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Best Biology Graduate Programs: List of Top Schools

Graduate programs in biology prepare students for careers in academia, government and research, among other occupational fields. Get rankings and program details for some of the top graduate biology programs in the country.

School Overviews

The best graduate biology programs, both at the master's and doctoral levels, usually demand an intense amount of personal or collaborative research and individual scholarship, and many include an instruction component in the form of biology teaching assistantships. Based on U.S. News & World Report rankings, the top schools for studying biology are Stanford University and Harvard University. In addition to their high rankings, each research-intensive program provides opportunities to specialize in a particular area of biology.

1. Stanford University in Stanford, CA

School Highlight: Stanford has six research sites geared towards biology students.

Often described as one of the world's leading research institutions, Stanford University was recognized for being tied as the top school in the nation in 2014 for its graduate biological sciences programs by U.S. News & World Report. Stanford has two graduate program options in its Department of Biology. The coterminal Master of Science/Bachelor of Science (M.S./B.S.) in Biology is available only for Stanford undergraduates. The coterminal program offers extra research opportunities that can help give students an edge in the job market or in doctoral degree program applications. It also offers a chance for more exposure to specific applications of biology for students interested in careers in teaching and consulting.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biology program primarily prepares its students for success in both science and teaching. In addition to completing coursework and research, students work alongside their academic advisers and an assigned faculty committee to produce a dissertation. Students in the Ph.D. program choose from three areas of specialization, including cellular and molecular biology; ecology and evolution biology; and integrative biology.

2. Harvard University in Cambridge, MA

School Highlight: Harvard offers several graduate consortia.

Harvard University tied for first with Stanford and MIT in the U.S. News & World Report 2014 rankings of graduate biological sciences programs. Harvard's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology offers two distinct programs that can eventually lead to a Ph.D. in Biology. Students can choose between tracks in molecules, cells and organisms; or engineering and physical biology. All graduate students are admitted as Ph.D. candidates, and each specialization prepares its students for professional or academic careers in science.

The Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology also offers a doctorate in biology and allows students to focus on microbial, plant and animal ecosystems. Graduate students must fulfill all course requirements within their first two years in the program and make satisfactory progress toward a completed dissertation for the remainder of the degree program.

Top Biology Graduate Programs

School Name Distinction Location
Columbia University Master of Arts (M.A.) program in biotechnology can be completed in a year of full-time study, including a summer session New York, NY
Duke University Biology department includes 3 centers/research groups Durham, NC
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Faculty researchers include Nobel laureates, National Academy of Sciences members and investigators from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Cambridge, MA
University of California - Berkeley Students can pursue far-reaching research interests through about 40 research centers, field stations, institutes and museums Berkeley, CA
University of California - Davis Biology graduate students can participate in a variety of training programs Davis, CA
University of California - San Diego Students can participate in a joint Ph.D. program in cellular or molecular biology between UCSD and San Diego State University La Jolla, CA
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Pathways master's program designed specifically to prepare excellent students from under-represented groups for entrance into Ph.D. programs Ann Arbor, MI
University of Washington - Seattle University receives over $1 billion annually in federal research funding, highest funding for any public university in the nation Seattle, WA
University of Wisconsin - Madison Students work in groups dedicated to a specific area of research guided by faculty trainers; interdisciplinary work spans across 40 departments Madison, WI
Washington University in St. Louis Biology department offers a 1-year, research-intensive biomedical master's program for medical students Saint Louis, MO

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