The term life sciences applies to a wide range of academic subjects, including biology, botany, zoology, ecology and genetics. These fields tend to require time in laboratories and in the field, which makes finding programs via distance learning systems very difficult. Most botany and zoology programs, for example, are offered on campus only because there is a lot of fieldwork in these programs. A few online biology programs are available, however, at both the master's and bachelor's levels, from several colleges and universities. Some programs are geared towards K-12 teachers. In the life sciences field, a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and Master's degrees are available, although not always fully online. For a master's, an undergraduate degree is required.
Programs that are offered 100% online often use asynchronous delivery, in which a student can access course material on their own time. However, classes usually have to be completed on a semester schedule. Some schools offer their classes on a rotating basis, allowing students to step into the program at any point. Phone and video conferencing are utilized, as are email and online message boards.
Bachelor's Degree in Biology
Online programs at this level are offered as both Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees. In general, a BA will not provide adequate coursework for entrance into medical, veterinary or dental schools. Both types of programs do aim to prepare graduates for further study, teaching, allied health professions and interdisciplinary studies. BS programs are geared more towards those wishing to become biologists in the field. Online coursework for these 4-year programs includes:
- General biology
- General chemistry
- Organismal biology
- Evolution and diversity
Master's Degree in Biology for Educators
Applicants need a bachelor's degree, but not necessarily in biology, before applying to this program. The 30-credit-hour curriculum, designed for K-12 schoolteachers, offers coursework based around teaching the sciences. A thesis is not required, but students do have to conduct a research project and present results in a way that would be accepted in a peer-reviewed journal. Coursework for this type of program focuses on understanding key elements of biology, such as:
- Scientific inquiry
- Cellular processes
- Plant biology
- Scientific research
- Vertebrate biology
M.S. in Biology
This 36-credit-hour program is geared towards those who want to go into the biological sciences, and applicants must have a bachelor's degree in biology for admission. A thesis is a part of the program, though some schools offer a non-thesis option; these students take a comprehensive examination. Students take a series of core courses, followed by electives, choosing from subjects ranging from evolution of epidemics and plant ecology to ecological anthropology. Required core courses include:
- Biological research
- Current issues in biology
- Organic evolution
- Biological statistics
- Introduction to graduate study
- Biological perspectives
Graduates of distance learning life science degree programs have a wide range of options open to them, depending upon the level of degree attained and the research they have undertaken. Those with an undergraduate degree often pursue careers as public schoolteachers, life science technicians, research assistants or field analysts. Those with a graduate degree can find work in areas like wildlife biology or environmental science.
Life sciences is a diverse field, and many different types of programs-from botany to ecology-will afford students the degree they are looking for. Since life sciences tend to be hands-on, most programs are not offered fully online, but those that are offered totally through distance education include a bachelor's in biology.