Online Master's in Bioinformatics & Genomics

Bioinformatics is the study of living things at the molecular level through the use of various types of information technology (eg., big data) according to the National Human Genome Research Institute. Genomics is a separate branch of molecular biology that studies the evolution, function, and structure of genes as well as gene sequencing. A genome is all the contents of DNA present in one cell of a person, animal, or plant.

Molecular and cellular biologists can expect a median salary of $74,790, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017). Annual job growth is projected to fall within the average range of all professions at five to nine percent. Most professionals in this field have at least a graduate degree with many choosing to earn a doctoral degree to expand their research opportunities.

Students who enroll in bioinformatics and genomics master’s degree programs typically already have a strong background in biology, calculus, computer programming, linear algebra, or physiology. They wish to research DNA patterns to predict and control the outcome of diseases and genetic conditions. These programs offer an excellent career for those who have a keen interest in science and technology who desire to use their knowledge to make a significant difference in the health of all living things.

The International Society for Computational Biology indicates that bioinformatics professionals can pursue several different career trajectories. Bioinformatics users access specific applications to diagnose, treat, and counsel patients; bioinformatic scientists use various computational methods to improve public understanding of a living system; and bioinformatics engineers create computational methods used by the other two groups. Bioinformatics professionals can create successful careers as individual contributors, core facility researchers, educators, and software developers.

This article explores several popular bioinformatics and genomics programs and academics.

Professors to Know in Bioinformatics and Genomics

Dr. Judith Blake is a professor of biomedical science and engineering at the University of Maine. She has multiple areas of research interest, including bioinformatics, computational biology, genetics of cancer, (functional) genomics, kidney function, metabolism, molecular and cellular biology, neurogenetics, and reproductive biology. Dr. Blake currently works with the Gene Ontology Consortium and serves as a project leader. She is actively involved in community service and has published multiple research papers, book chapters, and scientific articles. Her most recent publication is “Modeling Biochemical Pathways in the Gene Ontology.” Dr. Blake earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Connecticut and her doctorate at Harvard University.

Dr. Gentles is an assistant professor of research medicine at Stanford University Medical School. In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Gentles is a member of Bio-X, the Stanford Cancer Institute, and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. His research interests include the biology of human disease using computational systems, systems biology, and machine learning. Dr. Gentles has numerous publications to his credit, with the most recent one entitled “Classification of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia by B-Cell Subset Associated Gene Signatures from Normal Bone Marrow.” Dr. Gentles earned his bachelor of science with honors in physics at the University of Manchester and his doctoral in theoretical particle physics at the University of Southampton in Great Britain.

Dr. Mishra, who goes by the nickname Bud, is a professor and director of bioinformatics at New York University. In addition to his status as a distinguished alumnus and professor, Dr. Mishra completed fellowships with the National Academy of Inventors; the AAAS in computational biology, hardware verification, and robotics; and IEEE in robotics and automation. His research interests include finance, cancer megafunds and crypto markets, biomedicine and engineering, philanthropy, and advertising technology. Dr. Mishra earned his bachelor of technology in electronics and communication engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, and his graduate and doctoral degrees in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Admissions Requirements for Online Master’s Programs in Bioinformatics and Genomics

Each school offering a master’s degree in bioinformatics and genomics has slightly different requirements. However, variations of the following are common across all degree programs:

  • Completed application and fee
  • Professional resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Official transcripts from previous schools attended
  • Personal statement of intent
  • One to three letters of recommendation
  • Test of English language proficiency (TOEFL)
  • GMAT or GRE score

Featured Online Master’s Programs in Bioinformatics and Genomics

The George Washington University (Health Sciences)
Online MSHS - Immunohematology & Biotechnology
Online BSHS - Biomedical Informatics
Online MSHS - Biomedical Informatics
Johns Hopkins University (AAP)
MS - Biotechnology
MS - Individualized Genomics & Health
MS - Bioinformatics
*sponsored

Brandeis University

This part-time online program in bioinformatics requires the completion of 30 credits. Students applying to the program should have already completed undergraduate coursework in Java, C++, or C programming, statistics, organic chemistry, and molecular biology. To earn the degree, students must complete required courses in bioinformatics scripting and python programming, biological sequence analysis, mathematical modeling for bioinformatics, molecular genetics and disease, molecular profiling and biomarker discovery, and R for biomedical informatics. Students also complete four elective courses, in subjects such as cheminformatics, computational systems biology, drug discovery and development, and structural bioinformatics.

