Guide to Earning an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Biology
Everything you need to know about online biology degree programs at the bachelor’s level, including a list of today’s top schools, curriculum details, and career options.
Written By Edumed Staff
Last Updated: 02/18/2021 ——
An online biology degree is an excellent way for science-minded students to learn the intricacies of how the living world works. If you want to study a subject with significant educational and professional potential, including medical school down the road or work in pharmaceuticals or research, majoring in biology is a great option.
Earning a biology degree online is easier than ever thanks to its increased popularity and flexible learning options that allow you to learn at home while handling other life responsibilities. This guide discusses what you need to know about an online bachelor’s degree in biology, including top-ranked programs, curriculum offerings, and common career paths.
Best Online Biology Degrees for 2021
EduMed vetted some of the best online biology programs, and the three profiled below rose to the top. Using flexible and accommodating learning methods, each program provides rigorous instruction in biological science and prepares you for a range of career paths. They also offer affordability, accreditation, and strength of curriculum to provide a solid beginning for your career in biology. Jumpstart your school search by learning who stands out in 2021.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s (ASU) online bachelor of science in biological sciences helps students delve deeper into the basic organization and processes of life, from molecules and microbes to larger ecosystems and complex organisms. The program looks at genetic and environmental instances of diversity, examines how life forms evolve, and explores how those forms interact with their environments. The 120-credit course of study cultivates broad-based scientific literacy and focuses on biological insights that inform additional concerns related to health, wellness, and disease.
ASU’s online biology degree develops the core competencies required of premed students and offers additional MCAT preparation in science and mathematics. The program involves 39 classes with most learning experiences lasting 7-8 weeks. Except for in-person lab requirements, ASU delivers all coursework using flexible technologies. The curriculum covers general biology, statistics and quantitative reasoning for the life sciences, evolutionary history, organic chemistry, and physics. Students can also complete an optional internship component.
Washington State University
Washington State University (WSU) offers an online bachelor of science in biology designed for transfer students with some background in the life sciences. Administered by WSU’s global campus, the program prepares you for work in human anatomy, genetics, disease biology, evolutionary biology, and more. It builds core, transferable skills in technical writing, data analysis, research design, and principles of scientific reasoning. The program is led by seasoned faculty in WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, including experts in aquatic ecology, population genetics, plant physiology, and genome biology.
WSU expects students to carry at least 27 transferable credits and calls for prerequisites in general physics, organic chemistry, and introductory biology. Students receive all material entirely online using a combination of synchronous asynchronous platforms, making it a fitting option for busy learners and working professionals. Coursework covers a range of topics like cell and molecular biology, plant and animal development, and ecological conservation. WSU offers three matriculation dates and admission deadlines each year.
University of Florida
At the University of Florida (UF), aspiring biologists choose a pathway that best approximates their professional goals. The school’s online biology degreeresults in either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science. Within those, student specialize further by studying either general biology or microbiology and cell science depending on their career goals. Both options provide rigorous and comprehensive instruction in the diverse forms and processes of organic life and offer solid preparation for graduates planning to work in education, biotechnology, biomedical research, and the pharmaceutical industries.
Eligible transfer applicants must satisfy course prerequisites in chemistry, physics, and remedial biology. Additional requirements include official transcripts, recent SAT or ACT test scores, and a completed application. Competitive transfer applicants for the microbiology and cell science track may qualify for additional financial aid through UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Coursework is administered online and supplemented by an in-person lab component arranged at a regional campus near your home.
FAQs About Online Biology Degrees
Perusing school websites and reading program profiles helps you learn programs details before applying. Knowing how prospective programs work and what to expect will help you make an informed decision. Below are answers to some key questions, including overall costs, career prospects, and learning outcomes.
What do you learn in an online biology degree program at the bachelor’s level?
Every school is unique, and each online bachelor’s degree in biology provides programming specific to its own approach. That said, most programs administer a program designed to achieve common learning outcomes with similar requirements.
Core topics include foundations in scientific principles with emphasis on the structure, evolution, and interaction of organic life forms across a range of diverse ecosystems. Prospective students can expect to develop the following set of skills.
The ability to apply proven scientific principles to pressing questions and problems in biology, including gathering data, making reasoned observations, formulating hypotheses, and conducting experiments designed to test hypotheses.
A clear understanding of existing literature and research in biological science along with the critical capacity to analyze, assess, and communicate technical information to diverse audiences.
An awareness of the ethical issues and societal problems often arising from biological investigation and the expertise necessary to recognize how those concerns can further advance the field in conversation with other disciplines.
A deep understanding of the relationship between function and structure according to different biological scales, including how genetic information is stored and encoded and how evolutionary processes support biodiversity.
Expert knowledge of how insights from mathematics, physics, and organic chemistry support biological inquiry, along with hard skills in the primary practices and techniques used in lab-based testing and research.
