Get Matched With Online Biology Colleges


Biology is a subject that impacts every aspect of our lives. It's a field that may seem limited in these days of deep-space exploration, but scientists are still discovering new biological systems and anatomical structures in our own, human bodies. Thus, inquisitive students will find an endless array of biological rabbit holes to chase down. Whether their interest is in big ecological systems and our environment or microcosmic organisms, a biology or biological sciences degree is sure to satisfy their passion for learning.

Biology degrees are also quite valuable in the working world. Students with an undergraduate biology or biological sciences degree often pursue work as elementary, middle grades, or high school teachers but there are also those who teach for public health agencies, and those who move on to the graduate level may become organic chemistry experts, biostatisticians, or neuroscientists, to name a few options.

Ultimately, biology is a field that has so much to offer students who are willing to dive in with both feet, work hard, and expand their notion of what life is.

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What Does a Biology Professional Do?

Life is everywhere, so biology is a broad field. For instance, fish-loving biology majors could focus on marine biology while others may take a broad approach and study ichthyology. Then there is the world of plants, animals, fungi, cellular biology, organic chemistry, and microbiology. Others may focus on biology with a pre-medicine focus, or biostatistics if they crave a data-driven approach.

There are many biology students who enter the teaching field at the middle grades or secondary level. Others earn a PhD and work as college professors or research faculty for large universities. There are also biology majors who enter the world of criminal justice and go to work for a forensics lab. Those jobs may be with state, local, or even federal law enforcement agencies. There are even organic chemistry majors who are hard at work creating bleeding edge microprocessors for companies such as Intel.

The professional opportunities for a biology major are seemingly endless. Students can choose from many workplace environments, from the sterility of a forensics lab to deep Amazonian jungles where they seek out new plants or animals. It also increasingly looks like the world of computers may be integrating with biological systems, so some biology majors may soon work on integrating microchips and living tissue.

Why Get a Biology Degree?

Biology is the study of life. It's a scientific field that includes microbiology, zoology, organic chemistry, biological sciences, and botany, to name a few specialty areas. Biology also covers all the specialties found in the medical world. For those interested in science, biology is a terrific field to consider.

Students should consider earning a biology degree for many reasons. Apart from positioning students for specific career tracks, biology and biological sciences prepares students with skills that apply in many areas. Its reliance on hard data and the scientific method makes it a great choice for students who want to work with statistics. Thus, a biology student might be able to become a data scientist or public health official. Naturally, most biology students are concerned with environmental issues, so they could also work with environmental firms or with government agencies that study the climate.

While an undergraduate biological sciences or biology degree will be very helpful when launching a career from an entry-level position, some biologists start their career with a graduate or doctoral degree. Naturally, this is especially true for those in the medical field who need an MD to practice their profession. Further, since biology does touch so many fields, it can be a terrific background for many graduate degrees including statistics, public health, biological sciences, bioengineering, and microbiology.

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Associates Degree in Biology Online

Most students can enroll in an associate biology degree program at a local college. Community colleges tend to have an open enrollment program where students with a high school diploma, or a GED, can enroll. Students should also prepare their applications with letters of recommendation from former teachers, employers, or community leaders such as clergy. There are usually application fees, as well, though this depends on the school.

Admissions counselors will need to receive a student's official high school transcripts. While bachelor's degrees in life science, biological science, etc. may require a standardized test score, many associate degree programs do not. Online biology programs, or those in biological science or life sciences, at this level have the same requirements as many bachelor's in biology.

Upon enrollment, most community colleges will require test scores that show new students have the core skills to survive in college level courses. These tests may also help certain students gain exemption for certain entry-level courses. For instance, students who have excelled in a foreign language may be able to test out of the 101 version of their language. Students who are strong in math may be able to take calculus rather than college algebra and strong writers may receive credit for English 101 but may still need to take a literature course to satisfy the school's requirements. Those who need help can take remedial level courses so that they can get up to speed. Thankfully, most community colleges don't require entrance exam scores, but high scores on the ACT or SAT may help students bypass the school's skills-testing sessions. An associate degree curriculum is designed to prepare students for success.

