2020 Best Online Master's Degrees in Biology

By OnlineU Staff | Updated March 9, 2020
2020 Best Online Master's in Biology Badge

The 16 schools on this list are the best value options for obtaining an online master's degree in biology based on alumni salaries and low tuition rates. Texas A&M University-College Station is the #1 school, with an average alumni salary of $120,371 and an annual tuition rate of $16,526 for its programs. At #13, Indiana State University has the least expensive tuition on the list, charging only $5,951 per year for its Master of Science in Biology.

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

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Rank School Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 $16,526 $120,371
# 2 #2 $25,200 $122,395
# 3 #3 $8,025 $115,384
# 4 #4 $7,050 $113,234
# 5 #5 $17,150 $117,227
# 6 #6 $22,500 $118,646
# 7 #7 $23,310 $115,423
# 8 #8 $8,250 $108,966
# 9 #9 $8,925 $99,318
# 10 #10 $8,982 $98,717
# 11 #11 $10,605 $98,000
# 12 #12 $8,040 $96,232
# 13 #13 $5,951 $94,338
# 14 #14 $8,313 $84,600
# 15 #15 $27,888 $85,100
# 16 #16 $8,892 $76,140
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Biology Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 Texas A&M University-College Station

  • Annual Tuition: $16,526
  • Median Salary: $120,371
  • Locations: College Station (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University is the oldest institution in the Texas A&M University system. The school’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers four master’s degrees related to biology: a Master of Natural Resource Development (through the Wildlife and Fisheries Science Department), a Master of Science in Plant Breeding with both a thesis and non-thesis option, and a Master of Wildlife Science in Wild Science. The thesis option of the MS in Plant Breeding requires 32 credits plus the thesis; the other programs require a total of 36 credits. Students enrolled in the non-thesis option of the MS in Plant Breeding can choose between an internship and a scholarly activity. All of the programs can be completed fully online.

#2 Illinois Institute of Technology

  • Annual Tuition: $25,200
  • Median Salary: $122,395
  • Locations: Chicago (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Established in 1890, the Illinois Institute of Technology, located in Chicago, was one of the first institutions in the country to offer “distance learning” with live, televised lectures in the 1970s. The school’s College of Science offers an online Master of Science in Biology as a general program or with one of four concentrations: applied life sciences, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and microbiology. The general track can be taken with or without a thesis, and the degree — depending on the specialization — requires 32-34 credits to complete. Graduates can pursue careers in industry, law, administration, research, and other areas, or they can further their education by pursuing a Ph.D.

#3 University of Florida

  • Annual Tuition: $8,025
  • Median Salary: $115,384
  • Locations: Gainesville (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of Florida, located in Gainesville, can trace its origins to 1853, making it one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the state. The school offers an online Master of Science in Microbiology and Cell Science with a concentration in microbiology and biochemistry. The 30-credit program can be completed entirely online in as little as one year. The curriculum is a blend of short one-credit modules and three-credit courses, and there is a course dedicated exclusively to career options. Since a strong foundation in upper-level science coursework is needed for the program, UF offers a seven-credit, two-course introduction track to students who need it.

#4 Colorado State University-Fort Collins

  • Annual Tuition: $7,050
  • Median Salary: $113,234
  • Locations: Fort Collins (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Colorado State University, founded in 1870, offers more than 100 different degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. An online Master of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology program is available that is comprised of coursework that can be completed entirely online. The flexible, self-paced format is designed for working adults with professional and family responsibilities. Coursework is delivered via the Canvas online learning management system. A total of 30 credits are required for the degree, divided into 21 credits of core courses and nine credits of electives. The degree can be earned in three years.

#5 The George Washington University

  • Annual Tuition: $17,150
  • Median Salary: $117,227
  • Locations: Washington D.C. (DC)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Located in Washington, DC, The George Washington University offers a Master of Science in Clinical Biology. Students gain an in-depth understanding of how to identify and investigate infectious diseases in humans. They learn how to reduce the spread of infections and facilitate a healthier community. Coursework can be accessed fully online, and the program's hands-on microbiology practicum can be completed in an approved hospital or diagnostic lab. The degree can be earned in 24 months. Learning is asynchronous, so students can study when it is convenient for them. There are three start timers per year — fall, spring, and summer. A total of 35 credits are needed to complete the degree.

