2019 Best Online Master's in Biology Programs

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Ranked for affordability and reported salaries of mid-career alumni, these 15 universities offer the best online master’s degrees in biology, with 8 of these schools costing less than $15,000 per year. Illinois Institute of Technology takes the top spot on the list for its seven master’s in biology programs. Colorado State University-Fort Collins, #5, offers the best mix of value and high earnings, with an annual tuition of just $7,050 and median graduate salary at $113,234.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about SR Education Group.

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Rank School Annual Tuition Median Salary
#1 #1 Illinois Institute of Technology $24,480 $122,395
#2 #2 Worcester Polytechnic Institute $22,695 $122,033
#3 #3 Lehigh University $14,325 $118,646
#4 #4 The George Washington University $16,650 $117,227
#5 #5 Colorado State University-Fort Collins $7,050 $113,234
#6 #6 University of Maryland - College Park $9,225 $108,966
#7 #7 New York University $26,970 $104,882
#8 #8 George Mason University $22,656 $102,785
#9 #9 Washington State University $9,894 $99,318
#10 #10 University of Maryland University College $11,862 $98,492
#11 #11 Western Kentucky University $10,605 $98,000
#12 #12 University of Missouri $7,427 $96,232
#13 #13 Johns Hopkins University $21,610 $85,100
#14 #14 Troy University $14,820 $76,140
#15 #15 Emporia State University $16,274 $50,300
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo. Updated 2018.
  • Annual Tuition: $24,480
  • Median Salary: $122,395
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Illinois Institute of Technology offers an online Master of Science in Biology degree with two specializations: health professions and applied life sciences. The health professions program can be completed in as little as nine months and as many as 24 months. Students can take courses such as Current Topics in Functional Genomics, Nutrition, Metabolism & Health, Communicating Science, Social Bases of Behavior, and more. To graduate from the applied life sciences program, students must complete 32 credit hours, 20 of which must come from required courses and 12 of which come from electives. Students in this program can take courses including Macromolecular Structure, Public Engagement for Scientists, and Biology Colloquium.

  • Annual Tuition: $22,695
  • Median Salary: $122,033
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NECHE
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Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers an online Master of Science in Biotechnology degree for interested distance learners. Students in this program can take courses in Fermentation Biology, Molecular Biology of the Cell, Managing Technological Innovation, and Risk Management and Decision, among other compelling courses. In order to complete their graduate degree, students must take a minimum of 30 credit hours, with 15 hours coming from required biology or biotechnology courses, nine hours from in credit-skills courses, and six hours from approved elective courses.

  • Annual Tuition: $14,325
  • Median Salary: $118,646
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania offers an online Masters in Molecular Biology degree. In order to be accepted into this program, students must have a bachelor's degree in a life science or chemistry. They must also have two semesters of General Chemistry, two semesters of Organic Chemistry, two semesters of Physics, one semester of Intro to Genetics, one semester of Intro to Cell & Molecular Biology, and two semesters of math courses. The GRE is not required, but students should have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.

  • Annual Tuition: $16,650
  • Median Salary: $117,227
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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The George Washington University offers two online graduate degrees in biology: a Master of Science in Health Sciences in Clinical Microbiology and a Master of Science in Health Sciences in Translational Microbiology. Students in the Master of Science in Health Science in Clinical Microbiology program must complete 36 credit hours in order to graduate and can take courses such as Microbial Pathogenesis, Medical Biotechnology, Advanced Immunology and Serology, and Advanced Clinical Microbiology. Up to six hours of previously earned graduate-level coursework may be transferred.

  • Annual Tuition: $7,050
  • Median Salary: $113,234
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Colorado State University-Fort Collins offers an online Master of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering. This program requires 30 credits in order for students to graduate, and tuition for this degree is currently set at $936 per credit hour. Program length varies depending upon the student’s intensity and previous credits earned. The curriculum in this program offers a number of compelling classes for distance learners, such as Materials Engineering, Material Issues in Mechanical Design, Structure and Function of Biomaterials, and Bio-Inspired Surfaces.

  • Annual Tuition: $9,225
  • Median Salary: $108,966
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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The University of Maryland-College Park offers a master's degree in biotechnology entirely online. This degree can be completed in 36 credit hours, making this a good option for busy online learners. Students who have already begun their degree at another college can transfer up to six credits, which would allow students to complete their degree even sooner. Students who don't have a background in molecular biology must take courses in Introduction to Microbiology in their first semester.

  • Annual Tuition: $26,970
  • Median Salary: $104,882
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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New York University offers an online Master of Science in Bioinformatics with two concentrations: laboratory science and translational science. In order to graduate, students must complete 30 total credit hours. These credits can come from courses in Algorithms and Data Structures for Bioinformatics, Problem Solving for Bioinformatics, Biology and Biotechnology for Bioinformatics, Statistics and Mathematics for Bioinformatics, and Applied Biostatistics for Bioinformatics, among others. In order to apply, students must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

  • Annual Tuition: $22,656
  • Median Salary: $102,785
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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George Mason University offers both an online Master of Science in Biodefense and an online Master of Science in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Students in the biodefense program can take courses in Emerging Infectious Diseases I: Bacteria and Toxins, Biodefense Strategy and Policy, Global Health Security Policy, and Health Security Preparedness, among others. For the bioinformatics and computational biology program, the university offers courses in Intro to Bioinformatics Database Design, Numerical Method for Bioinformatics, Research Methods, and Biological Sequence Analysis, and more. The biodefense program costs $689 per credit hour for in-state tuition and $1,446.75 for out-of-state tuition. The bioinformatics and computational biology program costs $589 per credit hour for in-state tuition and $1,446.75 per credit hour for out-of-state tuition.

