Best Online Master's Degrees in Biology
Explore online master's programs in the field of biology, including common coursework and possible specializations. Then, get tips on how to choose the right biology program for your needs and explore biology career paths.
Best Online Master's Degree Programs in Biology
There is a large variety of online master's programs in the field of biology, including degree programs in microbiology, statistics, and laboratory science. To create this list of the top programs, which you can explore below, a number of factors were taken into consideration, such as the flexibility, affordability, and uniqueness of each biology program.
1. University of Florida
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The University of Florida, which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), offers two programs for earning an online biology-focused master's degree, including the following:
- Master of Science (MS) in Microbiology & Cell Science with a concentration in Medical Microbiology and Biochemistry
- Master of Science (MS) in Biostatistics
The MS in Microbiology & Cell Science is a 30-credit online program that features short 1-credit course modules that last 6 weeks, which means students are able to earn their degree in only 1 year of study. This online program has no on-campus or laboratory requirements and costs $535 per credit. The online MS in Biostatistics degree requires 36 credits and has an interdisciplinary course of study that includes classes on public health and biostatistical methods and theories. If attending full-time, students can finish the program in 2 years, and all students, regardless of residency status, pay $750 per credit.
2. George Mason University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
George Mason University's online 31-credit Master of Science (MS) in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology degree program features a flexible curriculum that allows students to choose courses, under their advisor's supervision, that best fit their career goals and academic interests. As such, students take core courses in bioinformatics and molecular biology, and then choose from courses in biotechnology, computer science, or statistics. Students also have the option of choosing a thesis or research project, and those with previous biotechnology work experience can exchange that experience for credit toward their final project, saving them time and money. This online program also boasts important cooperative relationships with the USDA, the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, and other research universities where students can participate in hands-on projects.
3. University of Northern Colorado
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The University of Northern Colorado offers an online (MS) Master of Science in Biological Sciences degree program that is designed for a range of different students, including current high school biology teachers who want to either increase their salaries or teach at the college level and students who want to pursue careers in biology or medicine. Requiring 30 credits, the MS in Biological Sciences can be completed at the student's own pace in 2 to 3 years (or 5 years, if taking 1 course at time). The University of Northern Colorado also has an online accelerated Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS) degree that can be earned in only 9 months. This 30-credit MBS program prepares students to successfully apply and be accepted into a doctoral program in medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine by helping them improve their MCAT scores and demonstrate academic achievement.
4. University of Nebraska at Kearney
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The University of Nebraska at Kearney's online Master of Science in Biology non-thesis degree program requires 36 credits and can be completed in a 100% online format. This online program accepts up to 9 transfer credits, and the curriculum covers such topics as organic evolution and biological statistics. To help prepare students for the career of their choice, the Department of Biology grants travel and research grants to online students completing research projects. Online graduate courses at the University of Nebraska at Kearney comes in at $309 per credit for in-state students and $551 for out-of-state students, and this university has the distinction of being accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
5. Michigan State University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|East Lansing, MI||$18,132|
At Michigan State University, students can choose from 3 different online master's degree programs in the biology field, including the following:
- Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, which is designed for current medical technologists or clinical laboratory scientists
- Master of Arts (MA) Biomedical Laboratory Science, which requires a final capstone and literature review
- Master of Science (MS) in Biomedical Laboratory Operations, which is designed for laboratory professionals who desire to move into a management or regulatory role
These online degree programs feature mostly asynchronous classes, which don't require students to be online at a specific time, as well as one synchronous seminar course and optional weeklong summer labs that provide students with important practical experience. Any required laboratory experiences can be conveniently completed locally where the student works. Most students are able to earn their master's in about 3 to 4 years. Michigan State University has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