Common Online Biology Courses
Introduction to Biochemistry and Molecular Biology This course introduces students to the principles of physics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and intermediary metabolism. It surveys the structure of nucleic acids, proteins, and enzyme kinetics and looks at processes of gene expression in RNA and DNA. In some programs, the class calls for prerequisites in organic chemistry or a related lab science.
Evolutionary Biology Survey This class gives an introductory overview of evolutionary theory, including its origins in the early 20th century, its development in conversation with other disciplines, and its contemporary applications. Emphasis is given to evolutionary processes at the molecular and organismal levels along with speciation and genome evolution.
Applied Physics A foundational building block for interdisciplinary inquiry, this course focuses on physics applications specific to biological science. It requires working knowledge of algebra and trigonometry and looks at motion mechanics, energy discharge, heat conduction, and applied optics. The course often involves a hands-on lab component in an interactive setting.
Vertebrate Zoology Usually an optional elective, this course develops skills for aspiring zoologists and conservationists. It examines the characteristics, classification, and common features of vertebrate animals with focus on their evolution and natural history. Topics include natural selection phenomena, climate ecology, and instances of mass extinction.
Cell Biology This major requirement provides a high-level survey of the basic features and functions of cells along with the main modes of inquiry used to examine them. It looks at how the cell works as the fundamental unit of all organic life, including biochemical mechanisms, metabolism, cytoplasm, and DNA replication.
What specializations are offered in online bachelor’s biology degrees?
Most biology programs at this level anticipate further study that deepens skills and encourages additional expertise. To prepare you for that process, most schools offer areas of specialization or concentration. Below are some of the most popular options.
Wildlife/Conservation Biology This specialization prepares students for work in conservation and environmental protection. It looks at evolution and animal behavior and focuses on how factors like climate change affect natural ecosystems. Most programs with this concentration administer curriculum offerings that help degree-seekers identify measures needed to sustain wildlife.
Biology of Disease Aspiring scientists interested in epidemiology and lab-based diagnostics will find this specialization especially useful. It provides the technical knowledge necessary to identify diseases and permutations of disease in an effort to mitigate spread. Students learn to promote healthy immune response and investigate ecological factors contributing to disease and infection.
Behavioral Biology Designed for those interested in interdisciplinary work combining insights from biology, psychology, and social science, this area focuses on how evolution and ecology motivate behavior. It builds on foundational principles in natural science and applies them to localized efforts dealing with genetic, hormonal, and neural concerns in biomedicine.
Molecular Genetics and Cell Science This area examine how biological science works at the molecular and microscopic levels. It investigates how genetic information is encoded in genomes across the plant and animal kingdoms, including single and multi-cell organisms. It provides preparation for work in medical and biological research, lab science, and public health.
Neurobiology A concentration in neurobiology further qualifies you for work in biotechnology and biomedicine. It develops core skills in computational analysis, subcellular manipulation, and molecular mechanics. Topics covered include neuroethology, membrane excitability, and cell death. Students often apply these insights to common problems in neurological functioning.
Integrative and Organismal Biology This specialization builds a holistic and comprehensive approach to organism and physiological analysis in ecological and evolutionary contexts. Students typically focus on either plant or animal systems with an emphasis on biodiversity and interactions between organisms. Graduates usually find work in wildlife management, veterinary medicine, or lab-based biological research.
How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s in biology online?
Most programs take four years, but some are quicker since many students enter their online biology degree program with transfer credits. Some schools even call for a certain number of transfer credits up front. This is especially the case with degree completion programs in biology that attract students who have finished general education instruction and some lab components elsewhere.
Enrollment status and program delivery methods also affect timeframes for completion. Part-time students typically take longer than full-time ones, while accelerated or intensive programs offer expedited paths to completion.
What are the admissions requirements for an online bachelor’s degree in biology?
Admission requirements may vary so contact individual schools to learn specifics, especially noting key deadlines. Most schools with an online bachelor’s degree in biologyfollow similar processes. Your application will likely need the following:
Official academic transcripts demonstrating a competitive GPA
Recent SAT/ACT test scores (most schools accept both)
A professional resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
A personal statement describing your goals and background
Letters of reference from past teachers or mentors
Many schools also ask for course prerequisites in science and mathematics.
How much do online biology degrees cost?
Tuition rates vary by institution and fluctuate yearly. If you attend a public state school, costs will probably be less than private alternatives, but there could be exceptions.
Some schools also charge flat rates for remote learning regardless of location. The tuition rates listed below offer a broad picture of costs, so confirm rates with individual schools before moving forward with your online bachelor’s degree in biology.
Can I earn my bachelor’s degree in biology completely online?