  • Annual Tuition: $9,894
  • Median Salary: $99,318
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
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Washington State University, accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, currently offers an online Master's in Molecular Biosciences degree. Distance learners in this program can take courses in Cell Biology, Advanced Molecular Biology, General Biochemistry, and Bioinformatics, among other interesting courses. The courses are offered entirely online, and students must complete 33 credits in total in order to graduate. Currently, the program has 38 faculty members, 27 of whom are tenured or tenure-track professors.

  • Annual Tuition: $11,862
  • Median Salary: $98,492
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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The University of Maryland-University College's online Master of Science in Biotechnology degree requires that distance learners complete 36 total credit hours in order to graduate. Students coming from another college can transfer up to six credits toward their degree. There are four specializations currently offered in this graduate program: bioinformatics, biosecurity and biodefense, biotechnology management, and biotechnology regulatory affairs. Students in the bioinformatics program can take courses in Statistical Processes for Biotechnology, Data Structures and Algorithms, Advanced Bioinformatics, Relational Database Systems, and many more.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,605
  • Median Salary: $98,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Western Kentucky University offers an online Master of Science in Biology degree. In order to apply for this degree, students must have a bachelor's degree in biology from an accredited institution and a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Students must complete 30 hours in order to graduate from this program. Eight of these hours must come from required courses in Introduction to Graduate Studies and Research in Biology, Graduate Seminar, and Investigations/Biology. The remaining 22 hours come from selected elective courses offered by the university.

  • Annual Tuition: $7,427
  • Median Salary: $96,232
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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The University of Missouri offers a master's degree in biomedical sciences completely online. This degree has a specialization in veterinary sciences and requires 30 credit hours in order for students to graduate. Students who are applying to this program should have a minimum GRE score of 151 (verbal) and 142 (qualitative). Currently, the total tuition cost for this program is $15,268.80. According to the University of Missouri's website, the median salary for graduates in biomedical sciences is $82,240, making this degree an excellent option for many distance learners.

  • Annual Tuition: $21,610
  • Median Salary: $85,100
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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Johns Hopkins University offers three online masters programs: a Master of Science in Bioinformatics, a Master of Science in Biotechnology, and a Master of Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. Students in the MS in Bioinformatics program can take courses in Economic Dynamics of Change in Biotechnology, Managing and Leading Biotechnology Professionals, Marketing Aspects of Biotechnology, and Creating a Biotechnology Enterprise. Students in the Biotechnology program can specialize in biodefense, bioinformatics, biotechnology, molecular targets and drug discovery technologies, regenerative and stem cell technologies, and regulatory affairs.

  • Annual Tuition: $14,820
  • Median Salary: $76,140
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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Distance learners at Troy University, which is located in Colorado Springs, CO, can earn an online Master of Science in Environmental and Biological Sciences--Environmental Policy degree. This degree has two concentrations: environmental sciences and biological sciences. The university currently offers a number of interesting courses for this degree, including Issues in Aquatic Ecology, Spatial Analysis Using Geographical Information Systems Lab, Global Pollution and International Environmental Policy, and Clinical Biochemistry, among many other courses that could interest online students.

  • Annual Tuition: $16,274
  • Median Salary: $50,300
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: HLC
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Emporia State University offers a Master of Science in Biology degree with a number of concentrations, including botany, ecology and biodiversity, general biology, microbial and cellular biology, and zoology. Distance learners in this program can take courses in Research Design and Analysis, Scientific Writing, Graduate Research Seminar, and Biology Seminar, among others. There are options for students to fulfill this degree with either a thesis or non-thesis. In order to graduate with the non-thesis option, students must complete 35 credit hours, while students in the thesis program must complete 30 credit hours.

Online Master's in Biology Overview

Master's programs in biology are competitive, and a certain amount of knowledge and experience is assumed, so students should ensure that they have taken enough classes to build the basics if they did not major in a related field. Graduate degrees are recommended only for those who are planning on participating in research projects, generally, as they are expensive and require a strong commitment to mastering original content and ideas. A typical 36-credit master's program can be completed in two years of full-time study.

Students enrolled in a biology degree program take a core of classes in topics like current issues in biology, biological research methods, and statistics. Other courses in the program may look at plant pathology, conservation of birds and mammals, human genetics, animal behavior, principles of ecology, human evolution, or essential human anatomy. Most master's programs in natural science areas require the completion of a thesis or a comprehensive exam. The thesis requires students to conduct original research into a particular biological question. Depending on the student's interest area and the degree focus, they may do field work or conduct experiments in a lab.

Depending on the focus of their master's program, graduates can begin careers as microbiologists, epidemiologists, medical laboratory technologists, natural science managers, or wildlife biologists. Graduates may also pursue various research-based careers in biochemistry, biology, chemical engineering, consumer products, forensic chemistry, geochemistry, hazardous wastes, or material science. The master's degree in biology also qualifies graduates for teaching positions in some community and junior colleges. Others may go on to earn a teaching certificate and become biology teachers in public high schools.

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