Top Biology Schools in Virginia (VA)

Many schools in Virginia have nationally ranked biology degree programs. Read on to find out more about what these top schools have to offer for biology, as well as tuition and degree information.

School and Ranking Information

There are more than 40 public and private non-profit schools in Virginia that offer degrees in general biology. The following schools are considered the top three based on rankings, program levels offered and number of degrees awarded in biology:

  • Winner: University of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, is the top pick overall because it offers undergraduates numerous opportunities for professional development, and because its graduate biology programs received the highest ranking by U.S. News & World Report of the three schools.
  • Runner Up #1: Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg secured the first runner up spot due to the program levels offered and its graduate biology program ranking by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Runner Up #2: Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond came in third because of its national ranking by U.S. News & World Report and the research opportunities available to undergrads and graduate students.

School Comparison Chart

Category University of Virginia Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Virginia Commonwealth University
Rankings #46 in Top National Graduate Biological Sciences Schools (2010)**, #24 in Top National Universities (2013)**, #2 in Top National Public Universities (2013)** #92 in Top National Graduate Biological Sciences Schools (2010)**, #72 in Top National Universities (2013)**, #28 in Top National Public Universities (2013)** #144th in Top National Graduate Biological Sciences Schools (2010)**, #170 in Top National Universities (2013)**, #94 in Top National Public Universities (2013)**
Location Charlottesville, VA Blacksburg, VA Richmond, VA
School Type 4-year, public 4-year, public 4-year, public
Tuition & Fees in 2012-2013 $12,216 (undergraduate in-state), $38,228 (undergraduate out-of-state), $15,662 (graduate in-state), $24,986 (graduate out-of-state)* $10,923 (undergraduate in-state), $25,915 (undergraduate out-of-state), $12,413 (graduate in-state), $22,662 (graduate out-of-state)* $9,886 (undergraduate in-state), $23,913 (undergraduate out-of-state), $11,521 (graduate in-state), $20,585 (graduate out-of-state)*
General Biology Degree Awards Offered Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees Bachelor's and master's degrees
General Biology Degrees Awarded (All Levels) in 2011-2012 276* 414* 302*
Most Popular General Biology Program in 2011-2012 Bachelor's degree (263 awarded)* Bachelor's degree (399 awarded)* Bachelor's degree (284 awarded)*
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal degree time) for 2005 Entering Class 94% (3% transfer-out rate)* 82%* 53%*
Noteworthy 97% of full-time and 100% of part-time undergraduates who began their studies in Fall 2010 returned in Fall 2011* Ranked in the top 25 in Top Public Research Universities in 2011*** 86% of full-time undergraduate students who began their studies in Fall 2010 continued in Fall 2011*

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), **U.S. News & World Report, ***The Center for Measuring University Performance

Winner: University of Virginia

  • Undergraduate students can participate in research and work as teaching assistants
  • Students who would like a research-intensive undergraduate education can apply to the distinguished majors program
  • Ph.D. students who demonstrate academic strength and progress are guaranteed financial support for five years
  • Biology students can conduct research in four facilities, including the Genomic Core and Mountain Lake Biological Station.

The University of Virginia offers a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology. Unique to the school's biology department is the opportunity for bachelor's degree students to teach classes, like cell biology and evolutionary biology, along with graduate teaching assistants or professors. Undergraduates can also work on independent research projects and publish their work. Another way they can get hands-on research experience is by participating on the university's International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition team, which allows undergraduates a high level of freedom in working on DNA and synthetic biology projects.

At the graduate level, the university offers a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology as well as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). The University of Virginia has three main specialization areas at the graduate level: cellular/molecular biology, evolutionary biology and neurobiology.

In addition to general biology programs, the University of Virginia has a bachelor's degree program in human biology and a dual bachelor's-master's program in conservation biology.

Runner-Up #1: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  • There are six campus buildings with biology lab facilities
  • Research opportunities for undergraduate students are available
  • Graduate students who are interested in becoming professors can complete a certificate program focused on teaching biology
  • There are research focus groups in cell biology, organismal biology, ecosystems and molecular plant sciences

Virginia Tech, which is in Blacksburg, offers a B.S. in Biological Sciences. The major has courses that cover genetics, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, ecology and more, and students can also earn credit for undergraduate research. There is a specialization option in microbiology/immunology.

At the graduate level, all students must undertake a teaching assignment. Students can pursue an M.S. or Ph.D. in Biological Sciences. Some examples of graduate biology courses are climate change ecology, biogeography, microbial genetics, inflammation biology, morphometrics and neuroethology. Three graduate seminars are offered, one of which is laboratory-focused. Among facilities for biological sciences research are a biology greenhouse, herbarium, electron microscope lab and bioinformatics center.

Runner-Up #2: Virginia Commonwealth University

  • There are several biology research centers focused on life sciences, environmental life sciences and biotechnology
  • The school hosts the Graduate Organization of Biology Students

Located in Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Biology offers a B.S. and M.S. in Biological Sciences. At the undergraduate level, students can conduct research with faculty members and earn credit for their research. Courses in the B.S. program include cell biology, genetics and biology laboratory work. Virginia Commonwealth offers many undergraduate electives in animal biology, plant biology and environmental biology. The M.S. program includes study of current topics in biology and a graduate thesis. The 2-year master's program requires completion of 30 credit hours.

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