Biology is more hands-on and experiential than most college majors. Look through the curriculum at any university and you’re bound to see plenty of labs and required experimental projects. How, then, can universities offer biology degree online programs? There are few options available at the bachelor’s level, but the undergraduate programs that do exist tend to be either degree completion programs or offer an atypical curriculum.
Most of the online biology degree programs, however, are master’s programs. If you’re interested in acquiring an advanced understanding of biology, but don’t want to pursue a professional program, such as medicine or pharmacy, a master’s in biology online degree could be the perfect middle ground for you. Since the majority of lab work and hands-on requirements are taken care of at the undergraduate level, master’s programs focus on delivering conceptual information in topics like biostatistics and bioinformatics. Also, affordable biology degree online master’s programs are available. We reviewed 45 online biology programs listed by NCES College Navigator to determine the best value programs.
Below is our list of the top 15 value online biology degree programs ranked according to raw affordability.
Best Online Biology Degree Programs
#15 – Southern New Hampshire University
Online Bachelor’s in Environmental Science
Manchester, New Hampshire
Undergraduate Tuition/Fees: $31,136
Southern New Hampshire University’s biology degree online programs such as the environmental science degree are regionally accredited and meet high academic standards. Also, the program accepts up to 90 undergraduate credits, saving you time and money when transferring from another institution. The environmental science undergraduate program is ideally designed for individuals interested in protecting the planet through clean energy and conservation. The program offers concentrations in natural resources and conservation or geospatial technologies. Courses include ecological principals and field methods, environmental science research methods, fundamentals of chemistry, and general biology. In addition to accreditation and flexible coursework, Southern New Hampshire also offers a strong reputation with major publications. U.S. News and World Report ranks the school #112 in best regional universities in the North.
#14 – George Washington University
Online Master’s in Clinical Microbiology
Washington, District of Columbia
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $30,834
George Washington University has a reputation for its high caliber programs, so there is no surprise that its online master’s in biology programs hit the mark. Students don’t have to live in Washington, D.C. to enroll in GWU’s strong online clinical microbiology graduate programs, as well as a wide number of other health science and biotech-related degrees. In fact, the school offers an impressively comprehensive selection of graduate-level majors in the health sciences, including concentrations in clinical research administration, immunohematology and biotechnology, and medical laboratory sciences. The flexibility of these accredited online biology degrees gives you the freedom to choose what to study based on your career interests, such as immunology, genomics, biostatistics, immunohematology, and biochemistry. Also, GWU ranks with major publications, adding to its reputation and prestige. In the most recent publication of Best Colleges, U.S. News and World Report ranks George Washington #63 in best national universities.
#13 – Lehigh University
Online Master’s in Molecular Biology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $27,130
One of the top biology degree online programs on our list is the molecular biology program at Lehigh University. To be considered for admission, you will need an undergraduate degree in the life sciences or chemistry. In addition to the undergraduate degree, you must also have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and have taken several prerequisite courses, such as genetics and organic chemistry. Once admitted, you will take online courses including advanced cellular biology and molecular genetics. But more than courses are required. You will also complete a research course and series of electives designed to prepare you for a career working in a scientific laboratory. Lehigh is a premier institution and ranked by U.S. News and World Report. U.S. News ranks the school #53 in best national universities and #27 in best value institutions.
#12 – University of Illinois
Online Master’s in Teaching Biology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,126
Ideally designed for teachers, the online master’s in biology program at University of Illinois provides online courses for individuals looking to incorporate the most up-to-date biology and science knowledge into the classroom. While designed for educators, students do not need to only be biology teachers. Students from all fields of science are welcome, though the program focus is on teaching biology. All courses are delivered online and provide students with opportunities to interact with classmates on a deeper level outside of class. University of Illinois is accredited and ranked. U.S. News and World Report ranks the school #46 in best national universities.
#11 – Washington State University
Online Master’s in Molecular Biosciences
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,802
Washington State University’s online master’s in biology program is a professional degree designed to help students with science degree transition into lucrative and high-paying careers. In addition to career-transitioning students and mid-career professionals, K-12 science teachers seeking additional education may enroll in the program to aid in career promotion or increase compensation. The program consists of 30 credits and a series of online courses. These courses include advanced molecular biology, bioinformatics, cell biology, and general biology. In addition to courses, students must complete a 320-hour internship with an internship mentor. WSU is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the 140th best national university and the 83rd best value school in the country.