|Rank||School Name||Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
|6||Colorado State University-Fort Collins||Fort Collins, CO||$12,495|
|7||University of Nebraska-Lincoln||Lincoln, NE||$7,588|
|8||University of Wisconsin-Stout||Menomonie, WI||$8,341|
|9||Texas A & M University-College Station||College Station, TX||$9,812|
|10||Western Kentucky University||Bowling Green, KY||$12,140|
|11||George Washington University||Washington, DC||$30,834|
|12||Arizona State University||Tempe, AZ||$12,134|
|13||Ohio State University-Main Campus||Columbus, OH||$12,425|
|14||Washington State University||Pullman, WA||$12,802|
|15||University of Maryland-College Park||College Park, MD||$14,526|
|16||Alcorn State University||Alcorn State, MS||$7,084|
|17||Indiana State University||Terre Haute, IN||$7,616|
|18||University of Louisville||Louisville, KY||$12,880|
|19||Bowling Green State University-Main Campus||Bowling Green, OH||$9,831|
|20||Clemson University||Clemson, SC||$10,602|
|21||Heritage University||Toppenish, WA||$9,330|
|22||Lesley University||Cambridge, MA||$18,150|
|23||University of Maryland-University College||Adelphi, MD||$8,514|
|24||Midwestern State University||Wichita Falls, TX||$5,634|
|25||Eastern Washington University||Cheney, WA||$12,381|
|26||Drexel University||Philadelphia, PA||$34,995|
|27||University of Saint Joseph||West Hartford, CT||$14,532|
|28||Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus||Teaneck, NJ||$23,802|
|29||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA||$8,333|
|30||Illinois Institute of Technology||Chicago, IL||$30,752|
|31||Manchester University||North Manchester, IN||$24,950|
|32||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||Worcester, MA||$27,294|
|33||Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore, MD||$55,816|
|34||University of Houston-Victoria||Victoria, TX||$7,559|
|35||Case Western Reserve University||Cleveland, OH||$45,204|
All table data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition represents the 2018-2019 academic school year
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.
Overview of Online Biology Master's Programs
There are a variety of online master's degree programs in the field of biology available throughout the county that usually lead to a Master of Science degree (or sometimes a Master of Arts degree). Although some programs have a broad focus on biology, others focus on one sub-field of biology, such as:
- Biomedical laboratory science
- Computational biology
- Conservation biology
Online biology master's programs are sometimes designed for a specific type of student or career goal. There are teacher preparation programs that are for current biology or science teachers who want to earn a master's degree in order to teach at the college-level or improve their pay grade. There are also professional programs that are for students who want to go on to earn a PhD in biology, medicine, or dentistry but need a master's to improve their skills and knowledge to be attractive PhD admission candidates. Last, some biology programs are for current biology professionals who want to expand their job options.
Typically, biology master's programs require about 30 to 36 total credits, which includes coursework in a range of biology subjects. Many online programs are non-thesis programs, which means students don't need to complete a thesis in order to earn their degree. However, some programs do require a final project and allow students to choose either a thesis, research project, or capstone.
Additionally, while most programs feature asynchronous courses where students don't need to log-on at a specific time but can view lectures and complete their assignments on their own time, other programs do require some in-person or synchronous elements. For example, students may be required to attend live seminar courses once a week or complete laboratory field work, either on-campus or at their place of work.
Length of Online Biology Master's Programs
The length of time it takes to earn an online biology master's degree can vary by program. Usually, the standard amount of time to earn a master's degree is 2 years. However, some biology master's programs feature an accelerated format that allows students to finish in a year or less. Additionally, some programs are designed for working professionals and can be completed in 3 to 4 years.
Admission Requirements for Online Biology Master's Programs
To apply to an online biology master's program, you must hold a bachelor's degree. Most programs require that your undergraduate degree be in one of the following fields:
- Computer science
A limited number of programs invite applicants from fields other than the ones mentioned above; however, it is preferred that you have completed undergraduate coursework in biochemistry, biology, and chemistry. If you lack this background, some programs may require you to complete introductory courses in biology and biochemistry before beginning the required program coursework.
Additionally, most programs require that you have an overall undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, although some programs may only require a 2.75. You typically must also submit the following materials:
- Official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- A letter of intent or statement of purpose
- GRE scores
- Application and fee
Common Online Biology Master's Program Courses
What you'll learn in an online biology master's program depends on several factors, including the exact focus of your degree and unique program requirements. You can learn about some common courses that could be included in your degree program below.