The standard curriculum for any associate biology or biological sciences degree program includes the core courses required by most bachelor's degree programs. In fact, most of the time, the majors and degree programs offered by a community college will include introductory coursework in the primary areas of academic study. Students will likely take courses in writing, humanities, sciences, mathematics, and social sciences. Thus, most associate degree holders have a well-rounded liberal arts education.

Biology students will take courses at the 100 and 200 levels, which serve as foundational knowledge for future study. These courses will necessarily include laboratory courses, which will introduce students to the realities of lab work. In fact, students should prepare for long hours in the lab as they try to perfect their lab methods. The laboratory portion of a biological sciences or biology degree is so vital to the field that many online biology degree programs require students to complete this work on campus.

Upon graduating with an associate biology degree, students can seek out an entry-level position in their area. Many seek out work in the healthcare field, but there may be options with laboratory testing firms or even law enforcement labs. For example, a skilled lab student may look for work with the state forensics lab or they might seek additional training to work in nursing. Others may convert their analytical skills and seek work with a bank or other financial institution.

Common Coursework

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Introduction to Microbiology and Biological Sciences
  • Biomedical Statistics
  • Chemistry I
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry Lab
  • College Physics
  • Calculus I
  • Composition & Rhetoric
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Macroeconomics
  • Sociology
  • Conservation Biology

Career Options

  • Laboratory Assistant:Lab assistants are responsible for cleaning lab equipment, maintaining equipment inventories, and cataloging samples.
  • Research Assistant:Biology majors may find work with research projects throughout the world. Often, these projects are environmental in nature and associate degree level assistants work in the field to take samples, count wildlife, and other tasks.
  • Veterinary Assistant:Biology students who love animals can start their career in veterinary medicine as a veterinary assistant. They help the veterinarian with various tasks including preparing animals for surgery and assisting during examinations.

Bachelor Degree in Biology Online

Students who are interested in a bachelor's biology degree, or a bachelor's in biological sciences, from a four-year college or university typically have a more rigorous admissions process than students enrolling in a community college. While there are four-year institutions that have an open enrollment process, most will require certain items before they admit a new student. Students should start looking for the best biology degree program for them starting in their third year of high school, if not sooner. Note that an online bachelor may be 100% online or a hybrid program.

During high school, students should focus efforts on their college admissions examinations. Depending on their chosen schools, students will need to take either the SAT or the ACT, if not both. They should also strive for the very best grades possible. Since four-year institutions have rather competitive standards, students should strive for a GPA of 3.5 or above.

Admission requirements are not limited to strictly academic standards, however. After all, students can spend all their time studying and earn high grades. Colleges and universities often want to see a whole person who has extracurricular interests. This is why students should pursue the extracurricular activities that suit them the best or speak to the future career they hope to obtain. These can include sports, but schools also like to see students who volunteer in their community, participate in student government, or who work interesting jobs or volunteer during the summer months.

On top this, students need to be prepared to write an entrance essay, submit letters of recommendation, and perhaps also visit campus for a tour and interview. Not only is the entrance essay an example of how a student thinks, but it can serve as a measure of their overall academic prowess. Thus, students should take the essay very seriously. Some even submit a well-produced video as part of their admissions packet.

Letters of recommendation are typically from important people in the student's life. Some more obvious targets for a recommendation include one's high school teachers. Other good choices include clergy, employers, and even respected adults with whom the student has had meaningful encounters.

Students who have already decided on their major subject area, such as biology, may want to include this interest in their admissions packet. Students might want to focus their summer work experiences to focus on biological issues. For instance, they could find work for a veterinarian or they might volunteer at an animal shelter. Students can also participate in cleaning up their local parks or forests. It may even be possible to find a summer program that focuses on environmental or other biologically focused activities.

