Online Biology Degrees

Biology is the study of life. While this definition is quite broad, the field can be divided into numerous subfields (e.g., botany, microbiology, zoology) based on the type of organism studied and to what scale. Biologists examine everything from a single-cell organism such as a bacteria to larger organisms with multiple cells such as plants and animals.

Outside of the organism of study, biological sciences also encompasses the mechanisms of molecules; the interaction between ecosystems; how species evolve; and the behavior of different organisms, to name a few broad areas of scientific inquiry. It is common for biology to overlap with other types of sciences such as biochemistry, toxicology, medicine, biophysics, psychology, and sociology.

Biology can prove a rewarding field of study, and for those seeking careers in this area, there are more opportunities to learn than ever before. In addition to the traditional campus-based programs, there’s been an explosion of online programs as well. While a majority of undergraduate programs in biology and related fields must be completed in a brick-and-mortar institution due to the hands-on nature of laboratories, there are still opportunities to study in an online format. These programs generally offer rigorous distance-based coursework with periodic trips to a campus or in the case of graduate programs, the completion of supervised empirical studies at an approved facility located close to a student’s home.

Discover the growing number of online degrees in biological sciences, including the curriculum, tuition, and three exceptional professors leading courses.

Admissions Requirements for Biological Sciences Programs

Students applying to a bachelor’s program in biological sciences generally need to submit official transcripts from their high school with strong marks in math and science; a statement of purpose; SAT or ACT scores; and a completed application with a fee. Those who have attended other colleges and wish to transfer credits will need to arrange to have an official transcript from each college sent to the one they want to attend. Master’s degree programs not only typically ask for official transcripts, but they also may require several years of professional work experience, recommendations from industry leaders, and completion of the GRE exam. Please note that most online programs in biological sciences also call for a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.2).

Online Undergraduate Programs in Biological Sciences

For most entry-level careers in biological sciences, applicants must at minimum have a bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field. Prospective students should evaluate several schools before applying to ensure that they find the best fit for their schedule, goals, and interests. Please note that some distance-based programs at this level are “bachelor’s completion” programs, and may only accept candidates with a qualifying associate degree or previous on-campus experience.

Arizona State University

ASU’s online bachelor’s degree in biochemistry is designed for students wishing to further their studies in biochemistry or prepare for medical, dental, or pharmacy school. The program consists of 42 classes that take 7.5 weeks each to complete. Also, the school accepts up to 90 credits in transfer for this program. Examples of some of the courses include calculus for engineers, general chemistry, quantitative applications, global awareness, and organic chemistry. Some of the potential career fields available with this degree include biotechnology, chemical, government, healthcare, research, and teaching. Notably, ASU was named the “most innovative school in the U.S.” by the U.S. News and World Report in 2018. Please note that ASU also has an online bachelor’s degree in biological sciences.

  • Location: Tempe, Arizona
  • Accreditation: North Central Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $12,834 per year
  • Program length: 120 credits (two to four years, depending on transfer credits)

Excelsior College

Excelsior offers an online bachelor of science (BS) degree in natural sciences with a concentration in biology. This may be ideal for those interested in a career in healthcare, energy, or environmental sciences. The 120-credit program is entirely online, with 60 credits in arts and sciences, as well as 60 credits in applied professional courses, additional arts and sciences, or a combination of both. The concentration in biology requires an additional 33 credits. Students may be able to earn college credit from prior job experience, military training, and certain real-world experiences. Examples of courses include cell biology, physiology, and calculus.

  • Location: Albany, New York
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $67,745 for entire program
  • Program length: Two to four years, depending on transfer credits

Logan University

This online BS human biology provides a strong science background to enter the health sciences industry. The 122-credit program can be taken online or on-campus and is broken down into lower division and upper division courses. Some of the upper division courses include general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, cell biology, and introduction to public health. Completing this bachelor’s degree program may make students eligible to apply for graduate school in chiropractic care, dentistry, medicine, osteopathy, or podiatry. The school operates on a trimester system with courses beginning in January, May, and September.

  • Location: Chesterfield, Missouri
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $275 per credit hour
  • Program length: Two to four years, depending on transfer credits

University of Florida

This online bachelor of arts (BA) program in biology 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 graduates careers 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 Florida residents, or $552.62 per credit hour for non-Florida residents
  • Program length: Four years

Online Graduate Programs in Biological Sciences

Texas A&M University

This online master of science (MS) in biological sciences requires the completion of 36 semester-hours. It is appropriate for current biology teachers looking to expand their knowledge or teach college-level biological sciences. However, the school does not recommend this program for those interested in pursuing a doctorate or other advanced credentials. Incoming students must already possess an undergraduate degree in biology or a related field. Example courses in this program include ecological genetics, pharmacology, advanced cell biology, and epigenetics. Students must consult with their faculty advisor before enrolling in courses to ensure that the courses can apply to their degree.

