Online Bachelor's Degrees in Biology & Biological Sciences

While many academic fields have a distinct and special ring to them, nothing may be as grand as the purview of biology. The focus of this field is nothing less than the scientific study of life, in all its complex, astounding, and varied forms.

While many college graduates in non-scientific fields may have struggled through a single required semester of a basic intro course, professionals will know that this field is much wider and more varied. Because of the staggering amount of organisms on the planet and their incredible range of diversity, biology is divided into a myriad of subfields, and adding new ones regularly.

Cellular biology may be a great starting point, as cells make up the smallest known life forms. Many professional biologists have spent entire working careers involved in studying one or a small number of cell types. Hence, microbiology is itself a field with smaller sub-specializations as well.

Many cellular biologists work in sterile laboratories where they can observe even the tiniest organisms and their behavior. Wildlife biologists, on the other hand, may spend most of their time involved in field studies and studying not only large animals but the environment they inhabit as well. While the typical workday of a microbiologist and that of a conservation biologist may not look very similar, their disciplines are built on the same scientific principles, and, even more importantly, a shared body of knowledge.

Regardless of which of the many fields within biology a person may be interested in pursuing, a bachelor of science is the cornerstone of a career in this field. Thanks to the advent of online learning and its broad availability across the U.S., obtaining a BS remotely from a fully accredited university is now commonplace. This article is intended to provide prospective biology students with an overview of some of the many options available to them.

From estimated costs to accrediting institutions, individuals interested in beginning their career in the quickly growing and immensely diverse field of biology should find some orienting information below.

How Do Online Biology Programs Work?

Obtaining a fully accredited Bachelor of Science degree online is much less complicated or nontraditional than it may appear. The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated a trend developing over the last two decades. The technology is now in place to make online learning a fairly seamless experience for most students.

Because of the lack of physical infrastructure or face-to-face contact with instructors and other students, distance learning is not suited to every learning style. However, distance learning can be a way to study more economically because of the reduced cost of eliminating the price of dorms, meal plans, or long commutes to campus. Additionally, distance learning has opened up higher education possibilities to a much wider demographic, including people in rural areas or those caring for children or loved ones at home.

Most of the online bachelor’s of biology or biological sciences degrees discussed below rely on an instruction style that is entirely, or almost entirely remote. Some programs may require students to attend one or more in-person events, labs, or classes to obtain their degree, but fully online options with no in-person commitments also exist.

Beyond the physical differences in administering online and in-person education, the actual coursework and materials used in online bachelor’s degrees in biology and biological sciences are the same as those found in accredited in-person instruction. In most cases, the instructors will be the same as the reading materials and academic requirements. As correspondence or online curricula have to stand up to the same rigorous standards of accreditation and quality assurance as their in-person offerings, prospective students should have no concerns about receiving a lower quality of education.

Admissions Requirements for Online Biology Degrees

A bachelor’s degree is a four-year undergraduate degree and has the expected basic requirements that come along with it. While individual institutions have their own admission processes and will often have specific or additional requirements for admission, prospective students can expect to submit the same documents they would in applying to any undergraduate degree in the United States. These include:

  • Completed high school degree or equivalency
  • Minimum GPA (usually 3.0 or higher)
  • Application fee
  • Letter of recommendation (occasional requirement)
  • Statement of intent
  • Transcripts showing successful completion of STEM courses

Curriculum & Specializations in Biological Sciences

Biology is a vast field, and while some graduates with bachelor’s degrees specializing in life on the molecular level, others find themselves working on entire ecosystems. Since a bachelor’s in biology must provide a workable foundation for all students, professional specialization tends to happen in graduate and post-graduate studies. Typically, a biology or biological science degree plan will contain the following components:

  • Cell biology
  • Genetics
  • Evolution & Ecology
  • Genomics
  • Anatomy

Additional STEM requirements are a major component of many undergraduate biology degree programs. Physics, chemistry, and statistics are among the courses that prospective students may have to complete at the college level to graduate as well. Some examples of specializations within the field of biology and biological sciences are:

  • Marine biology
  • Molecular biology
  • Structural biology
  • Biophysics

Some degree programs will have a particular emphasis built into the title and coursework. Because biology is at the forefront of many dynamic fields of science and industry, we should expect a further expanding range of offerings aimed at students hoping to work in those fields. Additionally, individuals seeking a bachelor of biology degree with a particular field or specialization in mind may also elect to add a minor to their degree plan to make that possible.

