Biological Sciences Programs - Biology & Biochemistry

A degree in biology or biochemistry opens students up to a wide range of career possibilities in health sciences, cell biology, biotechnology, and more. Biology is the study of life and all types of living organisms, which includes the anatomy, behavior, distribution, evolution, function, growth, physiology, and structure of all living things. On the other hand, biochemistry refers to the study of the chemical processes that take place inside of a living organism to explain why it functions as it does.

With a degree in biology or biochemistry, graduates can have a significant impact on the physical world as well as improve the everyday lives of thousands of people. Many students who major in biology or biochemistry for their undergraduate degree may plan to go on to become doctors, scientists, or researchers. When choosing between a biology or biochemistry major, it’s important to consider one’s personal interests and personality, as well as the major differences between the two disciplines since they have considerable overlap.

In a biology program, students are going to be studying the physical environment and the lifeforms it contains. Biochemistry, which is the combination of biology and chemistry, focuses on the energy production and storage of the cells of living organisms.

The good news is that both majors—or a double major—can offer rich career opportunities. Graduates in these fields can expect to find positions at agricultural companies, public health departments, environmental science groups, research labs, or pharmaceutical companies.

Biology and Biochemistry: Specializations

The George Washington University (Health Sciences)
Online MSHS - Translational Microbiology
MSHS - Clinical Microbiology
MSHS - Molecular Diagnostic Sciences
Chemistry (Post-Baccalaureate Cert)
Microbiology (Post-Baccalaureate Cert)
Arizona State University
Biological Sciences (BS)
Biomimicry (MS)
Biochemistry (BS)
Johns Hopkins University (AAP)
MS - Biotechnology
University of Cincinnati Online
BS - Medical Laboratory Science (MLT/CLT Cert Required)

Schools that offer degrees in biochemistry typically allow students to choose from one of several educational concentrations. While there are dozens of specializations to choose from, here are several common tracks to consider:

  • Bioengineering: Also called biomedical engineering, this specialty applies engineering principles to biology and healthcare. A bioengineer works closely with researchers, doctors, and therapists to develop new medical equipment and treatments.
  • Biomimicry: Biomimicry attempts to solve human challenges by taking cues from nature. It creates processes and products that can adapt to life on earth indefinitely.
  • Biotechnology: Specialists in this field manipulate microorganisms and biological processes to produce antibodies, hormones, and other healthcare products.
  • Botany: Also called plant science or plant biology, botany studies flowering plants as well as algae, conifers, ferns, fungi, lichens, and mosses.
  • Ecology: The combination of biology and earth science, ecology considers how living organisms interact with their physical environment as well as with each other.
  • Marine biology: A marine biologist studies plant and animal life in the oceans as well as other saltwater environments.
  • Microbiology: This branch of biology studies organisms too small for the human eye to see. Some examples include algae, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.
  • Zoology: Zoologists study the behavior, evolution, structure, and classification of all animals, including those now extinct.

Professors to Know in Biological Sciences

Dr. Dean Adams teaches ecology and evolutionary biology at Iowa State University. He earned his doctoral degree in ecology and evolution at SUNY at Stony Brook, his master’s degree in biology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and his bachelor’s in biology from Franklin & Marshall College. Dr. Adams specializes in evolutionary biology, morphometrics, and biostatistics. His research focuses on the evolution of the multivariate phenotype, and he is currently developing new analytical and theoretical approaches for quantifying the multivariate phenotype and creating patterns of change with phenotypic evolution.

Dr. Catherine Clark is a professor of biochemistry in UCLA’s department of chemistry and biochemistry. She earned her bachelor’s degree and doctorate at UCLA as well. Her PhD studies focused on the regulation of cholesterol metabolism and her specialties are in biochemistry, chemical biology, proteomics and bioinformatics, systems biology and biological regulation metabolism, and aging and development. In 2016, Dr. Clarke was named the chair of the UCLA department of chemistry and biochemistry.

Dr. Bryan Cowen is an assistant professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department at University of Denver, where he teaches organic chemistry. He earned his doctorate in chemistry at Yale University and his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Binghamton University. He also completed a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center between 2009 and 2012. Dr. Cowen’s primary research interests involve the development of new synthetic methods to prepare small and functional organic compounds.

