Biology is the study of the processes of life. It spans in scale from single-celled organisms to the complexities of the human brain, all the way up to the interconnected ecology of Earth. Biologists discovered bacteria and penicillin; they defined the structure of DNA and mapped the human genome; and they took a study of giant tortoises and from it developed the theory of natural selection.
With a mandate as wide as biology’s, the career options are vast, and the education widely applicable. Whether one’s goal is to prepare for medical school, to gain a teaching credential, or to study a specific species or ecosystem in depth, a degree in biology is a crucial first step.
Online degrees offer a much needed locational and logistical flexibility. But the hands-on nature of biology is such that some online programs require candidates to already have an associate’s degree and completed laboratory prerequisites. However there are other programs, many of which are listed below, that offer at-home lab kits, off-site proctored exams, and innovative tutorials that can meet a student’s need for work-life-school balance while still offering a comprehensive online education in biology.
Whether they go on to become zoologists, family physicians, bioinformatics scientists, conservationists or teachers, those who study biology interact with the living world, and by doing so, change that world, too.
Discover what to expect from an online bachelor’s program in biology, including the coursework, tuition, accreditation, and three exceptional educators in the field.
Dr. Gro Amdam is a professor and researcher of biology at Arizona State University, where she teaches classes in animal physiology and oversees honor thesis, research, and study programs. She earned her MS and PhD at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences before moving to the U.S. to do postdoctoral work. Dr. Amdam is internationally recognized for her research on honey bees; her team investigates honey bee social structure to understand how social behavior evolved from ancestral solitary forms of life. Her work has appeared on the cover of over a dozen academic journals, and she’s published over 130 articles. Dr. Amdam maintains a lab at the University of Life Sciences in Norway, and promotes student exchange between the two countries.
Dr. Edward Braun is a professor of biology at the University of Florida, where he teaches classes in genomics and genetics, and is also a faculty member of the UF Genetics Institute. He received his PhD in biology from New Mexico University in 2001. A prolific publisher, Dr. Braun’s work has been cited over 5,000 times in the last five years. His current research explores the use of computational and mathematical approaches to understand evolution at various levels, from genes to whole organisms. Dr. Braun also participates in the Early Bird project, a large-scale, cooperative effort among five U.S. institutions to determine the evolutionary relationships among all major groups of birds.
Dr. Patricia Kennedy is a professor of wildlife ecology at Oregon State University, where she teaches a class in the principles of fish and wildlife conservation. She received her MS in zoology from the University of Idaho in 1980, and her PhD in biology and ecology from Utah State University in 1991. Dr. Kennedy’s primary research interests involve the ecology and management of birds in managed landscapes, where she tries to understand the factors that influence avian populations and community composition. She’s contributed to numerous books, reports, presentations, and academic papers.
Listed by U.S. News and World Report as the most innovative school in the nation, ASU’s online bachelor of science (BS) in biology program boasts award-winning faculty, a diverse student body, and state of the art technology. The curriculum includes all chemistry, biochemistry, math, and physics courses necessary to prepare for the MCAT, as well as other graduate programs in biology.
Upper division biology requirements include three labs (ecology, cell biology, and animal physiology) and classes on subjects such as the fundamentals of ecology, developmental biology, animal behavior, cell biology, animal physiology, and the biology of microorganisms. Electives are available such as conservation in practice, biomedical research ethics, plants and civilization, and immunology. The program consists of 120 credits, 45 of which are upper division courses. Please note taht students may be required to attend one or more an on-campus labs over the summer, or fulfill the requirement via transfer credit.
The UF online bachelor of arts (BA) degree in biology gives students a broad training in biology that still leaves enough flexibility to sub-specialize in cross-disciplinary fields. The curriculum promotes critical thinking and unified themes across living systems. While the program is not designed for those interested in attending professional schools (e.g., medical, dental, veterinary), it does prepare students for careers in education, environmental or biotech law, science journalism, and more.
After completing general education requirements, students take a range of core biology courses on subjects such as functional vertebrate anatomy, plant ecology, invertebrate biodiversity, and critical analysis of biological research. The program consists of 120 credits and may be completed entirely online.
Excelsior College has been providing distance learning options since 1971. Their online BS in natural sciences (with a concentration in biology) combines a generous credit transfer policy with a fully customizable schedule to cater specifically to working adults. After meeting general education and core requirements, students take classes in subjects like evolutionary biology, biodiversity, comparative anatomy, genetics, and cell or microbiology. Electives explore subjects like bioethics, developmental biology, biopsychology, and pathophysiology. The program consists of a minimum of 120 credits, and may be completed entirely online.
Logan University’s online BS in human biology provides students with the science background necessary to enter the health services industry. This can prepare them for graduate study in medicine, osteopathy, podiatry, chiropractic, or dentistry—and it does so at one of the lowest tuition rates of its peers.
After completing general education requirements, students take a nine-credit module on integrated health, with classes on future trends in healthcare, cultural awareness in healthcare, and medical terminology. Upper division biology courses include topics such as microbiology, anatomy and physiology, cell biology, biochemistry, biostatistics, and genetics. The program consists of 122 credits and may be completed online.
Western Governors University Washington (Related Program)
WGU’s online bachelor of science (BS) in science education is designed to take students with a strong science background and prepare them for licensure as high school biology teachers. It is the first online university to be accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). WGU’s tuition is priced on time, not credit, such that the more classes one takes, the faster one graduates, and the less one pays.
After completing general education requirements, students take classes in subjects like heredity and genetics, evolution, zoology, human anatomy, and ecology and environment, pairing them with courses in pedagogy. Prior to graduation, students complete a professional portfolio, which includes a resume and a philosophy of teaching statement. This serves as a showcase for the skills acquired in the WGU program. The program consists of 122 credits, all of which may be completed online; that said, demonstration teaching is required and must be arranged with a university coordinator.
Oregon State University (Related Program)
OSU’s online bachelor’s in fisheries and wildlife sciences operates under the university’s College of Agricultural Sciences, which is rated as one of the best in the U.S. This applied science program focuses on maintaining balance for species and habitats in the wild. After completing general education requirements, students may take classes in a broad range of subjects such as global change biology, global crises in resource ecology, the biology and conservation of marine mammals, and the principles of fisheries and wildlife conservation.
All students take a 24-unit module in a specialization of their choice, developed in concert with department faculty. Past specializations have included large mammal ecology, conservation biology, and ecosystem management. Students may also add a complementary minor in business, chemistry, environmental sciences, or geography. The program consists of 180 credits, based on a quarter term system, which translates to 120 credits in a semester system. Apart from two internship courses, and the possibility of proctored exams in the student’s area, the entire program may be completed online.