Masters Degrees in Life Science: Program Information

There are many master's degree programs in the life sciences, including programs in biology, ecology and evolutionary biology, and plant biology. These programs typically combine classroom studies with hands-on laboratory or fieldwork experience.

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Essential Information

Entrance into a master's program in life sciences usually requires a bachelor's degree in biology with coursework in biology, chemistry, and physics. There are many fields to choose from within the life sciences, such as biology, marine biology, conservation biology, and wildlife biology. Within each of these fields there are options for specialization, including molecular biology, organismal biology, and ecology. Master's degrees may take 1-2 years to complete. A thesis based on original research or a major research project is usually required for graduation. Graduates go on to careers in research, conservation advocacy, or teaching.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Bioinformatics
  • Botany
  • Cellular Biology and Anatomical Sciences
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • General Biology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Physiology and Related Sciences
  • Zoology

Master's Degrees in Life Science

The curriculum for a master's degree consists of coursework and an original research thesis. Research may be conducted in a laboratory or in the field, where students gain hands-on experience studying their chosen topic. These research experiences teach students to develop hypotheses, collect scientific data, analyze samples, and report research findings in scientific papers. Comprehensive exams may also be required toward the end of the program.

Possible courses taken by master's students include:

  • Genetics
  • Virology
  • Population ecology
  • Biodiversity
  • Molecular evolution
  • Physiology and biochemistry

Popular Career Options

Graduates go on to careers in a variety of settings, including research, education, and conservation. Popular career options for graduates include:

  • Life sciences teacher
  • Ecologist
  • Botanist
  • Research scientist
  • Conservation biologist
  • Marine biologist

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), zoologists and wildlife biologists held over 17,910 jobs in 2015, and opportunities in the profession were expected to grow by 4% between the years of 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for zoologists and wildlife biologists was $59,680 as of May 2015 (

Continuing Education

Graduates who are interested in a career in research or teaching at the college level can enroll in a variety of doctoral degree programs, including programs in biology, wildlife biology, molecular biology, or ecology and evolutionary biology. Graduates can also obtain Associate Ecologist or Ecologist credentials from the Ecological Society of America (ESA), though they must be members of ESA before they apply for certification.

A master's program in life science prepares students for careers in fields such as research, education, and conservation by giving students both theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience.

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