PhD in Life Science: Degree Program Information

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Life Science is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on biomedical advances and research training, culminating in a final dissertation.

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Essential Information

PhD in Life Science programs typically include lecture-based courses, lab work, clinical studies, and independent research that leads to a dissertation. Students may also be required to prepare mock-research propositions with an oral presentation or to serve as a teacher's assistant. Life science studies encompass areas such as molecular medicine and immunology, molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, epidemiology, human genetics, neuroscience, toxicology, biophysics and physical rehabilitation science. Graduates of a PhD program in life science are qualified for careers as biological scientists.

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Life Science

Applicants to doctoral programs in life science must possess a bachelor's degree, generally with a major or background coursework in biology or science disciplines. Typical admissions requirements also include letters of recommendation, a personal statement, an academic record review and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

A large portion of the doctoral program includes researching and writing a dissertation to be defended in front of an academic board. The program curriculum and dissertation topic is tailored to a student's specific concentration. Common courses include:

  • DNA & RNA
  • Immunology
  • Developmental and structural biology
  • Cell technology, physiology and systems
  • Biostatistics
  • Biochemistry

Employment Outlook

Many graduates become biochemists or biophysicists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment for biochemists and biophysicists is expected to grow by 8% for the decade 2014-2024. The BLS estimated that the need for new medical procedures and drugs will contribute to job growth.

Continuing Education

Some schools also offer a MD/PhD dual degree program, allowing life science students to pursue their medical degree along with their PhD. Post-doctoral positions in the field of biological science offer opportunities for published research, which is usually required for university faculty positions. A medical degree along with licensure qualifies graduates to become clinical physicians, while a PhD alone is the minimum educational requirement for medical scientists.

Students who want to dedicate their careers to advanced research in the life sciences can get the scientific expertise and methodological training they need by earning a PhD, which is the terminal degree in this field.

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