Master's degree Course

General Information on the Master’s Degree Course

Students who have successfully completed their Bachelor's degree course in Biology can continue their studies by choosing a consecutive Master's program (application for a direct entry via the semester enrolment) or a specialized Master's program (requiring an application at the specific program, admission based on specific criteria). Students with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology or Biochemistry from an university other than the University of Zurich must apply online for admission (further information).
The Master’s degree course in Biology can comprise 90 or 120 credit points (120 ECTS = 90 ECTS major subject and 30 ECTS minor subject). The admission to a consecutive Master’s degree course implies a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Biochemistry or Biomedicine, which is equivalent to a congruent Bachelor’s degree from the University of Zurich. The permission to the Master’s study in Biology is no guarantee for a Master’s Thesis in a particular Master’s program. Depending on the choice of the Master’s program, the attendance of specific modules become mandatory. These courses can be completed during the Bachelor’s degree course as “Wahlpflichtmodule/Wahlmodule” or during the Master’s program as required courses. Further information on required courses are listed on the respective Master's programs.

Qualification Framework

Master of Science MSc in Biology

Students completing the Master of Science in Biology should be able to:

  1. describe and explain complex biological systems, especially – but not only – in the field of their chosen master.
  2. define the key concepts and methods used in the field of their chosen master, identify and explain interrelationships between them.
  3. extract, compile, critically analyse and judge the significance of data from the literature, thereby outlining the state-of the-art in a specific field.
  4. evaluate biological information, taking account of underlying scientific theories, concepts and practical aspects.
  5. identify the unsolved problems and key questions that exist within a specific biological field.
  6. formulate a scientific hypothesis; design and conduct experiments and/or field investigations to test it.
  7. devise appropriate experimental strategies to tackle particular biological problems, including the use of appropriate positive and negative controls; critically assess the advantages and drawbacks of a specific strategy.
  8. acquire, analyse and interpret data from independent scientific investigations qualitatively and/or quantitatively.
  9. undertake field and/or laboratory investigations of living systems in a competent, responsible and autonomous manner, applying ethical considerations.
  10. communicate results concisely and effectively in both written and oral forms to a scientific audience (reports, oral presentations, posters).

Structure of the Master's degree course (90 ECTS)

The seminars and colloquia provided by the individual research groups count as integral components of the Master’s thesis and research projects. Students are not awarded with additional credit points for attending these seminars and colloquia. The curricula for the Master’s degree courses in Biology at the UZH and ETHZ are coordinated in terms of their subject matter and timetabling, which means that students can put together a program of courses and modules from both institutions, by agreement with the coordinators for the different Master’s concentrations. 
Research internships are not counting towards a Master's degree!
The Master’s degree course consists of:


Core elective modules ("Wahlpflichtmodule") from the advanced studies curriculum 
(only a maximum of 12 ECTS out of Block courses is possible):

Block courses UZH fall semester spring semester
Block courses ETHZ fall semester spring semester
Special lectures UZH fall semester spring semester
Concept courses ETHZ see ETHZ course catalogue  
Other core elective modules Wahlpflichtgruppe 3  
04 ECTS Elective modules
Free choice from the full range of modules offered by UZH and ETHZ

Compulsory course: BIO338 Introduction to Scientific Writing

The module should be taken before writing up the Master’s Thesis.

60 ECTS A Master’s Thesis
completed over a period of twelve months
10 ECTS Compulsory Master's module BIO520 Integrated knowledge in Biology

Learning Agreement

Prior to starting their Master’s program, students must draw up a written agreement with the supervisor of their Master’s thesis and the coordinator for their chosen Master’s program, setting out their full program of studies. This learning agreement must also be signed by the student and the Head of the Academic Support Office of Biology and is binding.
Fill in the online form you will then get a pdf. Get the signature of your supervisor and your Master's coordinator, and bring it personally to the Academic Support Office of Biology (Irchel Y13-J-01). The Learning Agreement must be signed at the latest before starting the Master thesis project work. 
Changes to the agreement are possible when all signees agree on them. The Dean’s Office will only issue Master’s degrees if the courses and modules listed in the learning agreement have been completed. Up to 10 ECTS worth of additional modules than required can be accounted in the final grade average. For this, there is no need for a Learning Agreement adaptation.