  • Location: Waltham, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $1,133 per credit
  • Program length: Two to three years

Johns Hopkins University

The administration at Johns Hopkins University created this 11-course bioinformatics program based on the success of its biotechnology and engineering program. It provides students with rigorous training in bioinformatics and genomics by bringing together the disciplines of biosciences, bioinformatics, and computer science. Some of the topics that students can expect to study include computational modeling, genomic analysis, genomic sequencing, microarray analysis, molecular biology, proteomics, structural biology, and systems biology.

The program offers students both practical and theoretical aspects of bioinformatics and genomics to prepare them to perform complex data sequencing, interpret biological information, program software, and much more.

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $1,440 per credit
  • Program length: One year and up to five

Lewis University

This online master’s program in data science in computational biology and bioinformatics teaches students how to create healthcare solutions by analyzing the most important data. Some of the courses students can expect to complete include bioinformatics, biotechnology, computational biology, and life science data mining. This interdisciplinary program requires the completion of 39 credits and students will work alongside faculty to complete data management, mining, and visualization as well as predictive analysis.

The program is unique for its strong focus on biology. All students complete four core courses, including introduction to computational biology, data systems in the life sciences, research in biotechnology, and data science project for life scientists.

  • Location: Romeoville, Illinois
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $795 per credit
  • Program length: Two to three years

Northeastern University

One unique feature of Northeastern’s 32-credit bioinformatics program is that it allows students to gain up to six months of work experience by participating in an optional co-op program. In the past three years, 94 percent of graduates of this program have reported securing a position in research or industry. Examples of required coursework include computational bioinformatics methods, ethics in biological research, bioinformatics statistics, and bioinformatics programming. Potential electives include stem cells and regeneration, microbial biotechnology, immunology, evolution, and comparative neurobiology.

Students who choose the three or six-month co-op experience will work with such organizations as Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Students can also earn an additional graduate certificate in data analytics alongside this program.

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $46,200 for entire program
  • Program length: Two to three years, part-time or full-time available

Stanford University

The bioinformatics training program at the Stanford School of Medicine emphasizes public health, clinical informatics, and bioinformatics. Students enrolled in the 45-credit program complete courses in the core areas of biomedical informatics, social and ethical issues, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and statistics. Examples of coursework in each core area include biomedical informatics research methodology and data-driven medicine, technology assessment and regulation of medical devices, and machine learning and artificial intelligence. This program is designed to be completed part-time as students must be currently employed full-time. They should also plan to keep the same employment status while enrolled in the program.

  • Location: Stanford, California
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $1,260 per quarter unit, with each class consisting of three to five units
  • Program length: Three to five years, with a maximum of five years

New York University

The Polytechnic Institute at New York University has responded to the demand for academically rigorous bioinformatic and genomics programs to prepare students to study and manage data taken from the life sciences. The 30-credit program provides a solid foundation of genomics, programming with Perl, Python, and R, proteomics, and pathway and sequence analysis. Students can use many genomic and algorithm information tools, including Bioconductor, BioPerl, BioPython, and BLAST. The U.S. News and World Report has recognized this program as one of the best online graduate programs in internet technology.

  • Location: Brooklyn, New York
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $1,720 per credit
  • Program length: Can take up to five years to complete, both full-time and part-time available

University of Maine

This online professional science master’s in bioinformatics takes an interdisciplinary approach from the fields of computer and information science, mathematics, and molecular and cell biology. The school requires students to have a previous background in at least one of these areas. The degree requires the completion of 30 credits. Of these, 15 come from bioinformatics courses, nine from enrichment courses, and six from applied field experiences. Examples of courses in the first two areas include information systems programming, responsible research conduct, computational methods in biomedical sciences, and database systems applications.

  • Location: Orono, Maine
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $429 per credit for Maine residents or $536 per credit for non-Maine residents
  • Program length: Two to three years

University of Maryland University College

UMUC offers a professional science master’s degree in biotechnology with a specialization in bioinformatics. It requires the completion of 36 credits, 12 of which come from core courses that all biotechnology students complete, which include bioprocessing and the business of biotechnology, introduction to bioinformatics, societal issues in biotechnology, and techniques of biotechnology. Students also but take seven three-credit specialization courses and a three-credit Capstone project. Examples of coursework for the bioinformatics specialization include advanced bioinformatics, advanced object-relational database systems, and data structures and algorithms.

  • Location: Largo, Maryland
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $458 per credit for Maryland residents or $659 per credit for non-Maryland residents
  • Program length: Two to three years

Accreditation

Ensuring that a school has earned outside accreditation is one of the most important things a prospective student can do when deciding where to enroll. Accreditation means that the school has voluntarily sought approval from a third-party educational agency that reviews such things as programs, faculty credentials, admissions process, and percentage of students who obtain jobs in their respective fields. Most colleges seek regional accreditation for the entire school and sometimes individual accreditation for various programs. Some of the most well-known regional accrediting bodies include:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges