approval for course selections must be obtained prior to registration for each semester.  

Q: I am almost done with all my requirements.  What do I do to get my degree?

A: Degrees are conferred three times in an academic year:  October, February, and May  See Academic Calendar or Thesis Deadlines for exact dates.  Complete a Degree Application Form online via SSOL.  Applying for a degree does not guarantee or obligate you to graduate by a specific date.

Q: When and how do I get my diploma?

A: If you apply for graduation on time, you can pick up the diploma from the registrar the day after the degree conferral date.  After that, the diploma will be mailed to the address indicated on the Degree Application Form. 

Q: When and how do I participate in the commencement?

A:  There is only one MA Convocation and one University Commencement per year, in May.  Those whose degrees were conferred in either October and February may participate in the Convocation and Commencement held in the May after finishing their degrees.  GSAS will inform graduates about these events, tickets, and academic regalia.  This MA program also hosts its own reception for the graduates and their guests.