The field of biology is extremely large and encompasses areas such as developmental and molecular biology, neuroscience, microbiology, botany and other areas. A student's chosen level of study will reflect their career intentions, as a Ph.D. in Biology is generally required for conducting independent research.
Top 10 Graduate Biology Schools
These are the top 10 graduate biology schools as listed by US News, with average graduate tuition provided by the National Center Education Statistics using data from the last academic year:
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Graduate Tuition (2015-2016)*|
|Harvard University||Boston, MA||4-year, private not-for-profit||$42,874|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge, MA||4-year, private not-for-profit||$49,272 per year|
|Stanford University||Stanford, CA||4-year, private not-for-profit||$46,320|
|University of California - Berkeley||Berkeley, CA||4-year, public||$13,431 in-state, $28,533 out-of-state|
|California Institute of Technology||Pasadena, CA||4-year, private not-for-profit||$45,390|
|Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore, MD||4-year, private not-for-profit||$50,510|
|University of California - San Francisco||San Francisco, CA||4-year, public||$12,445 in-state, $27,557 out-of-state|
|Yale University||New Haven, CT||4-year, private not-for-profit||$38,700|
|Princeton University||Princeton, NJ||4-year, private not-for-profit||$45,350|
|Scripps Research Institute||La Jolla, CA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Tuition is $5,000 per year but graduate students have their tuition waived.|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics and school websites
School Selection Criteria
There are a number of things that students who want to study biology at the graduate level should consider when deciding on a school. These include:
- Graduate school candidates should target only those schools that offer biology concentrations applicable to their intended careers.
- Potential students should consider the research interests of the professors at each university, so that they can secure opportunities to participate in labs.
- Location is another important consideration for marine biology grad school students, who would benefit from attending a university that offers research facilities located next to a major body of water such as the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.
- Aspiring conservation biologists should search for schools that have links with conservationist organizations relevant to their interests, as these may provide opportunities to gain specific hands-on experience that is unavailable elsewhere.
Master's Degree in Biology
A master's degree program in biology can be completed in two years. The completion of thesis is recommended for students who plan to continue their study at the doctoral degree level. A prospective student can choose to enroll in a general biology degree program or choose a specialty area. A non-thesis master's degree in biology requires a student to complete a number of extra courses, and is typically pursued by individuals who do not wish to pursue a Ph.D.
Doctoral Degree in Biology
Doctoral candidates are required to conduct research in an area of interest and write a dissertation. Once the dissertation is complete and has been successfully defended, a student is awarded the doctorate in biology. However, before a student begins research, he or she must complete a set of core courses and develop a research proposal for approval. Core Ph.D. in Biology courses can include topics such as immunology, molecular biology, ecology and animal physiology.
Financial aid for Ph.D. programs is available through teaching and research assistantships. This financial support covers major expenses and allows a student to focus on researching and writing a dissertation. Support also exists for students enrolled in a Master of Science in Biology program, but may not be as extensive. Partial scholarships and tuition waivers are available for students who have excellent academic records.
Prospective biology graduate students must first decide between completing a master's or doctoral degree program, which will be relevant to their career prospects. Master's degree holders will have the option of teaching at a community college, while Ph.D. graduates are more likely to teach at a major university.