Inside Look at 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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Last Updated: 12/07/2020
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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.

Today’s Best 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 is a high priority. We’ve identified some of the top programs for 2021 to help you begin a rewarding career in biology after graduating. Check out the three high-quality programs featured below to help you get started on your school search.

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 scientists working in settings that offer educational services – 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. Clemson designed the advanced student route for students who do not plan on seeking additional degrees. The second option provides a non-thesis path for those who may want to pursue a doctorate in the future.

The degree comprises 30 credits, with at least 18 required in 800-level classes or above. Clemson allows you to transfer up to 12 existing credits from an approved institution. While a thesis is not required, a research project is.

Courses typically included in this two-year offering are understanding cellular processes, understanding biological inquiry, and understanding microbiology.

University of Nebraska, Kearney (UNK)

University-of-Nebraska

You can earn an online master’s degree in biology without ever setting foot in Nebraska thanks to UNK’s thriving eCampus. If you already possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college with an emphasis in biology and a 2.75 or higher GPA, you can apply to this 36-credit program.

The school accepts new applications for the fall, spring, and summer semesters and allows you to transfer up to nine approved credits from another biology master’s degree. If you enroll full-time, you can graduate in two years with the inclusion of two eight-week intensive sessions in the summer. Required courses include principles of immunology, evolution of epidemics, and global health perspectives. The department also provides a wide variety of electives to help you specialize.

Graduates of UNK’s program go into careers related to science outreach and education, wildlife biology, food science research, and environmental science, among other fields.

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. In addition to general studies, you can also pursue a medical microbiology and biochemistry concentration.

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.

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.

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 2020 has 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

$499/credit

Texas-A-M-University–Commerce

Texas A&M University – Commerce

M.S. in Biological Sciences

Total Credits: 36

$742/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

Scholarships & Grants

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

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

Other Options

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

Whether you’re looking to grow and enrich your current career or you’re seeking a related, but different career path, multiple options are available. Here, we’ve listed just a few.

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
    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 say healthy, and develop innovative solutions, an online master’s in public health could be a niche 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.