#6 Lehigh University

  • Annual Tuition: $22,500
  • Median Salary: $118,646
  • Locations: Bethlehem (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Lehigh University's online Master of Science in Molecular Biology is intended for students who are interested in careers in biomedical research. The program is offered part-time and requires 30 credits. The core curriculum includes courses such as Advanced Cell Biology, Molecular Genetics, Elements of Biochemistry, and Molecular Cell Biology. In addition, students may select from elective courses, including Immunology, Cellular Basis of Human Disease, and Eukaryotic Signal Transduction. Classes are delivered online; however, certain classes may contain lab components that need to be completed on campus, or at a separate facility coordinated by faculty. Two of the course delivery technologies are Classroom LIVE and Classroom Online. The former is a virtual classroom in which students can interact with classmates through video and chat, and the latter is an asynchronous platform that gives students the flexibility to study on their own schedules. Applicants typically hold undergraduate degrees in biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, or chemistry, and must have completed certain prerequisites in order to be accepted. Prospective students may apply by completing an application through the Biological Sciences Department and submit their transcripts, as well as two letters of recommendation. Online students at Lehigh University have full access to the virtual Lehigh library resources and free academic software through LUapps.

#7 North Carolina State University

  • Annual Tuition: $23,310
  • Median Salary: $115,423
  • Locations: Raleigh (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

North Carolina State University offers a Master of Animal Science non-thesis degree program for students looking for a flexible education option. This online biology degree is available to students who hold an undergraduate degree in animal science, or something similar, and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students must have taken courses in biochemistry, genetics, physiology, and chemistry, and must submit their GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and any other information that highlights eligibility. Once admitted to the program, students may choose to study on a full-time or part-time schedule, with six years to complete the degree requirements. Students take 36 credits in total, with 19 credits of core curriculum courses and 17 credits of elective courses. The core curriculum includes classes such as Statistical Methods for Researchers, Adult Education in Agriculture, Regulation of Metabolism, Animal Genetic Improvement, Applied Ruminant Nutrition, and Comparative Reproductive Physiology and Biotechnology. Classes are taught entirely online and may be synchronous or asynchronous, depending on the professor. After completing the program, graduates are prepared to find work as animal technicians, in livestock management, or with animal health companies. Graduates are also prepared to pursue veterinary school.

#8 University of Maryland - College Park

  • Annual Tuition: $8,250
  • Median Salary: $108,966
  • Locations: College Park (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The University of Maryland-College Park offers a Master of Chemical and Life Sciences that can be completed online. The program is intended for teachers in high school science programs who are interested in advancing and updating their understanding of current theories and principles, as well as those who need a graduate degree for employment eligibility or promotion. The coursework primarily takes place online and asynchronously, with the exception of a series of labs that must be completed in person on campus. Students can expect to take courses such as Food Safety and Genetically Modified Foods, The Biology of Reproduction, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Immunology, Principles of Paleobiology, Biology of Cancer, and Forensic Chemistry. The program can be completed in as few as 18-24 months on a part-time schedule. To apply for this program, prospective students must hold an undergraduate degree from a four-year institution, with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Students must submit an application, including their transcripts, professional resume with all teaching experience listed, and a statement of purpose. Online students at UMD benefit from a long list of student resources and services, including, but not limited to: accessibility and disability support programs, career development resources and assistance, and accessible counseling and mental health services.

#9 Washington State University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,925
  • Median Salary: $99,318
  • Locations: Pullman (WA)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Students seeking an online biology degree can find a Professional Science Masters in Molecular Biosciences offered by Washington State University. This program can be completed on a part-time or full-time schedule in order to accommodate students who are employed or who require maximum flexibility. Through the online curriculum and in-person internship, students are equipped with real-world career skills, in addition to current bioscience knowledge, in an effort to prepare them for career opportunities at nonprofit, industry, or government agencies working within the realms of science and technology. Courses in ethics, business, management, and communication are required and include Advanced Biomedical Ethics, Rhetoric of Science and Technology, Finance for Technical Systems, and Performance Management in Technical Organizations. Students also sign up for elective science courses, as well as elective professional courses. An eight-week, full-time internship is required for this degree. This internship is arranged by both students and faculty and requires students to submit a proposal, log of activities, and final report. Applying to the online master's degree at Washington State University involves completing the online graduate school application, as well as sending in three letters of recommendation, all transcripts, a personal statement, and a recorded video addressing questions posed by the school's admissions department. Students have access to a wide assortment of resources and career development tools, and graduates are given support in finding job opportunities following completion of the program.

