Quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) is a sensitive technique for analysis of gene expression under a wide diversity of biological conditions. However, the identification of suitable reference genes is a critical factor for analysis of gene expression data. To determine potential reference genes for normalization of qRT-PCR data in the green alga Volvox carteri, the transcript levels of ten candidate reference genes were measured by qRT-PCR in three experimental sample pools containing different developmental stages, cell types and stress treatments. The expression stability of the candidate reference genes was then calculated using the algorithms geNorm, NormFinder and BestKeeper. The genes for 18S ribosomal RNA (18S) and eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1α2 (eef1) turned out to have the most stable expression levels among the samples both from different developmental stages and different stress treatments. The genes for the ribosomal protein L23 (rpl23) and the TATA-box binding protein (tbpA) showed equivalent transcript levels in the comparison of different cell types, and therefore, can be used as reference genes for cell-type specific gene expression analysis. Our results indicate that more than one reference gene is required for accurate normalization of qRT-PCRs in V. carteri. The reference genes in our study show a much better performance than the housekeeping genes used as a reference in previous studies.