The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of environmental scientists and specialists will grow by 11% through 2026. In addition, the median environmental scientist earned $69,400 in 2017, which is roughly $30,000 more than the national median salary for all workers.
To take advantage of these and other lucrative opportunities in the life sciences, you need at least a bachelor’s in a field like biology. This page provides an overview of online biology degrees, including admission requirements, curricula, accreditation standards, and potential career paths.
Top 10 Earning an Online Biology Bachelor’s Degree 4-Year Colleges
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In researching online biology degrees, students may struggle to find unbiased comparisons between colleges. This search tool is an easy way for students to sort programs based on student population, location, acceptance rate and type of institution.
To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:
Accredited at the institutional level
Private nonprofit or public school
Minimum of 1 online bachelor’s or master’s degree in subject area
Minimum of 1 online associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools
Schools were then scored on factors such as:
Cost & Financial Aid
Number and variety of program offerings
Placement and support services offered
Academic/Career counseling services
Loan default rates
These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or “bang for your buck” of a college or degree program.
An online biology degree can set graduates up for a career in a wide range of fields, depending on the specific area of study, and degrees can range from two-year programs to the master’s level and beyond. A degree in the field allows professionals to grow into a higher-level career and command a higher salary within their job. But finding a quality program in the field can be a challenge if you don’t know what to look for. We’ve done some of the research for you and compiled our list of best colleges for biology majors in 2019.
Knowledge sharing and rigorous academic training in the Bachelor of Science in Biology program at Siena Heights University takes place in different environments. Traditional classroom instruction makes up a lot of the training. But, a lot of training also takes place during field trips, laboratory work and outdoor community projects. Guest lectures are other ways that students learn. Classroom lectures and readings cover areas such as symbolic logic, physics, animal biology, genetics and plant biology. Minimum credit hours needed to graduate from the semester program is 120. Minimum GPA is a 2.1.
The Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences degree at the University of Cincinnati is a full-time, four year program. Life and life processes are the focus of the program. Biology majors learn how to analyze research data and make critical decisions. An interest in human anatomy, animal biology and the environment help students to perform well in and out of the classroom. Jobs that graduates can work are in specialties such as zoo keeping, forestry, physical therapy or nursing. More than 30 credit hours of core courses are in cell biology, genetics, ecology, chemistry and biology.
Adults who are interested in researching and analyzing environmental, genetic, human and animal anatomy and cells could pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Nova Southeastern University. Research and internship opportunities are when students get a lot of their hands-on experience. It's also during research and internship work that students get to learn alongside faculty and professional biologists. The curriculum has a pre medical focus. Core courses make up 49 credits of the four year degree curriculum. In addition to biology, these core courses are in subjects like physics, chemistry and applied statistics.
Saint Joseph's College of Main awards a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree. The curriculum offers a comprehensive research, laboratory and lecture based education. Medical biology, pre-optometry, biology and secondary education and pre-physician assistant are subjects that biology majors could potentially minor in. Within the Bachelor of Science in Biology curriculum are classes in genetics, chemistry, biology and math. Research work is led by faculty members. Internships take place at the junior and senior levels. The degree prepares students to work careers in fields like dentistry, medicine and forensic science.
Future biologists, medical researchers and laboratory technicians can gain field work, research, technology and cell analysis skills while they take classes in Concordia University-Wisconsin's bachelor's in biology program. Class sizes are generally small, allowing for more robust question and answering sessions. The four year degree program deliveries classes in animal life, anatomy, physiology, genetics and environmental science. High school students who plan to seek the biology bachelor's degree could position themselves for academic success if they take high school classes in advanced or honors math, chemistry, biology and physics. Many faculty members in Concordia University-Wisconsin's bachelor's in biology program have a doctorate level education.
Drexel University is globally known for its biological sciences research work. Faculty who teach classes in the university's Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and Master of Science in Biological Sciences programs conduct molecular biology and cellular work outside of the classroom. Drexel also awards a doctorate degree in biological sciences. On campus resources that students are open to use are the Biology Resource Center, laboratories, student organizations and the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building. Human genetics, advanced molecular biology, pharmacology and human population genetics are core courses that students should be prepared to take.