Learning Agreement

Example Learning Agreement (PDF, 1452 KB)

Master's thesis (FAQ Master's thesis layout)

The Master’s thesis is defined as a graded module, and the Master’s theses for the 15 consecutive Master’s degree programs all have different module numbers between: BIO 501 - BIO 516. The Master's thesis is commonly written in English.
The Master’s thesis is not paid and has to be absolved as a full-time study.
The start and end date of the Master’s thesis project has to be specified in the learning agreement. The duration of the Master's thesis is one year. However, if work on the thesis is interrupted by one or more block courses, a corresponding extension of the duration is possible and should be noted on the learning agreement in advance.
Instead of a twelve months running Master’s thesis (although this option is pursued rarely), students can complete a three-month research project (15 ECTS) and a nine months Master’s thesis (45 ECTS) or two three-month research projects (15 ECTS each) and a six months Master’s Thesis (30 ECTS). In any case, the research projects have to be completed prior the Master’s thesis.
The students have to arrange their Master’s thesis with a leader of a research group. The leadership of a Master’s thesis can only be undertaken by a person who is taking part as a lecturer in the Bachelor/Master program of the the Faculty of Science UZH and in addition, possess the approval of the coordinator of the respective Master's program. The websites of the institutes within the Division of Biology of the University of Zurich inform about possible theses. There is also a list of affiliated research groups on each Master’s program websites.
Applications for extensions of the deadline due to unforeseen, external reasons (e.g. illness) have to be submitted immediately after the delaying event to the Academic Support Office, including the written consent of the supervisor and the Master’s Coordinator.
By the submission deadline, the Master’s thesis must be submitted to the supervisor and the Academic Support Office in the definitive, printed form and as a PDF on a USB stick. The Master’s Coordinator is entitled to reject unsatisfactory Master’s theses. A one-time repetition of a Master’s thesis with another topic is possible. 

Download FAQ Master's thesis layout (PDF, 79 KB)
List of printing and binding services

Project work

 A project work (research project, BIO 500) lasts three months and is accredited with 15 ECTS. Each project work is listed in the learning agreement. Generally, the rules of the Master’s thesis count analogously. By the submission deadline, the project work must be submitted to the supervisor and the Academic Support Office in the definitive, printed form and as a PDF on a USB stick. Project works and Master’s theses are not bookable by the booking tool of the University of Zurich. The project work leader informs the Academic Support Office about successfully accomplished project works. The Academic Support Office will then care for the granting of the credit points in the learning agreement. 

BIO 520

In the course of the Master’s study the compulsory module BIO 520 “Integrated Knowledge in Biology” (10 ECTS) has to be taken. This module can be completed before or after the Master’s thesis. The exact date is fixed in the learning agreement. The supervisor of the Master’s thesis in collaboration with the Master’s program coordinator discusses and designs the scope and content of the module with each individual student. The examination of the learning outcomes comprises a three-hour written and a 30-60 minute oral examination within the same week. In this examination, students demonstrate their understanding and command of relevant biological facts, methods and concepts. They identify and explain interrelationships between the various facts, methods and concepts and show they are able to summarize and critically review scientific literature efficiently and effectively. The module allows students to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of specialized areas of the Biology curriculum, especially – but not only – in the area of their chosen Master. Students agree on the date for the examination of the learning outcomes directly with the examiners (the Master’s program coordinator and the supervisor of the Master’s thesis). A cancellation due to illness or other unforeseen, external reasons has to be communicated immediately to the person in charge of the exam. The student is deemed to have passed the module if they obtain an overall mark of at least 4. A repetition of each partial test is possible only once.

Application for the final degree MSc

Once the Master thesis, BIO 520 and the other modules agreed on in the learning agreement have been completed, students need to apply for the master's degree in writing with this form Application for final degree MSc in Biology, UZH (PDF, 65 KB)
Please, hand in the form to the Academic Support Office together with a copy of the title page of your thesis.
Academic Support Office, Y13-J-01, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich
In case of questions you will be contacted by e-mail.