Students taking degree programs in biology study the cellular makeup, behaviors and reproductive systems of plants and animals. Master's degrees in biology are the most common degree level available through distance learning. Since biology studies are strongly based on experiments, labs and fieldwork, it's difficult to gain a fundamental biology education strictly through online classes. For this reason, most distance learning programs in this field are at the graduate level and are designed for those who already have that science foundation.
Four-year institutions that offer online master's degrees in biology typically design their programs to provide the advanced coursework needed to work in education and scientific research or pursue further study in medical or doctoral programs. Prospective students must have a bachelor's degree, which may need to include a major or significant coursework in biology.
The following list highlights a couple of schools that offer biology master's degrees and gives details on what to expect from distance learning in this field of study.
University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK)
The online Master of Science in Biology degree program at UNK is available to students who've completed a bachelor's degree in biology or a related subject that emphasized biology coursework. Students can access courses online and watch video lectures to complete lessons. The videos are on-demand, so students don't order the next until they need it, submitting assignments as they are completed.
This program is specifically designed for professionals in biology, such as teachers and researchers, who want to pursue an advanced degree. Students must complete core classes in areas like organic evolution, biology research, perspectives in biology and issues in biology. From there, students have the opportunity to research a specific area in biology and focus their studies. Elective classes include topics such as the following:
- Cancer biology
- Plant pathology
- Infectious diseases
- Human genetics
- Animal behavior
- Sexual selection
Distance learners in this program can follow a non-thesis plan of study that requires a comprehensive exam during their final term in the program.
University of Saint Joseph
Students can pursue an online Master of Science in Biology program at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, if they have a bachelor's degree in any subject matter. Since each biology course has different instructors, the way online courses are led could vary depending upon the professor's preferences, though classes usually have lectures added once or twice per week.
Students do not have to visit the campus at any time, but they must complete assignments regularly so they can keep on schedule for course completion. The program is designed for completion in two years, but students can choose to take as few as one course per semester, which extends the length of the program.
Students must complete online video lectures and reading assignments in this program. They also take online quizzes and tests, study case assessments and keep up-to-date on research conducted in the field of biology. Core online master's degree courses in biology examine ecology, biometry, emerging diseases, evolution and cell biology. Students also choose from research courses and electives in areas such as the following:
- Animal behavior
- Cancer biology
- Developmental biology
This program offers thesis and non-thesis plans of study, but both require students to pass written comprehensive exams to graduate.
Online programs in biology are most commonly found at the master's degree level and are often designed for those who have a bachelor's degree or significant coursework in biology. Bachelor's degree programs in biology often require a significant amount of lab work that makes distance learning difficult.