This course covers topics related to viruses and viral infections. Students learn about the structure of viruses, how they replicate, and how they evolve. There is also an emphasis on virus research, virus prevention and treatment, and emerging diseases.
This class explores human-host diseases and microorganisms, including both viral and bacterial. Students also study such subjects as drug discovery, epidemiology, and public health concepts.
Molecular Biology of the Cell
In this course, students develop a thorough knowledge of the growth, structure, and function of living cells. Along with studying such topics as DNA structure, RNA, and cell interactions, some courses also cover experimental methods of cellular regulation.
Immunology is the study of the immune system and the cause of diseases in humans and animals. In a class of this type, students study the cellular and molecular interactions of immune responses, antibody function and technology, and immunopathology.
Usually, students take a course that prepares them for their professional career in the science/biology industry or academia. Subjects covered include biomedical ethics, communication and interpersonal skills, career development, and interviewing skills.
How to Choose an Online Biology Master's Program
Choosing an online biology program is a challenging task given the variety and number of programs available and your unique needs. When making this tough decision, it's a good idea to consider how a program can aid in your career goals, if the program has any unique features, and if your prospective university has received accreditation.
One of the most significant things to consider when choosing a program is ensuring it will help you achieve your career goals. As noted, online biology master's programs are varied and designed for specific types of students. If you are a current high school teacher who wants to teach at a university, then you are going to want to choose a program that is designed specifically for teachers or other working professionals. Similarly, if you have the goal of becoming a medical doctor, then a program that prepares you for medical school is the right option for you.
The existence of unique program features could also help you decide which program is right for you. For example, if you want to complete your degree quickly, then you would want to choose a program with an accelerated format. You might also consider whether you want to participate in labs, on- or off-campus, in order to gain professional experience or if you want to complete your degree 100% online. The uniqueness of a program and the opportunities it offers can help you narrow down your list of prospective programs.
Another important factor that should guide your decision is accreditation. You want to choose a program that is housed within a university that has received regional accreditation. This is important because only students who attend an accredited college or university can receive federal financial aid in the form of grants and loans. Additionally, accredited schools have proven that they have met high standards related to academics and resources offered to students. Below is the list of agencies that are approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to offer regional accreditation:
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
In addition to regional accreditating agencies, there are also many organizations that accredit specific programs. Biology programs can be accredited by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), but this organization only accredits bachelor's programs. However, biology departments that house an ASBMB-accredited bachelor's program have proven that they are dedicated to maintaining high academic standards. If in your master's degree search, you see the undergraduate programs in the same biology department as your master's program have received ASBMB accreditation, then you can rest assured that the department provides a quality education.
Career Options with a Master's in Biology
Graduates with a master's degree in biology can pursue a range of careers in science or education. Below, you can explore career and salary information for biochemists/biophysicists, microbiologists, and professors, just some of the careers for which graduates may be prepared.
Biochemist or Biophysicist
Biochemists and biophysicists are scientists who study the chemistry of living things by conducting experiments and research. Biochemists focus more on the study of the molecular mechanisms of cells as well as genetic cellular research, while biophysicists focus more on the study of how cells communicate and the function of proteins. Biochemists and biophysicists might be responsible for developing new products, engineering crops, or completing medical research.
Each type of scientist must:
- Design and implement experiments
- Manage a lab and a team
- Write reports, grant applications, and research papers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), biochemists and biophysicists earned a median salary of $93,280 in 2018, and are expected to see a 6% increase in the number of jobs from 2018-2028.
Microbiologists are scientists who research and study microorganisms (viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria) in order to help create new vaccines or improve products. To do this, they must complete research-heavy experiments involving microorganisms, microscopes, and computer software. They also supervise laboratory staff, write research papers, and present their findings.
As per the BLS, microbiologists earned a median salary of $71,650 in 2018 and have a job outlook of 5% from 2018-2028.
Biology professors work in colleges or universities where they are responsible for teaching biology courses. Along with conducting classes, grading assignments, and creating syllabuses, professors must also do departmental work, such as serving on committees, and must complete their own research.
Professors in the field of biology made a median salary of $82,550 in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are also expected to experience a job growth of 12% between 2018-2028.