Graduate Program FAQs


How do I apply to a Faculty of Agriculture graduate program (MSc or PhD)?

There are several steps in the process to apply for graduate school at Dalhousie University. The formal graduate application is processed through the Faculty of Graduate Studies but specific requirements for the Faculty of Agriculture must also be met. For further information see below:

  1. Explore the Faculty of Agriculture Graduate Studies page to find out what additional requirements must be met.
  2. Contact faculty members in the Faculty of Agriculture to identify complementary research interests and to determine whether they are prepared to supervise a graduate student. Graduate research supervisors MUST confirm their willingness to supervise to the Graduate Office in the Faculty of Agriculture. [Please note that due to the volume of applications, the Faculty of Agriculture will only review applicants who have a confirmed graduate supervisor]
  3. Formally apply to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. For more information review the Faculty of Graduate Studies How to Apply page. 
  4. Make sure that all additional documents identified for the Faculty of Agriculture have been sent in a SINGLE email (incomplete packages will not be reviewed)

How do I find a supervisor?

The first step in finding a graduate position is to review the web pages of faculty members in departments across the Faculty of Agriculture to find research that interests you. Click here for Department Webpage Links

Contact those faculty members to find out if they have openings in their research group. It is generally advisable to provide a general statement about your background, research interests, research experience and academic background.

Some groups may have an immediate opening, but be aware that many research groups have waiting lists and it is recommended you contact researchers as early as possible.

Students who apply without selecting a supervisor (i.e., apply directly to FGS) will not be reviewed by departments but will be kept on file for one year. Students occasionally are selected from this group but more frequently their application is rejected for lack of a position.

How do I get funding for my graduate studies?

There is a financial cost to pursuing graduate studies. The cost of tuition and other student fees at Dalhousie University can be found on the Tuition Fee Schedules page. 

The Faculty of Agriculture and individual researchers may be able to provide limited financial support to successful applicants. It is strongly recommended that students confirm funding with supervisors or otherwise acquire funding from scholarships prior to application. Every graduate student who is accepted into either a MSc or PhD program in the Faculty of Agriculture should review the following for Minimum Recommended Funding Levels.  

External scholarships

Eligible Canadian students are strongly encouraged to apply for an NSERC scholarship in the fall of the year preceding their anticipated start date. Other scholarships are available to potential students through Dalhousie's Harmonized Scholarship Process or for some international applicants through agencies from their country of origin.

Faculty of Agriculture scholarships

The Faculty of Agriculture has a small number of competitive scholarships for students entering their graduate program. These scholarships are through generous donations from external sources and are based on academic achievement.

Research grant

In some cases a supervisor may use their research grant funds to fully or partially support a student who is not eligible for an external or Dalhousie scholarship. Such arrangements must be worked out between the supervisor and graduate student.

How do I apply to the graduate program?

Once you have identified a supervisor in the Faculty of Agriculture, a formal application can be made the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Application requirements

  • Application fee
  • Unofficial transcripts
  • Letters of reference

The application may take from a couple of weeks to several months depending on the time required to verify all documentation and letters of reference.

Apply on line

Candidates must satisfy the common admission criteria to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, as well as the specific for the Faculty of Agriculture. For full admissions criteria, please review the Faculty of Agriculture Graduate Application [PDF - 97 kB].

* Please note that Confirmed Supervision by a member of the Faculty of Agriculture is REQUIRED to be admitted to our graduate programs.

All additional required documents must be sent directly to:

Graduate Studies Office
Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University
62 Cumming Drive
Truro, Nova Scotia
Canada, B2N 5E3

Are GRE scores required/mandatory for my application?

The GRE is not a requirement for applying to the Faculty of Agriculture graduate program. 

What scholarships should I apply for along with my application?

There are some scholarships available for outstanding students applying to our graduate programs. These can be found on the Faculty of Agriculture website.

Can I apply without having already found a supervisor or funding?

