Life Science Degree and Certificate Program Summaries

Although it isn't associated with any particular career, life science is relevant to multiple industries, notably agriculture and healthcare research. Several schools offer associate's and bachelor's degree programs in life science.

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Essential Information

While both associate's and bachelor's programs cover core natural science topics, bachelor's programs usually include more general education coursework than associate's programs. Some bachelor's programs can also be tailored to the needs of prospective science teachers through special coursework and practical experience. A GED or high school diploma is required for enrollment in both associate's and bachelor's degree.

Graduate certificates in life science leadership are also available, and they're usually aimed at working life science professionals. Admission to these certificate programs may require a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, depending on the school.

Associate's Degree in Life Science

A two-year associate's degree program in life science provides a broad, general survey of scientifically accumulated knowledge about the world of animate, freely reproducing beings. Program content explores the varieties and properties of microbes, insects, plants and animals, their interrelationships and the effect human activity has upon them. Students can gain a better understanding of the scientific method as an investigative tool, as well as develop communication and problem solving skills.

General education courses in composition, history, computers and literature are often part of an associate's degree program. Courses directly related to the major are apt to be fundamental science courses, such as:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Botany
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Zoology

Bachelor's Degree in Life Science

A bachelor's degree in life science engages the same broad general science curriculum as an associate's degree program while extending into specialized areas of biology and chemistry. Some four-year programs are aimed at people who need to meet a science education requirement, while others focus on applying engineering concepts to the manipulation of life forms. Students earning a degree in a related field, such as biology, biochemistry or microbiology, may be prohibited from pursuing a double major in life science at some schools.

In addition to major coursework, students in these programs must also take courses in the behavioral and social sciences, fine arts, college writing and foreign language. Some programs require students to maintain a specific grade point average in science courses similar to the following:

  • Microbiology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Chemical engineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomechanics

Certificate in Life Science Leadership

A certificate program in life science leadership adapts concepts commonly presented in Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs to address the specific circumstances of companies in the life science industry. The program, which can typically be completed in less than a year, is aimed at helping established life science professionals learn to manage subordinates and think strategically about solving business problems. The curriculum focuses on product development, project management, finance, regulation and intellectual property.

Course topics in a certificate program vary from year to year as the needs of companies in the life science industry change. A lineup of life science leadership classes might include:

  • Project management fundamentals
  • Financial management
  • Intellectual property management
  • Regulation
  • Systems theory

Popular Career Options

Life science encompasses an expanding list of basic and commercial research domains. Because it isn't tied to a particular career, a life science associate's degree by itself offers uncertain job prospects. Graduates of a life science programs are qualified for leadership positions with companies engaged in the following:

  • Agriculture and food research
  • Pharmaceutical research
  • Medical device manufacturing
  • Biotechnology research
  • Pet store associate manager
  • Teacher assistant - science

Employment Prospects and Salary Info

Individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in life science can also find work as biological technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 5% employment growth was expected in this field from 2014 to 2024, which is about average among all career fields. Job applicants who have lab experience and a bachelor's degree have the strongest chance of employment. Biological technicians earned a median annual wage of $41,650 as of May 2015, reports the BLS.

Earning a life science bachelor's degree affords more employment potential than an associate's degree, but the degree still offers a variety of career paths. Graduates can possibly find work as:

  • Lab technicians
  • Research assistants
  • Pharmaceutical sales associates

Continuing Education Information

Bachelor's degree holders are well positioned to purse advanced degrees in more specific areas of the life sciences. Relevant master's degree programs are available in the health sciences, environmental sciences or biotechnology.

At both the bachelor's and associate's degree levels in live science, courses teach students about the biology, reproduction and chemistry of the various types of organisms. The bachelor's degree offers more general education courses and advanced courses that prepare students for graduate work, such as pursuing a Certificate in Life Science Leadership.

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