PLNU’s graduate program in general biology is unique in four main ways. First, it is currently the only part-time program in California that provides an opportunity for earning a graduate degree in general biology. Second, the program is highly flexible. Third, the program offers a general biology degree, rather than a degree focused in a particular area of biology such as ecology, or molecular biology. Finally, the courses are taught by highly qualified, full-time PLNU faculty representing a range of biological specialties.
Due to the scheduling of classes, working professionals from all over southern California are able to complete the part-time program. Hybrid courses during the fall and spring semester meet in-person just once a month, while intensive summer courses held on the main campus allow students to earn 6 units of credit in 6 weeks. On-campus housing is available during the summer classes for students who travel to San Diego.
Many current students, as well as alumni, say that the flexibility of the program is an important factor. There are many options for elective units. Students have the opportunity to earn units for participating in the outstanding Perspectives on Science seminar series held on campus. Additional biology courses can also be used as electives. Students are also encouraged to complete at least one internship in a college biology lab since program graduates are qualified to teach biology at California community colleges. Some students even complete 2-3 internships working with different professors. In addition to many choices in terms of electives, flexibility is also built into the program with four possible entry points each year.
Earning a degree in general biology, rather than a specialized degree in a narrow area of the field, is desirable for many graduate students. Anyone teaching biology from middle school through community college benefits from having a breadth of knowledge and being able to see how ecology connects with molecular biology and with physiology, for example. In addition, taking courses with a small number of other students taught by full-time faculty members is a major benefit. The PLNU biology department faculty is large relative to the size of the university, and the faculty members’ qualifications both in terms of their credentials and research backgrounds, and their commitment to teaching, are outstanding.
Many alumni of the program have stayed in their current full-time positions teaching middle school or high school, but also now work as adjunct faculty members at community colleges or teach dual enrollment biology courses at their high schools so that the students can earn college credit. Other alumni go on to programs such as dentistry or optometry.