Best Online Biology Master's Degree Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 2/22/2021
2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees in Biology Badge

The best online schools for a master's degree in biology have ROIs ranging from $150,900 to $731,500. To identify the best online programs, we calculated ROI using projected 10-year alumni earnings and student loan payments. These ROI rankings factor in both degree cost and future earnings to estimate the financial outcomes of earning an online master's degree in biology. The national average ROI for a master's in biology is $394,100; the top seven universities on our list have ROIs above that national average with tuitions ranging from $7,992 to $54,384 per year.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 $54,384 $78,971 $65,450 $731,500
# 2 #2 $18,200 $65,387 $70,011 $576,000
# 3 #3 $10,998 $52,941 $23,315 $516,000
# 4 #4 $9,495 $52,464 $19,843 $515,400
# 5 #5 $9,147 $52,107 $27,952 $501,600
# 6 #6 $7,992 $49,019 $35,759 $460,100
# 7 #7 $29,145 $50,856 $78,328 $426,000
# 8 #8 $6,010 $41,707 $20,500 $411,600
# 9 #9 $7,050 $41,237 $27,416 $394,400
# 10 #10 $7,938 $41,215 $26,935 $392,800
# 11 #11 $23,310 $36,792 $41,000 $329,000
# 12 #12 $15,956 $35,114 $34,016 $318,100
# 13 #13 $38,665 $65,184 $53,428 $264,600
# 14 #14 $12,995 $28,019 $27,333 $254,400
# 15 #15 $8,700 $18,771 $34,010 $150,900

Best Master's Degrees in Biology Rankings Details

#1

Columbia University in the City of New York

New York (NY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $731,500
  • Median Salary: $78,971
  • Annual Tuition: $54,384
  • Median Debt: $65,450

Columbia University offers three online biology-related master’s degrees: a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Master of Science in Computer Science - Computational Biology, and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering - Systems Biology. Bioethics is a 36-hour interdisciplinary track that explores ethical issues in medicine and biotechnology. The 30-credit computational biology... M.S. is for students who want to explore computer applications in biomedical research. The electrical engineering program studies the use of electricity and electromagnetism in energy transmission and storage.

The online courses are offered through Columbia Online distance learning tools and technologies. Columbia has an extensive alumni network and provides career and networking databases. Special tuition rates are available for U.S. service members and veterans.

Applications (with fee) can be completed and submitted online. All three programs require GRE scores and a minimum GPA for the student’s undergraduate degree, which varies by program. Online tutorials, library access and ask-a-librarian services, and other digital resources are available to remote students.

Cost per Credit: $2,266
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 586

#2

The George Washington University

Washington D.C.
  • 10-Year ROI: $576,000
  • Median Salary: $65,387
  • Annual Tuition: $18,200
  • Median Debt: $70,011

The George Washington University (GW) offers an online Master of Science in Health Sciences in Clinical Biology. This 35-credit hour online program provides an in-depth understanding of how to identify and investigate infectious diseases in humans. Through courses in parasitology, immunology, and laboratory management, students learn how to reduce the spread of infections and facilitate... healthier habits in a community. Graduates will be eligible for the ASCP Board of Certification Technologist in Microbiology (M) Exam, a standard in global certification for medical laboratory professionals.

Most coursework is completed asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system, and the program's hands-on microbiology practicum can be completed in an approved hospital or diagnostic lab. Scholarships may be available at the discretion of the Department of Biological Sciences, and discounts are available for active military and veterans. Students can build their careers in a variety of settings, including diagnostic microbiology laboratories, research institutions, pharmaceutical companies and more.

GW operates on 15-week semesters, with courses starting in August, January and May. Students can apply online for the spring semester by April 5. Throughout their studies, online students receive support through academic advising, career services, individual tutoring opportunities, and 24/7 technical support.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 9,314

#3

Texas A & M University-Commerce

Commerce (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $516,000
  • Median Salary: $52,941
  • Annual Tuition: $10,998
  • Median Debt: $23,315

The online Master of Science in Biological Sciences is a graduate degree program from the College of Science and Engineering that comes in both a 30-hour thesis and 36-hour non-thesis option. Both programs take about two or three years of study with a typical semester course load of five to eight credits, but can be completed sooner with up to ten courses a semester. Graduates may... pursue positions such as biochemist, biophysicist, microbiologist, medical scientist, and wildlife ecologist, among many others. Others use the program as a springboard to doctoral or professional health programs.

Online students can access the D2L Brightspace learning management system as a virtual classroom with a textbook platform. The school strongly encourages internships, and many leading companies partner with Texas A&M University-Commerce through the Career Development department.

Applications may be submitted online. The school’s library, Academic Success Center, online writing lab, and tutoring are among the web-based services available to help support remote students.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,503

#4

Clemson University

Clemson (SC)
  • 10-Year ROI: $515,400
  • Median Salary: $52,464
  • Annual Tuition: $9,495
  • Median Debt: $19,843

Clemson University offers an online Master of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources degree. This non-thesis program is designed for working professionals: educators, employees of national or state wildlife agencies, or people similarly involved in the field. Students complete 30 credits, with full-time students typically finishing the program in two years and part-time students finishing... in three-and-a-half years. Core courses include Conservation Issues, Issues in Forest Health and Management, Fisheries Management and Conservation, Waterfowl Ecology and Management, Global Change Ecology, Conservation Physiology, and Restoration Ecology. If the department approves, students may transfer up to 10 credit hours from a regionally accredited institution.

Coursework is completed asynchronously through the Canvas learning management system. Through Canvas, students can access syllabi, coursework, and grades, and can participate in discussion forums with classmates. Master’s students can consult the Center for Career and Professional Development for help with resume and interview preparation, job postings, and alumni networking events.

Students can apply online for the summer semester by February 28 or for the fall semester by June 30. The deadline for the spring semester is October 31. Clemson offers support for online students through library services, the academic success center, and technical support.

Cost per Credit: $633
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,285

#5

Washington State University

Pullman (WA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $501,600
  • Median Salary: $52,107
  • Annual Tuition: $9,147
  • Median Debt: $27,952

Washington State University (WSU) offers an online Professional Science Master’s in Molecular Biosciences degree. This relatively new degree program is intended to train students in an advanced scientific field, while also teaching them the skills to be leaders and managers in a professional environment. The 30-credit program combines science courses, professional courses, and electives,... including Cell Biology, Bioinformatics, Advanced Biomedical Ethics, and Project Management. Rather than a thesis, students complete a 320-hour internship under the direction of an internship mentor. WSU’s faculty includes two distinguished Regents Professors.

Depending on the course, students complete coursework asynchronously using either the Canvas or Blackboard learning systems. Through these systems, students can access grades and coursework and communicate with fellow classmates. In addition to financial aid, several scholarships are available for new and continuing students.

Students can apply online for the summer semester by March 1 or for the fall semester by June 1. Resources for online students include access to free software such as OneDrive and Office 365, career development tools, and 24/7 technical support.

Cost per Credit: $610
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: NWCCU
Graduate Online Enrollment: 993

#6

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Kearney (NE)
  • 10-Year ROI: $460,100
  • Median Salary: $49,019
  • Annual Tuition: $7,992
  • Median Debt: $35,759

The University of Nebraska at Kearny offers an online Master of Science in Biology (non-thesis), providing instruction in organic evolution, biological statistics, current issues in biology, and more. Instead of requiring a thesis defense, this 36-credit program requires that students pass a written comprehensive exam during their final term. Graduation is also contingent on earning... a 3.0 GPA.

Coursework is delivered through the Canvas learning management system. Students can consult the Office of Financial Aid, which helps them find scholarships, grants, and loans to fund their education. Students who have served in the military have access to the Military and Veterans Services office within the Office of Financial Aid. Students also have access to the school's Academic Advising & Career Development office.

Prospective students apply and submit any related materials online. The GRE is required for any student who earned less than a 2.75 GPA during their bachelor’s degree. Available services include access to the academic success office, disability support, mentoring for first-generation/income-eligible college students, and more.

Cost per Credit: $444
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,621

#7

New York University

New York (NY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $426,000
  • Median Salary: $50,856
  • Annual Tuition: $29,145
  • Median Debt: $78,328

The online Master of Science in Bioinformatics is a 30-credit degree program consisting of 10 courses from the Tandon School of Engineering. The curriculum trains students to interpret data in bioengineering, biomedicine, biotechnology, and biomanufacturing. It focuses on issues such as genetic and infectious diseases, public health, agriculture, and green technology. Students must... choose a concentration in laboratory science or translational science, and will dedicate six credits of coursework to the focus area. Students without an engineering degree or work experience must take the NYU Bridge to Tandon course — this ensures that they have the necessary STEM knowledge to succeed.

Online students view lectures, submit assignments, and interact with classmates through Tandon Online’s Sakai learning platform. To ease the transition into online learning, NYU provides an orientation module for new distance learners. Employees of NYU’s select corporate partners receive tuition discounts, and there are special funding opportunities for women in the program.

Applications are accepted online. Resources for online students include virtual library services, career services, academic advising, and tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $1,943
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,503

#8

Miami University-Oxford

Oxford (OH)
  • 10-Year ROI: $411,600
  • Median Salary: $41,707
  • Annual Tuition: $6,010
  • Median Debt: $20,500

The 35-credit online Master of Arts - Advanced Inquiring Program (AIP) is a blend of web-based graduate classes and in-person internships, field study, and experiential learning at one of nine AIP Master institutions. These institutions are zoos and/or botanical gardens in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville, New York, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis. The core... courses are all offered online and cover such topics as sustainability, botany, zoology, wildlife conservation, urban ecology, and environmental justice. This degree program is a part of the school’s Project Dragonfly education reform initiative, offering master’s degree programs and community partnerships across the country and globally. Seven credit hours can be earned as a result of participation in an Earth Expeditions global field course. This part-time program is typically completed in 2.5 years.

Students access their online courses through the Canvas learning management system, which also allows them to submit assignments, collaborate, view videos, take tests, and access grades. AIP courses are offered at substantially reduced rates, and students also have the ability to earn credits through Earth Expeditions (international study abroad opportunities).

Candidates for this program should fill out an online AIP Pre-Application as a first step. Applications for the summer session, which begins in May, must be submitted by the end of February.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 957

#9

Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Fort Collins (CO)
  • 10-Year ROI: $394,400
  • Median Salary: $41,237
  • Annual Tuition: $7,050
  • Median Debt: $27,416

The online Master of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University - Fort Collins (CSU) focuses on the ecology and management of wild animals, for their benefit and the benefit of humans. This degree doesn’t require a thesis and can be completed in three years. Students must complete 30 credits: 21 credits of core courses and nine credits of electives. Required... classes cover subjects such as conservation biology, management of wildlife habitat, and natural resources policy and biodiversity. Faculty incorporate their own research and fieldwork into their classes.

Coursework is delivered through the Canvas system, where students can watch videos, take tests, participate in discussion forums and interact with students and professors. Available financial aid includes graduate-specific scholarships and tuition assistance plans for employees of select organizations.

Students can apply online for the fall semester by April 1, or for the spring semester by October 1. CSU supports online students with free software, virtual writing center consultations, digital library access, career center services, and technical support.

Cost per Credit: $705
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,209

#10

University of Florida

Gainesville (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $392,800
  • Median Salary: $41,215
  • Annual Tuition: $7,938
  • Median Debt: $26,935

The University of Florida (UF) offers an online Master of Science in Microbiology and Cell Science with a concentration in medical microbiology and biochemistry. The 30-credit program, which can be completed entirely online in as little as a year, combines major-specific coursework and electives. Among other topics, it covers bioinformatics, molecular biology and virology, with... one course dedicated exclusively to career options for graduates. UF’s widely published faculty is at the cutting-edge of research in virology and environmental microbiology, and UF’s department is the largest in the United States.

Students complete their coursework asynchronously through the centralized Canvas system Canvas. Financial aid is available for those who qualify, including the UF Graduate Grant for graduate students with serious financial need.

Students can apply online for the summer semester by February 1 (early decision) or April 5 (final deadline). They can apply for the fall semester by June 7 (early decision) or July 26 (final deadline). GRE scores are not required for admission. Resources for online students include online tutoring, virtual library access and tech support through UF’s 24/7 help desk.

Cost per Credit: $529
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,585

#11

North Carolina State University

Raleigh (NC)
  • 10-Year ROI: $329,000
  • Median Salary: $36,792
  • Annual Tuition: $23,310
  • Median Debt: $41,000

North Carolina State University (NCSU) offers an online Master of Animal Science non-thesis degree. Students may elect to complete the 36-credit hour program on a full-time or part-time schedule. The degree is designed to teach students the subdisciplines of animal science, such as nutrition, physiology, genetics, biotechnology, and animal management. It includes 19 core-curriculum... credits and 17 elective credits. The core curriculum includes classes such as Statistical Methods for Researchers, Regulation of Metabolism, Animal Genetic Improvement, Applied Ruminant Nutrition, and Comparative Reproductive Physiology and Biotechnology. Program graduates have found work in higher education; as animal technicians, field biologists, and geneticists; and with animal health companies. Many graduates pursue veterinary school.

Classes are taught online and may be synchronous or asynchronous, depending on the professor. Through the Moodle learning management system, students can access course material, check grades, and interact with professors and classmates. In addition to scholarships and grants, NCSU also offers a monthly payment plan.

