Distance Learning Science Degree Program Options

Learn about distance learning degree programs with science courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Programs in many areas of science are primarily offered on-campus due to the hands-on nature of the study. Three branches of science for which one can find online degree programs are psychology at the bachelor's degree level, and biology and chemistry at the master's degree levels. Bachelor's degree programs are available in fully online formats, but may include an internship requirement. Two-year master's degree programs include residency requirements for labs and capstone experiences, as well as both thesis and non-thesis tracks.

Bachelor of Science in Psychology

Students working toward a Bachelor of Science in Psychology are introduced to the theories behind why people behave the way they do. Normal and abnormal behavior is studied, from causes to manifestations to applicable treatment options. Students gain research skills and develop the ability to carry out original psychology research. Coursework includes studies of psychology as they apply to children, adults and the elderly.

Program Information and Requirements

Most online bachelor's degree programs in psychology take four years of full-time study to complete. Students typically access lectures, course materials and exams online and very occasionally by mail. Many programs also offer students the opportunity to interact with other learners through discussion and message boards and chat sessions. In distance learning programs where internships are required, students actively make arrangements for placement at locations near their residences. Common locations for internships include clinical treatment settings or mental health agencies.

Distance learning programs with online course delivery require that students have a computer with a reliable, high-speed Internet connection. Students should be computer literate and comfortable using interactive tools like discussion boards, e-mail and chat.

Course Topics

A selection of core courses that include developmental and abnormal psychology is generally required. Students may also choose electives according to their career goals in areas such as human services, industrial-organizational services or lab research.

Introductory Child Psychology

Child psychology focuses on the normal cognitive, social and behavioral development of youth. Students are introduced to the major theories of child development, and they learn to identify important developmental milestones.

Psychology Research

This class allows students to practice planning and implementing psychology research projects. They learn about ethical standards and research design options that are appropriate to certain hypotheses. They also practice evaluating results and writing up their findings for peer review.

Overview of Social Psychology

This study of how individuals act in social settings includes normal and abnormal behavior. Social psychology explores how an individual interacts with another person one-on-one as well as examining how that individual interacts with the group and within the group.

Master of Science in Biology

Building upon the knowledge and skills gained through an undergraduate biology program, students enrolled in a distance-learning Master of Science in Biology program continue with advanced study of plant, animal and human life. Most programs balance courses in the examination of cellular structure and biological processes with those in broad concepts like ecology, evolution and animal behavior.

Program Information and Requirements

Students generally take two years of full-time study to complete an online master's degree in biology. Some schools require brief residencies for exams, lab sessions or capstone experiences. Electronic course management systems are a common way for students to access learning materials and lectures, and discussion boards and chat sessions are used for student interaction.

In order to participate in distance learning, students need to have a reliable computer and regular access to a high-speed Internet connection. Some specialized software may be required to access certain course materials.

Course Topics

Students typically have the option of completing a thesis or non-thesis degree program. Non-thesis tracks will typically require more courses or lab work than will thesis-based programs. A small selection of core courses is required; however, students generally choose from a plethora of electives to satisfy their academic goals.

Cell Biology

Course materials offer an advanced look at cell structure and function. Lessons include individual parts of the cell and the cell as a whole. Both plant and animal cells are studied.


Students explore the complex web of relationships among plants and animals in a given location. Causes and effects of increasing and decreasing biodiversity are also discussed.

Theory of Evolution

The theory of evolution, including natural selection, is the focus of this class. Students learn about evolution as it applies to plants, animals and humans. Coursework may also include studies on genetics and on the patterns of evolution.

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Master of Science in Chemistry

Students in online graduate programs in chemistry explore the properties and reactions of chemicals and compounds used in biochemistry, neurochemistry, medicinal chemistry and industrial chemistry. Research and development of chemistry-based solutions is a common emphasis in graduate-level chemistry programs. Some schools offer their distance learning programs in chemistry in close cooperation with businesses to provide hands-on lab work and research experience.

Program Information and Requirements

While students enrolled in a distance learning master's degree program in chemistry can complete it in about two years, part-time students complete it in about 3-4 years. Some programs require short periods of time on-campus for academic sessions or exams. Students may have the option of choosing a thesis track or non-thesis track for their studies. Course delivery systems include streaming Web videos, podcasts, video conferences, discussion boards and e-mail.

In addition to a computer and reliable Internet access, students should have video and sound cards installed in order to view online lectures. Some programs may require a Web camera for interactive learning experiences.

Course Topics

Students can pursue a specialized academic track in addition to completing core courses required for graduation. Common chemistry tracks include biotechnology, pharmaceutical chemistry or industrial chemistry.

Chemistry Research

This course covers the design and implementation of chemistry research proposals. From initial query to analysis of data and reporting of results, students are introduced to accepted practices and ethical standards of conduct.

Overview of Biochemistry

Students in this class concentrate on chemical processes that take place within cells. Topics discussed include acids, proteins, enzymes and vitamins.

Medicinal Chemistry

Coursework focuses on the composition, effectiveness and contraindications of a variety of commonly prescribed drugs. Lessons typically cover the medications used to treat the central nervous system and cardiovascular conditions as well as highlighting common illnesses.

Career Information

A Bachelor of Science in Psychology qualifies graduates for entry-level support positions in psychology, business or sales as well as preparing them for continued academic study at the graduate level. The BLS projected job growth of 5% for psychiatric technicians from 2014-2024. Psychiatric technicians is one possible career available to those with some postsecondary education (they typically complete a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program), but without a master's or doctoral degree in psychology. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $31,140 for psychiatric technicians as of May 2015.

In many cases, the online master's degree in biology is intended for working educators; however, graduates may also work for hospitals or pharmaceutical companies in research or development capacities. Teachers with this level of education typically work with high school students and younger. The BLS projected job growth of 6% for elementary, middle, and high school teachers, about as fast as the average for all occupations from 2014-2024. The BLS reported median annual wages of $54,890 for elementary, $55,860 for middle school and $57,200 for high school teachers as of May 2015.

BLS projected job growth for chemists of 3%, slower than average, between 2014 and 2024. Master's degree holders, along with Ph.D. holders, are likely to see some job growth, although it will be competitive. While chemical manufacturing jobs are likely to decline, pharmaceutical and biotechnology jobs are expected to increase slightly. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $71,260 for chemists as of May 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates from undergraduate distance learning psychology programs are qualified for master's degree study in psychology to prepare for careers in industrial-organizational psychology or in assisting licensed psychologists. The BLS reported a master's degree holder may become a school psychologist, although school psychologists might alternatively hold educational specialist (Ed.S.) or doctoral degrees.

There are a wide array of online programs available in the field of science at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. These programs can include majors in areas such as psychology, biology and chemistry.

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