Online Master's in Biology programs are flexible graduate programs that could lead to a Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in biology, biochemistry, molecular biology and related fields.
Students who pursue their masters in biology degree online could take courses in a variety of topics. These could range from plant pathology, conservation of birds and mammals, and animal behavior, to human genetics and anatomy. Due to the breadth of topics, students often tailor their studies through electives and independent research.
written by Rana Waxman
A typical 36-credit master's program might be completed in two years of full-time study. That said, some schools with online masters biology programs have part-time options for at-work adults.
Most online Masters in Biology programs provide an opportunity for students to broaden their base of knowledge in the biological sciences through required courses, electives, and research projects. Students could also be required to take part in an internship, or write a thesis. The thesis requires students to conduct original research into a specific biological question. Most often, the topic is based on a student's interest area and the degree focus. Sometimes this means field work, but it could also mean that you conduct experiments in a lab.
Some universities offer two distinct paths to achieve an online Masters in Biology degree. These are the “non-thesis” and “thesis” options. The choice usually shows up in Master of Science in Biology programs and relates to how you want to culminate your degree. For instance, students on the thesis track might present and defend their thesis in lieu of a final written comprehensive exam. So, which one is right for you?
Online Masters Biology (non-thesis): In some schools, the non-thesis
format could be delivered 100% online and is thought of as a terminal degree. This option could advance students’ grasp of biology with respect to how to teach it or conduct research. Students often have the liberty to select the classes they take. Instead of a thesis, they might conduct a project as part of their degree requirement.
Online Masters Biology (thesis): By contrast, a thesis program is often thought of as a platform to a doctoral degree. In some schools, this format might require some face-to-face courses and time with a research supervisor. Students who pursue a thesis could start with a hypothesis, then conduct research, analyze data, and write a report of any conclusions. Some students might also have to write grant applications for funds to supplement their research needs.
An online Master of Science in General Biology program offers a wide range of courses to those who want to expand their grasp of basic and advanced principles. In their core courses, students could study organic evolution and ecology, as well as discuss current issues in biology. While each school has its own syllabus, some examples of topics you might study are listed below.
Electives are a major feature of most curricula, since they allow each student to explore in-depth areas of interest. This could mean a course in plant physiology, virology, the molecular basis of cancer or plants as alternative therapeutics. Contact individual programs to find out which courses might be available to you.
Online biology masters degree students might also be required to take biological statistics and research methods classes. These courses generally help to prepare learners for independent study and inquiry.
DID YOU KNOW?
When asked about their education, 24% of Research Biologists said they had a Masters degree.i
Admission requirements differ between online masters in biology programs. In some cases, students need a bachelors degree in biology from a regionally accredited college or university, and the material that follows.
Contact programs directly to learn more about specific application requirements.
Online Masters in Biology programs are typically designed to make graduate study more accessible to working professionals. Most programs offer flexible options with many, if not all, courses offered through the web. You could work to achieve the same masters degree in biology as on campus students, just without the full-time commute. This might save both time and money, if one is able to continue to work and avoid relocation or travel costs.
Interaction: Online courses could be highly interactive. Faculty and students often communicate through e-mail, discussion forums and chat groups. In some online Masters in Biology programs, students might have direct access to their professors. As a result, you might feel like you are part of a community of learners, able to connect with guidance and points of view from students across the globe.
Residency: In some online masters in biology programs, all courses in a typical two-year program might be taught through distance education, except for a short residency or practicum.
Time on campus can serve different aims. For the students, it presents a chance to work closely with biologists and fellow classmates. As an example, they might take part in "hands-on" experiences where they could learn to apply biological principles in the lab. Residencies could also give the faculty time to assess each student's proficiency in biology in class or through a proctored, written comprehensive exam.
Flexibility: In some universities, students who work towards their masters degree in biology online may have a lot of flexibility or freedom to attend classes whenever and wherever it is convenient. This doesn’t mean your courses are easier or that you get to slack off. You are likely required to complete assignments in a certain time frame. But, in most cases, you can log in when you are able.
