2022 Best Online Masters in Biology [Program Guide]

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An online masters in biology can be a strategic way to prepare for a career in medicine, research, education, or pharmacology.

Best Online Masters in Biology

Biology is concerned with the study of all life, so you may gravitate toward this degree if you are interested in one of its many subfields, such as ecology, zoology, or marine biology.

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This flexible degree can often to be tailored to fit your specific career goals. Pursuing a masters in biology online may be the right fit for anyone who is interested in developing their investigative abilities and subject-specific knowledge.

Online Masters in Biology Programs

Online Masters in Biology Programs

The study of biology is a broad one that encompasses many different fields. As a branch of science, biology is the study of living organisms.

Some of the fields that fall under the umbrella of biology are:

  • Ecology
  • Microbiology
  • Zoology
  • Physiology
  • Marine Biology
  • Evolution
  • Botany
  • Molecular Biology

Depending on your unique interests, you might select one of these areas to focus on during your master’s program. Each field involves specific courses and units of study, often leading to careers in a variety of industries after graduation.

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In addition to the classes you will take for your specialization, you’ll also take core biology courses during your program. These courses will likely cover topics like:

  • Advanced developmental biology
  • Cellular structure and morphology
  • Genetics of model organisms
  • Nucleic acids
  • Gene expression
  • Population biology

Your core classes may provide you with a strong foundation in the key concepts of current biological research. Depending on their concentration, many graduates with their master’s degree in biology are drawn to positions such as:

  • Microbiologist
  • Forensic scientist
  • Postsecondary teacher
  • Geneticist
  • Zoologist
  • Biochemist

It is strategic to consider your career goals as you apply to online biology master’s degree programs. Every school offers a unique curriculum and available concentrations, so it is helpful to ensure that you only apply to schools with academic offerings that fit your needs.

For example, those who are hoping to become doctors and attend medical school after graduation will typically choose a biology program with a pre-medical focus.

Biology Careers & Salaries

Biology Careers & Salaries

Many of the careers available to professionals with an advanced degree in biology require the utilization of subject-specific expertise.

There are also opportunities in the field for graduates to demonstrate their research, investigation, and analysis abilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some of the career paths related to the field of biology.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Natural Sciences Managers $137,900
Biochemists and Biophysicists $102,270
Microbiologists $79,260
Epidemiologists $78,830
Food Scientists and Technologists $78,340
Environmental Scientists and Specialists $76,530
Soil and Plant Scientists $66,750
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists $64,650
Forensic Science Technicians $61,930
Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians $57,800

Some positions related to biologysuch as medical scientist, postsecondary teacher, biochemist, and biophysicistrequire a professional doctorate or PhD. A number of universities offer both on-campus as well as online PhD in Biology programs.

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Earning your online biology masters degree does not promise a certain job or salary. This can often depend on your previous experience, your area of expertise, and where you live and work.

Online Master of Science in Biology Curriculum

Master of Science in Biology Curriculum

Typical biology masters degrees cover advanced topics in the field and provide career development support and research opportunities.

Here are some examples of courses you may come across:

  • Protein Structure and Function: An exploration of protein biochemistry and biophysics, this course covers topics like protein design, structure, and function as well as molecular simulation.
  • Cellular Structure and Morphology: In this course, you’ll learn how a cell accomplishes morphogenesis.
  • Genetics of Model Organisms: This course explores why specific organisms were chosen as models in genetics as well as what questions have been answered through studying these species.
  • Genomics: This course includes topics such as homology searching, gene prediction, and gene expression profiling, with a focus on learning to use genome sequence data in response to specific inquiries.
  • Protein Life History: You’ll study the mechanism of synthesized proteins in cells, including areas like post-translational modification.
  • Nucleic Acids: Intended to give you an understanding of the function and design of nucleic acid, this class may cover concepts related to the storage and recombination of biological data.
  • Population Biology: This course explores fluctuations in populations, with an emphasis on using mathematical models to study concepts like mutualism and competition.
  • Evolution: This is a foundational course in the study of biological evolution, and you’ll study topics like adaptation, phylogenetics, and natural selection.
  • Molecular Biology: You’ll cover important modern research in the field of molecular biology, including topics like RNA and DNA.
  • Ethical Practices in Scientific Research: This course is designed to provide an understanding of current and potential ethical issues in scientific research, so you may study topics like confidentiality, intellectual property, and research misconduct.

