Online Biology Degrees
Biology is the study of living things, from single cells to complex organisms and their habitats and life processes. Earning a degree in biology or biological sciences can be a starting point for students looking to become laboratory technicians, teachers, researchers, zoologists, doctors, and veterinarians.
What Types of Online Biology Degree Programs Are Available?
- Associate Degree: Associate degree programs take two years to complete and include both general education and degree-specific coursework. These programs prepare students to go on to bachelor's degree programs in biology.
- Bachelor's Degree: Bachelor's degree programs take full-time students four years to complete. Like associate degree programs, these programs include general education and biology coursework. Graduates of these programs typically earn Bachelor of Science degrees, though some schools offer Bachelor of Arts degrees in biology.
- Graduate Certificate: Some schools offer certificate programs in specialized biology topics. These programs focus on areas of expertise like laboratory and biological safety and molecular laboratory diagnostics. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field. Students in these programs are required to complete a small number of courses.
- Master's Degree: Master's degree programs take two to three years to complete. Applicants to these programs must hold a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field. Students in master's degree programs complete advanced coursework and may be required to write a thesis. Some schools offer non-thesis master's degree programs, which require students to complete more coursework and take a comprehensive exam.
What Will I Learn in a Biology Degree Program?
Students in associate and bachelor's degree programs take general education courses with an emphasis on mathematics and other sciences like chemistry and physics. Biology coursework includes classes in the origin of life, cells, genetics, organic evolution, phylogeny (the evolutionary history of organisms), plant form and function, animal form and function, and ecology. Students in bachelor's degree programs may take additional courses in biodiversity, anatomy and physiology, human genetics, microbiology, developmental biology, and bioethics.
Master's degree programs prepare students to conduct original research in biology. Students take courses in biological statistics and learn how to design and conduct experiments, collect and analyze results, and report conclusions. Students take elective courses in advanced biology topics like scientific illustration, animal behavior, microbial diversity, environmental biology, and human evolution.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Program?
Biology degree programs place a strong emphasis on lab work. Students in on-campus programs take lab components of courses in laboratory classrooms. The benefits to this hands-on approach are that students gain laboratory experience, interact with classmates, and receive guidance from instructors. Online programs are typically lecture-based, though some programs require students to perform some limited lab work. Consider your learning needs when researching online programs.
The program you choose should align with your career goals. Biology degree programs can be a starting point for many different careers, and each biology-related career has different educational requirements. If, for example, you want to become a teacher, choose a program that best prepares you to meet your state's requirements for teacher certification. If you want to become a veterinarian, research admission requirements for veterinary schools, and choose a biology program that best fits with those requirements.
Also consider accreditation when choosing an online program. Look for programs and schools accredited by organizations recognized by the US Department of Education.
What Career Opportunities Can I Expect After I Complete This Program?
Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in biology can begin work as biological technicians helping scientists conduct research in laboratories. Biological technicians can work for colleges and universities, government agencies, research and development labs, and pharmaceutical companies. Graduates of online programs may increase their job prospects by gaining laboratory experience through internships.
Technicians looking to advance their careers may earn industry certifications. The American Society for Clinical Pathology is one professional organization that awards certification. Those who want to move into research careers or begin working in academia can earn master's and doctoral degrees.
Teaching is another career path open to graduates of bachelor's degree programs. Teacher certification requirements vary by state, but all states require high school teachers to hold at least a bachelor's degree. Prospective teachers may also be required to complete college courses in education and child psychology and complete supervised field work to earn certification. Some states require teachers to hold a master's degree in their subject area or in education.
- ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published March 29, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biological-technicians.htm.
- ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published April 5, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm.