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Today's Best Online Biology Master’s Degrees

Ready to take your biology education and career to the next level? An online master’s in biology can help you get there. See which schools offer the best programs, what you can expect to learn, how you can specialize your grad degree, and much more.

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Two men examining water quality in a small glass container near a stream, one pointing while the other holds a digital tablet. lush greenery surrounds the scene.

If you’ve worked as a biological technician, laboratory technologist, or microbiologist for a few years and want to up your career game, an online master’s in biology could help you. Typically requiring two years of full-time study, these programs give you the skills and qualifications needed to take on growing roles in academia, research, and administration. They also open the door to higher salaries and more leadership opportunities. Pursuing a master’s in biology online provides the flexibility and affordability needed to help you advance your career while balancing busy schedules. Read on to learn about top programs, common coursework, financial aid, career paths, and salaries. Get started by considering our list of top programs for the 2023-2024 academic year.

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About the ranking

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Base Methodology for EduMed’s Best Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS.

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted.

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# School Name Type Tuition Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 University of Nebraska at KearneyKearney, NE Public $ 1

This master's degree program is designed for scientists, researchers, or individuals who are preparing to apply to professional schools or doctoral study programs in the field of biology. This includes high school and middle school teachers who want to expand their knowledge of biology to share in their classrooms. Students can choose from an array of topics such as physiology, genetics, and cellular and molecular biology, among others. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with an emphasis in biology.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science Degree in Biology

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $268-$589 per credit
  • Mode: Fully online; on campus
  • Accreditation: HLC; CAEP
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
98%
2 Texas A & M University-CommerceCommerce, TX Public $ 1

The Biological Sciences program at Texas A&M University-Commerce includes two tracks. Those interested in earning their Ph.D. or working in a lab setting can enroll in the 30-credit thesis track. Students can choose from a variety of specialties, from molecular biology to wildlife ecology and more. The non-thesis track is meant for biology teachers who want to expand their knowledge and improve their teaching methods. This track also prepares students for teaching dual-credit and college-level undergraduate courses.

Program Highlights:

Biological Sciences

  • Credits: 30-36
  • Length: 2-3 years
  • Cost: $407.67
  • Mode: Fully online; on campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
18/1
Online
Student %
84%
3 Alcorn State UniversityAlcorn State, MS Public $ 1

This program prepares students to pursue doctoral programs and careers in biological sciences. Students will be trained in research techniques and learn to expand their communication skills so they can disseminate research results. They'll need to complete 12 hours of core credits and 21 hours of general electives. At the end of the program, students are required to complete and orally present a thesis or a special project paper.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Biology

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: up to 6 years
  • Cost: $405
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
15/1
Online
Student %
88%
4 Indiana State UniversityTerre Haute, IN Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
16/1
Online
Student %
66%
5 University of Northern ColoradoGreeley, CO Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
14/1
Online
Student %
70%
6 Western Kentucky UniversityBowling Green, KY Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
18/1
Online
Student %
69%
7 Miami University-OxfordOxford, OH Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
16/1
Online
Student %
54%
8 Clemson UniversityClemson, SC Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
16/1
Online
Student %
47%
9 University of Saint JosephWest Hartford, CT Private not-for-profit $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
8/1
Online
Student %
18%

Noteworthy Online Master’s in Biology Programs

With many online master’s in biology programs popping up these days, finding ones that offer the accreditation, affordability, and flexibility you need can be overwhelming. Check out the programs featured below to get a more well-rounded idea of what to look for.

Clemson University

clemson-university-logo

Clemson University in South Carolina provides an online M.S. in biological sciences explicitly designed for science educators. Teachers, professors, and other professionals working in settings that offer science education– including museums and laboratories – regularly attend this fully online biology master’s program. Depending on your end goal, two pathways exist to meet your needs. The advanced student route is for non-degree seeking students. It’s primarily aimed at educators who want to continue their education, but aren’t interested in pursuing a full master’s degree. The second option is for those seeking a master’s degree. The degree-seeking route provides rigorous research and academic training for those who want to pursue a doctorate in the future.


If you choose the degree-seeking path, the program consists of 30 credits, with at least 18 required in 800-level classes or above. Courses typically included in this two-year offering include are understanding cellular processes, understanding biological inquiry, and understanding microbiology. Clemson allows you to transfer up to 12 existing credits from an approved institution. While a thesis is not required, a research project is for degree-seeking students. To meet this requirement, students must propose and complete a research project over the course of two semesters.

University of Florida

University-of-Florida

The online biology master’s degree offered by the University of Florida focuses on microbiology and cell science. Housed within the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, this 30-credit program can be completed in as little as one year and requires no visits to the Gainesville campus.
Plan to complete 20 credits in required courses, such as fundamentals in bioinformatics, mammalian molecular biology and genetics, and basis for immune-therapeutics, before devoting your final 10 credits to elective studies. In addition to general studies, you can also pursue a medical microbiology and/or biochemistry concentration.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, 3.0 or higher GPA, and transcripts demonstrating completion of courses in general biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. The department no longer requires GRE scores for admissions consideration. Regardless of where you live, all online students pay $535 per credit, plus fees.

FAQs About Online Master’s Biology Degrees

Because every online master’s in biology possesses unique characteristics and outcomes, it’s important that you know your program options before committing. Factors such as curriculum, available specializations, possible career paths, and tuition rates should all receive consideration when comparing programs. To help you, we look at the most frequently asked questions about online biology master’s degrees.

What do you learn in a biology master’s degree program?

While each online master’s in biology program is different, they offer quite a few similarities when compared to each other. As you look at various curricula, you will likely notice overlapping topics and projected learning outcomes. For instance, the following is a list of the top five competencies and knowledge you will walk away with from most top-tier programs.

  • An advanced understanding of biological concepts, including how to harness them in creating 21st-century solutions to a myriad of questions within the natural world.
  • Meaningful research skills, including design proficiencies, research techniques, and data collection, management, and analysis expertise.
  • The ability to critically evaluate primary research literature, its relationship to the field, and where it can be applied most effectively.
  • An expansive understanding of how ethics, regulations, and scientific progress must be employed in any work done within the field.
  • Competency in written and oral communication related to the biological sciences, research methods, emerging concepts, and contemporary trends and issues.

Common Classes in Master’s Degree Biology Programs

  • Evolution of Epidemics
    This course provides a historical overview of where plagues came from and how they have evolved over the earth’s timeline. Students also look at the techniques that humans have used to mitigate the effects of epidemics and consider how the field will continue to evolve.
  • Environmental Biology
    Designed to give students an understanding of how human activities affect the environment, this course examines ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, and individual species to see how changes occur over time. Students also learn how governmental policies have both helped and harmed the environment.
  • Epidemiology
    This course instills an understanding of how to control illnesses and diseases as part of ensuring the health of the greater population. Students familiarize themselves with the epidemiological approach, examine case studies, and consider how epidemiology is used within public health.
  • Global Health
    Interdisciplinary in nature, this class looks at how social and economic development directly impacts global health. Students learn how health determinants, risk factors, and other measurable qualities affect health issues in both third-world and developing countries.
  • Marketing for Scientists
    This relatively new course teaches students how to market themselves and their projects. Conversations revolve around finding funding for research projects, presenting yourself effectively when applying for a job, and marketing science itself.

Which concentrations can I choose from in an online master’s in biology?

Biology is an expansive field with applications in areas ranging from criminal justice and tree health to medicine and education. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to find online biology master’s degree programs offering a wide array of specializations. We look at some in this section, but remember to research for others that fit your interests.

  • Cellular Biology
    This specialization focuses on how cells are formed and how they behave, emphasizing how cells serve as the building block for everything else. By completing a cellular biology specialization, you gain a broad-based understanding that can be utilized in many different discipline areas.
  • Clinical Biochemistry
    Undertaking this specialization gives you advanced knowledge of how chemical processes can be used in better understanding and affecting biological organisms. If you want to work in healthcare, medical research, or public health services, this could be an excellent option for you.
  • Genetics
    Genetics focuses on the study of heredity and genes, with particular emphasis on how parents pass both good and bad genes to their offspring. If you want to work as a genetic counselor, geneticist, or genetics researcher, this specialization provides the training required to start down that path.
  • Forensic Science
    Forensic science brings together studies in biology, physics, and chemistry to identify, evaluate, and understand physical evidence. Forensic findings are often used to help solve court cases, release or imprison individuals, and bring light to unknown circumstances. This specialization serves you well for a criminal justice career.
  • Developmental Biology
    Developmental biology examines how plants, animals, and humans develop and grow. It looks at the processes that must occur for organisms to evolve and seeks to understand biological features throughout a standard lifecycle. This specialization is used in multiple biological disciplines, making it a good choice if you want to keep your options open.
  • Infectious Diseases
    As the past few years have shown, the need for infectious disease experts is significant. Pursuing this specialization gives you the tools and knowledge needed to understand bacterial, parasitic, viral, and fungal pathogenesis, host responses, risk factors, transmission pathways, and interventions to help control and prevent infectious diseases.

Do I need to take the GRE to apply to an online master’s biology program? What about other admissions requirements?

Whether or not you need to submit GRE scores depends on the schools to which you apply. Ask the admissions director or check the school’s website to learn about specifics. Other admission materials you should plan to provide include:

  • Evidence of accredited bachelor’s degree in biology or a related subject
  • Official transcripts
  • Evidence of a minimum GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Essay question answers
  • Resume/CV

How fast can I earn my online master’s in biology?

How long it takes you to complete an online biology master’s degree depends on several factors. While most programs require 30-36 credits, how quickly you complete them depends on whether you enroll on a part-time, full-time, or accelerated basis. Full-time students usually graduate within two years, while part-time and accelerated students can add or subtract a year from that number, respectively. Many master’s in biology online programs also allow you to transfer existing, approved credits (usually between 9-12 hours) to the school, making it easier to graduate more quickly.

How affordable are online biology master’s degrees?

The cost of an online master’s degree in biology can vary, making it important for you to do your research and understand the tuition and fees of schools under consideration. Attending a private school, for instance, almost always costs more than a state school. Similarly, attending as an out-of-state student at a state school can cause the cost to rise significantly. Other factors you should consider include how long it takes you to graduate and how much funding you can secure in the form of scholarships, grants, etc. Check out these three schools to get a sense of average costs.

Western-Kentucky-University

Western Kentucky University

M.S. in Biology

Total Credits: 30

$607/credit (resident); $707/credit (non-resident)

clemson-university-logo-block

Clemson University

M.S. in Biological Sciences for Science Educators

Total Credits: 30

$448/credit

Texas-A-M-University–Commerce

Texas A&M University – Commerce

M.S. in Biological Sciences

Total Credits: 36

$407/credit

Where to Get Help Paying for Your Online Master’s in Biology

Ensuring you have the funds to pay for your master’s in biology online is key to a smooth transition into graduate school. Many financial aid options exist to help you cover expenses and graduate without a mountain of debt; you just need to know where to look.

1

A favorite of nearly every student, scholarships and grants don’t have to be repaid so long as you meet the terms of the award. You can find them via colleges and universities, government agencies, professional associations, research facilities, nonprofits, and foundations.

2

Student loans are a reasonable option after you’ve exhausted other types of funding, but these must be repaid with interest. Provided by the federal government, student loans can help you bridge the gap between paid and unpaid expenses to ensure all educational costs are covered.

3

There are several other financial aid options that can help cover costs. Research and teaching assistantships can provide stipends and/or tuition reimbursement, while work-study options enable you to work around your schedule and get paid. These opportunities may not be available at every school, but you can ask the financial aid officer what’s available.

Career Options and Salary Potential for Online Master’s in Biology Grads

Earning an online master’s degree in biology provides the credentials you need to seek advanced academia, research, and administration roles. The degree can take you in many different directions, with salary potential varying substantially. This section explores how your degree can help you professionally and financially.

What can you do with a master’s degree in biology?

Possessing a master’s degree allows you to compete for jobs unavailable to candidates with only a bachelor’s degree. Because biology translates to such a wide variety of fields and industries, career opportunities are expansive. Whether working at a hospital, nonprofit, government agency, or foundation, here are some of the jobs you may find after graduating.

  • Arborist
  • Biochemist
  • Cellular Biologist
  • Community College Professor
  • Epidemiologist
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Genetic Counselor
  • Natural Science Manager
  • Public Health Researcher
  • Zoologist

How much can you make with a master’s degree in biology?

Salary potential with a master’s in biology can vary substantially based on the occupation you enter, the amount of experience you possess, and where you live. The following table looks at four popular options for graduates, but we suggest that you conduct additional research on careers that interest you in the geographic areas in which you want to live.

Career Median National Annual Salary (2019) 10th Percentile 90th Percentile
Biochemist $94,490 $50,620 $182,870
Epidemiologist $70,990 $44,000 $119,290
Genetic Counselor $81,880 $61,310 $114,750
Zoologist $63,270 $38,880 $101,780

Have you already tackled your biology master’s or are you curious about your education options after getting your master’s degree? There are a couple degree options to consider if you want to continue growing in your current career or enter an adjacent field. Two of the most common include getting a PhD in biology or an advanced degree in public health.

Continuing Education Options

  • PhD in Biology
    An online Ph.D. in biology typically takes five to seven years to complete and allows you to take on advanced research and teaching roles after graduating. While some graduates work in administrative positions, this degree best serves you in the world of research and academia.
  • Online PhD in Public Health
    An online Ph.D. in public health programs also take about five to seven years to complete and lead to professional opportunities in teaching, research, global administration, and management of health crises responses. You may also decide to work as a policy advisor or advanced epidemiologist.

Alternative Degrees to Consider

  • Online Master’s in Public Health (MPH)
    If you know you want to address public health crises, educate others on how to stay healthy, and develop innovative solutions, an online master’s in public health could be a nice fit for you. Many schools provide these degrees via distance learning and offer specializations to help concentrate your knowledge.
  • Online Master’s in Health Sciences
    Health sciences focus on understanding how you can apply scientific principles to both animal and human health. You could pursue an online master’s in health sciences to work in research or in more clinical areas. Most programs take two years to complete.