What is a Biology Degree?

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A degree in biology trains learners in laboratory science, human biology, ecology, and biochemistry.

Biology classes teach an appreciation of life on Earth. They also develop strong problem-solving and analytical skills.

What is a degree in biological sciences for? A degree in biology leads to many career paths. Our guide explains what to expect in a biology program, the different types of biology degrees, and career options with a biology degree.

Biology programs teach students how to analyze laboratory data, isolate genetic material, and use statistics. Majors learn specialized skills such as data analysis, analytical protocols, and operation of laboratory equipment.

Biology degrees also encourage in-demand soft skills such as critical thinking, communication, and teamwork. Students learn to write lab reports, work with a lab team, and solve research-related problems.

These skills serve graduates in many jobs leading to a biology degree.

What Types of Biology Degrees Are There?

Colleges offer biology programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Each degree prepares students for specific career paths.

For example, high school biology teachers need a bachelor’s degree, while biologists usually need a graduate degree.

Biology Certificate Program

A certificate program in biology provides focused training for students interested in the biological sciences.

During a certificate, learners take courses in biology, chemistry, and health sciences. The program may also include laboratory training. A certificate can take between 6 and 18 months, depending on the program.

Although learners do not earn a degree, credits from a certificate program can be transferred to a degree-granting program. A certificate can also lead to opportunities as a lab assistant or research assistant.

Depending on the focus of the certificate program, graduates may also work in health sciences, education, or veterinary sciences.

Associate’s Degree in Biology

An associate’s degree in biology introduces learners to the biological sciences. Degree candidates also take foundation courses in mathematics, chemistry, and physics.

The curriculum typically includes basic biology topics, including laboratory requirements. Students can earn an associate’s degree in biology after two years of full-time study.

Many careers in biology require a bachelor’s degree or higher. With an associate degree, graduates work as laboratory technicians, medical assistants, or agricultural and food science technicians.

Graduates can also transfer to a bachelor’s degree program. At many colleges, an associate’s degree meets the general education requirements for a standard or accelerated bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor in Biology

A bachelor’s degree in biology includes lower division courses in biological sciences, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Upper division courses in subfields of biology like cell biology, clinical biology, and population biology help majors specialize their skills. The degree includes laboratory and research training.

Undergraduates can complete a bachelor’s degree in biology in four years.

With this biology degree, majors work as laboratory technicians, pharmaceutical sales representatives, and biology teachers. They also pursue health-related roles such as health communication specialist or food scientist.

People interested in a career as a biologist usually need a graduate degree.

BA in Biology vs a Bachelor of Science (BS)

Many colleges offer both a BA and BS in Biology. The main courses for the two degrees largely overlap. However, general training requirements differ. A BA requires at least one year of foreign language, for example, and usually includes more courses in the humanities and social sciences. A BS includes more natural science requirements.

The BS provides additional training in research, which benefits students considering graduate programs or careers in laboratory science. Both degrees take approximately four years.

Master in Biology

Masters students specialize in an area of ​​interest that structures their coursework and graduation requirements. Rather than general biology, graduate degrees often focus on a subdiscipline like biochemistry, cell biology, or neurobiology.

Many master’s programs offer options such as a master’s exam, research project, or scientific paper to complete the degree. Students typically spend two years in a master’s program.

After obtaining a master’s degree in biology, graduates pursue careers in scientific research, laboratories, the pharmaceutical industry or medical sciences. The degree also prepares students for doctoral programs in biology or medicine.

PhD in Biology

A doctorate is the highest degree in biology. During a doctoral program, graduate students take advanced coursework and conduct research to write a thesis. Doctoral students specialize through their coursework, lab assignments, and research areas. Most doctoral students obtain their doctorate. in about five years.

With a doctorate. in biology, graduates work in research and academic positions. They run laboratories, conduct research on pharmaceuticals, and analyze gene sequences.

The degree also meets the requirements for biology teacher jobs. Professors teach and conduct research in their specialty.

Accreditation of biology programs

When choosing a biology program, be sure to check the school’s accreditation status. Accredited colleges meet high standards for student education. They also meet the distribution requirements for federal financial aid.

A degree from an accredited school can help biology graduates achieve their career goals. Potential employers may not recognize degrees from non-accredited schools.

Obtaining a degree in biology requires strong analytical, critical thinking, and research skills. Majors examine biological systems and complex ecosystems. They also learn skills in the laboratory.

Biology majors also take courses in chemistry, physics, and math.

Some students find a biology degree difficult. However, many thrive in biology classes. Be sure to use your school’s student support resources, such as tutoring, to help you succeed.

Certain strengths help students succeed in a biology program. The ability to problem solve, think creatively, and focus on a task helps all bio majors.

Even those without a background in biology can succeed in an undergraduate program. Taking introductory courses can help you decide if biology is right for you.

SEE: Scholarships for STEM subjects

In conclusion

Biology students explore the living world, from the microbial level to planetary systems. With a degree in biology, graduates pursue a variety of careers in medicine, laboratory science, research, sales, and education.

If you are interested in a degree in biology, contact the programs to learn more about admission and graduation requirements.

This article has been reviewed by Erin Bjorvik, BS, CVT


Erin Bjorvik was born and raised in the Chicago area before attending the University of Arizona where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree. She also received her veterinary technology certification from UArizona in 2010.

Erin has spent her veterinary career focusing on emergency and critical care medicine. She is passionate about excellence in patient care and safety, as well as infection control and antimicrobial stewardship.

In 2018, Erin co-authored the Infection, Control, and Biosecurity Guidelines published by the American Animal Hospital Association. She moved back to the Chicago area several years ago.

Bjorvik is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Last revised May 31, 2022.

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