Faculty at the University of Detroit Mercy take a student centered approach to laboratory, research and classroom training in the university's Bachelor of Science in Biology program. Breakdown of the curriculum is in general biology, form and function and biological systems. Other key areas that the curriculum spotlights are cell biology, science and math and genetics. To graduate, students must also take biology electives. If students' schedules allow, they can take a full-time academic load and graduate within four years. Other students who do not have as flexible a schedule may be allowed to take up to seven years to graduate.
Instructors in the Bachelor of Science in Biology and the Bachelor of Arts in Biology degree programs at the University of Mississippi have won awards for their research and development work. This work was completed within and outside the laboratory, impacting animal life and the environment. Students grasp an understanding of the human circulatory system while enrolled in the university's biology classes. They learn in outdoor field systems and intern in external laboratories. The Mississippi River is a type of outdoor field system that instructors use to teach advanced biology methods to students. The University of Mississippi also awards a graduate biology degree.
Alumni and instructors in the University of Florida's biology department have written research papers, had their work published and received awards for their work. Should students exceed average academic performance standards, they could earn a chance to participate in dissertation fellowships. Classes in the university's bachelor's and master's biology degree programs take place at the school's Gainesville, Florida campus. Ongoing learning is available through the Biology Grad Student Association and the Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program (URAP). Complementary degrees that biology majors could pursue are the school's botany and zoology degrees.
A Bachelor of Science in Biology and a biology teacher certificate are two academic credentials that Graceland University-Lamoni confers. Students who take at least 18 credit hours of biology classes could also minor in biology. To complete the bachelor's degree, students are required to take a minimum of 54 credit hours in biology courses. Examples of these core courses are ecology, plant biology, fundamentals of cell biology and genetics and human anatomy. Students attend lectures, conduct laboratory work, attend seminars and work alongside faculty members who have real life biology experience.
East Mississippi Community College teaches classes on a semester basis. The college's associate's biology degrees are conferred through the mathematics and science division. General education and core courses like lab research and wildlife research are types of classes that students majoring in biology can take. Canvas is a major portal that students enrolled in the college's online biology classes access to retrieve and submit class assignments. High school seniors who plan to pursue the biology degree are encouraged to focus on classes like math, chemistry and biology while they are still in high school.
Biology majors at Allen County Community College register for classes like general chemistry and natural sciences that lead to an Associate of Science in Biology. Gains associated with the program include credits and an educational background to transfer into an advanced biology program at accredited four-year degree schools. Other gains are opportunities to teach biology, conduct lab research, work with wildlife and perform field research. Before they register for classes, students are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor. Minimum time commitment required to graduate is two years unless students enroll in a fast track program.
St. Philip's College is part of the Alamo Colleges. The school's associate biology degree rolls up to the Natural Sciences Department. Several faculty members teach classes in the biology degree program. The Associate of Science degree is a 60 credit hour program. Undergraduate class requirements include life and physical sciences, math, social and behavioral sciences, general physics and organic chemistry. Educational testing services are available onsite for students who need to take entrance exams. Tutoring services offer additional academic support should students find themselves struggling to keep up with one or more biology classes.
Health science applications are accepted online at Holmes Community College. It is through the college's health sciences division that biological science associate's degree are granted. Trigonometry, general chemistry, public speaking, organic chemistry and sociology are types of classes biology majors take. Dual degrees are available. For online classes, the college uses Canvas to store class reading materials and assignments. Its overall distance education system is part of the Mississippi Virtual Community College. To get admitted into the program, students must send in college entrance exam scores, transcripts and residency documents.
Southwestern Oregon Community College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. General education is a part of many of the college's degree programs. General education classes at Southwestern Oregon provide students with a solid academic foundation. Biology majors can pursue the Associate of Science in Marine Biology degree. Graduation requirements include passing at least 90 credit hours with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Nine of the 90 credits must be in social sciences. Physics, organic chemistry, introduction to biology, oceanography and marine habitats of the Oregon coast are types of classes that core training is offered in.
At San Antonio College, the pathway to an Associate of Science in Biology degree starts with introductory and general education courses like composition, speech communication and history. Core classes teach students about topics like organic chemistry, physics and microbiology. Biology majors don't graduate until they successfully complete 61 or more credit hours. Places where biology graduates work include educational institutions, state and federal government agencies, hospitals and laboratories. The college operates a traditional and a senior citizens admissions program. Transfer, former and prospective students are welcomed to apply to the undergraduate biology degree program. A high school diploma or equivalent are needed.
Barton Community College has been teaching postsecondary classes since it was founded in July 1965. The college is headquartered in Great Bend, Kansas. Barton's associate biology degree is built to prepare students to transfer into four-year programs where they can earn bachelor's and later master's biology degrees. Curriculum in the Associate of Science in Biology program is built upon classes like principles of biology, college chemistry, physics, principles of zoology and behavioral science. A minimum of 64 credit hours are built into the degree. Full-time students take about two years to graduate. The degree is designed for students interested in medical and healthcare fields.
Pitt Community College is a Greenville, North Carolina school that awards diplomas, certificates and two year degrees. Future biologists and biotechnologists can receive foundational training through Pitt Community College's Associate in Applied Science Biotechnology degree. Areas emphasized in the curriculum are math, chemistry, biology and technical communications. Length of the program is five semesters. Students who need additional support with math, science or English may be approved to take longer to finish the curriculum. Basic lab techniques, industrial microbiology, cell structure and bio-processing technology are types of core classes students must take.
Founded in 1967, Seward County Community College and Technical School is a public college that is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. More than 2,500 students are enrolled in degree and nondegree programs at the college. The highest level degree awarded at the college is an associate's degree. The biology associate degree is part of the Science, Math and Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance academic division. Course syllabi in the biology program train students in subjects like river ecology, field biology, human anatomy, botany and the principles of biology.
Opportunity to earn an associate biology degree at Dakota College at Bottineau is made possible through the college's career academic program. Some classes in the curriculum are delivered online, others on campus. Graduates are awarded an Associate of Science in Biology. During their first year at the college, new students must complete the First Year Experience course. Placement tests may be used to determine how prepared students are to take biology and general education classes. Students who perform exceptionally well academically may be eligible to participate in the honors program. Honors courses give students deeper learning in chemistry, literature, history, psychology, computers and physiology.
Biology is the study of life. Students pursuing a degree in this area learn about how that life functions at the cellular level, how living organisms interact with one another in ecosystems, and how humans can influence the environments around them.
A bachelor’s in biology helps students develop foundational knowledge on topics like evolution, genetics, and taxonomy. This foundation enables them to work in general life science roles after graduation, such as environmental engineer or conservation scientist. Students may also opt to pursue more specialized knowledge at the graduate level, preparing for careers as biochemists or microbiologists.
Some students seek out their undergraduate degree directly after finishing high school, while others return to college in order to change direction in their career. Online programs, in particular, cater to working professionals, as students can often watch lectures, complete assignments, and take exams entirely on their own schedules and from the comfort of their own homes.
Careers in biology should see strong growth in the near future. For example, the BLS projects a 10% job growth rate for both biotechnicians and natural science managers through 2026. Experts attribute much of this increase in demand to the growing role of biotechnology in our daily lives.
To earn a bachelor’s in biology, you must first hold a high school diploma or GED. Most colleges require that you maintain a certain GPA in high school, usually between 2 and 2.5. To request your transcripts, contact your high school guidance counselor or your equivalency provider.
Many schools ask students to submit scores from either the SAT or ACT, though some online programs allow those with a strong academic record to waive this requirement. You should also plan to submit up to three letters of recommendation, ideally from former teachers, employers, and community leaders. You may also need to write a personal essay outlining your academic qualifications and plans after graduation.
Once you submit your application, an admissions officer may ask to schedule an interview. Consider this an opportunity to provide context to any weaknesses in your materials and reiterate your desire to study at their institution.
After your interview, a school may choose to admit you, deny your application, or place you on the waitlist, meaning you may ultimately gain admission if another student drops out.
What Will I Learn?
Most bachelor’s programs in biology consist of 120 credits. Between 40 and 50 of these credits cover general education topics, such as psychology, math, and English. An additional 40-50 credits cover foundational topics within your major, like general biology and anatomy. You can use the remaining 20-40 credits to explore specialized subjects in biology or pursue an interest in an entirely unrelated field.
Students who score a three or higher on the Advanced Placement biology exam may test out of one or more of their introductory courses. If you hold an associate degree, you may not need to take as many general education courses and can potentially graduate in as few as two years. Full-time students with no prior credits usually can earn their bachelor’s degree in about four years. Part-time students may need anywhere from six to eight years to finish an undergraduate program.
Six courses commonly offered in online bachelor’s in biology programs are detailed below.
This course offers a broad introduction to many of the concepts you will encounter during your undergraduate studies. Topics covered include cell structure and function in mammals, cellular reproduction through both mitosis and meiosis, and genetics. The course also reviews the history of biological breakthroughs, such as Darwin’s contributions to the science of evolution.
Bioethics play a role in some of the most contentious issues of our time, including the abortion debate, end-of-life decisions, and medical experimentation on humans and animals. Through readings and case studies, students in this course begin to develop a framework for approaching the kind of ethical dilemmas they may encounter in practice.
Anatomy and Physiology
Many undergraduate students majoring in biology hope to enter the field of medicine. This course lays a foundation for that course of study through an exploration of subjects like the cellular mechanism of muscle contractions, the function of the various organ systems in the human body, and neural transmission.
Careers in biotechnology, especially those within the burgeoning subfield of genomics, require a deep understanding of genetics and heredity. In this class, students learn about the basic principles of eukaryotic cell genetics, including DNA and chromosomal structure, patterns of inheritance, and gene expression.
The Microbial World
This course lays the groundwork for more advanced study in microbiology. Students examine the relationship between microbes and host, with a particular emphasis on microbes that exist symbiotically and parasitically within humans. Students also learn about the environmental and economic impact of microorganisms, like algal blooms that affect fishing markets.
Though a separate branch of science, biology students must know how to use the tools of chemistry to study biological functions. This course looks at the chemistry of water, foundations of organic chemistry, types of biomolecules, and enzyme kinetics. Many master’s programs in biology require undergraduate coursework in biological chemistry.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Biology?
An online degree in biology opens up numerous career paths. By developing both theoretical knowledge and practical skills in an undergraduate program, you can qualify for entry-level roles such as botanist, wildlife zoologist, and biotechnician.
Many students who earn a bachelor’s in biology choose to continue their education at the graduate level. Many medical schools require previous coursework in biology, as do master’s programs in areas like microbiology, biochemistry, and epidemiology.
Students pursuing a biology degree online develop skills in three primary areas: comprehending complex information, working in a laboratory setting, and writing.
Organic chemistry famously serves to weed out potential medical school applicants, as it requires students to understand, recall, and apply extremely complex information. The same can be said for many other courses in biology, meaning students in this major must quickly learn how to analyze and synthesize complicated concepts.
Many of the courses taken as an undergraduate student require some form of lab work, such as examining single-celled organisms under a microscope or dissecting larger organisms to learn about their anatomy. While online programs may rely less heavily on actual lab work than their on-campus counterparts, distance learners must still study the proper safety procedures and best practices for working in a laboratory setting.
Finally, biology students must develop strong writing skills. Much of the work of a biologist involves conveying information to those without a scientific background, and writing clearly and succinctly plays an important role in translating findings to the public. Students who hope to pursue an advanced degree also need to prepare to write either a master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Biology is a broad field with many practical applications. The nature of your work, as well as the kind of compensation you can expect, depends greatly on the career path you choose.
For example, you may want to work as a zoologist, observing animals in their natural habitat to gain a better understanding of their behavior. You may instead choose a role less reliant on field work, such as helping doctors and other scientists conduct experiments as a biotechnician. Or you may feel drawn to policy, using your understanding of biological principles to help shape legislation aimed at protecting and restoring certain habitats.
Many biologists work in research or academic positions, often at colleges and universities. A large number also work in the private sector, usually for pharmaceutical companies or biotechnology firms. Still, others work at government agencies or nonprofit organizations dedicated to environmental issues. You can read more about five common careers in biology below.
BROWSE BACHELOR’S IN BIOLOGY CAREERS
Biologists study living organisms, whether to help cure disease, safeguard a threatened species, or simply contribute to basic research. Biologists require exceptional observational, analytical, and communication skills. Some specialized and senior-level positions may require an advanced degree.
Plant biologists work specifically with flora, usually specializing in a certain species or type of plant life, such as trees. Many plant biologists serve as agricultural and food scientists, helping to boost crop yields or control pests. Some study plants with the hope of discovering new medicines.
Human biologists possess a broad understanding of the structure and function of the human body. They can apply this knowledge in many different pursuits, whether collaborating with doctors to create new treatments for illness or injury, counseling prospective parents on the likelihood of passing along a genetic disorder, or educating the public about healthy behaviors.
While many environmental biologists work in a pure research capacity, some monitor environmental conditions in order to write environmental impact reports. These reports detail the changes that a current or planned development project might bring to an ecosystem. Biologists specializing in environmental impact often work for government agencies.
Computational biologists use biological data to create algorithms and other computer models, allowing them to better understand biological processes and relationships. The field of bioinformatics holds tremendous promise for treating disease, reducing hunger, and combating environmental threats like climate change.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Biology?
You can take on many entry-level roles in the life sciences with just an undergraduate degree in biology. However, if you want to pursue a career as a physician, professor, or more specialized researcher, you may need to earn an advanced degree as well.
Through elective coursework, bachelor’s programs give you the opportunity to explore fields in which you might continue your education. For example, a course in organic chemistry can help you determine if you want to apply to medical school or earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry. Classes in public health and virology can prepare you for graduate-level study in epidemiology.
If you remain unsure about whether you want to seek another degree, consider pursuing a graduate certificate instead. Certificate programs can help you develop new skills and knowledge, giving you a competitive edge in the job market without requiring as much time or money as a degree program. In many cases, you can even transfer credits from a certificate program toward a graduate degree should you choose to earn one later.
Accreditation for Biology Bachelor’s Programs
Accredited schools must demonstrate that they meet certain academic standards and prepare their students for careers after graduation. If you attend an unaccredited school, future employers may not recognize your degree, and other institutions may not accept your transfer credits. You may even miss out on some financial aid opportunities.
At the undergraduate level, you should make sure that your college or university holds either regional or national accreditation. Most nonprofit schools receive regional accreditation, generally considered the more prestigious of the two forms. Examples of regional accreditors include the Higher Learning Commission and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Joining a professional organization in biology after graduation can help jumpstart your career. Through regional and national events, these groups create opportunities for their members to network and discuss the latest developments in biological research. Many also offer professional development programs, helping you gain proficiency with a new technology or prepare to continue your education more formally. These organizations can also serve as an excellent resource for graduates seeking their first job, as many host online career centers or administer mentorship programs to recent graduates.
ASPB devotes itself to the advancement of the plant sciences. It publishes three scholarly journals, provides research fellowships and grants, and organizes educational programming for both plant biologists and K-12 students. The group also advocates for increased federal funding for research and more science-driven legislation.
Founded in 1931, GSA now represents more than 5,500 genetics researchers and educators. It hosts close to a dozen national conferences each year and curates research for two scholarly journals. The group’s website also features resources specifically for biology undergraduates.
Now serving as an international forum for cellular biologists, ASCB offers a wealth of resources to its members, including a research portal, job board, and service awards. ASCB also organizes committees to support underrepresented groups in cellular biology, such as women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community.
Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.