Biotechnology Degree Programs

Ever since the introduction of genetic engineering in the 1970s, biologists have increasingly implemented chemistry, math, and physics to acquire an in-depth knowledge of how living cells create substances at the molecular level. Biotechnology emerged from that research.

Biotechnology uses living systems to create various products that improve lives and the health of the planet. Biotechnologists efficiently manufacture medicine, food, and even fuel, among other products, through the manipulation of living cells and components of cells.

Thanks to biotechnology, traditional industries such as fermentation and food processing have undergone significant changes in the last few decades. For example, technologies now exist that change the way people create and work with antibiotics, hormones, energy and food sources, and waste material processing.

People do not have to look far to see the effects of biotechnology in their everyday lives. It covers numerous disciplines, including biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology. One of the primary use cases for biotechnology is the development of new medications. Other uses include biofuels, modified plants, and the production of chemicals, food, paper, and textiles.

The biotechnology field has many opportunities for specialization, including in the following areas:

Students and young professionals wishing to join the biotechnology industry have many academic options. Many biotechnology programs in the United States offer the above specialties for aspiring biotechnologists.

Depending on each student’s career path, aspirations, professional experience, academic background, and time-commitment, students can choose to enroll in a bachelor’s or master’s program in biotechnology that can be completed online, on-campus, or as a hybrid of both—usually referred to as “blended.” More seasoned professionals can opt for a graduate certificate.

Read on to explore various programs in biotechnology as well as three well-known professors in the field.

Johns Hopkins University (AAP)
MS - Biotechnology
MS - Individualized Genomics & Health
MS - Bioinformatics
The George Washington University (Health Sciences)
Online MSHS - Immunohematology & Biotechnology
Online BSHS - Biomedical Informatics
Online MSHS - Biomedical Informatics
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Professors to Know at Schools with Biotech Programs

Dr. Koval currently teaches advanced cell biology sections I and II and radiation biology in the master of science in biotechnology program at Johns Hopkins University. He is also the program coordinator for the biotechnology master’s program and oversees the independent research project course. Some of his previous employers include Hahnemann Medical College, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the Mayo Clinic. In 2006, the Krieger School awarded Dr. Koval an excellence in teaching award. Dr. Koval earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Pennsylvania State University and his doctorate in cell, molecular, and radiation biology from Ohio State University. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in biophysics and bioengineering.

Dr. Miller is an associate professor and program director of the graduate biotechnology program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He teaches a course in molecular and cell biology. His primary research area is the laboratory study of green algae in the contexts of fundamental biological processes and biotechnology. The first area covers the growth and development of living organisms and the second focuses on bioremediation and biofuels platforms. Dr. Miller has been a faculty member of the University of Maryland Baltimore County for the last 15 years. He earned his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University.

Admissions Requirements

The specific admissions requirements for prospective students depend on the school and the degree they decide to pursue. That said, there are some common requirements across all programs, such as:

  • A minimum grade point average, typically 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Submission of official transcripts from previous colleges
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • A personal statement describing the reason for pursuing the specific degree
  • Professional resume
  • Completion of prerequisite courses or an undergraduate degree in relevant field
  • Application fee
  • English language proficiency and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for international students

On-Campus Biotechnology Bachelor’s Degree Programs

University of Kansas

This bachelor’s degree program is specifically designed for people who have completed an associate’s degree or the equivalent of two years of undergraduate coursework. Students must complete 43 to 45 hours of general science classes, nine hours of core curriculum, and 31 hours of biotechnology courses. The degree requires 120 credit-hours overall. Examples of coursework for the general science requirements include foundational chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, molecular and cellular biology, and genetics. Core courses that students can expect to complete include science communications, elementary statistics or biostatistics, and a survey of management. For the biotechnology requirements, typical courses include applied immunology, ethics, and bioinformatics.

