Online Master’s Programs in Molecular Biology & Diagnostic Science

The study of living things is known as biology, and the fundamental unit of life is the cell. Every living organism—whether an animal, a plant or a fungus—is made of microscopic building blocks that function in similar ways.

While microbiology is the scientific study of microorganisms and their activities, molecular biology is the study of cells—their structure and their function—across all biological interactions between biomolecules in various cell systems. Molecular biology overlaps with biochemistry and genetics but also focuses on how DNA, RNA, and proteins are regulated.

By learning how these parts interact with each other, scientists can understand the role of genetic material and how to identify, treat, and prevent different diseases. Although there are several applications for molecular biology, its use in diagnostic science is invaluable.

Medical biology is the cornerstone of modern healthcare, and molecular medicine is a broad field where scientists prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases at the molecular level. For example, Dr. Scott Hultgren, a molecular biologist and professor from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is working to develop a precision-oriented treatment for urinary tract infections through molecular biology, according to The Daily Beast. He and his team have honed in on a tiny molecule that may be one of the causes of urinary tract infections and are developing a treatment that would only target that molecule, called a precision antimicrobial.

However, molecular biology has many other applications outside of healthcare, such as producing protein-based products. By understanding the genetic makeup of certain plants and animals, scientists can work with farmers to grow healthier and nutritionally efficient food.

An education in molecular biology and diagnostic science can lead to a career in several fields, including biomedicine, biotechnology, academia, healthcare, clinical laboratories, public health, pharmacology, government agencies and more.

Find out the benefits of earning an online master’s degree in molecular biology and diagnostic science, learn about common coursework in these types of programs, and read about three distinguished professors who are leaders in related academic concentrations.

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Professors to Know in Online Molecular Biology & Diagnostic Science Programs

Lisa Cremeans is a clinical assistant professor at UNC. She teaches courses in microbiology and molecular diagnostic science. Cremeans has experience working in different areas of the clinical laboratory, but has also worked in other healthcare areas, including clinical trials, post-approval pharmaceutical safety, and emergency medical services. In addition, her research interests include recruitment and retention of clinical laboratory science professionals, laboratory worker safety, and interprofessional healthcare collaboration. Cremeans has a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science from the College of St. Scholastica, a master in molecular diagnostic science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and certificates in core public health concepts and environment, health, and safety technology.

Dr. Vassie Ware is a professor of molecular biology at Lehigh University. She is also co-director of the HHMI bioscience program. Her current research includes studying components of ribosomal RNAs and proteins, specializing in the differences in ribosome composition and biogenesis in several organisms and ribosomal paralogue expression within different tissue types. Dr. Ware has been working at Lehigh University for more than 30 years and has made it her mission to mentor and inspire students, especially those underrepresented in the STEM discipline.

Featured Online Programs in Molecular Biology & Diagnostic Science

George Washington University

Individuals who want to work in clinical diagnostic laboratories, public health, and biotechnology can take the 35-credit-hour program to earn a master of science in health sciences (MSHS) in molecular diagnostic science. This program includes six medical laboratory science courses in biology and biotechnology, four graduate research courses, and a clinical practicum. The practicum must be completed at an approved hospital or diagnostic laboratory and will include some online components. Upon completion, graduates can be eligible for the Molecular Biology Board of Certification examination by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Format: Online with one in-person practicum
  • Tuition: $925 per credit
  • Program length: About two years

Lehigh University

This Pennsylvania-based institution offers a 30-credit master of science in molecular biology program for students interested in biotechnology and biomedicine. The curriculum includes eight required biology and biochemistry courses, as well as a selection of electives. All courses can be completed online or at a distance learning site. The program was specifically designed for highly focused part-time students. Although the GRE is not required for admission, a bachelor’s degree in life sciences or chemistry and a 3.0 GPA are prerequisites.

  • Location: Bethlehem, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $1,460 per credit hour
  • Program length: About two years

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In recent history, 100 percent of graduates of the masters of clinical laboratory science in molecular diagnostics program at UNC have passed the ASCP certification exam. The 36-credit full-time program includes online courses, on-campus laboratory, and meetings, as well as a structured practicum. The GRE is not required, but applicants should have completed undergraduate courses biology, genetics, biochemistry, microbiology, and mathematics. Students should expect to dedicate 10 to 12 hours per week on coursework. The program is ideal for medical laboratory scientists, clinical laboratory scientists, medical technologists and cytotechnologists.

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Format: Online with on-campus requirements
  • Tuition: $6,000 per semester for residents; $14,600 per semester for non-residents
  • Program length: Two years

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers a 30-credit, ten-class program for students to earn a master of science in biomedical diagnostics. The coursework covers diagnostic technology, science, business and application, including one or more courses through Dublin City University. The curriculum can be completed entirely online within one year, with each class lasting seven weeks. Graduates typically move on to careers in research and development, clinical laboratory and research support and management, quality systems and more. Although the GRE is not required, applicants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, official transcripts, and two letters of recommendation.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $13,590 per academic year
  • Program length: One year

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Those interested in research and development, biotechnology, and biomedicine can obtain certification in molecular diagnostics. Although the 22-credit curriculum includes laboratory coursework, most of the program can be completed online. Unlike many universities, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has a rolling enrollment period, and potential students can apply at any time. Graduates will be eligible to take the ASCP certification exam.

  • Location: Milwaukee, WI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: Online with one on-campus component
  • Tuition: $4,250 per semester for Wisconsin residents; $9,140 per semester for non-Wisconsin residents
  • Program length: Two to three years