#10 – Colorado State University
Online Master of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology
Fort Collins, Colorado
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,495
Colorado State University’s online master’s in biology program is designed for individuals interested in studying ecology and management of wild animals for their benefit and the benefit of humans. This 30-credit hour program is offered fully online and can be completed in three years. Flexible coursework fits busy schedules with its self-paced and flexible structure. Topics covered in the online courses include conservation biology theory and practice, natural resource policy, population dynamics and habitat management, and stakeholder communication on natural resource issues. Colorado State is accredited and ranked. U.S. News and World Report ranks the institution #140 in best national universities and #141 in best value schools.
#9 – Western Kentucky University
Online Master’s in Biology
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,140
Western Kentucky University’s online master’s in biology program is designed for students with the ambition to tackle a graduate program but are apprehensive about the research requirements needed for most graduate science degrees. You will still need to complete a series of online courses and the 30 credit hours required of the degree, but a non-thesis track is available. To add to the flexibility of the program, courses are available online during every term, including summer. Admission requirements are stringent and include a minimum 3.0 GPA and satisfactory GRE scores. Western Kentucky is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the 34th best regional university in the South. Also, the online bachelor’s and master’s programs have ranked consistently among the top 50 in the country.
#8 – Arizona State University
Online Bachelor’s in Biological Sciences
Undergraduate Tuition/Fees: $10,822
Arizona State University offers an accredited online bachelor’s in biology program that delves into the basic organization and processes of life, from molecules to ecosystems. A total of 39 classes and 120 credit hours are required for the bachelor’s in biological sciences program. Classes run 7.5 weeks, and all courses are delivered online. These courses include conceptual approaches to biology, general chemistry, and statistics for life sciences. All classes are taught by the same ASU faculty who teach on campus. ASU is an accredited and highly ranked public institution. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranks the school #115 in best national universities. Also, the online bachelor’s programs rank #2 in the country.
#7 – Clemson University
Online Master’s in Biological Sciences
Clemson, South Carolina
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,602
Clemson University’s biology degree online program fits a unique population. The program is designed for general teachers with an interest in biology or life sciences and science educators looking to further their biological skillset. This non-thesis program mandates the completion of an original scientific research proposal and project but does not require the traditional thesis found in most master’s programs. Online courses include understanding animal biology, understanding cellular process, and understanding ecology and ecosystems. Clemson is accredited and ranked by major publications like U.S. News and World Report. U.S. News ranks Clemson #66 in best national universities. Also, several online graduate programs have earned top rankings.
#6 – Indiana State University
Online Master’s in Biology
Terre Haute, Indiana
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,616
Indiana State University’s online master’s in biology includes 32 credits and a non-thesis pathway for pre-professional students looking to develop courses tailored for interests and career goals. While there is no thesis to complete, students are required to enroll in a research course and seminars. Also, all students complete a culminating experience related to research with a faculty member. In addition to research classes and seminars, regular coursework includes topics in biology behavior, conservation, ecology, evolution, microbiology, and molecular biology. Indiana State is ranked by U.S. News and World Report. In fact, the publication ranks ISU #230-#301 in best national universities. Also, several online graduate programs have received top rankings.
#5 – University of Maryland University College
Online Bachelor’s in Biotechnology
Undergraduate Tuition/Fees: $7,416
One of the few biology degree online programs on our list that emphasize biotechnology is offered at University of Maryland University College. This affordable online bachelor’s in biology program is a rare find for individuals seeking distance education. And like most rare and unique programs, the biotechnology degree will lead to a promising career for the right student. The school’s online biology degree curriculum takes on a characteristically practical feel. Between technology-focused classes like bioinformatics and career-prep courses like laboratory management and safety, graduates of the program are prepared for modern careers in biomedicine, healthcare technology, and pharmacology. In addition to accreditation, University of Maryland ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. It is also one of the most affordable schools on our list.