#10 Clemson University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,982
  • Median Salary: $98,717
  • Locations: Clemson (SC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Clemson University offers several tracks for students seeking a graduate biology degree. For those who would like a distance learning opportunity, a Master of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources is available through a fully online program. This online biology degree is intended for working professionals, either educators, employees of national or state wildlife agencies, or those who are similarly involved in the field. Students complete 30 credits of online coursework, with lectures and lesson material available 24/7, to allow students to approach their studies with flexibility and schedule coursework where it fits among their work and personal responsibilities. Students can engage on a part-time or full-time basis, with part-time students finishing in approximately three and a half years and full-time students finishing in two years. The core curriculum includes courses such as Conservation Issues, GIS for Natural Resource Professionals, Issues in Forest Health and Management, Fisheries Management and Conservation, Waterfowl Ecology and Management, Global Change Ecology, Conservation Physiology, and Restoration Ecology. Program participants should expect to spend approximately 12 hours per week on coursework for each class. To apply, prospective students must have previously earned an undergraduate degree (biology or a related subject is preferable, but not required), and submit their transcripts, two letters of recommendation, GRE scores, resume, and a personal statement, along with an online application. Online students at Clemson University have access to IT support, the Academic Success Center, and library services to assist with their studies.

#11 Western Kentucky University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,605
  • Median Salary: $98,000
  • Locations: Bowling Green (KY)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

A highly customizable online master's in biology is offered through Western Kentucky University. This program leads to a Master of Science in Biology for those who desire a graduate degree, or an advanced understanding of biological science. Coursework is delivered fully online, and students can begin at any time, making the degree available to students balancing work and/or family commitments. Prospective students can apply online by submitting an application, along with their academic transcripts showing proof of an undergraduate degree, and appropriate prerequisite studies. Once admitted, students select their own coursework, taking into consideration their interests and career goals. Students can concentrate their studies on genetics, ecology, the biology of flora, or take a wide-spread assortment of classes. This degree is a non-thesis degree program, meaning it lacks a final research project and is primarily focused on lectures and coursework. While in the program, students can find career services, writing assistance, tutoring, and success coaching in virtual formats for their use. Financial aid is also available for graduate students.

#12 University of Missouri

  • Annual Tuition: $8,040
  • Median Salary: $96,232
  • Locations: Columbia (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of Missouri offers an online biology degree program through which students earn a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences with an emphasis in veterinary sciences. This program requires 30 credits of coursework, all of which can be completed online, with no visits to campus. The program typically takes two years to complete, after which students are prepared for careers in the veterinary medical industry, veterinary journalism, pharmaceutical or government agencies, or academic research. Courses include Veterinary Cytology, Animal Issues in Disasters, Pathogenic Mechanisms in Veterinary Pathobiology, Problems in Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and Small Animal Wound Management and Reconstructive Surgery. Students also have the option to develop and carry out a thesis research project, although there is a non-thesis degree option as well. Most students take one or two classes each semester in order to balance their professional and personal obligations with their studies. In order to apply, prospective students must either be veterinary technologists or veterinarians with undergraduate degrees and a 3.0 minimum GPA. Students must also submit their GRE scores, and should have a score of at least 291 in order to be competitive applicants. Transcripts, a professional resume, and three letters of recommendation are also required as part of the application process. The University of Missouri provides students with a number of academic and personal support services that are available to online students as well as traditional students. These include tutoring resources, the MU Career Center, counseling, and IT support.

