Life Sciences Degree Programs in Boston with School Options

Research life sciences degree programs in Boston, which has several schools within roughly five miles of downtown offering these programs. Read an overview of three of these schools and learn about courses and program requirements to determine which school is best for you.

Boston Schools with Life Sciences Programs

The following resource includes summaries and an information table, through which students can learn about three Boston universities that offer programs in the life sciences. A brief paragraph about two other school options in the area can be found at the end of the resource.

  • The largest school by student population is Boston University, located 3.6 miles from the downtown. Students at this private school can prepare for careers in the biological sciences by completing a bachelor's, master's or doctoral program in biology.
  • Another private school option is Northeastern University, which is located 2.8 miles from downtown Boston. Life sciences programs offered here include undergraduate and graduate programs in general biology and marine biology.
  • Students who wish to attend a public school can apply for admission to the University of Massachusetts in Boston, located 5.4 miles from the downtown. It's the only public university in the city and offers bachelor's and master's degree programs in biology.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Bioinformatics
  • Botany
  • Cellular Biology and Anatomical Sciences
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • General Biology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Physiology and Related Sciences
  • Zoology

Comparison of Schools

Life science students can use this to compare both undergraduate and graduate tuition at the three universities featured in this article.

Boston University Northeastern University University of Massachusetts-Boston
School Type 4-year; private not-for-profit 4-year; private not-for-profit 4-year; public
Total Enrollment (2014) 32,112* 19,798* 16,756*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Tuition and Fees (2015-2016) Undergraduates:
Graduate students: $48,082*
Graduate students: $22,061*
$12,682 in-state,
$29,920 out-of-state
Graduate students:
$16,115 in-state,
$23,283 out-of-state*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2013-2014) 59%* 75%* 76%*
% of Undergraduate Students Admitted (2014) 35%* 32%* 71%*
Retention Rates for First-Time Students (2014) 93% full-time* 96% full-time* 80% full-time, 60% part-time*
Graduation Rates for First-Time Students (2008-2014) 85% full-time* 82% full-time* 42% full-time (34% transfer-out)*

Sources: *NCES College Navigator

Boston University (BU)

Boston University is one of the largest higher education institutions in the city, serving more than 33,000 students and featuring more than 250 programs in its 16 colleges and schools. BU's biology department offers programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

Bachelor of Arts in Biology

Students in this program may choose to focus on general biology or specialize in one of five areas: cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics; ecology and conservation biology; quantitative biology; behavioral biology; or neurobiology. Opportunities for undergraduate research in some of these areas, as well as in marine biology, are available. The Tropical Ecology Program provides the chance for experiential learning in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, while the Marine Semester offers marine research training in Massachusetts and Belize.

Master of Arts in Biology

BU's master's degree program in biology is available with both research and non-research tracks. Students can complete the non-research track in one year of labs, lectures, and seminar courses; a major paper is required. For the 2-year research track, students must complete at least five courses in a lab, lecture, or seminar format. Courses include a wide breadth of biology topics such as animal behavior, forest ecology, fish biology, and biochemistry; studies in molecular biology, terrestrial biogeochemistry, and sensory neurobiology are also part of the program.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biology

Candidates pursuing a PhD in Biology choose from one of four research areas: cell and molecular biology; ecology, behavior, and evolution; marine biology; and neurobiology. They must complete graduate-level coursework, a dissertation, and a teaching fellowship on campus. Program completion usually takes five or more years.

Northeastern University

Located in the heart of Boston, this private research university offers students an education that incorporates global learning experiences. Through the College of Science, students may earn bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in biology or marine biology.

Bachelor of Science in Biology

Students explore the biological processes involved in ecosystems, evolution, organ systems, and species. Specialties are available in areas like cell or plant biology, zoology, microbiology, animal physiology, and ecology, while interdisciplinary options, such as combining biology with geology or biochemistry, are possible as well. In addition to theoretical courses, cooperative field work and internships provide hands-on experience. Student research is strongly encouraged.

Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology

In addition to foundation courses in the natural sciences, participants study marine and cell biology, oceanography, coastal ecology, and biochemistry, Students also delve into studies of coral, fishes, marine botany, marine birds, and marine mammals.

Several opportunities for experiential learning are available, including the Three Seas Program, through which students spend an academic year in the field learning about marine ecosystems. Three Seas begins with a semester studying tidal ecosystems at Northeastern's Marine Science Center in Nahant, MA. Next, students travel to Bocas del Toro in Panama to explore coral reefs, tropical ecology, and shorelines on both Pacific and Caribbean coasts. A semester in Washington State completes the journey with studies of kelp forest and rocky tidal habitats at the University of Washington's laboratory on San Juan Island.

Master of Science in Biology

This full-time, research-based program usually requires a bachelor's degree in biology to enroll. Participants must complete graduate level studies in research and scientific writing, as well as in two areas of interest that include microbial ecology, molecular biology, and neurobiology. A thesis is required. Students who complete at least 15 semester hours of coursework are eligible to apply to the biology doctoral program.

Professional Master of Science in Marine Biology

This full-time, 15-month program focuses on experiential learning and prepares students for a PhD program or a career in marine research. Courses include marine botany and ecology, ocean and coastal processes, diving research, and marine zoology. Students participate in the Three Seas Program, as well as completing a 6-month internship. An independent research project is required.

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology

This program focuses on independent research in ecology and evolution, microbiology, neurobiology and behavior, or developmental biology. PhD candidates must complete an original dissertation culminating in oral and written exams, along with a 1-year, full-time residency on campus. Requirements also include graduate level courses in scientific writing, research problems, and communication.

University of Massachusetts-Boston (UMB)

Established in 1965, UMB is the only public university in Boston and is located in the Boston Harbor area about five miles from the downtown. Students enrolled in the College of Science and Mathematics can learn about life sciences by completing an undergraduate or graduate program in biology.

Bachelor of Science in Biology

Students in this program will complete core courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math. Specific subjects covered include cell and population biology, genetics, and organic chemistry. The biology degree program is also offered with a track in biotechnology for students who wish to work in research and development at a medical lab, university lab, or biotechnology company. To meet the requirements for this degree, students must also complete a residency within the Biology Department.

Master of Science in Biology

This graduate program consists of 30 credit hours, which includes ten research credits. Students can receive training in population and evolutionary biology, cell and molecular biology, and microbiology, as well as neurobiology, physiology, and plant sciences. Extensive research facilities provide state-of-the-art resources for work in topics like biochemistry, cytology, ecology, and genetics. In addition, the university's location on Boston Harbor facilitates research projects on terrestrial and aquatic organisms. A thesis is usually required.

Other School Options

Located less than one mile from downtown Boston, Suffolk University offers an undergraduate program in biology, with areas of study in biotechnology and marine science. Another option in the city is Emmanuel College, located about four miles from the downtown. Students at this school can earn a bachelor's degree in biology with concentrations in biochemistry, neuroscience, or pre-health professions preparation.

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