  • Location: Commerce, Texas
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $3,137 per semester
  • Program length: Two years

University of Florida

The online master of science (MS) degree in microbiology and cell science at the University of Florida offers several modules that take six weeks each to complete. The topics of study include bioinformatics, DNA and RNA viruses, genetics, immunology, infectious diseases, metabolic regulation, and virology. The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology offer the degree jointly through the University of Florida School of Medicine. Students also complete several three-credit courses for a total of 30 credits. Campus visits and laboratory times are not required.

  • Location: Gainesville, Florida
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $535 per credit-hour
  • Program length: One to two years

University of St. Joseph

This online MS in biology program can be taken year-round over three semesters and in small class sizes of 15 students. The faculty includes aquatic ecologists, cardiologists, geneticists, microbiologists, neuroscientists, and pharmacologists. The program requires the completion of 30 credits, 24 of which come from the department’s core selection or approved transfer courses. Students can also choose to focus on the health, molecular, organismal, or statistical fields. The master’s program can prepare students to take on exciting research positions or enter a doctorate program.

  • Location: West Hartford, Connecticut
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $699 per credit
  • Program length: Two years

Washington State University

This online professional science master’s in molecular biosciences from Washington State University is often compared to a master’s in business administration because of how it prepares students to be leaders and managers in a professional environment. The 33-credit program includes classes in cell biology, advanced molecular biology, general biochemistry, and bioinformatics. Students must also complete courses in ethics, communications, business, and management, as well as a professional skills seminar. To round out this master’s program, students must complete a 320-hour internship.

  • Location: Pullman, Washington
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $585 per credit for part-time or $5,842.50 per term for full-time
  • Program length: 18 to 24 months

Other Online Certificate Programs in Biological Sciences

University of California, Berkeley Extension

This online advanced biosciences certificate is designed for working professionals seeking to upgrade their skills. Open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering (or another degree plus qualifying coursework), this 10-unit program requires one course (current topics in biosciences) and offers elective courses such as biochemistry, the biology of human cancer, developmental biology, endocrinology, genetics, genomic medicine, hematology, human nutrition, immunology, and the introduction to biostatistics, among many other choices.

  • Location: ­­Berkeley, California
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $3,000 for entire program
  • Program length: Less than one year

Washington State University

WSU offers an online, 18-credit undergraduate certificate in molecular biosciences. Many students come from backgrounds in anthropology, business, communication, and criminal justice. The program is also designed for current biology teachers and current students in non-biological science majors such as chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and physics. The required courses include general genetics, DNA and society, introductory microbiology, and introductory biochemistry, among others. Students can choose from elective courses such as the principles of conservation, criminal law, nutritional science, and microbial ecology. Please note that WSU also offers an online professional science master’s and a graduate certificate in molecular biosciences.

  • Location: ­­Seattle, Washington
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $9,884 for Washington residents or $24,516 for non-Washington residents
  • Program length: One year

Accreditation and State Authorization

It is vital to select an accredited school when deciding where to complete a biology degree or certificate. This ensures that an accrediting agency has reviewed the school and its programs and determined that they are up to standards and offer a quality education. Of course, not all accreditation entities are created equally and students are encouraged to seek out programs (or schools) approved by an entity recognized by the Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The CHEA-approved organizations include:

  • Middle States Association on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission (North Central Association of Colleges and Schools)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

As a final note, aspiring online students are strongly encouraged to check out their program of interest’s “state authorization” status. Some online institutions are not able to enroll students from certain states who are learning at a distance. This information is typically found on a school website (e.g., Washington State University), or can be determined by contacting program administrators.

Professors to Know in Biological Sciences Programs

Dr. Griswold is a distinguished regents professor of molecular biosciences at Washington State University. He is a world expert on the function and structure of Sertoli cells and the crucial role vitamin A plays in influencing spermatogenesis. The National Institutes of Health has provided funding for Dr. Griswold’s research since 1977. Three years after accepting the regents position at Washington State University, Dr. Griswold received the eminent faculty award—the highest honor a faculty member can receive. Dr. Griswold earned his doctorate in biochemistry and master’s in chemistry from the University of Wyoming.

Dr. Guo teaches biological sciences at UMass Lowell. His research interests include structural biology, macromolecular crystallography, enzymology, immune responses, and rare diseases. Dr. Guo completed his doctorate in molecular biology at Cornell University and his bachelor’s from National Taiwan University in chemical engineering. Notably, he completed postdoctoral research in structural biology, which was sponsored by a Cancer Research Institute fellowship, at Harvard University.