Admissions Requirements for Biology and Biochemistry Programs

While every school has unique admissions requirements, the following are most common:

  • Minimum of 3.0 GPA in high school or undergraduate courses (particularly in science and math courses)
  • Class prerequisites (e.g., chemistry, biology, physics, calculus)
  • Application and fee
  • Statement of purpose
  • Letters of recommendation from previous employers or college professors
  • Official transcripts from all other previous colleges
  • Completion of the SAT, ACT, or GRE
  • Resume or CV (graduate programs may call for years of qualifying work or research experience)

On-Campus Undergraduate Programs in Biological Sciences

Students have the option of selecting a program that is on-campus, online, or a combination of both, known as a hybrid program. Below are three on-campus programs to consider.

Iowa State University

The biology bachelor’s program at Iowa State University is offered jointly by the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology and the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology to offer a flexible program that takes advantage of the university’s strengths in science and technology and accommodates its students’ career goals. Students can choose from one of five specializations if desired, including ecology and conservation, evolution and biodiversity, molecular and cellular biology, pre-medical and human health, and pre-veterinary medicine. The program’s consists of coursework such as principles of biology, ecology, genetics, molecular cell biology, and biological evolution.

  • Location: Ames, Iowa
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $3,870 for Iowa resident, $11,072 for out-of-state residents, or $11,850 for international students
  • Program length: Four years

University of Denver

This bachelor of science (BS) in biochemistry degree program requires students to declare two minors, one of which can include the completion of required biology courses and the other can be in any discipline. The degree requires eight chemistry courses, including organic chemistry, quantitative chemical analysis, and biochemistry. It also includes ten credits in biology and lab, five credits in cell structure and function, five credits in general genetics, and four credits in an upper division biology course. This undergraduate degree in biochemistry may be ideal for those who wish to attend biochemistry, dental, medical, or veterinary school.

  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $49,392 per year
  • Program length: Four years or 47 quarter-hours

University of Washington

At the University of Washington, students can choose between a bachelor of arts (BA or a bachelor of science (BS) in biology. For the BS, students can either opt for the general track or choose between four specializations: ecology, evolution and conservation biology; molecular, cellular and developmental biology; physiology; and plant biology. Students studying other disciplines can also minor in marine biology or paleobiology. The courses students need to complete for the biology majors fall into the categories of foundational courses, natural history, molecular cell development, physiology, and ecology.

  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $10,127 per year for Washington residents or $35,508 for non-Washington residents
  • Program length: Four years

Online Undergraduate Programs in Biological Sciences

Although some programs are entirely online, most schools require students to spend some time on-campus due to the hands-on nature of biology and biochemistry. Below are three primarily online programs.

Arizona State University

The U.S. News and World Report named Arizona State University the top school in the country for innovation in 2018. ASU offers online bachelor of science (BS) degrees in both biological sciences and biochemistry. Each class spans 7.5 weeks for a total of 39 classes and 120 credit-hours. The program is designed to prepare students for the MCAT, medical school admissions, and any graduate program in biology. The courses focus on basic organization and life processes of animals, microbes, and plants in sizes ranging from molecules to entire ecosystems. Examples of courses include calculus for life sciences, chemistry, genetics, and biological evolution. While the majority of the program is online, students may be required to attend an on-campus labs or fulfill the requirement via transfer credit.

  • Location: Tempe, Arizona
  • Accreditation: North Central Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $10,896 per year
  • Program length: Two to four years, depending on transfer credits

University of Florida

This online bachelor of arts (BA) in biology program is designed for aspiring bioinformatics professionals, epidemiologists, medical or veterinary technicians, pharmacist assistants, food safety experts, marine mammal trainers, conservation biologists, and pharmaceutical researchers, among others. While the program aims to prepare students for a career in education, allied health professions, environmental law, bioscience journalism, or bioscience management, it is not intended for those who wish to attend dental, medical, or veterinary school. Examples of foundation courses include general biology, chemistry, and physics. Some of the core courses include molecular biology, ecology, and evolution and diversity.

  • Location: Gainesville, Florida
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $129.18 per credit hour for the online program, or $212.71 per credit hour for the residential program
  • Program length: Four years

Western Governors University

This program was created for those who aspire to teach biology. Explicitly designed to prepare teachers for grades five to 12, the biology degree at WGU consists of 39 credits and several competencies. In the online curriculum, students must prove that they mastered one competency before moving on to the next. Competencies include foundations of teaching, general education, general science content, health sciences, biology content, science education, pedagogy, field experience, demonstration of teaching, science, and chemistry content. While this bachelor's of arts (BA) program is mostly online, there are some in-classroom requirements. Students are required to complete 75 hours of in-classroom observation and participate in a 12- to 20-week student teaching component hosted by an experienced teacher and observed by a clinical supervisor.

  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $3,190 per six-month term
  • Program length: One to three years

On-campus Graduate Programs in Biological Sciences

Georgetown University Medical Center

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology offers six on-campus master of science (MS) programs: biochemistry and molecular biology, biochemical and molecular biology with a bioinformatics track, biotechnology, biotechnology with a bio-business track, complementary and alternative medicine, and systems medicine. Sample coursework includes cell biology, molecular biology, government laboratories, regulatory science, evidence-based integrative medicine, and biological systems.

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $24,780 per semester full-time or $2,065 per credit part-time
  • Program length: Two years

University of California at Los Angeles

UCLA offers a doctoral program in biochemistry, molecular, and structural biology, during which students also can earn their MS degrees. As part of their research work, students focus on one of the following areas: structural and computational biology; systems biology and biological research regulation; metabolism, aging, and development research; or bioenergy and the environment. UCLA's class sizes are relatively small at approximately 15 students, allowing for individualized teaching. Sample coursework in this master’s program includes modeling and simulation of biological systems and research communication.

  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $16,907 for California residents or $32,009 for non-California residents
  • Program length: Two years

University of Oregon

The University of Oregon's Department of Biology offers MS specializations in either ecology and evolution or marine biology. To earn a graduate degree, students must complete 45 hours of graduate credits and a thesis. They also have the option to complete 60 hours of graduate credits and forgo completing a thesis. Examples of courses in ecology and evolution include human physiology, human genetics, biology of cancer, ecology, and evolution. Courses in marine biology include vertebrate evolution and development, plant biology, sensory physiology, neurobiology, and conservation biology.

  • Location: Eugene, Oregon
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $211 per credit for Oregon residents or $738 per credit for non-Oregon resident
  • Program length: Two years

Online Graduate Programs in Biological Sciences

Colorado State University

Students can earn their master's in fish, wildlife, and conservation biology (MFWCB) entirely online at Colorado State University. The program focuses on the management and ecology of wild animals to prepare students with the skills needed to lead studies, make decisions, and create policies related to the management of wildlife and fish. Example coursework includes conservation biology, applied sampling, natural resource policy, and stakeholder communication on natural resource issues. The program is most effective for agency personnel as well as those working for environmental consulting firms and non-government organization.

  • Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $705 per credit
  • Program length: Three years

University of Northern Colorado

The distance-based master of biomedical science (MBS) academic enhancement program at the University of Northern Colorado takes approximately one year and aims to prepare students for a biomedical career or to attend a health professional school. The program may be a good choice for those considering a career in dentistry, medical, pharmacy, veterinary, or a doctoral program in a biological field. The 31-credit program includes courses in biomedicine, cellular physiology, clinical research, homeostasis, and molecular genetics.

  • Location: Greeley, Colorado
  • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $565 per credit hour
  • Program length: 12 months

Western Kentucky University

This online MS in biology program is entirely online and does not require the completion of a thesis. Students have the option to focus on ecology, genetics, plant biology, or to take a broader range or courses. Students complete eight hours of core courses and 22 hours of electives. Core courses include introduction to graduate studies and research in biology, graduate seminar, and investigations biology. Examples of elective courses include plant physiology, molecular basis of cancer, electron microscopy, and virology.

  • Location: Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $707 per credit for online graduate students
  • Program length: 18 to 24 months

Other On-Campus Programs in Biological Sciences

Columbia University

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology at Columbia University offers a certificate program for students who did not major in environmental biology. The program is designed for part-time study but can be completed on a full-time basis. This type of certificate may give students a competitive advantage when applying for graduate school as well as in-depth knowledge for those that may be interested in a career change. The certificate includes two courses in biology, two courses in chemistry, one course in environmental science, one course in statistics, one course in conservation biology, and two additional elective courses in environmental biology.

  • Location: New York, New York
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $1,992 per point
  • Program length: 12 months for full-time program

Georgia Tech

Students from any major at Georgia Tech may enroll in a certificate program for biology or physiology. Additionally, the certificate allows those already majoring in biology to focus on a certain concentration. The school offers certificates in applied physiology, biomedical science, biomolecular technology, bio-inspired design, computational and quantitative biology, environmental science, integrative biology, and marine science. At least nine of the 12 credits must come from courses numbered above 3000.

  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Accreditation: Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $5,004 for program for Georgia residents or $15,302 for non-Georgia residents
  • Program length: 12 months for full-time program

Princeton University

The Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University offers certificate programs in biophysics, engineering biology, global health and health policy, neuroscience, and quantitative and computational biology. Students may complete the certificate program independently or as part of an undergraduate degree. The college directs students to speak to the program advisor for each certificate program to learn more about coursework.

  • Location: Princeton, New Jersey
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology
  • Tuition: $47,140 per year
  • Program length: 12 months for full-time program

Other Online Programs in Biological Sciences

George Washington University

The medical laboratory science department at George Washington University offers a six-course online certificate program in chemistry. The courses include clinical biochemistry, clinical biochemistry practicum, clinical laboratory management, immunology and serology, laboratory operations, and molecular diagnostics. All are online except for the clinical practicum. This certificate is designed to provide working professionals with the medical knowledge necessary to become a certified technologist in chemistry.

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $595 per credit hour
  • Program length: 18 to 24 months

Michigan State University

The biomedical laboratory diagnostic program at Michigan State University offers a molecular laboratory diagnostics certificate. The program requires completion of three two-credit courses in clinical applications of molecular biology, concepts of molecular biology, and molecular pathology laboratory. Students complete the first two courses online. The third course is a hybrid laboratory component taught online and over one week on the University's East Lansing campus. The certificate is designed for current medical laboratory assistants needing to update their skills.

  • Location: East Lansing, Michigan
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $755.50 per credit for Michigan residents, $968.25 per credit for non-residents
  • Program length: Six credits

Washington State University

This online 18-credit molecular biosciences certificate program is designed for students with diverse backgrounds (e.g., business, communications, anthropology, and criminal justice) who also have a general interest in science. It may also be appropriate for working professionals seeking additional training, as well as middle- and high-school teachers. Students take four courses in general genetics, introductory biochemistry, DNA and society, and introductory microbiology. The program also requires students complete three elective credits in applicable bioscience, which includes selecting from among several courses such as nutrition for living, criminal law, and biomedical ethics. The certificate can be completed entirely online or through a hybrid of on-campus and online.

  • Location: Pullman, Washington
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $507 per cerrdit for Washington residents or $565 per credit for non-Washington residents
  • Program length: 12 to 24 months

Accreditation & State Authorization

Accreditation means that a school has submitted to a voluntary process by an outside to ensure that an institution or program provides quality, value, and generally positive outcomes for students. The accrediting body is typically made up of faculty from other accredited colleges and universities. Criteria for evaluating a school usually includes:

  • Objectives and goals
  • Overall mission of the school
  • Quality of education or facilities
  • Reputation of the school
  • Services available to students
  • Student requirements for admission
  • Student outcomes
  • Institutional or programmatic management of finances

A school can earn accreditation for individual programs or as an institution. Most of the schools above have achieved regional accreditation from one of these reputable governing bodies:

The United States Department of Education does not oversee the accreditation process, but rather its Council for Accreditation of Higher Education (CHEA) recognizes trusted accrediting organizations, such as the ones above.

As a final note, “state authorization” means that only students residing in certain states can enroll in a college degree program either online or on-campus. Some colleges and universities accept students from all states, while others only offer enrollment to people in the same state or from neighboring states. Most programs have this information listed on their institution’s website (e.g., Arizona State University), and for those that do not, students are encouraged to contact admissions officials to ensure eligibility.