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Top Biology Schools

Learn about the degree levels available to aspiring biology students at three top schools. Get facts about school rankings and research facilities along with tips for selecting a school.

What Are Some Characteristics of Top Biology Schools?

Look for schools that have laboratory research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. If you're interested in a medical career, you might investigate schools with an affiliated medical school or teaching hospital; some universities offer combined degree programs, like a Doctor of Medicine/Ph.D. in Biology. You may want to consider schools that specialize in a particular area of the field, like genetics or molecular biology.

What Are Three Top Biology Schools?

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena

Caltech received a ninth-place ranking from the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2018 (www.awru.org). In 2019, U.S. News & World Report placed CalTech in a tied fourth-place ranking for its graduate biological sciences program and in a tie for the 12th place spot among national universities (www.usnews.com). Primary biology research areas at Caltech include structural, molecular and cell biology, developmental and regulatory biology, and molecular, cellular and integrative neuroscience.

You'll participate in biology research programs through the Division of Biology. The general undergraduate math and science curriculum for biology students meets the entrance requirements for medical school. Summer shadowing programs with the Children's Hospital Los Angeles or Huntington Memorial Hospital are available for pre-med students.

A Bachelor of Science in Biology program is available with several major areas of study, such as astrophysics, bioengineering and geobiology. Those interested in earning a Ph.D. have several biology options, including cellular biology, genetics, developmental biology, biophysics, and molecular biology. In conjunction with UCLA and the University of Southern California, students can also earn joint Ph.D./MD degrees.

Biology laboratories on campus include the Norman W. Church Laboratory for Chemical Biology, the Broad Center for the Biological Sciences and the Alles Laboratory for Molecular Biology. Special facilities for flow cytometry and cell sorting as well as a biological imaging center are also available. Graduate research opportunities range from biochemistry to virology, with particular strength in neurobiology. Additional degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biology

Duke University in Durham, NC

Duke University was ranked 26th by the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2018. In 2019, Duke University was also tied at 8th among national universities and tied for 10th for its graduate biological sciences program in ratings by U.S. News & World Report.

The Department of Biology hosts faculty research laboratories, and as an undergrad, you'll have opportunities for lab work as a volunteer, work-study or paid staff member. You could study at the Duke University Marine Laboratory; you could also study abroad in South Africa, Costa Rica or Australia. Undergraduate fellowship and summer research opportunities may be available as well. Both undergraduates and graduates have course and travel options through the Organization for Tropical Studies.

Faculty and students affiliated with the graduate biology program collaborate with university-wide programs in cellular and molecular biology, genetics and genomics, ecology and developmental biology. The department also has relationships with the Duke University Medical Center as well as the Nicholas School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. Graduate students are only admitted to the doctoral program, though a master's degree may be earned as part of the doctoral program curriculum. Other available degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Biology
  • B.S. in Biology
  • M.S. in Biology
  • Ph.D. in Biology

Washington University in St. Louis (WU)

Washington University in St. Louis was ranked 20th by the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2018. The school was tied for 19th among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2019 rankings, as well as being tied for 13th for its graduate biological sciences program. The Department of Biology emphasizes population and plant biology, genetics and neuroscience.

You could pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a specialization in ecology and evolution, genomics and computational biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, or neuroscience. If you're interested in medicine, the PreHealth program is designed to help undergraduate students prepare for medical school. WU's Office of Undergraduate Research promotes summer research opportunities.

Graduate students may choose from twelve cross-disciplinary doctoral training programs. Customized special emphasis pathways are available that can help students integrate coursework from related fields into their respective program curriculum. Biology Department resources include DNA sequencing and imaging facilities, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. You could earn a combined M.D./Ph.D. through the Medical Scientist Training Program. The following degrees are also available:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Biology
  • Ph.D. in Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology
  • Ph.D. in Plant and Microbial Biosciences
  • Ph.D. in Biochemistry
  • Ph.D. in Developmental, Regenerative and Stem Cell Biology
  • Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Genomics
  • Ph.D. in Computational and Systems Biology
  • Ph.D. in Computational and Molecular Biophysics
  • Ph.D. in Molecular Cell Biology
  • Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis
  • Ph.D. in Neurosciences
  • Ph.D. in Immunology
  • Ph.D. in Human and Statistical Genetics

10 Schools with Top Biology Programs

College/University Institution Type LocationEstimated Graduate In-State Tuition (2018-2019)*
Harvard University 4-year, Private Boston, MA$47,000
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4-year, Private Cambridge, MA$55,000
Stanford University 4-year, Private Stanford, CA$51,000
University of California-Berkeley 4-year, Public Berkeley, CA$14,000
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center 4-year, Public Dallas, TX$7,000
Johns Hopkins University 4-year, Private Baltimore, MD$56,000
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 4-year, Public Ann Arbor, MI$23,000
University of Washington-Seattle Campus 4-year, Public Seattle, WA$16,500
Yale University 4-year, Private New Haven, CT$42,000
Princeton University 4-year, Private Princeton, NJ$51,000

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education