Several schools administer biology programs entirely online using simulations or other interactive experiences to replace labs and other hands-on requirements. Other programs deliver all didactic coursework online and require in-person lab components near the end. These requirements sometimes take place on the school’s main campus, but many extend opportunities for labs near your living area.
Should I get a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in biology?
Getting a B.S. or a B.A. depends on your interests and career goals. Most schools granting an online bachelor’s degree in biology confer either a B.S. or a B.A. with a few extending both options.
A B.S. in biology focuses on preparation in science and mathematics. It looks ahead to professional work in biological research, medical testing, lab diagnostics, and data collection. The B.A. offers a broader approach and prepares graduates for more interdisciplinary work in education or allied health.
How to Fund Your Online Biology Degree
Securing reliable financial aid before beginning study is crucial. Covering all the costs often seems overwhelming, but there are many financial aid options available.
Scholarships & Grants
These opportunities offer the most lucrative and comprehensive funding. They are merit or need-based awards set aside for tuition-related expenses, and many are renewable for up to four years. Most schools offer their own scholarships and grants, as do many businesses, professional organizations, and nonprofits.
Student loans are a viable option when standard scholarships are limited. Loans are subject to interest rates and need repaid after graduation. The federal government, private lenders, and individual schools often offer loans.
Additional funding options include paid internships, work study placements, and research fellowships. These are competitive and vary widely. Because biology is such a hands-on discipline, there may be more research or lab fellowships available than with other programs.
Accreditation Standards for Online Biology Degrees
Reputable programs must possess proper accreditation regardless of field or discipline. This ensures programming meets acceptable standards of quality and excellence. So, be sure to research potential schools ahead of time to verify their accreditation status.
The process begins at the institutional level through independent agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Private universities and public colleges usually receive regional accreditation, the most prominent and prestigious form. By contrast, technical, vocational, and for-profit institutions often hold national accreditation.
Additional forms of accreditation are only useful if schools first hold institutional accreditation. Often called programmatic or specialized accreditation, this additional designation provides backing specific to individual disciplines. In biology, bodies like the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology oversee this process.
Careers and Salaries for Online Biology Degree Grads
Earning an online bachelor’s degree in biology opens a variety of promising career paths. Biology graduates usually earn more than those from other programs and find work in a variety of industries relying on biological science expertise. Learn more below about the career and earning potential a biology degree offers.
What can you do with a bachelor’s degree in biology?
Graduates with an online biology degree enjoy a range of rewarding job options. Biologists can find work as researchers, scientists, lab technicians, and medical consultants. Career paths are often determined by specializations chosen in undergraduate and graduate school. A specialty in microbiology, for example, can prepare a student work studying viruses and parasites on the behalf of pharmaceutical companies.
Professionals with an online bachelor’s degree in biology can also work in less technical fields. Some work as faculty members or researchers within postsecondary institutions, while others teach elementary or high school science. A biology degree can also provide preparation for aspiring healthcare professionals.
Additional popular career options include:
Biochemist or biophysicist
Natural science manager
How much can you earn with a bachelor’s degree in biology?
The table below outlines the salary prospects for several prominent career paths in biology based on recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. Median earnings for these professions outpace the national averages for all occupations in nearly every respect. Each career also offers room for advancement with top earners making significant increases over their starting salaries.
An online undergraduate biology degree qualifies you for many entry-level positions. Because the field is so specialized, though, many professionals regularly advance their education. Popular continuing education and advanced study opportunities, detailed below, can deepen skill sets, broaden job prospects, and increase earning power.
Continuing Education Options
Online Master’s Degree in Biology An online master’s degree in biology allows you to specialize and to deepen expertise. It acts as a steppingstone for students interested in earning a doctorate and prepares them for technical research in biology and other lab-based sciences.
Online Master’s Degree in Public Health Getting an online master’s degree in public health (MPH) complements a biology background by giving it more interdisciplinary focus. This credential prepares working professionals for leadership roles and shows how to apply insights from biology to community health concerns across different populations.
Medical School Biology is one of the most beneficial premed majors because it builds a solid foundation in key areas like genetics and physiology covered by the MCAT test. It also develops hard skills in core competencies like the scientific method and quantitative reasoning.
Related Degrees You May Be Interested In
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health Earning an online public health degree prepares students for future work as health examiners, epidemiologists, and policy analysts among other professions. It requires some knowledge of basic biological processes, and it applies those principles in contexts that increase and support public health.
Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry A chemistry degree requires a working knowledge of organic or biochemistry. It looks at how chemical elements and compounds function and how they interact with one another. It also examines how they behave when they encounter different forms of organic life.
Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Sciences A degree in biomedical science emphasizes aspects of biology directly relevant to quality healthcare delivery and the advancement of medical science. Graduates sometimes pursue further advanced study and often work as social workers, health claims reviewers, and health science educators.