#4 – University of Nebraska
Online Master’s in Biology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,187
University of Nebraska’s biology degree online program offers rigorous classes and distance learning curriculum. This program was developed for students who are unable to participate in an on-campus format. Also, the program requires no thesis, which provides added flexibility for working students and those with outside obligations. Some of the online courses included in the program cover topics like biological statistics, current issues in biology, introduction to graduate study, and organic evolution. Admission to the program requires students to hold a bachelor’s in biology or to have completed 24 hours of undergraduate biology coursework. In addition to rigor and accreditation, the school ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, U.S. News ranks University of Nebraska #53 in best regional universities in the Midwest.
#3 – University of West Alabama
Online Master’s in Conservation Biology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,868
One of the most affordable biology degree online programs available on our list is the master’s in conservation biology from University of West Alabama. This fully online and rigorous master’s program provides students with research skills that can lead to various employment opportunities in conservation agencies and organizations. Ideally designed for working students, the program offers flexible online coursework taught by the same professors who teach at the University of West Alabama campus. The 36-credit hour program consists of classes like conservation biology, critical issues in conservation biology, and research design and data analysis. In addition to accredited online coursework, the school boasts rankings with major publications. U.S. News and World Report ranks the school #107-#141 in best regional universities in the South.
#2 – Texas A & M University-Commerce
Online Master’s in Biological Sciences
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,424
Texas A&M University-Commerce’s biology degree online programs include the master’s in biological sciences. Enrolled students take classes in ecophysiology or microbial ecology, genetics or genomics, and microbiology or virology, plus a variety of other biological science-related subjects. Many incoming students declare a particular specialty, such as oncology or wildlife biology, and all students are tasked with writing a major research paper before graduating. However, TAMU-Commerce’s accredited online biology degree is not intended as a gateway to PhD programs. Instead, the department seeks current biology teachers and professional educators looking to enhance their knowledge. Also, Texas A&M-Commerce offers accreditation and reputation. In fact, Texas A&M University-Commerce ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report #230-#301 in best national universities.
#1 – University of Florida
Online Bachelor’s in Biology
Undergraduate Tuition/Fees: $3,876
Earning an online biology degree from University of Florida is ideal for students looking for a flexible bachelor’s in biology program. The online bachelor’s in biology offers the flexibility of a distance learning program while presenting solidly grounded curriculum. The online biology major prepares students for careers in education, allied health, and interdisciplinary fields of science. The curriculum is broad in nature and offers studies and approaches to the field of biology. However, this program is not designed for students interested in attending professional schools, such as dental, medical, or veterinary. UF ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 35th best national university. The school offers the #1 most affordable online bachelor’s in biology degree on our list.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do after earning an online biology degree?
Biologists work in agriculture, conservation and wildlife preservation, education, environmental protecting agencies, and laboratories. By earning a biology degree online, you become qualified for entry-level or advanced roles in biology and biological sciences.
A bachelor’s in biology online degree qualifies you for entry-level positions such as agricultural and food science technicians or beginning laboratory positions. Most employers see a bachelor’s in biology as having four years of experience and a master’s in biology degree as having two additional years of experience working in the lab or field.
The following are broad career paths one might take after acquiring a biology degree online.
Biochemists and biophysicists: Biochemists and biophysicists study biology at the chemical level. Most days are spent in a lab examining cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.
Biological technicians: Biological technicians assist medical technicians and specialists with laboratory tests and experiments.
Conservation and environmental scientists: The role of conservation scientists is to manage land quality and use of natural resources, parks, and rangelands.
Wildlife biologists: Sometimes referred to as zoologists, wildlife biologists study animals and wildlife and how they interact with ecosystems and the environment.
In addition to the above biology jobs, earning a biology degree also qualifies you for teaching roles when requirements in education are met.
Are there differences in earning an online biology degree versus on-campus?
According to recent publications, such as eCampus News and U.S. News and World Report, pros and cons exist for online and on-campus learning. Campus degrees offer classic college experiences, if that’s desired, while online degrees offer flexibility and allow you to fit your education around outside obligations like work and family.
