Graduate Certificates and Degrees in Bioinformatics: Program Info

The field of bioinformatics uses techniques from computer science, engineering, statistics, math and other sciences to process the large amount of data generated by biological research. Students interested in learning about bioinformatics may enroll in a master's or Ph.D. program or a graduate certificate program.

Essential Information

Graduate certificate programs usually consist of about five courses that teach students to understand and interpret data from research projects. A master's degree program teaches students to conduct experiments and research studies in biology. In a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program, students conduct research and work on a dissertation. Participation in a seminar program may be required, and students may have to pass comprehensive oral and written exams.

  • Program Levels: Graduate certificate, master's degree, doctoral degree
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree, strong backgrounds in computer science and math
  • Other Requirements: Thesis or internship for master's program, qualifying exam and dissertation for Ph.D. program
  • Online Availability: Programs are available that are fully and partially online

Graduate Certificate in Bioinformatics

Graduate certificate programs train students in the various methods used to make sense of the massive number of data points from biological research projects like the Human Genome Project. Students learn about topics in computational biology and bioinformatics. The aim of the program is to help student understand how to use various methods to isolate key results from a large database of experimental data and create models of complicated biological systems. An institution may offer a certificate in bioinformatics technology or bioinformatics applications. A background in computer programming, statistics, calculus and biology is beneficial.

Certificate programs generally consist of five courses. Possible courses include:

  • Computational biology
  • Molecular biotechnology
  • Gene expression
  • Genomics
  • Bioinformatics methods

Master of Science in Bioinformatics

Master's programs in bioinformatics, often called professional programs, focus on giving students the tools and experimental methodology to solve complicated biological questions. Students may receive instruction in online database development, molecular modeling and data analysis (genomics). Students are required to complete core courses and attend seminars. Courses may include:

  • Biological research
  • Biochemistry
  • Database management
  • Data structures
  • Computational biology

Doctorate of Philosophy in Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics at the doctorate level involves conducting research. Doctoral programs require students to develop an original research proposal, complete the research and defend their results through an oral exam. Students may be required to take part in a seminar program. Programs usually have required courses in bioinformatics and electives in areas like chemistry, analysis and math. Core areas of study may include molecular biology, informatics, computing, bioinformatics, statistics and probability. Possible courses may include:

  • Parallel computing
  • Applied statistics
  • Basic bio lab in bioinformatics
  • Gene structure
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Molecular physical chemistry

Popular Career Options

Graduate certificates in bioinformatics are good preparation for future studies at graduate school in bioinformatics, life sciences and genomic medicine. Generally, programs are geared toward individuals who need to update their skills or learn new ones. Individuals who may be interested in taking a graduate certificate in bioinformatics include:

  • Healthcare professionals
  • Biologists
  • Computer scientists
  • Professionals in bioinformatic field

Graduates with a master's degree in bioinformatics may find research opportunities in governmental or pharmaceutical laboratories, as well as in academia. Career opportunities can include:

  • Bioinformatics analyst
  • Bioinformatics programmer
  • Medical researcher

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Employment for bioinformatics scientists is anticipated to change by approximately - 2% to +2% from 2012-2022, which is slower than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Bioinformatics scientists may work for the government or in education. The success of the Human Genome Project has led to pharmaceutical companies increasing their research activities and thereby, increasing the need for more bioinformatics professionals. The BLS reported the median annual wage for a bioinformatics scientist was $74,720 as of 2014.

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