Graduates of SAFS programs are well prepared for their future career choices. Because they graduate with a broad disciplinary knowledge and possess key skills in analytical processing, critical thinking, and professional communication, our graduates have a high placement rate in a range of occupations. In addition, BS students often use their intensive Capstone senior projects as launching pads to get a job or apply for graduate school.
An advanced degree (MS or PhD) in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences from the UW can open the door to diverse fields, including resource management and conservation, education, and aquatic science research and consulting. Our graduate students work closely with faculty in their labs and have the opportunity to build a professional network based on interactions with faculty, colleagues, peers, and other professionals, in the field, at conferences, and through internships.
Our graduates work in academia, government agencies, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations.
SAFS faculty and peers are excellent resources to find opportunities to build your career. Don’t hesitate to reach out, and remember, your academic adviser is a great source of guidance as well.
Scroll down to learn more about Research & Independent Study, Applying to Graduate School, Professional Development, and a list of Career Resources.
Research & Independent Study
We encourage undergraduate students to participate in research at SAFS. Undergraduate students conduct research as Capstone students, paid research assistants, work study students, or volunteers. Research provides valuable learning opportunities, enabling students to explore different scientific disciplines, develop professional and technical skills, and build relationships with the scientific community. Don’t be shy about reaching out to graduate students and faculty about research opportunities in their labs!
More information on how to find a project, how to inquire about an opportunity, and how to register for credits can be found here: https://fish.uw.edu/students/undergraduate-program/research-and-internships/
NOTE: The content here generally focuses on graduate programs in the United States.
Some scientific jobs require additional graduate-level training and course work. While you are an undergraduate student, think about your career goals and evaluate whether a graduate education is something that you would like to pursue. What are your long-term goals and will graduate school help you achieve them? If you are interested in applying to graduate school, we have compiled some useful information below. We also strongly encourage you to talk to current SAFS graduate students, postdocs, and faculty, about their experiences in graduate school.
WHAT is grad school & WHAT to expect
Graduate school in Biology or Fisheries Science is very different from undergraduate education or professional graduate training programs (for example, Medical School, Law School, etc.). In graduate school, most training and learning is done outside of a formal classroom setting. Graduate programs require that you take a small number of classes to build foundational knowledge, but most of your learning will occur as you conduct your own research projects in the laboratory or field. For that reason, your peers, lab mates, and graduate adviser will be your greatest resources. Furthermore, you should expect to spend a lot of time learning independently. To prepare for this (potentially stressful) transition to graduate education, we recommend that you become involved in research as an undergraduate. This will allow you to explore different research topics and identify areas of interest, get some insights into graduate student life, and identify mentorship styles that are compatible with your learning style.
WHEN to start thinking about applying, preparing to apply and actually applying
General Timeline – if applying to graduate school immediately after completing an undergraduate program NOTE: Given timeline is for graduate programs in the United States; timelines may differ for graduate programs in other countries
Freshman to Junior year: become involved in research
Junior year: start looking at schools that interest you; attend graduate school info events
Summer/early autumn after junior year: sign-up and take the GRE; prepare fellowship applications (Note: the GRE is no longer required for all graduate schools, so check with the schools you are interested in)
Beginning of autumn senior year: ask faculty to write letters of recommendation; prepare resume; fill out graduate school application forms; write statement of purpose
End of autumn quarter senior year: request transcripts to be sent to schools; submit fellowship applications
December to early January: application deadlines (will vary by school)
February/March: visit schools
April 15thor later: deadline for acceptance of offers with financial assistance typically due* (deadlines may vary); *NOTE: Schools that belong to the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) are not allowed to obligate offerees to respond before 4/15, per the CGS resolution (includes list of participating institutions)
Graduate School – Immediately or Wait a Few Years?
Benefits of waiting to start graduate school
Gives you time to determine exactly what you’d like to study
Provides experience by working as a technician or in other positions
WHERE to apply
General factors to consider
Institutions/programs that are doing research in your interest area
Potential advisors that you could work with
It is extremely important to choose a compatible and supportive graduate school advisor. When you are considering different advisors, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
Do the advisor’s research interests closely match your own?
Does the advisor have funding for you?
What is the advisor’s mentorship style? (e.g. hands-on? hands-off? Do they meet weekly with their graduate students? What is their communication style? What are their expectations for graduate students? Are current graduate students in their lab satisfied with their learning and working environment?)
HOW to apply, HOW much does it cost, HOW to find funding, HOW to decide
Applying – every institution has their own forms, timelines, procedures, requirements, etc. but standard materials include:
Online application form(s)
Statement of Purpose
Two (or more) letters of recommendation
Additional materials for international students (scores for TOEFL, TSE, etc.)
Some schools/faculty advisers require the GRE
Please see this article for a very helpful explanation of the materials included in a typical Graduate School Application.
Review application materials and deadlines very carefully as you prepare to apply (see general timeline in “When” above)
Cost – In general, graduate students in the biological or fishery sciences do NOT pay for their graduate education. Instead, graduate students are employed as Teaching Assistants or Research Assistants through their graduate programs, so they receive a modest salary and their tuition is fully covered. Additionally, there are scholarships and fellowships that are available to graduate students. The cost of graduate school will vary by institution but generally includes tuition and fees; note that many institutions may have different tuition/fee costs for in-state students versus out-of-state students.
Funding – many research programs will have funding available for graduate students; some may not admit students without identifying a source of funding, whether it be from the program or from an external funding source.
Typical funding for a graduate student may come from several sources:
Ask lots of questions of the faculty, academic adviser, and graduate students in the programs you’re considering – find out about the department culture, what are the faculty adviser’s expectations and how do they interact/communicate with their graduate students and lab staff, what support systems are in place for graduate students (i.e. academic advising, health/wellness resources, etc.).
Make time to chat specifically with graduate students who are advised by your potential graduate mentor(s), as they can provide you with first-hand knowledge about their supervisor’s lab culture, advising style, and level of research support.
You will spend thousands of hours working on your Master’s thesis or PhD dissertation, so be sure to ask yourself: will I be happy doing this research for the next 2-6 years? Will I be happy working with this advisor and lab group for the next 2-6 years?
Consider the location of the institutions you’re considering – the local community; the cultural and social environment of the department, and the cost of living relative to graduate student stipends. All of these factors will influence your quality of life in graduate school. You’ll be living in the area for 3-6 years, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding
Weigh the funding offers – are they competitive? Do they provide you the funding and benefits that you need? Is the source/duration of the funding offer transparent and confirmed?
It can be really hard to make a decision on what graduate school to attend! For a very honest and humorous perspective on this decision-making process, check out this article.
The UW Career & Internship Center is an amazing resource on career and professional development. Among other things, they host information, workshops and tutorials on: