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Graduate Certificates and Degrees in Bioinformatics: Program Info

Students interested in graduate-level studies in bioinformatics may enroll in a master's degree program, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program or graduate certificate program in the field.

Essential Information

In bioinformatics programs, students learn how to use concepts from computer science, engineering, statistics, math and other sciences to process the large amount of data generated by biological research. Graduate certificate programs usually consist of 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 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.

In order to apply to any of these programs, prospective students must have a bachelor's degree. They also need strong backgrounds in computer science and math.


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. 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. They must also complete a thesis or internship prior to graduation. 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, write a dissertation and defend it through an oral exam. Students may be required to take part in a seminar program, and they must pass a qualifying exam. 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 the bioinformatics 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 show little or no change from 2014-2024, 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 $75,150 as of 2015.

Graduate students in bioinformatics receive highly interdisciplinary training in both computer science and biology. The balance between lecture-based coursework and independent research, as well as the general completion requirements, depend on the program.

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