Common Coursework

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Introduction to Biology
  • Environmental Science
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Dendrology
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Evolution
  • General Health
  • Field Botany
  • Introduction to Forensic Science
  • Ichthyology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Ornithology

Career Options

  • Science Writer: There are many opportunities available for writers who have a science background. Newspapers need good science writing and healthcare systems employ strong science writers for their in-house publications.
  • Medical Equipment Sales: A biology background can prove invaluable when it comes to selling medical equipment.
  • Pharmaceutical Sales:This can be a very lucrative position for a biology major who has a firm grasp of microbiology.
  • Health Educator: Public health departments like to hire educators who have a strong science background, especially those with knowledge of nutrition and immunology.
  • Top 20 highest paying jobs with a biology degree

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Masters Degree in Biology Online

Enrolling in a master’s biology degree program is no small feat. The admissions requirements can be rather stringent, and the best programs are fiercely competitive. Most master’s biology degree programs will require an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, but the more competitive programs will want a GPA between 3.5 and 4.0. Graduate admissions professionals also need to see specific courses on a person's transcript. Since graduate degree programs tend to be specialized, it's vital to take as many courses in that specialty area as possible. For instance, a student interested in a master’s degree in genetics will need to take upper-level courses in genetics, in addition to courses such as organic chemistry and human biology.

Admissions counselors are also interested in practical experience in the field. This will vary according to the specialty in question, but any experience can be valuable when it comes to admissions. Students who are interested in a lab-focused degree and career should seek as much lab time as they can. Undergraduates might consider a year or two working as a laboratory assistant, while an aspiring environmental scientist might work as a research assistant on an environmental research project.

Aspiring master’s degree students are also likely to need graduate admission exam scores. The GRE is the standard, and biology students will need to also take the subject specific test for biology. This test covers, in equal measure: cellular and molecular biology, organismal biology, and ecology and evolution. Students who are interested in a career in medicine will take a different admissions exam, the MCAT.

Admissions counselors will certainly need a student's transcripts. Note that most programs will want an official transcript from every college or university where a student has taken a course. Even if a student took only one summer class at a community college prior to entering their main school, their graduate program will want the transcript. Also, note that official transcripts are required but they may take copies as an interim placeholder until the official documents arrive. Students may not be able to register for classes until all their paperwork is complete.

Finally, letters of recommendation and admission essays can have a great bearing on whether a student is admitted or not. Students should seek letters from their favorite professors or employers. They should also write an admission essay that focuses on their experiences in the field, desires for the future, and a statement of what they bring to the specific master’s degree program.

Common Coursework

  • Icthyology
  • Advanced Botany
  • Field Scientific Research
  • Biology Laboratory
  • Genetics
  • Evolutionary Analysis
  • Biology of Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • Biochemistry Laboratory
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Forest Ecology

Career Options

  • Forester: These biology professionals focus on the ecology of our forests. They typically work for the national parks or national forests agency, but some landowners hire foresters to help with their land.
  • Environmental Scientists: These biology professionals study the environment and how various things impact it. Environmental scientists may oversee how pollution is cleaned or advise developers as to how their project will impact local plants and wildlife.
  • Geneticist: These science professionals specialize in genetics. They typically have a professional life that revolves around lecturing students or conducting research.
  • Botanist: Botanists focus on plants for their work. They are most often found on the faculty at a college or university. Some choose to teach students while others focus on research.

PhD Degree in Biology Online

A doctoral or PhD degree is the peak academic achievement in any field, including biology. It's also the most highly specific degree. That is, students in their undergraduate years tend to pursue a more general, introductory course of study. They then begin to specialize their work in their master’s degree program, and then they put a very fine point on their work as a PhD student.

Thus, admission to a doctoral biology degree program is sure to be very rigorous. The faculty will want to see evidence of a very high level of scholarship. They will also want to see that each candidate is a good fit for their program and their faculty. After all, each student's thesis committee will need to have a specific background that matches the research project in question. For instance, a student who wants to research deep-sea fish needs to have a thesis advisor whose own work deals with those fish, not merely ichthyology as a general sub-field of biology.

Thus, gaining admission to a PhD program requires a detailed and in-depth admission packet. Students will first need to show that they have completed their master’s degree. They should be prepared to submit an official transcript from their master’s degree program. Some doctoral degree programs may even want to see transcripts from each student's undergraduate degree program, including records of all college level courses ever taken. Admissions counselors may accept unofficial transcripts on good faith until the official documents are received.

Each prospective student should also be prepared to submit letters of recommendation from previous professors and/or employers. Any work-related materials should be specifically relevant to the doctoral degree program. Students should also have an admission essay prepared for each specific degree program. That document should reflect their goals with regard to their PhD research and even long-term aspirations in the professional world.

Since many PhD candidates work as teaching assistants or adjunct professors of biology, any teaching experience may be relevant. Since teaching may be a great way to receive payment and to offset tuition costs, it’s advantageous on many levels. Upon graduation, students can seek employment in a variety of avenues. PhDs in biology are in demand as tenure-track professors, forensic experts, and pharmaceutical scientists, to name a few.

Common Coursework

  • Advanced Cell Biology
  • Graduate Biochemistry
  • Cell Systems and Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Evolution
  • Animal Behavior
  • Plant Biology
  • Polar Biology
  • Ecology and Invasive Species
  • Stem Cell Biology
  • Virology
  • Mammalian Development

Common Coursework

  • Biology Researcher: Some biology PhDs work as research faculty for a university. They must be able to garner grant money to fund their projects, but they can spend their professional life pursuing their passion.
  • Biology Professor: A PhD is a de facto requirement for a full-time, tenure-track position as a professor. Professors with a PhD can teach at any post-secondary level.

Certificates/Licensures in Biology Online

Not only are degrees important for biology professionals, but so are certifications. Certificates demonstrate that a professional has not only completed a degree program, but they have extended their learning with more occupation-oriented work. Further, most certificates require that holders renew their credentials, which shows ongoing learning in the field. Since technology changes all the time, as does government regulation, continued education can be vital for so many fields.

There are also academic certificates, such as a graduate certificate, which can be a welcome add-on to an existing degree. For instance, some with an MS in Biology return to school for a graduate certificate in forensic science. These added skills will be invaluable in the job market, since most crime labs like to see workers with a focused skill set.

Those biology graduates who wish to enter a high school teaching career will need a state teaching credential. While every state is a little different, candidates will need to complete a specific set of education courses. They will also need satisfactory scores on the subject-specific PRAXIS exam, letters of recommendation, and a job offer from a principal. Science experts are in luck, however, as STEM subjects tend to receive top priority and many school systems have created programs to help welcome new teachers to the science classroom.

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What Does a Biology Degree Cost?

Educational costs for a biology degree are on par with other types of degrees. An associate biology degree will cost somewhere between $4,000 and $8,000 for tuition, before you apply any relevant grants and scholarships. That is perhaps the best value in higher education and many who aspire to a bachelor's in biology can complete a degree at a local community college and bring their final costs down significantly.

Bachelor's degrees tend to cost more. Public colleges and universities charge between approximately $10,000 and $15,000 for their academics. That does not include living expenses, which will vary according to each campus' location and amenities.

Master’s biology degrees tend to cost somewhere in the same range, but that changes depending on what specific program a student enrolls in. A standard biology degree, for instance, may only cost somewhere around $10,000 per year, but a medical program costs a lot more. However, many on-campus graduate degrees offer students the opportunity to work as teaching assistants, which can bring their costs down dramatically. In fact, some students may be able to cover their tuition and academic fees with their work.

Doctoral degree programs, on the other hand, can be expensive or fully funded. Full funded degrees at this level require students to work as research assistants, adjunct professors, or in some other capacity for their university. These work experiences will pay off, however, since most PhD candidates are focused on careers in academia.

Online vs. Traditional Options

These days, students have options for their educational experience. In the past, students either chose traditional classroom education or clunky, mail-in correspondence courses. These days, students can complete an entire biology degree online without having to leave their bedroom or kitchen table. Along the way, they can have one-on-one interactions with their professors via email or chat and supplement their studies with real-world experiences, including travel to locations unavailable to traditional students.

Online learning is a boon to many students. They can study for their bachelor's or master’s degree without having to ever make it to class on time. They can continue working while they study and thus apply their new knowledge on the job. On top of this, online learning is often more affordable than traditional classroom learning. However, there can be downsides.

For one thing, online courses require a great deal of self-discipline. Since it's easy to become distracted with work, family, or social obligations, online coursework often falls to the side. Students may also have difficulties with the coursework and feel that they don't have easy access to an instructor who could answer their questions.

One of the larger problems with pursuing a biology degree online is the lack of student aid work available. Undergraduate students often have work-study opportunities that help with tuition while also providing a bit of spending money. Graduate students often work as teaching assistants or research assistants in return for less expensive or free tuition. Online students typically won't have this option. However, there may be online degree programs that offer graduate students the option of serving as a TA for online undergrads.

Professional Organizations for Biology

Joining a professional organization can be a terrific boost for any biology professional. These organizations offer members benefits that include continuing education, fellowship with colleagues, and professional opportunities. The continuing education opportunities may include online webinars or a notice of any lectures in your local area. These keep professionals up to date on new developments in biological research and technologies.

Most members appreciate the opportunity to meet with fellows in their field. These relationships can be very beneficial and may result in all sorts of projects and opportunities. While fellow biologists may meet at local chapter meetings, they can also meet at national conferences where they deliver research papers to their peers and enjoy social time.

  • Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences

    Members receive discounts on conferences, professional development opportunities, and mentoring opportunities. The association also supports a social media aspect where members can share ideas, research, and other information.

  • Ecological Society of America (ESA)

    ESA membership offers members the opportunity to gain access to online research, volunteer opportunities, and various discounts.

  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences

    This multi-disciplinary association caters to forensic scientists who focus on subjects such as criminalistics, forensic nursing science, pathology/biology, and toxicology, to name a few.

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What Should You Consider When Looking for a Biology Program?

  • Majors Available

    Since biology is a broad field, so students who have a specific area of interest should ensure that their biology degree program will support them. If a student is particularly interested in botany, they might look for a school that offers upper-level coursework in botany and which perhaps maintains a greenhouse or landscape.

    Some biology students study for the major with a career focus that may be unique. For instance, some biology students are interested in becoming illustrators for biology textbooks. They might seek a college that has both a strong, general biology department along with a strong art department. Others might be interested in teaching or becoming a science writer. They will need strong education or writing departments to help them achieve their goals.

  • Accreditation – Regional and Programmatic

    No matter what, students should only apply to fully accredited institutions. This is because a non-accredited degree will often not be acknowledged by employers, licensing agencies, or even other schools. In fact, there have been big controversies over schools that were not accredited and their students discovering that their degrees were practically useless.

    The bare minimum standard for accreditation is a regional credential. While there may be some accreditations that look as though they are valid regional credentials, students should confirm that the school's accrediting agency is CHEA-approved. Then, students should check to see if their chosen program has a program-specific accreditation.

    Such specific credentials indicate that the program has met a higher standard for academic quality. Biology programs with such elite credentials will be recognized by employers and academic institutions nationwide. One agency, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, accredits undergraduate biology degree programs that excel in biochemistry and molecular biology.

    Another agency, ABET, also accredits Biology and Natural Sciences degree programs. This agency has a general focus on all STEM degree programs including engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics, and geology. Their credentials are also highly esteemed by employers and universities alike.

    While regional credentials are fundamental, a programmatic accreditation can take a student over the top. Employers who have tuition reimbursement programs may offer more tuition money when a worker is enrolled in a high-status program that boasts ABET credentials. Also, when undergrads are applying to graduate biology degree programs, they are more likely to gain admission to top-tier master’s biology degree programs when their undergraduate work was accredited by a program specific agency.

  • Program Length

    Typically, a bachelor's biology degree will take four years to complete. Then students can add another two years for their master’s degree. This assumes a full-time schedule and no breaks. Some may be able to finish faster if they take courses over the summers or if they receive permission to take an overload of classes.

    These days, there is another option. An accelerated master’s degree program may be the ideal solution for undergrads who are certain that they want a master’s degree. These programs are intensive and will preclude many outside interests, including work. However, students can complete their undergrad and graduate work in only five years. This is not only time-effective, but it saves money, too. Since it's increasingly common for an undergraduate program to take six years, an accelerated master’s is a terrific option.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I pursue a biology degree if I haven’t taken advanced science courses in high school?

Yes. There are even students who struggled with science in high school and went on to earn graduate degrees in biology. It may be useful to discuss one's background with an academic adviser before diving into college level biology courses. When well-planned, any student should be able to earn a biology degree in college.

What are the differences between a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in biology?

The differences are typically nominal. A Bachelor of Science degree may focus more on laboratory courses, while a Bachelor of Arts may focus more on studying biological theories or existing studies. However, students who are given a choice between the two may want to opt for the BS, especially if they are aiming at a master’s degree or a career in the hard sciences.

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