  • Location: Lawrence, Kansas
  • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $443.80 per credit-hour for Kansas residents; $969.40 for non-residents
  • Program length: Four years

Arizona State University

The biosciences and biotechnology program at ASU prepares students for exciting careers in agriculture, healthcare, and other industries. This degree differs from others in its intense focus on biotechnology and molecular biology. Additionally, students will complete many hours of hands-on research as a final Capstone project. Earning the degree requires a minimum of 120 credits, 45 of which must be upper-division and 30 of which students must complete at Arizona State University. Examples of courses that students must complete to earn a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology include genetic engineering, biology of microorganisms, organic chemistry, calculus for life sciences, and biostatistics. The school also offers an accelerated degree option for interested students.

  • Location: Tempe, Arizona
  • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $702 per credit for Arizona residents; $1,112 per credit for non-residents
  • Program length: Three to five years

Online Biotechnology Bachelor’s Degree Programs

University of Maryland University College

Students who enroll in this program must already have technical knowledge of biotechnology through direct field experience, transfer credits, or both. This bachelor’s degree provides a combination of laboratory work, applied coursework, and an internship. The degree requires the completion of 120 credits, which includes 15 credits of major coursework, 43 credits of electives, and 41 credits of general education requirements. Students should expect to take biological sciences, cellular and molecular biology, bioinformatics, laboratory safety and management, workplace learning in biology, and current applications and trends in the life sciences in the core portion of the program. Options for elective classes include biotechnology, biochemistry, chemistry, cell biology, immunology, genetics, molecular biology, microbiology, and physics.

  • Location: Largo, Maryland
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $289 per credit for Maryland residents; $499 per credit for non-residents
  • Program length: Two to four years

On-Campus Biotechnology Master’s Degree Programs

Columbia University

This master’s program is particularly appropriate for those who wish to pursue a career in either the biotechnology or pharmaceutical industry. Recent graduates of the program hold positions in research laboratories, drug approval regulation, and law firms specializing in biotechnology. Students often choose this program as an alternative to spending up to seven years to earn a doctorate. Because the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are among the largest in the country, the demand for professionals with this specialized training continues to grow.

Core courses in this 30-credit program include biotechnology, drugs and disease, and seminar in biotechnology. Students also complete several laboratory classes, including proteomics laboratory, genomics sequencing laboratory, and tissue and molecular engineering laboratory. The school requires 15 credits of electives, which include advanced genetic analysis, cellular and molecular neurobiology, cellular physiology of disease, and the neural system.

  • Location: New York, New York
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $60,400 for two full-time years
  • Program length: One year for full-time students (part-time study is available)

New York University

In response to the explosive growth of the biotechnology industry, the Tandon School of Engineering has created a master’s degree program that prepares students for careers in drug design, healthcare biotechnology, and more. The program requires the completion of 30 credits and includes 15 credits of core courses in biotechnology, biosensors, enzyme catalysts, and protein and tissue engineering, nine credits of electives in biotechnology and similar fields, and six credits from two elective courses in guided studies in biotechnology. Examples of elective courses include neuroscience for biotechnologists, genetic engineering, advanced cell and molecular biology, materials in medicine, and bioanalytical chemistry. Students must earn a least a 3.0 grade point average in all courses to graduate. The school also offers a dual biotechnology and entrepreneurship master's program for biotechnologists interested in creating and growing a business.

  • Location: Brooklyn, New York
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $48,750 per year
  • Program length: Two to three years

Online Biotechnology Master’s Degree Programs

Johns Hopkins University

As a leading research university, Johns Hopkins offers a 10-course biotechnology master’s degree program that provides students with a strong background in biochemistry, cell biology, genomics, molecular biology, and proteomics. Students can choose from six concentrations, including biodefense, bioinformatics, biotechnology enterprise, regenerative and stem cell technologies, regulatory affairs, and drug discoveries. All students complete four core courses in biochemistry, molecular biology, and two sections of advanced cell biology, then six electives according to their concentration. Thanks to the close association of Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health, students who go through this program can apply for a fellowship with the National Cancer Institute.