Accredited Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Biology & Biological Sciences

Listed below is a small selection of the myriad of online biology and biological sciences degrees now available to US prospective students. While this list is not exhaustive, it features a few well-known as well as lesser-known online programs to give interested individuals an overview of what is on offer.

Prospective students are advised to double-check their eligibility for enrollment before applying for a program, as well as the accreditation of the respective institutions they are considering. As there is some differentiation between bachelor’s of arts and bachelor’s of science programs, individuals should ensure that the coursework of the degree they are considering matches the specific demands of their prospective careers.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University is considered one of the leading institutions in the online education space and has a large offering of fully online undergraduate and graduate degrees, hosting several certifications and certificate programs.

Through its bachelor science in biological sciences, ASU offers prospective students the opportunity to specialize in their undergraduate studies by choosing one of four so-called “concentrations.” Currently, these are:

  • Biology and society
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Conservation biology and ecology
  • Genetics, cell, and developmental biology

Arizona State University does require students to attend one lab over the course of their degree. The lab session is condensed into a week, to take place either on the ASU campus in Tucson, Arizona, or at a cooperating college campus.

  • Location: Tucson, AZ
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($12,552 per academic year); non-resident ($14,822 per academic year)

Florida International University

Florida International University is one of several universities in the Miami area, and one that has been making a sizable splash in the world of correspondence education.

FIA offers a bachelor’s of arts in biological sciences through its school of environment, art, and society. FIA’s program is geared fairly broadly and could potentially prepare students for a whole swatch of careers related to the field of biology. In addition to calculus, statistics, and evolutionary biology feature heavily in the curriculum currently found on Florida International University’s homepage.

  • Location: Florida, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($228,81 per credit); non-resident ($345,86 per credit)

Washington State University

Washington State University offers a bachelor’s of science degree in biology, through its college of arts and sciences. WSU features a “global campus,” that is not only geared at students in the US but offers transfer opportunities to prospective students from outside of the country as well.

As a BS degree, WSU’s coursework is comparable to a classic biology education, with some substitutions making up for the fact that there can be no in-person labs in a fully online learning environment.

  • Location: Spokane, WA
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($554,05 per credit); non-resident ($617,55 per credit)

University of Florida

The University of Florida is another institution in the sunny southern state that offers a variety of online undergraduate and graduate degrees. UF offers two separate degree plans in the biological sciences: the bachelor of arts in biology, and the bachelor in microbiology and cell science.

While the BA at the University of Florida is offered through the university’s college of liberal arts, the BS track is administered through the science and agriculture department. The BA track is geared toward future administrators, journalists and other individuals working at the intersection of biology and other areas of civic life. The BS can be loosely classified as more science-oriented and will attract prospective students interested in continuing their STEM education or entering the medical or biomedical field workforce.

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($118 per credit); non-resident ($552.62 per credit)

National University

National University is a fairly young university with multiple California campuses and several testing centers in adjacent states such as Nevada. National University offers a bachelor of science in biology, heavily emphasizing the natural sciences. National University’s profile is somewhat unique, in that it was founded by military veterans and cooperates closely with the U.S. military today.

Some of its testing sites are located on military bases and installations, and it offers special conditions to veterans. NU’s biology program is hybrid, in that roughly 45 hours of coursework must be completed at one of the university’s campuses in the western US. This condition may make the bachelor of science program offered by the school an imperfect fit for prospective students looking for an online-only degree.

  • Location: Chula Vista, CA
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $370 per quarter-unit

Online Bachelor’s in Biology & Biological Sciences Accreditation

Proper accreditation is a major consideration when picking an institution of higher learning. In the US, accreditation is done by regional and national bodies which oversee universities and colleges under their purview and monitor their educational standards and outcomes.

While receiving a degree from an unaccredited institution is certainly possiblae, it can present a major hurdle, if not an outright roadblock, later in a person’s career. While much of the distance education offered today is monitored just as rigorously as in-person institutions, potential students can use proper accreditation through a regional body as a good benchmark for trustworthy institutions.

The major accrediting bodies in the US are:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission
Johannes Stitz
Johannes Stitz Writer

Johannes Stitz is a freelance writer and researcher based in the Southwest. He’s written about various topics in medical technology careers. Before turning to freelance writing, he spent nearly a decade in the arts as a booker and event manager.