No. The Faculty of Agriculture will not review applications received without a CONFIRMED supervisor. Funding is not currently a requirement for acceptance into our programs. Applications are held in our Graduate Office for 1 year and faculty members can request to review applications. Fewer than one in a hundred of such applications are successful.

Do I need a visa to study in Canada and how long will this take?

All international students require a student visa. The time taken to obtain a visa depends on the country of origin. You will need to consult the Canadian Embassy or consulate to determine this.

Do I apply to the MSc or PhD program?

If you do not already have a graduate degree you must apply to the MSc program. At your Admission to Candidacy exam, which occurs after four to eight months into the program, you may apply to transfer to the PhD program.

If you already have a MSc degree you can apply to either the PhD program or the MSc program and request a transfer to the PhD program at your admission to candidacy examination.  The option you select should be discussed with your potential supervisor.

Can I still apply if I don't have an honours undergraduate degree?

The research experience gained doing an honours research project is invaluable in assessing whether or not you enjoy research and have an aptitude for it. Students are usually not accepted without previous research experience. Exceptions can be made if an applicant has extensive relevant practical experience from work or other studies.

Is there a minimum undergraduate grade requirement?

Yes, the Faculty of Graduate Studies requires a minimum B average in the undergraduate degree. In exceptional circumstances, this requirement can be waived at the discretion of the Dean of Graduate Studies. This is done only if the candidate has considerable relevant experience after the undergraduate degree, or if there are extenuating circumstances that explain the low grades. Admission to the program is competitive and often based on scholarship funding, for which the minimum grade is A- in the last two undergraduate years.

How long will my graduate program take?

Time required to complete your program will vary depending on the success of your research project. In general, the MSc degree takes a minimum of one year and usually 2-2.5 years.

The PhD program takes a minimum of two years and usually 4-5 years to complete.

If you transfer from a MSc to a PhD program the total time allotted to the program is typically still 4-5 years.

It is important to note that internal scholarship funding, and many external scholarships, last for only two or four years for an MSc or PhD program, respectively.

How much is tuition?

The cost of graduate tuition and associated fees at Dalhousie University may change each year. For updated information please refer to the Tuition Fee Schedule.

MSc and PhD programs

How much is tuition?

The cost of graduate tuition and associated fees at Dalhousie University may change each year. For updated information please refer to the Tuition Fee Schedule.

What information do I need to know as a Current Student?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies administers all graduate programs at the University. For information on Registration, Health Plans, Professional Development, and Important Dates visit the Current Students page. 

Can I study part-time for a graduate degree?

This is only possible in the MSc program and is rarely recommended.

Can I switch from the MSc to the PhD program?

You can apply to switch from the MSc to the PhD program prior to or after your ATC examination. Transfers should occur within the first year of the MSc program. If interested, you should discuss this possibility with your supervisor and write your ATC proposal for a more substantial PhD project. Transfers from MSc to PhD are only approved when the student has clearly demonstrated an ability to conduct PhD research and the proposed project is deemed appropriate for our PhD program.

Can I switch from the PhD to the MSc program?

Yes. If interested, you should discuss this possibility with your supervisor and the Graduate Coordinator.

Where can I find Forms and Documents for my program?

Graduate Students will use Faculty of Graduate Studies forms for: Letter of Permission, Leave of Absence Request, Notification of Voluntary Withdrawal.

Graduate Students will use the Faculty of Graduate Studies Letter Request Platform to request a "Letter to Confirm Registration and Upper Time to Completion" or a "Letter to Confirm Degree Requirements have been met". 

The Graduate Forms page has forms specific to the Faculty of Agriculture for the Admission to Candidacy Exam, MSc Thesis Defense, Phd Preliminary Exam, and PhD Comprehensive Exam.

PhD students should consult the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Preparing for Your Doctoral Defence page for PhD defence timelines and forms.  

Supervisors and the supervisory committee

If I am having problems with my supervisor, whom should I see?

It is best to first try and solve such problems with your supervisor. Otherwise there are a number of people you can consult. These include:

  • The Graduate Coordinator
  • The Chair of the department
  • Members of the supervisory committee
  • Deparment representative of the Graduate Programs Committee

Who decides the composition of a student’s supervisory committee?

The student and supervisor will agree to the membership of the supervisory committee.

Who should be on my supervisory committee?

The supervisory committee is normally composed of a primary supervisor and/or co-supervisor, and minimum of two other members. At least one of the other committee members must be from the student's academic unit, i.e. department or Faculty. The other committee member(s) may be from other academic units or other institutions. There is no maximum number of supervisory committee members BUT 50% of the committee (including the supervisor) must be full-time Dalhousie faculty (in any department) and registered as a regular member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. All members of the committee must be members of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, i.e. Adjuncts, Adjunct Scholars, or Adjunct PDF Scholars.

Visit the FGS Membership page for the most up to date membership lists. 

Can I change my supervisory committee?

Yes. Discuss with your supervisor and the Graduate Coordinator how to initiate and formalize the change(s).

Can I change my supervisor?

This is rare and can be difficult, but possible. Please discuss with the Graduate Coordinator.

Courses and course requirements

How many courses must I take?

MSc students have a minimum requirement of four graduate level courses (3.0 credit hours each), including the required AGRI5700 Communications Skills and Graduate Seminar.

PhD students must complete a minimum of the two required graduate courses (3.0 credit hours each), including AGRI6700 Research Methods in Year 1 and AGRI6800 Advanced Research Seminar at some point between Years 2 and 3.

Can I take courses in other Dalhousie departments?


Can I take undergraduate courses?

Yes, but these are ancillary courses and do not count towards your minimum number of graduate courses.  

How do I register for courses?

Information on how to register can be found on the Register for Courses page. 

Every student MUST register for the following courses every semester:

Masters of Science

AGRI 9000 Master's Thesis

REGN 9999 Registration Course (Can be found on the Academic Timetable under All > Registration Course - Graduate)


AGRI 9530 Doctoral Thesis 

REGN 9999 Registration Course (Can be found on the Academic Timetable under All > Registration Course - Graduate)

You must also include the appropriate CRN number for each semester associated with your registration. You can register through Dalhousie University Online

How do I arrange Special Topics courses?

The Faculty of Agriculture follows FGS Regulations regarding Special Topics courses. A maximum of 2 Special Topics or Directed Studies courses may be taken in the MSc program. Complete the Special Topics form after having spoken with a potential instructor and submit to the graduate coordinator for approval.

Register for the course online, and list it on your graduate program form or program update form (through the graduate coordinator). 

Forms are available through the Graduate Studies Office on the Agricultural Campus.

Do I have to take the Graduate Communications course

Yes, unless an equivalent course has been taken previously and this has been approved by the graduate coordinator.

Teaching Assistant (TA) requirement

What is the TA requirement?

All MSc graduate students must complete a teaching assistantship in at least one half-credit courses and PhD students must complete two half-credit courses.

Am I paid extra for TAing?

Yes. Students receive a some financial support for each TA position. 

How do I arrange to become a TA?

Contact the TA coordinator in your department, look at the advertisements for positions on campus, or contact department administrators or instructors.

Can I TA more than two courses?

Yes, but those who have not fulfilled their requirement have higher priority.

Can I waive the TA requirement?

If you have TA’d, or taught, the equivalent of two half-credit courses previously you can apply to the graduate coordinator (in writing) to be excused from the TA requirement.

Admission to Candidacy Examination (ATC)

What is the ATC examination?

For the most recent ATC guidlines and planning form, see the Graduate Forms page.  

When should I do my ATC examination?

Within two semesters after starting your program (within 18 months for part-time students).

Who are my ATC examiners?

They are your supervisory committee members and one extra faculty member, who may be from outside the student's department or the institution. The external examiner is nominated by the student/supervisor and requires approval by the graduate coordinator.

Who should read drafts of my ATC proposal?

Your supervisor and supervisory committee may read your ATC document to provide feedback prior to the exam. The external examiner will only receive the final copy of the ATC document.

Can I retake the ATC examination?