  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $4,322 per course (ten courses required)
  • Program length: One to two years, both full-time and part-time available

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Hybrid)

This is a blended 30-credit program that requires online coursework and on-site laboratory work at the school’s campus in Worcester, Massachusetts. Students complete several skill-based biology and biotechnology courses, including fermentation biology, protein purification, cell biology, genetic engineering, and bioinformatics. They also complete two chemistry electives—in drug regulations and membrane protein-targeted drug design—and several business electives. Examples of the business electives include managing technical innovation, entrepreneurship, and project management. Students must take 15 credits of biology and biotechnology courses, nine credits of skills-based courses, and six credits of elective courses. They must also already possess an undergraduate degree in an engineering or life sciences field before enrolling in this program.

  • Location: Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $1,457 per credit
  • Program length: Two to three years

Other On-Campus Biotechnology Programs

Salt Lake Community College

This school's associate degree in science in biotechnology prepares students for entry-level or mid-career level work in the field. The degree requires a minimum of 60 credits, 25 of which are related to biology and biotechnology. Examples of courses in this category include an introduction to biotechnology and lab, applied molecular biology, biomolecular analysis, cell biology, and two sessions of general chemistry with labs. Students also choose two to four elective credits, such as nucleic acid and protein biotech. Salt Lake Community College also offers a 63-credit associate of applied science degree in biotechnology.

  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $185.25 per credit for Utah residents; $526.25 per credit for non-residents
  • Program length: Two years if full-time

University of Maryland Baltimore County

In addition to its master’s program, the University of Maryland Baltimore County offers certificate programs in biotechnology management and biochemical regulatory engineering. Each certificate requires the completion of 12 credits. The certificate in biotechnology management requires students to complete four three-credit courses. These include project management fundamentals, financial management, legal and ethical issues in the science professions, and management, leaderships, and communication. The four three-credit courses for the certificate in biochemical regulatory engineering include regulatory issues in biotechnology, good manufacturing practices for bioprocess, quality control and quality assurance for biotechnology products, and biotechnology GMP facility design, construction, and validation.

  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Program length: One year part-time
  • Tuition: $753 per credit for Maryland residents or $1,179 per credit for non-residents

Other Online Biotechnology Programs

Stanford University

The biotechnology graduate certificate at Stanford University requires the completion of four three-credit courses. These include two classes in biotechnology, biochemical engineering, and advanced biochemical engineering, and creating new ventures in engineering and science-based industries. The certificate is appropriate for graduates of life sciences programs who want to deepen their biotechnology knowledge as well as those with a biology background who want to change their career focus.

  • Location: Palo Alto, California
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $15,120 for certificate
  • Program length: One to two years with a maximum of three years to complete

Harvard University Extension School (Hybrid)

This hybrid graduate program requires the completion of 12 courses, four or more of which must be completed on campus. Students have the option to choose electives relevant to their certificate topic or a second graduate credential, including bioinformatics, biotechnology management, innovation and entrepreneurship, and nanotechnology. The bioinformatics certificate teaches students to work with genetic and biological data in a range of contexts. The biotechnology management certificate introduces the business side of biotechnology. The innovation and entrepreneur certificate focuses on these topics as they relate to biotechnology and the nanotechnology certificate focuses on nano-scale technology. Students can also choose a thesis track or a capstone track as they complete their courses.

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $2,700 per credit
  • Program length: One to two years

Accreditation and State Authorization

When selecting a school, it is important for students to ensure that it has received outside accreditation. This means that a third-party organization has reviewed the college, its programs, admissions process, job placement rate, and several other factors and determined that all meet high standards. A school can earn regional accreditation for the entire campus or separate accreditation for various programs. The most reputable regional accrediting bodies include:

  • Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Colleges and Schools
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges

As a final note, another essential component prospective students should be aware of is whether an online school located in a different state has received authorization to offer degrees to out-of-state students. The formal term for this is “state authorization.” Since each state reaches separate agreements with other states, programs may not be available to students in all locations. It’s also common for tuition to cost more for out-of-state students as opposed to in-state students.