Online Biology Major: Requirements and Information

Dec 03, 2019

Find out about online biology courses and in which degree programs they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

Essential Information

Online biology degree programs are available at the associate's and master's degree levels. These programs are available entirely online, though some blended programs are also available which will have on-campus lab and course requirements. These programs help prepare graduates for a wide variety of medical, clinical, and research positions in biology; the specific requirements for these careers vary by job title and employer. Those who intend to teach biology in public elementary, middle and high schools need to be licensed in all states, and they need to hold at least a bachelor's degree. Check for state-specific requirements when choosing a degree program. Students will need a webcam and microphone to complete these programs.

Associate's Degree in Biology

Online associate's degree programs in biology provide students with a broad survey of nature and the processes of life and living creatures. Programs combine assigned readings with hands-on lab work or lab simulations. Although not deeply specialized, individual courses may have specific relevance in such areas as health care or agriculture. The degree may also be a prerequisite for further studies in related disciplines.

Information and Requirements

Online associate's degree programs in biology are hybrids of traditional classroom and online coursework. Lab assignments require students to be on campus, although some programs may use simulation software. Online courses are generally organized into a series of lessons the student completes at their own pace.

A personal computer, web browser and Internet access are the primary technical requirements to access an online program.

Common Biology Courses

An online associate's degree program in biology includes a general education or liberal arts component. Students access course material through a school's website.

Introductory Biology

This course introduces basic concepts of biology. Topics covered in the course include DNA and RNA, cell structure, reproduction, heredity and evolution.


Students in a microbiology class learn to identify and analyze bacteria and viruses. The genetics, metabolism and immunology of microorganisms are among the topics considered.

Plant Biology

This is an introductory course on the structure and function of plants and their diversity. Plant anatomy and growth, reproduction, environmental interactions and evolution are among the topics considered.

Master's Degree in Biology

Online master's degree programs in biology provide a more intensive study of topics in the field without specializing in any one area. Some offer a wide enough range of electives that students can give more focus to such areas as human biology, wildlife biology, pathology and biotechnology.

Many programs are designed to help middle school and high school science teachers, but are not explicitly designated as an education degree. Enrollment in an online master's degree program in biology requires a bachelor's degree, preferably in the biological sciences. Students may also have to submit GRE scores.

Information and Requirements

Online master's degree programs in biology may be offered fully online or as hybrids of online and traditional classroom programs. Some programs make lectures available via video on demand. An online master's degree is typically completed in two years.

Students need a personal computer, Internet access and a web browser. For programs that use live video chat, students will also need a webcam and microphone.

Common Biology Master's Degree Courses

Most programs feature a core set of classes all students must take, supplemented with electives.

Cell Biology

Students examine sub-cellular structures in this course. They learn the components of cells, the function of these components and how they work together as an integrated system.

Mammalian Reproductive Biology

This course focuses on the process of reproduction in mammals from the development of gametes through birth. Topics covered include genetics, anatomy and developmental stages.

Cancer Biology

This course explains the molecular-level changes in cells that cause them to become cancerous. Students learn the processes behind carcinogenesis, angiogenesis and metastasis.

Career Information for Graduates

An associate's degree in biology degree isn't associated with a specific career, but can lead to many different careers. The degree level will likely limit job seekers to lower-level positions. Absent further education, it may also limit prospects for advancement. Job possibilities include medical office assistant, lab technician and research associate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned a median annual salary of $52,330 as of May 2018.

An online master's degree in biology has career applications in many fields, including education, biotechnology research, wildlife preservation, health care, law enforcement and public policy; however, the degree may be more useful for professionals seeking to enhance an existing career than for first-time job seekers.

Graduates can become high school science teachers, technical writers, forensic technicians and conservation scientists. According to the BLS, as of May 2018, high school teachers earned an average annual salary of $64,340, conservation scientists earned an average of $65,320 and forensic technicians earned an average of $62,490.

Because biology degrees are rather broad, students may qualify for a variety of different jobs upon completion of their online program. A master's degree program in biology will be more in-depth and diverse and might help graduates secure more advanced jobs, while an associate's degree will be useful for those who want to find entry-level work.

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