Most online degree offerings adhere to the same standards and curriculum found in on-campus counterparts. This means you are getting the same education online that you would in a traditional classroom environment. Often, the same professors who teach on campus also instruct online.
Specifically looking at the biology degree online options, there are few differences in on-campus programs. The most common difference between online biology degree programs and on-campus counterparts is the laboratory environment. Traditional labs are done on-campus and in teams, while online labs usually take place in your kitchen and alone. Virtual labs do provide students with a team environment, but these kinds of classes are limited.
Another difference between online biology degrees and on-campus programs that impact learners is eligibility to professional programs. If you plan to pursue medical school or another professional program, you will find limitations with online biology programs. Most professional schools will not accept online degrees and therefore discourage students from enrolling in online undergraduate programs.
How long does it take to earn a biology degree online?
The time it takes to earn a biology degree online varies by school, program, enrollment status (full-time or part-time), and the level of degree.
Online bachelor’s in biology programs typically take four years to complete, though some programs offer accelerated pathways that allow students to shorten the time to completion. Most of the undergraduate biology programs on our list take between two and four years to complete.
Online master’s in biology programs vary in completion times. Some programs offering accelerated pathways allow students to complete their degree in one calendar year. This means taking classes for two semesters and one summer. Accelerated pathways usually mean full-time enrollment is required. For students working full-time, an accelerated program may impact outside obligations. Often, students working full-time opt for part-time programs that allow fewer classes be taken at a time.
Part-time enrollment, no matter which degree level, provides flexibility. Students enrolled in part-time biology programs usually take one class at a time and finish their undergraduate degree in four years. Part-time graduate programs also take longer to earn a degree but provide students with flexible coursework and a lengthened completion time. Part-time programs are ideal for those with work and family responsibilities that impact study time.
How much money can I make with a biology degree
According to PayScale, a compensation research organization that compiles the most recent salary data, the average pay for biologists is $52,565. The highest ten percent of earners yield close to $89,000 per year, while the lowest ten percent receive less than $35,000 per year.
We examined three career paths for biologists to determine pay for niche categories. These career paths included ecologists, environmental scientists, and wildlife biologists. The following salaries were reported from PayScale.
Ecologists: The average ecologist salary is $50,888. The top ten percent earn $76,000 per year and the bottom ten percent earn $35,000. Experience impacts pay. In fact, entry-level ecologists with less than one year of experience earn $41,443, while ecologists with over ten years of experience earn $61,751.
Environmental scientists: The average environmental scientist salary is $50,943 with the top ten percent earning $76,000 and the bottom ten percent earning $38,000 per year. As with ecologists, experience impacted pay. The more experience an individual has, the higher the salary.
Wildlife biologists: The average wildlife biologist salary is $51,676. The top ten percent of earners made $79,000 per year and the lowest ten percent earned $35,000. Also impacted by experience, wildlife biologists with less than one year of experience earned significantly less than individuals with five or ten years of experience.
What are the admission requirements for biology degree online programs?
Admission requirements for biology degree online programs vary. For bachelor’s degree programs, you will need a high school diploma, satisfactory performance in high school classes, and the completion of a high school biology course at minimum. Some programs provide high school GPA expectations, admitting only students with GPAs of 3.00 or better. In some cases, GPA requirements are more flexible. Also, additional science classes may be required, such as high school chemistry, physics, and an AP biology or advanced biology course.
Master’s in biology online programs require more stringent admission criteria. Most programs require an earned bachelor’s in biology from an accredited college or university. Top-tier programs require GPAs of at least 3.0 or better. However, some programs will accept students with lower undergraduate GPAs.
In addition to an undergraduate biology degree, master’s programs call for letters of recommendation from individuals who can attest to your academic performance. Most letters of recommendation should come from your undergraduate professors. Also, GRE or GMAT test scores may be required. Again, top-tier programs have more stringent requirements than lower ranked schools. Top-tier schools will ask for GRE or GMAT tests taken within the last five years.
Since admission requirements vary by program, it is important to review school and program admission criteria before applying to ensure you are a good fit.
This concludes our list of the top 15 values for online biology degree programs of 2020.