Are ATC examinations public?

The ATC is typically open to students, staff, and faculty.  

Should I give the examiners a hard copy or a PDF of the proposal?

The ATC proposal should be submitted electronically to the Graduate Office. This copy, along with additional instructions will be sent to all examiners and the chair of the exam. 

Preliminary examination (PhD students only)

What is the preliminary examination?

Please visit the Graduate Forms page for the most up to date Preliminary Examination Guidelines.

This requirement includes: (1) a written document that frames and describes the proposed research, (2) a presentation, and (3) an oral defense in which the student defends the proposed thesis question, the method(s) required, and shows the level of knowledge required to explore the question.

What am I examined on?

The student will be asked questions related to the proposal and/or related to concepts relevant to the proposed research. The student is being examined for an ability to put together a viable research project and to defend both the rationale and the methodology. In the process, the student must demonstrate mastery of the science on which the work is based. A student may be questioned on general knowledge of methodology required for the project and theory relating to it. 

When should I do my preliminary examination?

Within the first year of the PhD program. Students who are not able to complete it within this timeframe must complete and submit a Preliminary Exam Extension Form. 

The Preliminary Exam Extension Form can be found on the Graduate Forms page.  

Who are the examiners for my preliminary examination?

Your supervisory committee members and an external examiner nominated by the graduate coordinator on the advice of your supervisor.

Are preliminary examinations public?

No, but people can watch the presentation and questions sections at the invitation of the student.

Should I give the examiners hard copies or PDFs of the review essay and progress report?

The review essays and progress reports should be submitted electronically. Note that each examiner has the option to request a hard copy of the review essay and/or report.

Comprehensive examination (PhD students only)

What is the comprehensive examination?

Please visit the Graduate Forms page for the most up to date Comprehensive Examination Guidelines.

A comprehensive examination will reflect the breadth of the program, including topics outside of the thesis, and will give the student the opportunity to demonstrate increased range of knowledge gained during their program related to their general area of research.

The examination will consist of three parts:

i) A written assignment that shall include an essay that critiques a particular subject or question of relevance to the thesis topic.

ii) An oral defense of the literature review and research progress, showing mastery of the field of study, and plan for the program completion.

iii) A progress report.

Where can I find more information?

Please consult the Comprehensive Examination Guidelines for detailed information regarding the requirements. 

Additional forms required for this exam can be found on the Graduate Forms page.

MSc thesis defence

Who are the examiners for my MSc thesis?

Your supervisory committee members, including your supervisor, and one external examiner approved by the graduate coordinator.

The external examiner must have no perceived conflict of interest with the student.

Who sets up the time and place for my MSc thesis defence?

The Graduate Office for the Faculty of Agriculture helps to plan defenses after planning forms are submitted. This is done in consultation with the student and supervisor.

Are MSc examinations public?

Yes, and members of the public can ask questions.

PhD thesis defence

Who are the examiners for my PhD thesis?

Your supervisory committee members, including your supervisor/co-supervisors, and one external examiner approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies on the advice from the graduate coordinator.

The external examiner must have no conflict of interest with the student.

How do I arrange my PhD thesis defence?

The Graduate Studies Office sets the time and date of the examination.  

Your supervisor should send the graduate coordinator at least three names of potential external examiners, in order of preference, including contact information and proposed dates. Submit the names of potential examiners at least 4-5 months before the proposed date of the defense. Once a potential external examiner is identified you will need to complete the "Request to arrange oral defense" form and submit it to the Graduate Office for the Faculty. 

Information on how to complete this form and what you need to do next is outlined on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website  

Are PhD examinations public?

Yes, and members of the public can ask questions.

Scholarships and funding

What happens if my scholarship runs out before I have finished my graduate program?

When your supervisor agrees to supervise you they sign a document which identifies their commitment to funding. This document guarantees that they will provide you with the identified stipend for specific periods of time.

After this time has elapsed there is limited emergency funding from the Faculty of Agriculture and University. Availability and amount of this funding cannot be guaranteed.