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Online Degrees in Computational Biology

Computational biology is an emerging field that uses computers to help understand and predict outcomes in the biological sciences. There are online programs in this field, and in this article you'll learn about different degree programs offered, topics of study and potential career paths.

What Levels of Computational Biology Degree Can I Earn?

Schools that offer a 4-year degree program in this field usually offer a Bachelor of Science. You can also pursue a Master of Science and a Ph.D. degree. Some programs grant degrees in computational biology. Other schools have programs in computational biology and bioinformatics or computer science and computational biology. A few schools have degrees in computer science with a computational biology concentration.

Degree Levels Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral
Common Courses Cell biology, algorithms, biometrics, research ethics
Career Paths Software development, research, data analysis, teaching in academics
Median Salary (2018)$44,500 (Biological Technicians)
Job Outlook (2018-2028)7% growth (Biological Technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Topics Will I Study?

At the bachelor's degree level, you'll take a broad range of biology, computer and math classes. You can expect to study molecular and cell biology, genetics and biochemistry. There may also be required classes in algorithms, computer programming, probability and statistics. Most bachelor's degree programs will encourage you to continue your education so you can focus your studies on a field of interest.

In a master's degree program you will take certain general classes as well as focus on a particular area, like the human genome or molecular experimentation. You might take classes in prediction and inference, molecular biophysics or biometrics, (the different methods for measuring humans). Ph.D. programs allow you to continue focusing your studies on your interest area. You may study advanced computer programming, biological analysis and prediction or genome analysis. You can also expect to take classes in research ethics and methodology.

What Kinds of Careers Can I Pursue?

If you have only a bachelor's degree, you will likely find your career choices limited, as most positions require at least a master's degree. You might find work at a pharmaceutical company in a sales position or at a bioengineering company conducting data analysis. With a master's degree you may find more employment options, but they will likely still be limited. You could work as a lab technician or information technologist.

With a Ph.D., you will find far more careers options open to you. There would be employment opportunities with the government, a private research lab or a biotechnology firm. You might be responsible for developing software and tools to analyze and predict biological data. Or, you could conduct targeted research, possibly analyzing a particular gene sequence. You would also be qualified to teach in an academic setting as well as conducting research.