#13 Indiana State University

  • Annual Tuition: $5,951
  • Median Salary: $94,338
  • Locations: Terre Haute (IN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Indiana State University offers an online biology degree program through which students earn a Master of Biology. This is a non-thesis program that prepares students for continued education at professional schools or to begin work in the field. Thirty-two credits are required for completion of the degree, and the curriculum includes courses in life sciences, systematics, physiology, ecology, microbiology, and evolution, and genetics. Additionally, all students complete a culminating experience, which involves a research experience alongside an advisor, followed by a written and oral examination that is assessed by faculty. Students pursuing an online masters in biology from Indiana State University can benefit from research and conservation organizations that are housed by the university, including the Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation, The Center for Genomic Advocacy, a research museum, field station, and three areas of land that provide locations for field research. While students complete coursework online, these organizations and facilities continue to function as dedicated research centers, ensuring that students are surrounded by faculty and professionals in the field. Additional tools for students include technical support, tutoring services, and counseling. In order to apply, students must hold an undergraduate degree in biology or a related subject with a 3.0 GPA. Along with an online application, prospective students submit their resumes, GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation.  

#14 Mississippi State University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,313
  • Median Salary: $84,600
  • Locations: Mississippi State (MS)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Mississippi State University offers an online master's in biology program that is primarily designed for high school teachers. The program is also referred to as the Teachers in Biology, or TIB, program. Students complete 33 credits over two years, and complete all coursework online, except for the final capstone project that takes place on the Mississippi State University campus over the span of ten days. Classes are offered according to the semester schedule. They include lessons in genetic and molecular biology, fundamentals of biotechnology, ecology and the environment, and a comprehensive study of animals and plants. The capstone project on campus involves an in-person research study alongside biologists and classmates, as well as a written final exam. In order to apply to this program, students must submit three letters of recommendation, along with a statement of purpose. Students' transcripts are also required and must reflect that they have received an undergraduate degree in biology, or have taken a minimum of 15 credits in biology in their undergraduate studies with at least a B average. Students do not need to have taken the GRE. Due to the specificity of the program, transfer credits are not accepted. As most of the program participants are already skilled professionals, this online biology degree serves to enhance their responsibility and earning potential, as well as supplements their knowledge base.

#15 Johns Hopkins University

  • Annual Tuition: $27,888
  • Median Salary: $85,100
  • Locations: Baltimore (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Johns Hopkins University offers two distinct online biology degree programs for students at the graduate level. The Master of Science in Bioinformatics is available through both the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering. Meanwhile, the Master of Science in Biotechnology is offered solely through the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. The former degree program is a part-time program that covers topics such as computer science, computational modeling, structural biology, and genomic analysis. Eleven courses are required, including five core courses, four concentration courses, and two elective courses. Concentration courses are selected by the student from a list of available courses, which allows students to tailor their education to fit their interests and career plans. The second degree option in biotechnology includes concentration tracks in bioinformatics, biodefense, regenerative and stem cell technologies, drug research, biotechnology business ventures, or regulatory affairs. The degree requires ten courses, and coursework can be completed on a full-time or part-time schedule. Students in this program take four core courses, which overlap with the bioinformatics curriculum before taking courses in their chosen concentration. This degree can be a thesis or non-thesis degree, depending on students' individual goals. As much of the coursework is similar, students can transfer between the bioinformatics and the biotechnology degree programs, thereby transferring their earned credits to their new program of study. In order to apply, students must submit an online application, along with a 500-word personal essay, professional resume, and transcripts showing that they hold an undergraduate degree in biology or engineering with at least a 3.0 GPA, as well as completion of the necessary prerequisite courses in chemistry, biochemistry, and math. Graduates of this program benefit from Johns Hopkins University's wide alumni base and networking connections as a prominent research institution.

#16 Troy University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,892
  • Median Salary: $76,140
  • Locations: Troy (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Troy University offers 71 online degree programs, including a Master of Science in Environmental and Biological Sciences. This online biology degree can be completed with or without a research-driven thesis project. The non-thesis degree option requires 36 credits of coursework, which can be completed entirely online. Aside from the core courses in Public Health, Research Methodology and Experimental Design, and Environmental and Biological Ethics, students can select their classes from an extensive list of options, including Limnology, Microbial Ecology, Toxicology, Environmental History, Molecular Biology, Pollution Science, and Sustainable Development. Students interested in applying to this program can follow the admission guidelines, as found on the Troy University website. An online application, academic transcripts, test scores, and one letter of recommendation are required in order to be considered for the program. Prior to admission, prospective students can take a short quiz to determine whether online learning is a good fit for them. In order to support online students, Troy University provides virtual services such as technical support, online exam proctoring services, tutoring, and career development tools.

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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