Students who earn a biology degree have a multitude of opportunities ahead of them. A biology degree opens the door to many possible careers, in fields as varied as medicine, genetic engineering, agriculture, and zoology.
A biology degree examines living organisms and their interactions with the environment. Biology is an increasingly complex and exciting field that incorporates other critical subdisciplines such as anatomy, pathology, ecology, chemistry, genetics, botany, and ecology. Medical and scientific innovation continue to drive biology into new and thrilling directions. This means that your biology education will focus on issues that impact human, animal, and plant life and include subjects like genetic engineering, transhumanism, GMO farming, and global climate change.
Your biology degree could lead to a career in academics, laboratory research, pharmaceuticals, or zoology, and more. A bachelor’s degree in biology is a great educational starting point if you ultimately plan to pursue a medical career. A biology degree provides you with the foundational knowledge and undergraduate credentials to enter a medical profession or medical school.
If you need more information about a degree in biology, continue on.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.
For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?
- What is Regional Accreditation?
- Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
- The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies
- Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
- What Is National Accreditation?
- National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.
To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.
For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.
- What is Programmatic Accreditation?
- Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
A biology degree will open the door to a lot of different professional opportunities. This means that there isn’t necessarily one programmatic accreditor’s stamp of approval that you’ll need. Refer to the regional accreditation status for your school of choice. As long as your school is recognized by one of the associations noted above, your biology degree should be credible to both post–graduate admissions officers and future employers.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
To learn more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
What Kinds of Biology Degrees Are There?
Associate Degree in Biology
An associate degree in biology is an affordable point of entry into the subject that requires 60 credits and typically takes two years. You’ll gain an introductory-level education in human anatomy, animal and plant reproduction, ecology, and organic chemistry. This degree provides a solid foundation for continuing to a bachelor’s degree in biology. An associate degree in biology can also be a direct path to a job as a lab tech or an entry-level healthcare professional. If you have a love for animals, an interest in veterinary science, or aspirations to work in forestry or conservation, then you might also benefit from this introductory exposure to general biology courses.
What Biology Courses Will I Take in an Associate Program?
- Cells and Membranes
- General Microbiology
- Human Anatomy
- Introduction to Biology
- Organic Molecules
Bachelor’s Degree in Biology
The bachelor’s degree in biology is the basic point of entry for most biology professions. In addition to introductory level studies in human physiology, plant and animal reproduction, ecology, and the taxonomy of living organisms, you’ll also have a chance to engage in in-depth studies of specific bodily systems; the connection between neurology and psychology; and the complex ethical questions that can arise from challenging biogenetic issues.
A bachelor’s degree in biology is a great pathway if you envision a career in horticulture, agriculture, genetics, zoology, or any field that involves the study of living organisms. If you have a strong interest in providing medical care for people or animals, then a biology degree is a good entry–point for becoming certified or earning an advanced medical degree. If you’re interested in teaching biology, you’ll want to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology while earning your teaching credentials. Research opportunities do exist for top students with biology backgrounds, but if you plan to conduct research for a living, you will most likely need to continue to an advanced degree program.
What Biology Degree Courses Will I Take in a Bachelor’s Program?
- Cellular and Molecular Biology
- General Physics
- Human Anatomy
- Plant Biology
- Population Biology and Ecology
What’s the Difference Between a BA and a BS in Biology?
A bachelor of arts (BA) degree in biology provides a general overview of the discipline alongside a traditional liberal arts education. This is ideal if you intend to use your biology degree in a field like healthcare management, conservation, or agricultural management. The bachelor of science (BS) in biology places a greater focus on lab work and mathematics. It may be more appropriate if you want to enter a medical or research–intensive profession.
Master of Biology
If you are excited by the opportunity to step into the laboratory or collect samples in the field, then you might be a good candidate for a master’s degree in biology. While your bachelor’s degree will provide you with the necessary theoretical and practical groundwork, your master’s degree will provide you with your first real opportunity to conduct meaningful research specific to your area of interest. In addition to diving deeper into animal physiology, ecology, organic chemistry and other foundational subjects, a master’s degree gives you the chance to specialize in topics like human genetics, neurology, or the mating habits of animals living in deep sea trenches. As a master of biology, you’ll be qualified to conduct medical research, contribute to public policy discussions on environmental policy, work in pharmaceutical R&D, or in laboratory settings connected to your concentration. Depending on what you would like your career in biology to be, a master’s in biology may be the right choice for you.
What Biology Degree Courses Will I Take in a Master’s Program?
- Cancer Biology
- Ecological Anthropology
- Issues in Bioethics
- Microbial Diversity
- Organic Evolution
- Plant Pathology
- Principles of Immunology
- Thesis Research
Ph.D. in Biology
As a Ph.D. student, you’d better really love biology, because you’ll spend at least two– to three-years completing supplemental coursework before you can begin your dissertation. This is after at least four years of undergraduate work in a relevant discipline and a one- to two-year master’s degree. This means you’ll have anywhere from six to eight years of training under your belt before you can even begin to undertake the sophisticated research necessary to make advancements in the field. But as a biology Ph.D., your ultimate objective is to become knowledgeable enough to contribute something unique to the field of biology. If you hope to conduct research and publish scholarly findings on genetic innovations, revelations in the field of pathology, or new and troubling evidence concerning threats to our ecological balance, this is the degree for you. A Ph.D. in biology is also the basic requirement for becoming a university-level biology professor.
What Biology Degree Courses Will I Take in a Ph.D. Program?
- Molecular Evolution
- Prokaryotic Gene Structure
What Can You Do With a Biology Degree?
Your biology degree can be the key to a wide range of career possibilities. Biology is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of research and one of the most relevant subjects for medical or life sciences. If you are asking yourself, “What Can You Do With a biology degree?”, check out Life, Physical, and Social Sciences Careers, as well as Medical Careers. Here are a few of the top careers in biology:
- Clinical Laboratory Technician
- Physical Therapy
- Physician Assistant
What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With a Biology Degree?
Depending on how far you take your studies, your biology education could be the pathway to a very well–paying career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salaries, as of 2018, for a few of the most popular career options in your field:
|Physicians and Surgeons||$208,000|
|Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists||$63,420|
|Dietitians and Nutritionists||$60,370|
|Forensic Science Technicians||$58,230|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians||$52,330|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Are There Professional Biology Associations or Societies I Should Join?
Professional associations are a fantastic way to make connections in a field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for biology associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- The AIBS was founded in 1947 as part of the National Academy of Sciences. It boasts over 5,000 members and is affiliated with 200 professional societies and organizations that in turn have over 250,000 members. They publish the peer reviewed journal BioScience and run the public education website ActionBioscience.org.
- National Association of Biology Teachers
- Since its inception in 1938, the NABT has sought to advance biological literacy. The organization creates valuable pathways to connection between teachers, students, and resources.
- The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- Founded in 1906, the ASBMB has grown to include more than 12,000 professional scientists and is now one of the most respected organizations of its kind in the world.