If you are interested in specializing in a certain subfield of biology, it’s beneficial to research a program’s specific curriculum before you apply.

Master in Biology Admissions Requirements

Master in Biology Admissions Requirements

In order to be considered for admission to a graduate program, you can fill out a school’s application form. Application materials tend to include some, or all, of the following items:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only if required)
  • Personal statement
  • CV or resume
  • Official transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation

You can use personalized areas of an application, like a personal essay, to convey your motivation to apply and the ways in which your life experiences have led you to this program. Colleges and universities are usually looking for students who are eager to learn and grow.

Online Biology Graduate Programs Accreditation

Biology Graduate Programs Accreditation

Many colleges and universities offer exceptional academic programs, but not all institutions offer an education that is up to the national and regional standards. One determination of a school’s quality is its accreditation status.

A regionally accredited college or university is one that has proven to meet an expectation of quality in its staff, programs, and facilities. To check whether a school is credible, you can search the US Department of Education’s online database of accredited schools.

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Attending an accredited school can benefit you in many ways. For instance, it can keep you in consideration for scholarships and financial aid as well as validate your qualifications to potential employers.   

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Masters in Biology Financial Aid

Deciding how to pay for college is one of the biggest hurdles for many students and families. One of the most common forms of financial aid is government student loans.

If you are interested in financial aid opportunities that do not require you to pay the money back, you can research available grants and scholarships. Many schools offer scholarships for everything from academic performance to financial need.

You can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out how much money you are eligible to receive from the federal government. While the amount given is determined by need, there are many aid packages for families with varying financial situations.

What Masters Degree Can I Get with a Bachelors in Biology?

Masters Degree for Bachelors in Biology

There are many different routes you can take after earning a biology undergraduate degree, such as:

  1. MS in Biology. A masters program in biology provides the opportunity for you to focus on a subject within the field. You might choose from areas like zoology or biochemistry.
  2. Medical Degree. Many students with a bachelors degree in biology choose to pursue their medical degree. A typical medical school program includes clinical rotations and courses such as genetics and nutrition. In fact, some universities also offer both on-campus and online masters in genetics degree programs.
  3. MS in Computational Biology. This masters program combines the fields of biology and computer science. The core focus is on upgrading the ways in which data is assembled by scientists, and you can take classes like genomics and biological modeling.

Earning an advanced degree is an opportunity to dedicate more time to an area of study that you find compelling. The graduate degree that’s best for you will depend on your career goals.

What Can You Do with a Masters in Biology?

Masters in Biology Careers

With a master’s degree in biology, you can pursue positions in a variety of industries. Depending on your chosen concentration within the field, you can engage in work with people, animals, or the environment.

Many graduates pursue entry-level roles in biochemistry and biophysics.  Other biology-related career paths can include microbiologist, zoologist, natural science manager, and wildlife biologist. A masters program can also help you prepare for doctoral studies. Professionals with a doctorate may work as medical scientists, biochemists, biophysicists, or postsecondary teachers.  

How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters Degree in Biology Online?

A masters program generally takes 1 to 2 years to complete, depending on the length of the program. A 36 credit hour program with no thesis requirement can often be completed in 1 year with full-time enrollment, counting summer semesters. If your online biology degree program does include a thesis requirement, it will often take you longer to complete.

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Many programs also offer part-time enrollment options. Should you choose to go this direction, it will likely take you longer to complete your program.

What’s the Difference Between a Master’s Degree in Biology vs. Chemistry?

Although chemistry and biology are two fields that are closely related, the master’s programs for each have significant differences in focus and coursework.

Biology Chemistry
  • Categorized as a life science
  • Studies life, including plants, animals, and humans
  • Covers topics like biochemistry, ecology, and molecular, computational, and plant biology
  • Categorized as a physical science
  • Studies the properties and substances of matter
  • Covers topics like biochemistry, chemical kinetics, and analytical, organic, and physical chemistry

Ultimately, the decision between studying biology and chemistry will depend on your interests and professional aspirations.

Is a Masters Degree in Biology Worth It?

