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Biology Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

A student enrolled in a graduate biology program may study a broad range of living organisms and their environments. Within biology, there are many subspecialties, including cellular and molecular biology, genetics, microbiology, botany, zoology, evolution, ecology and marine biology.

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Most 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in biology. The type of biology training depends upon whether the student chooses a career in scientific research, medicine or education.

Top 10 Biology Schools

The site US News provides ranked lists of all the different schools across the country. These are the top 10 biology schools and the different degree levels that they offer:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
Harvard University Boston, MA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $45,278
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,704
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,320
University of California Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,431 in-state, $38,139 out-of-state
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $45,390
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $48,710
University of California San Francisco, CA 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $12,445 in-state, $27,547 out-of-state
Yale University New Haven, CT 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $47,600
Princeton University Princeton, NJ 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $43,450
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $49,116

Source: *National Center for Educational Statistics

School Selection Criteria

When looking into the schools listed above, students should consider the following in order to help them choose a graduate program in biology:

  • There are many biology programs available across the U.S., so students may wish to narrow down their potential selections by examining the program's research projects.
  • A bachelor's degree is generally required for a student interested in becoming a research technician; to become an independent researcher, the student will need a graduate degree.
  • Modern laboratory facilities and equipment may be of interest to students seeking research opportunities at the school.
  • Relevant fieldwork opportunities will vary from school to school, so students interested in gaining a specific type of hands-on experience should consider the location of the college in question.

Bachelor's Degree in Biology

Biology degree programs can lead to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science depending upon the school. Besides general education courses, students take courses in chemistry (general, organic, physical, biochemistry), physics and mathematics (calculus, statistics). Upperclassmen take core electives in biology, which vary with the program.

Master's Degree in Biology

Master's degree programs in biology vary between schools. The course of training is more individualized than that of undergraduate biology programs. Students choose a faculty research advisor and plan appropriate coursework for their research interests. Besides classes, graduate students must typically conduct research and write a thesis based on their research. Most graduate students finance their education through research assistantships, scholarships and research grants, so it is important to discuss this aspect with a faculty advisor.

Doctoral Degree in Biology

Biology doctoral programs have individualized courses of study, which are agreed upon by the student and a faculty advisor. Doctoral programs emphasize research in some subspecialty of biology and require some coursework and a written dissertation based on the student's research. Doctoral programs usually take four or more years to complete, compared to two years for a master's program. A master's degree in biology is not a prerequisite for doctoral degree programs; usually only a bachelor's degree is required and not necessarily one in biology. Like master's degree students, doctoral students finance their education through research assistantships, scholarships and research grants.

Future biology students should consider their intended area of research and career prospects when choosing a school, as practical experience and certain qualifications will be necessary to procure certain positions in the field. Biology degree programs are widely available at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

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