Frequently Asked Questions

Graduate Program Application Process

General Questions

Q. What is the deadline for applying for graduate admission?
A. The deadline is December 1 for fall admission.

Q. What is your department's institution code for the purpose of sending test scores?
A. The institution code for UMass is 3917.

Q. Where should I send my application materials?
A. You must apply to our graduate program using the secure online application.

Q. What qualifications does your program look for from the applicants?
A. We look for the applicant’s holistic qualities to succeed in our programs. In particular, we evaluate the evidence of solid scientific knowledge foundation, and skill sets the applicants have developed to design and perform relevant laboratory experiments/analyses, communicate science, collaborate with colleagues, and apply critical thinking to solve problems. We also consider how applicants are enthusiastic and passionate to pursue research career in microbiology. Undergraduate major does not have to be microbiology to apply for our programs.

Q. Are there certain courses I should take before applying to your program?
A. For our accelerated Master of Science in Applied Molecular Biotechnology program, we require an “Organic Chemistry” course, recommend an “Introduction to Biochemistry” course, and favor those applicants who have laboratory experience. For our traditional Master of Science and PhD programs, we have no particular course requirements, but look for the evidence of solid undergraduate education in relevant scientific fields.  

Q. Is there a word limit or a page limit for the personal statement?
A. No. Successful applicants typically write a ~1000-word statement. However, some well-written statements are as short as ~600 words, and longer ones can sometimes go up to 1500 words. The length of the statement is entirely up to you.

Q. Do I need to send an official transcript as a part of my application?
A. No. Please see the submit official transcript section of the UMass Graduate School website.

Q. What are the minimum GRE score?
A. GRE scores are no longer required by any degree programs in the Microbiology Department
Q. If I submit GRE score, would it be considered during the evaluation of my application?
A. No. We no longer consider GRE scores for admission to our Microbiology graduate programs.

Q. Do you have a minimum GPA requirement for any of your programs?
A. No.

Q. My undergraduate major is non-STEM (e.g., humanities, social science, etc.). Can I still apply to your program?
A. The requirements for each of our programs are described by the Graduate School. Beyond the minimal requirements, we evaluate the applicants based on how motivated they are, how experienced they are, and how well-prepared they are to be a graduate student in our Graduate Program.

Q. How many graduate students are enrolled in your program?
A. The Microbiology Department typically has 35-40 students studying in our graduate program.

Q. Can I join the laboratory of a UMass professor who is not a member of your graduate program?
A. Our program includes Microbiology professors as well as adjunct professors from other departments. You can potentially join the laboratory of the professors listed in our program. If your favorite professor is not listed in our program, unfortunately, you will not be able to join his/her laboratory. Please talk to the professor which graduate program you should apply for.

Q. I am from an underrepresented group. Am I eligible for application fee waivers?
A. The UMass Amherst Graduate School is deeply committed to promoting access and inclusion in graduate education for all students, especially those from backgrounds historically underrepresented in higher education. Please read information provided by the Graduate School on inclusion and recruitment.

Additionally, for PhD applicants who are financially disadvantaged, but not eligible for the UMass Amherst Graduate School fee waivers, our Microbiology Graduate Program offers a fee waiver through the Elizabeth Stuart Fund for Graduate Education.

Q.  I am a transfer student and transferred credits from another college to my current university. Do I need to submit a separate transcript from my previous college along with my undergraduate transcript from my current university, even if the transfer credits and school are listed on the transcript from my current university?
A. As long as the names of the courses, credit amounts, and grades are showing on the undergraduate degree transcript, you do not need to provide the additional transcript from your previous college.

M.S. Microbiology Program

Q. How long does it take to complete a Master's degree?
A. The traditional master's degree program typically takes two years to complete.

Q. Which courses are required for the Master's program?
A. Program requirements are briefly described on our website. For more details, please refer to the UMass Graduate School Handbook as well as Microbiology Graduate Student Handbook.

Q. Are there TA positions for Master’s students?
A. Unfortunately, TA positions are rarely available for Master’s students.

Q. How much will it cost to attend your Master’s program?
A. It is the best for you to contact the Office of the Bursar to find current graduate tuition rates and answers to other financial related questions.

Q. Do MS students apply to work for a specific faculty member or can MS students rotate labs like PhD students?
A. MS students do not rotate labs. They are admitted to the laboratory of a specific faculty member. Therefore, it is highly recommended that applicants interested in our Master’s program contact the professors with whom they want to work with and find out if a position is available in the laboratory.

Q. Are MS students required to work as a TA? If not, how do MS students usually qualify for a tuition waiver?
A. MS students are not required to serve as a TA. They can, but the positions are rarely available. As such, unfortunately, tuition waivers are not available to MS students. You should contact a specific faculty member who you want to work with, and find out if Research Assistantship is available. Research Assistantship will provide tuition waiver and stipend, but available only through a research grant individual professors hold. If Research Assistantship is not available, MS students will have to be self-funded.

