One-Year Master's Programs in Biology

This article explores what a one-year master's degree program in biology can offer. Here, an overview of the typical one-year MS Biology program is given along with a description of some key courses. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Earning a Master's Degree in Biology within a Year

Students generally opt to earn a master's degree in biology as a step toward medical school or toward a PhD degree program, and while a master's degree is typically obtained after two years, a non-thesis route (which consists only of coursework and additional units to compensate for the lack of thesis credits) can be finished within one year. For a non-thesis master's degree program in biology, admission requires a bachelor's degree in biology or the completion of undergraduate chemistry and biology courses. These programs move at an accelerated pace, with as many as 15 units of advance biology courses per semester, and under the guidance of a selected faculty advisor.

Cell and Molecular Biology

Lectures on cell and molecular biology tackle cellular components and macromolecules and their involvement in gene replication, mutation, and expression. Not only do students learn about the central dogma, they are also taught to be critical thinkers who can produce informed commentary on many controversial issues in medicine and genetic engineering through case studies. Cell and molecular biology courses usually come with a laboratory module, through which students can learn techniques like the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), immunofluorescence, and plasmid isolation.


Biochemistry is the study of the chemistry behind biological processes in the body, such as those involved in metabolism, as well as the relationship behind structure and function among biomolecules. Students learn about enzyme catalysis, which is the basis of many biochemical processes, and catabolic and anabolic pathways. Laboratory modules in biochemistry are available in some schools. By studying biochemistry, students gain experience in specialized laboratory techniques that are central to investigative research.


Genetics is related to the field of cell and molecular biology - it studies the events that arise from molecular and biochemical interactions. At the same time, genetics is also concerned with the large-scale effect of these interactions, which is evident on animal and plant populations and the evolutionary changes they experience over time. These courses span molecular-level genetics to population-level genetics, so students learn about topics ranging from protein synthesis and DNA regulation to gene families and linkage disequilibrium. To effectively study genetics, students are required to learn laboratory techniques like enzyme electrophoresis, chromosome examinations, and computational methods like modeling.


Quantitative data analysis is vital to the effective delivery and interpretation of large sets of data. Topics central to quantitative analysis, such as sampling methods, probability, factorial designs, statistical models, and correlation are discussed. Students are also introduced to statistics and modeling software. Coming out of a biostatistics course, students are expected to have expertise on ANOVA, hypothesis testing, regression analysis, and analysis of covariance.


Ecology is the study of the interactions of organisms with the biotic and abiotic components of their environment. Because this branch of biology is broad, biologists have divided the field into different sub-disciplines like plant ecology, aquatic ecology, urban ecology, and microbial ecology, among many others. This course teaches students how to study the distribution patterns of animal and plant species, population structures and successional patterns, evolutionary adaptation strategies, and ecosystem management strategies. By the end of this course, students are expected to have developed expertise on monitoring and modelling techniques, temporal analysis, and pattern characterization.


Students enrolled in a neurobiology course learn about the anatomy, physiology, and functions of the nervous system, including its primary cellular component, the neuron. Related topics such as sensory functions, learning and behavior, memory, and brain diseases are also studied. Contemporary developments in neurobiology research can be tackled as case studies. This course gives students an in-depth understanding of how the nervous system is key to the survival of an individual.


Ornithology is the branch of zoology that studies the anatomy, behavior, evolution, and ecology of birds. A laboratory module that focuses on the taxonomy and identification of regional bird species may be available, depending on the school. Through field work and laboratory analysis lectures, students learn about standard avian research techniques like point count surveys and mist-netting.

While master's degree programs in biology are completed in two years, students can opt for a one-year non-thesis route, through which they can forgo the thesis and instead compensate for the units through additional lectures and coursework. Among the many courses that are available to graduate students are advanced topics in cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, biostatistics, genetics, ecology, neurobiology, and ornithology.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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  • Capella University

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  • University of Minnesota

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