Individuals who want to pursue an online biology degree should conduct a thorough search process to find an accredited program.
Determining College and Degree Accreditation
The best way to go about determining the accreditation status of an online biology degree program, and often any other degree, is to begin with the college's website. Almost without exception, colleges will post on their websites their accreditation status and what organizations they are accredited by. This is true for both colleges that are legitimately accredited and those that are not.
For small or non-traditional colleges, the accreditation section can often be found as a separate link on the college's link bar, posted to be obvious to visitors. For large colleges, accreditation information may be relatively hidden, usually in a link on the 'About Us' page or in a drop down menu. For a few large public universities, accreditation information may only be available upon direct request.
Verifying Accreditation and Accrediting Agencies
Most major accrediting organizations offer a website with a searchable list of accredited colleges and degree programs. This list is usually easily accessible to the public, often found through a hyperlink on the organization's web page. If the list is not immediately available, inquiry via email or telephone may be required. One of the major accrediting bodies in the field of biology is the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). There are also general accrediting agencies that accredit entire institutions, rather than just single biology programs.
There are several ways to determine whether an accrediting organization is legitimate or not. Usually the best way is to check the U.S. Department of Education's website, which has a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies. Because accreditation acts as a stamp of approval that indicates that an organization takes responsibility for a particular college's standards and methods, whether or not an accrediting agency is widely or notably recognized in the industry is a key indicator of its trustworthiness. Of course, the end decision about whether an institution's credentials are sufficient is ultimately in the hands of the prospective student.
Information About Accredited Online Biology Programs
Most online accredited programs in biology are offered at the master's degree level and are designed for students with related undergraduate training - either a bachelor's degree in biology or completion of a required number of courses in biological sciences. Online master's degree programs typically do not require completion of a thesis and may require students to complete a final comprehensive exam instead, for which a proctor may be required. Some accredited colleges that offer online programs in biology include the following:
- University of Nebraska
- Clemson University
- Western Kentucky University
- University of Florida
Students in an online biology degree program are typically able to complete all work online. Distance learning students use a Web-based instructional platform, such as Blackboard, to access and submit assignments, communicate with instructors and peers and participate in virtual classes or chats. They may also take part in video or telephone conferencing sessions. Courses may integrate learning aids such as DVDs and CDs and printed or scanned materials. Additionally, students are often allowed online access to their university's library system for additional resources.
To ensure the quality of an online biology degree program, it is important to verify accreditation information.