Q. Should I contact professors I am interested in working with prior to submitting my application?
A. Establishing a prior agreement with a professor is not required, but we highly encourage applicants to get in touch with the professors they are interested in working with. For traditional two-year Master’s program, it is critical that you communicate with a professor you want to work with. We do not accept Master’s students without having a lab to join. Even if you do not have prior communications with a professor, we still try to match you with a lab. However, your prior communication with a professor will facilitate the process.

Q. I applied to the Microbiology Master’s program before the December deadline. What are the next steps?  Is there an interview process?
A. If you are short-listed, you will be invited to have a virtual or in-person interview with the professors who are interested in recruiting you to their labs.

Ph.D. Microbiology Program

Q. How long does it take to complete a Ph.D. degree
A. The typical degree track for a Ph.D. is five years but varies with each student.

Q. What are the options for financial aid in the Microbiology Department?
A. All accepted Ph.D. applicants are considered for financial aid in the form of teaching assistantships. Separate applications for teaching assistantships are not necessary. Teaching assistantships come with a tuition waiver and health insurance. The applicant is responsible for all mandatory fees.

Q. Is a Master's degree required for applying to your PhD program?
A. No. The UMass Graduate School has established minimum requirements for applicants. Additionally, there may be specific department requirements for UMass graduate programs.

Q. I am a Master’s student at UMass. Can I transfer credits from courses I took so far toward my PhD degree?
A. It depends on the course. If you want to make a graduate course you took during your Master’s program a qualifying course to fulfill your PhD requirement, you should first consult with the instructor. It is often not necessary to repeat the same course, but you must demonstrate the proficiency in the content of the course at the level of PhD students. In many of our courses, we require PhD students to complete additional assignments if the students want to use the course as a qualifying course. Therefore, you must consult with the instructor how to convert the course you have taken to a qualifying course. Even if you have already taken several courses as a Master’s student at UMass, it is highly encouraged to take additional courses during the first two years of your PhD program for you to expand the breadth of knowledge. To find out which classes you should take, please consult with the Graduate Program Director or your thesis advisor.

Q. I completed my Master’s degree in another university. Can I transfer my credits and use them to satisfy my degree requirements at your graduate program?
A. Unfortunately, credits transferred from another institution cannot be used to satisfy the University's requirement for graded credits or the 600-800 course level requirement.

Q. Should I contact professors I am interested in working with prior to submitting my application?
A. Establishing a prior agreement with a professor is not required, but we welcome applicants to get in touch with the professors they are interested in working with. For our PhD program, we have two different ways to recruit students. The first is TA track, in which students are offered financial support as a TA. Students are required to participate in a rotation program, in which they rotate two or three laboratories during the first year before deciding the thesis lab. The second is RA track, in which students join a lab directly without participating in the rotation program. Students are supported by RA from the professor's research funding. When you apply, you will be considered for both positions. However, prior to the submission of your application, you are welcome to communicate with professors, with whom you are interested in working with. Such prior communications will give you better ideas about our graduate program and potential RA positions in the labs you may be interested in joining.

Q. I applied to the Microbiology PhD program before the December deadline. What are the next steps?  Is there an interview process?
A. Our Department has a recruitment/retreat weekend in January.  After the Graduate Admissions Committee meets to review all applicants, they decide which prospective PhD students to invite to visit our Department.

Q.  How does a first-year PhD student obtain exposure to the different labs to determine favored area of research?
A.  First year students, who are supported on a teaching assistantship, are required to rotate labs for the first two full semesters. A rotation project lasts for one semester.  A third rotation is optional.  

Q. What types of teaching opportunities are available to graduate students?
A. Teaching Assistantships give experience in teaching and assisting in laboratory or lecture courses.

International Applicants

Q. How many international students do you admit each year?
A. When our Graduate Admissions Committee meets, they review all applications equally whether they be international or US applicants.  They are looking for good overall students whose research interests fit our program.

Q. Do you accept IELTS instead of TOEFL?
A. The Graduate School has an established a policy on the English Language Proficiency Requirement.

Q. What is your institutional code to send my TOEFL scores?
A. The institution code for UMass is 3917.

Q. What is the minimum TOEFL IBT score requirement specific to your program?
A. We do not have program-specific minimum scores for English Language Proficiency tests. Please refer to the University’s minimum required scores.

Q. Would you accept an unofficial TOEFL score report for application review?
A. No. Your official test scores must be transmitted electronically from the test agency to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate School as a part of your application package.

Q. I don’t have the social security number. What should I do?
A. International applicants who have never lived in the US are unlikely to have the social security number. If you don’t have this number, please leave this section of the application form blank.

Q. I am an international applicant, but my native language is English. Can the English Language Proficiency test be waived for my application?
A. The Graduate School has established waiver conditions that must be met to waive the English Language Proficiency test.

Please email the Graduate Student Service Center or contact the center by phone at (413) 545-0722 if you need more assistance.