Prospective Students

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions at USF Marine Science

Q:   Are there pre-requisite requirements for applying to a degree program at CMS?
A:   Students who have earned an undergraduate degree in biology, geology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, or engineering are likely to have a good foundation for our graduate program, although other undergraduate majors might be suitable.

In summary our prerequisite courses are:

  • 2 semesters each of the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology, and Calculus
  • 15-18 credit hours of upper level coursework in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, or Physics
  • 2 semesters of Statistics preferred for the MRA concentration

For a detailed list of prerequisite courses, please see our Undergraduate Preparation page.

Q:   What if I am missing a pre-requisite requirement?
A:   To be competitive as an applicant and being capable to handle the course work, it is important to have your prerequisites in place. However, students who lack certain prerequisites should discuss their background with their potential major professor in order to determine suitability for the program and how to best address any shortfalls for the program.

Q:   What concentrations and areas of research are available for the MS and PhD programs?
A:   Our program offers coursework in five concentrations: Biological Oceanography, Chemical Oceanography, Geological Oceanography, Physical Oceanography, and Marine Resource Assessment. In addition to these traditional research areas, increasing numbers of interdisciplinary projects are rapidly evolving.

To learn more about research in these areas please visit our Marine Research page.

Q:   How many applications do you receive, and what are the acceptance rates?
A:   Typically we receive over 100 applications and make formal offers to approximately 30 students in an academic year (i.e., a 30% acceptance rate). This rate depends on annual funding opportunities and lab space availability.

Q:   Are there minimum requirements to apply?
A:    To be the most competitive, the following requirements should be met:

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a regionally accredited university (preferable majors include biology, chemistry, geology, physics, or math). Master’s degree in one of the above sciences is highly preferable for Ph.D. applicants.
  • Have earned a “B” (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) average or better in all work attempted while registered as an upper division student working for a baccalaureate degree. (Having these scores does not guarantee admission to our program.)
  • Have completed coursework listed on the Undergraduate Preparation page.
  • Have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within 5 years preceding application.
    • GRE scores are optional. There are some members of our faculty who use the GRE scores as data in their holistic evaluation, however the admissions committee does not consider GRE scores in their holistic evaluation.  The choice to provide GRE scores is up to the applicant.
  • Have the commitment of a Marine Science faculty member to serve as advisor during the student’s graduate studies. This will be determined after your complete application is received and reviewed by the admissions committee and your potential advisor(s). You may reach out to potential advisors as your application is being reviewed.

Q:   What are the most important factors in selecting students for acceptance to CMS?
A:   The Admissions Committee and CMS Faculty review each application holistically. This holistic review includes the student’s academic scores and record, as well as the student’s scientific interests, research experience, recommendation letters, and a well-developed and succinct research essay.

Q:   What is the USF code for the GRE or TOEFL scores?
A:   The ETS code for USF is 5828

Q:   Where should I mail my official transcript?
A:   Mail all transcripts to:

USF Office of Admissions
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, SVC 1036
Tampa, FL 33620, USA

Q:   Who should I ask to submit letters of recommendation?
A:   You should ask for letters from faculty or employers who can speak to your potential and ability to perform well as a graduate research student.

Q:   Is there a form for recommendation letters?
A:   No, there is not a form for recommendations. It is strongly recommended that letters of recommendation be on letterhead and signed by the author.

Q:   When are application decisions made?
A:   The admissions committee reviews all complete applications after the posted deadlines. Fall decisions are typically made during February through April. Spring application decisions are typically made in November. Denied applicants will receive notification by email directly from the Office of Graduate Studies. Accepted applicants will receive notification in the physical mail as well as email from the University and CMS.

Q:   How do I find a faculty advisor?
A:   Each student in our program must have one of our CMS faculty members serve as their major professor, advising them through their research-based thesis or dissertation. We encourage all prospective students to visit our faculty web pages and make direct contact with any of our faculty who may be doing research of particular interest to them. Please list all of the faculty members that you are interested in on your Research Interest Essay. All applications will be reviewed by the admissions committee after the deadline to determine admissibility and to match student’s interests with available professors. Making direct contact (phone/email/video chat) with faculty members of interest is encouraged. Ultimately, admission into our program depends not only upon the competiveness of a student’s application, but also upon the ability of an individual faculty member to serve as a major professor, which depends on their time, space and financial resources.

Q:   Do I have to be accepted by a faculty advisor to be admitted to CMS?
A:   Yes. You must have a commitment of a Marine Science faculty member to serve as advisor during your graduate studies [this will be determined after your complete application is received and reviewed by the admissions committee]. We strongly advise that you reach out to potential faculty advisors while your application is being reviewed. 

Q:   Who do I contact if I would like to schedule a visit?
Please visit our come visit us page for more information regarding visits during this time.

Q:   Who do I contact if I have more questions?
A:   We are here to help you. If you have any questions please contact us at