Master Degrees in Biology

Yes, a masters degree in biology is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the occupations related to biology have a job growth rate on par with the national average. Overall, life, physical, and social science jobs are expected to see 8% job growth over the next ten years.

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In addition to advancing your biology expertise, a biology masters can help prepare you for doctoral studies as well. Attending online biology master’s programs can also be a strategic way to advance into specific programs or careers, such as medical school or pharmacology.

Universities Offering Online Masters in Biology Degree Program

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Eastern Illinois University

Eastern Illinois University

Eastern Illinois University’s Master of Science in Biological Sciences allows students to specialize in a variety of disciplines, including Ecology, Genetic Engineering, or Bacteriology. The program offers two online paths: a one-year, non-thesis option or an option that includes the completion of a thesis with possible tuition waiver for qualified candidates.

Eastern Illinois University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of College and Schools.

Indiana State University

Indiana State University

Indiana State University offers a Master of Science in Biology. It is designed for students interested in pursuing careers in the biological sciences in private, nonprofit, or government sectors. This 32 credit program can be completed fully online, and students are able to design their curriculum around their own personal and professional interests.

Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University offers a Master of Arts in Public Health Biology. It is an interdisciplinary degree combining biochemistry, environmental health and engineering, and molecular microbiology and immunology. The program covers fundamental topics that can help students address key public health issues while providing the flexibility of online, part-time education options.

The Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University

Students can potentially complete the 33 credit Master of Science in General Biology program at Mississippi State University in just 2 years. It is designed to prepare students for a wide variety of roles, including education. The program is primarily online but culminates in a 10 day, intensive capstone held on campus.

Mississippi State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Nebraska – Kearney

University of Nebraska - Kearney

The Master of Science in Biology at the University of Nebraska—Kearney is designed with middle and high school teachers in mind. The program offers a curriculum designed to deepen students’ biological knowledge that can be tailored to individual interests. The degree can be completed on campus or online and consists of 36 credit hours.

UNK is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Northern Colorado

University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado offers a Master of Science in Biological Sciences. The program offers a rigorous curriculum and flexible course options. It is designed to allow students to acquire the knowledge needed to succeed in the field of biology at their own pace. The program consists of 30 credits and covers topics like immunology, molecular genetics, and cell physiology.

The University of Northern Colorado is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Saint Joseph

University of Saint Joseph

The University of Saint Joseph offers a Master of Science in Biology. It caters to students interested in a variety of different careers in the field of biology, from secondary school teachers to public health managers. This online program helps students learn how to identify biological problems, adopt critical thinking skills, and communicate scientific ideas to broader audiences.

The University of Saint Joseph is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of the Southwest

University of the Southwest

Students in the online Master of Science in Biology at the University of the Southwest can choose between specialties in Forensic Biology and Genetics. Both programs require the completion of 30 credit hours and cover core concepts in biology. After completing their core courses, students take specialty-specific courses to prepare them for their academic and professional goals.

The University of the Southwest is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

West Liberty University

West Liberty University

The Master of Arts and the Master of Science in Biology programs at West Liberty University are designed for individuals pursuing careers in the zoological sciences. These programs balance primarily online classes with opportunities for hands-on learning in real-life zoo settings. Both programs require the completion of 30 credits and culminate in an internship, final thesis, and thesis defense.

West Liberty University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University’s Master of Science in Biology allows students to specialize in Ecology, Genetics, Plant Biology, or General Biology studies. The program offers fully online coursework that is available year-round. No thesis is required to graduate.

Western Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Master’s in Biology Online

Master’s Degree in Biology Online

Earning your master’s in biology can be a beneficial way to gain research experience while working closely with a faculty mentor in your chosen subfield.

Having the opportunity to select your biology concentration allows you to tailor your educational experience and align it with your personal career aspirations. With the range of specializations being offered by different schools, it’s helpful to research the variety of programs available to find the one that best aligns with your professional goals.

A growing number of accredited colleges and universities now offer biology masters degrees online as well, allowing for more schedule flexibility. If you are ready to begin this next step in your educational journey, why not start exploring online biology masters programs today?

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Molly Doyle
WRITTEN BY
Molly Doyle
Molly holds a B.A in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of San Francisco. A Seattle-based educator, Molly focuses on student-centered instruction and creating culturally responsive curriculum.