Live/Online: Other online masters programs in biology use a live/online format. This type of web-based course system delivers programs in real-time from the university campus to students in their homes, workplace or on the road. Students then get to interact with professors and classmates as the class takes place.
Online Student Services: Online learners might have access to the same student services available to on-campus students. This could come in the form of an academic advisor, library services or faculty assistance.
Biology is the study of life, and as a discipline, has sub-fields that could draw your interest. While many schools may offer general MA or MS in biology programs, some online biology masters degrees might take on a specific aspect of the field. Some examples of the types of masters in biology online degrees are listed below. Make sure to read about individual programs and choose one that mirrors your personal and professional aims.
An online Master of Science (MS) in Biochemistry program blends courses in the fields of biology and chemistry. As an integrated curriculum, students might take core courses that explore organic chemistry, chemical thermodynamics, biochemistry and molecular genetics. For their electives, students might explore pharmacology, toxicology, immunology, genomics and more. Most programs entail about 30 graduate-level credits.
Students typically may choose whether to cap their program with a thesis. Individuals who opt to pursue a thesis generally take courses that delve into how to plan research. Those who don’t write a thesis might have to pass a written exam after they complete some of the coursework.
Applicants to Online MS in Biochemistry programs could need a bachelors degree in biochemistry or a related discipline, minimum GPA and some prerequisites. Intro to chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, calculus and their associated labs are some examples.
As with other online biology masters programs, an online Master of Science (MS) in Molecular Biology program could include graduate courses, electives and a research project. Typically, the project is completed under the direction of a faculty member along with a staff research advisor at the student’s workplace.
In their core courses, students are likely to take a series of upper-level classes. These include biochemistry, molecular cell biology and molecular genetics. Electives in molecular biology masters programs could explore the cellular basis of human disease and immunology. That said, some universities allow students to take electives in other departments, as students fine tune their interests through these courses.
Admission to some programs requires a bachelors degree in a life science or chemistry. Applicants could also need specific courses under their belt. These could span organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, intro to genetics, intro to cell and molecular biology and math. Contact schools for details.
An online Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction program could be planned-out to build on students’ current expertise in these topics. Through a dynamic mix of courses, students could work to acquire the skills to teach complex science classes to undergraduate learners. Core coursework is likely to focus on instructional theory and practices, although students can usually choose electives. Other courses could delve into anatomy and physiology, chemistry, histology and medical microbiology.
An online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Biology program is typically intended for students with a valid bachelor’s level professional educator certificate in biology. Coursework is divided between education courses and biology-related courses. For instance, students are likely to study topics such as educational psychology, life-span and technology.
An online Master of Science (MS) in Entomology program explores the world of insect ecology and natural history. In their courses, students are likely to study insect toxicology and insect physiology, and may have to complete a degree project rather than a thesis. Typical applicants have either a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science from an accredited college, plus coursework in chemistry, mathematics, biology, and introductory entomology.
At the end of some programs, students must pass the Board-Certified Entomology (BCE) general exam through the Entomological Society of America or the Department of Entomology's general exam. Contact schools to learn more.
An online Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MSCHE) program could be aimed to supplement the education of full-time professional chemical engineers. Students may work to develop mastery of wide range of subjects, as well as potentially apply what they learn to a current workplace. The flexible course of study could be built around a core of chemical engineering basics and electives. For instance, possible courses could cover polymer science, heat transfer and biochemical engineering.
Biology, as the study of life, is often important in several career paths. Graduates of online masters programs in biology might continue their studies with a PhD in Biology, if their goal is to pursue research-based careers. Per the BLS, the development of new medicines and treatments is expected to boost demand for microbiologists in pharma and biotechnology research.iii Graduates might also be prepared to pursue career paths such as epidemiologists, medical laboratory technologists, natural science managers, or wildlife biologists.iii
Can’t take time off to earn your degree on campus? An online biology masters degree might be the answer you seek. Check out these programs to find the online masters in biology that may fit your needs, then contact schools directly. It’s easy. Use the on-page form provided to get started.
[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-1020.01| [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/microbiologists.htm