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Doctor of Arts (D.A.) in Biology

General Information

Approved by the Graduate Education Committee: 9/8/2023

The Doctor of Arts degree was established as a terminal degree in response to pressure to emphasize college and university teaching as an integral part of the attainment of an advanced degree. It was intended to develop the skills of people interested in teaching at the undergraduate level.

The first D.A. program was established at Carnegie-Mellon University in the Fall of 1967. The Committee on Graduate Studies of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States both sanctioned the D.A. in 1970. The Carnegie Foundation subsequently funded it, providing seed money to 10 Universities, including Idaho State, to institutionalize the degree.

Please see the Thesis and Dissertation Archive for a list of Doctor of Arts Program graduates.

Admission Requirements

Application to the DA program in Biology requires that you have:

  1. At least a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) for all upper-division credits taken in the previous degree program in biological sciences or closely related fields.

  2. Identified a Faculty Advisor and corresponded with them directly by email and/or video conference and they invited you to apply to the program. We can’t accept students into the program without a faculty advisor. Communication with a faculty advisor is required prior to submitting your application but does not guarantee acceptance into the graduate program. The faculty advisor and graduate committee will review and rank all applications for admission.

  3. Completed the application to the Graduate School and Department of Biological Sciences, which includes:

  1. Three letters of recommendation from people who can comment on your ability to succeed in a biology graduate program.

  2. An academic resumé or Curriculum Vitae.

  3. Personal statement with - Section A: motivations, career aspirations, and challenges along the career path, Section B: lessons learned and impediments overcome during research experiences, and Section C: alignment of goals/interests with the lab of the proposed faculty advisor.

  4. Transcripts from all institutions attended at the University or College level.

Individuals for whom English is a second language must meet the Graduate School's minimal TOEFL score.

Applicants are expected to have completed a Master's degree prior to entrance into the program. If a student enters the program without having completed the Master's level research paper in biology or a related science she/he must complete this requirement in addition to the D.A. degree requirements.


How does the D.A. differ from the Ph.D.?

D.A. programs require broader study in the discipline, more awareness of interdisciplinary relationships, and, not least, theoretical and practical preparation in pedagogy. Such requirements reflect an awareness of what the undergraduate teacher will be doing.

Does D.A. training ignore research?

No. Like the Ph.D., the D.A. requires that the recipient be well qualified in research techniques; but with a different emphasis. D.A. recipients regard themselves not as researchers primarily - but as teachers. Their research capability is a means of informing both the content and method of their teaching. Additionally, all students entering the program are required to have completed a Master's degree which includes a thesis of original biological research.

Is the D.A. comparable to an Ed.D.?

No. While it is true that D.A. programs include a pedagogy component and invite continual reflection on teaching, they differ from the Ed.D. in the greater emphasis on the discipline to be taught and awareness of its interdisciplinary relationships.

Is a D.A. degree appropriate for teaching in two-year as well as four-year colleges?

Yes. The degree is highly individualized, and the manner in which you fulfill the degree requirements can be tailored to your career goals. D.A.s currently hold positions at both types of institutions.

How long will it take to earn my D.A. degree?

This, of course, depends on individual academic preparation, experience, and effort. Exceptionally able and motivated students with fellowship support may complete requirements in as little as two to three years of full-time study beyond the Master's degree level, though three to four years is more typical. Intermittent residence will, of course, lengthen the time needed to complete degree requirements.

Is financial assistance available?

Yes. It is awarded on a competitive basis and are renewed depending on satisfactory progress in the degree program. Students granted these fellowships receive a yearly stipend, renewed for up to four years, in addition to being granted tuition and graduate fee waivers. These fellowships require no teaching and allow students to pursue study full-time. Should candidates wish to broaden their teaching experience beyond the required internship, they may negotiate to teach one course each semester for additional compensation. Students offered a position without support are also eligible to teach for compensation. They may also compete for fellowship support should a fellowship be vacated.