Life Sciences Degree Programs in Boston with School Options

Feb 23, 2019

Research life sciences degree programs in Boston, which has dozens of 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.

Comparison of Schools

Life science students can use this table to compare both undergraduate and graduate tuition rates 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 (2017) 33,355* 21,489* 16,415*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Tuition and Fees (2017-2018) Undergraduates:
Graduate students: $51,716*
Graduate students: $23,688*
$13,828 in-state,
$32,985 out-of-state
Graduate students:
$17,730 in-state,
$34,270 out-of-state*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016-2017) 55%* 75%* 81%*
% of Undergraduate Students Admitted (2017) 25%* 27%* 75%*
Retention Rates for First-Time Students (2016-2017) 93% full-time* 97% full-time* 78% full-time, 63% part-time*
Graduation Rates for First-Time Students (students who began in 2011) 87%* 87%* 48% (31% transfer-out)*

Source: *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 300 programs in its 17 colleges and schools. BU's biology department offers programs at both the 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 physiology, molecular biology, microbiology, cell biology or endocrinology. In addition to theoretical courses, cooperative field work and internships provide hands-on experience. Student research is strongly encouraged.

Master of Science in Marine Biology

This program is delivered in a 16-month format and is directed at students who are looking to pursue research or their PhD. A six-month research capstone project will be completed via an internship program. Students can engage in research in the Caribbean, New England and the Pacific Northwest. Core requirements include topics like corals, marine birds and mammals, regional sustainability and the ecology of fisheries.

Master of Science in Bioinformatics

This 32-credit interdisciplinary program is offered in an optional co-op format. Students can gain experience with local employers. Additionally, online coursework is available through this degree. Core requirements and electives will explore areas like ethical concepts in biological research, statistics in bioinformatics, cellular engineering, neurobiology, evolution, immunology and biochemistry.

Professional Master of Science in Biotechnology

This program is also offered with an opportunity to engage in co-op experiences. Concentrations are available in areas like molecular biotechnology, biotechnology enterprise and pharmaceutical technologies. Some core requirements include biopharmaceutical production, the chemistry of proteins, analytical biotechnology and biostatistics.

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 include 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 biotechnology, health careers and marine science.

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