Applications are accepted online, and are due by March 25 for the first summer semester and May 10 for the second summer semester. For the fall semester, applications are due June 1. Resources for online students include academic advising and technical support.

Cost per Credit: $1,295
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,188

#12

Texas A&M University-College Station

College Station (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $318,100
  • Median Salary: $35,114
  • Annual Tuition: $15,956
  • Median Debt: $34,016

Texas A&M University - College Station offers an online Master of Science in Plant Breeding with both a thesis and non-thesis option and a Master of Wildlife Science, which requires students to perform an internship or other scholarly activity. Credit hours for these online programs vary from 30-36 hours. Through these programs, students have the opportunity to study everything... from neuroscience and animal behavior to plant genetics and wetland ecology.

All of the programs can be completed fully online using the eCampus learning management system. Through eCampus, students can communicate with professors and classmates, check their grades, access course materials and take quizzes. Financial aid and scholarships are available, and tuition discounts are offered for Texas residents. Texas A&M also offers a Career Development Department that partners with a number of companies to offer students relevant internship opportunities.

Prospective students can apply online. Most of these programs accept applications on a continuous basis, though fall semester applications for the Master of Wildlife Science program must be received by May 1. Resources for online students include access to thesis and dissertation services, career development resources, and virtual library tools.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 927

#13

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore (MD)
  • 10-Year ROI: $264,600
  • Median Salary: $65,184
  • Annual Tuition: $38,665
  • Median Debt: $53,428

At Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Master of Arts in Public Health Biology is a fully online part-time program that takes two to three years to complete. Courses cover topics related to biochemistry, environmental health, molecular microbiology, and epidemiology, and students learn how to apply modern biological principles and research methods to the field of... public health. At the end of the program, students will complete a scholarly thesis.

Johns Hopkins uses a proprietary learning management system called CoursePlus to facilitate online learning. Students take courses asynchronously, but they can engage with instructors in real-time during online office hours and LiveTalk Sessions. Students can work with the financial aid department to set up an aid package, and the school also offers merit-based scholarships for individual departments.

The school accepts applications on an ongoing basis until programs are full, but the application deadline is usually three months before the program's start date. Students who want to start in the fall should have everything submitted by the beginning of June, but if the program fills up before that date, the school will not accept more applications. Once accepted, students must attend a one to four Introduction to Online Learning course, and while working on their degree, they have access to technical support and online library resources.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 16,594

#14

Liberty University

Lynchburg (VA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $254,400
  • Median Salary: $28,019
  • Annual Tuition: $12,995
  • Median Debt: $27,333

The online Master of Science in Human Biology program is aimed at students who want to teach biology at the university level. The average time to complete this 34-credit degree is 18 months. The curriculum is delivered in eight-week courses and includes human anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, cellular biology, and genetics. There is a capstone course in which students create a... teaching portfolio, as well as optional intensive seminars on campus. Liberty University incorporates Christian principles and a Biblical worldview into all classes as a part of its stated mission.

Learning takes place through live and recorded webinars and interactive seminars. The school accepts transfer credits at up to 50% of the program’s total credits. Students can apply for several university-awarded scholarships, including some exclusive to online students, and tuition discounts are offered to career service members and their dependents.

Applications can be submitted online. Remote support is available for online learners seven days a week, including live chat during weekday hours.

Cost per Credit: $565
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 31,396

#15

University of Northern Colorado

Greeley (CO)
  • 10-Year ROI: $150,900
  • Median Salary: $18,771
  • Annual Tuition: $8,700
  • Median Debt: $34,010

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) offers an online Master of Science in Biological Science (non-thesis) degree through its extended campus. This 30-credit program allows students the option to take classes on a full- or part-time basis and features coursework in biomedicine, science education research for K-12 teachers, introduction to graduate research, developmental biology,... biology, cell physiology, and more. Students can complete the program in three semesters if they take 10 credits per term. Students are permitted to take up to five years to finish the program. In place of a thesis, students are required to take a comprehensive biology exam administered by their advisor before graduation.

Students at UNC access their classes using the Canvas system. The Office of Financial Aid office assists students with grants, loans, and scholarships. UNC is a Yellow Ribbon Program school and offers unique options to support veterans and active-duty military service members. Students also have access to the school's Center for Career Readiness and far-reaching alumni network.

Applicants submit their applications and other materials online. Distance learners can access academic advising, remote math tutoring, career counseling, telehealth counseling services (only available to students residing in Colorado), disability services, Handshake (job-posting platform), remote writing help, and more.

Cost per Credit: $580
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,103

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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