Are you planning to major in biology? That's a smart choice. Many schools offer a rigorous education in the field that can be used for a variety of career paths. As part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects, biology degree programs are versatile and can lead to in-demand occupations.
Biology can provide the right foundation for students hoping to go on to medical, dental or veterinary school. However, an education in biology makes sense even if you don't plan to go on to earn a professional degree. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for many jobs in the field.
What's more, students can earn online biology degrees from some schools. Online degrees for biology may include on-campus requirements so students can complete lab work, but most learning can be done from the comfort of your home. Keep reading for everything from the top schools for biology to where to find financial aid.
Best Colleges for Biology Degree Programs
The best schools for biology are a mix of public and private institutions. They span the country, and Schools.com identified them with a methodology that measured program prominence and student success measures among other things.
The University of Wisconsin System is well represented on the list of best colleges for biology degree programs. It has three schools in the top ten, and taking the number one spot is the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.
The biology program at UW - La Crosse is the second most prominent among the institutions on this list. It also pulled in strong scores for its graduation rate and student support offerings.
Students interested in a bachelor's degree in biology will find six different concentrations available. The graduate program also offers six formal concentrations as well as the option to design an individual plan of study. More than 40 faculty and staff members work with the 1,100 biology majors currently enrolled to ensure small class sizes and personalized instruction.
Selma is a historically black Christian university that has been educating students since 1878. It has gained a reputation for excellence as a Bible College, but it offers more than just theological studies. The school also has several other majors, including biology.
Its biology degree is offered as a concentration of a Bachelor of Arts in general studies. Selma University ranks high for having the best graduation rate among the top schools for biology. It also has the second lowest tuition rate of the schools on this list. Also notable is its student-faculty ratio which, at 12-1, is the second-lowest in these rankings.
Selma University is operated by the Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention. Its campus is in Selma, Alabama.
The University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point is the second school within the UW to make the list as one of the best colleges for biology degree programs. Enrolling more than 8,500 students, UW-Stevens Point was formed in 1894 as a teacher's college. Today, it offers more than 120 undergraduate programs.
Biology majors study in ten on-campus facilities. There are more than 500 biology students who are taught by 25 faculty members. Students can major in biology or biochemistry, take a pre-professional program or gain teacher certification. The biology department also offers a Master of Science in Teaching for graduate students.
In addition to having quality programs, UW-Stevens Point ranks high for its affordable tuition and supportive learning environment.
Georgia Gwinnett College was found in 2006, but it has quickly become a favorite institution for students. About 12,000 people attend classes on its Lawrenceville campus. Its focus is on providing personalized instruction for undergraduate students at an affordable price.
The college's Bachelor of Science in biology offers three concentrations. These are general biology, biochemistry and cell biology and biotechnology. Students can also minor in biology or earn teacher certification. Georgia Gwinnett College also makes it easy for students and faculty to collaborate on research and hosts several clubs and groups that cater to biology students.
The school has the lowest tuition rate and the third most prominent program among the top colleges for biology.
Although a public honors college, St. Mary's College of Maryland has the feel of a small, private institution. At 10-1, its student-faculty ratio is the lowest among the top schools for biology.
The Department of Biology offers a bachelor's degree that uses a liberal arts curriculum as the foundation upon which to build the major. The program exposes students to a breadth of topics within the field of biology and then allow them to select elective to specialize their education. Prior to graduation, biology majors must complete a St. Mary's Project which spans two semesters and serves as a capstone experience.
St. Mary's College of Maryland has the most prominent biology program of the schools on this list.
Founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno is another public school offering a personalized experience. Students have an opportunity to work closely with faculty on research projects, and the university is considered a top-tier institution.
The school has more than 1,900 biology and neuroscience majors who are taught by tenure-track faculty, research faculty, lecturers and postdoctoral scholars. The biology major offers six specializations:
- Molecular ecology and conversation biology
- Evolutionary biology
- Chemical and cellular biology
- Interaction ecology
- Behavior, behavioral ecology and genetics
- Neural development
The department has an undergraduate research program and can connect students to internships in the field. For these rankings, the University of Nevada, Reno is also notable for its affordable tuition and range of student support services.
As a Christian institution, Grove City College prides itself on being an independent school that does not accept federal financial aid or support. Founded in 1876, the school's community of 2,500 students participate in more than 150 organizations and can choose from majors across a variety of fields.
The Grove City College biology department offers five specializations to its students:
- Conservation biology
- Molecular biology
- 7-12 teaching certification in biology ad general studies
On its campus in Grove City, Pennsylvania, research laboratories have state-of-the-art equipment, and undergraduate research opportunities are available. The school has the second best graduation rate among the top colleges for biology. Grove City College also has the fifth most prominent program among the schools on this list.
The flagship campus for the University of Wisconsin is the final school in the system to rank among the best colleges for biology degree programs. The school is a top ten institution when it comes to research spending, and 14 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to UW-Madison faculty and alumni.
The Department of Interactive Biology is one of the largest departments in the College of Letters & Science. It houses not only the biology major but also the molecular biology, neurobiology and zoology majors. At the graduate level, there is a master's degree and doctoral degree in zoology.
The University of Wisconsin - Madison offers a number of support services that help students succeed in the classroom and in the workplace. It has the third best graduation rate among the top colleges for biology.
Named for President Harry Truman, this university is considered by many to be among the best values in the Midwest. At its campus in Kirksville, Missouri, students can choose from 52 undergraduate majors, 20 varsity athletic teams and more than 250 student organizations.
Students enrolled in the biology program at Truman receive an education that explores the environmental, ethical and social issues surrounding the field. Both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in biology is available. The university provides research opportunities for student as well as the option to study abroad.
Truman State University ranked high for the prominence of its program. It took the number four spot among the schools on this list for that metric.
Students looking for a top biology program in the West might want to head to the University of California - Riverside. The school has the fourth most prominent biology program on the list and offers services such as academic advising and career placement to help students succeed.
What's more, the University of California - Riverside has an extensive College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences which provides students with plenty of specialized degree options. Students can earn biology-related majors in five departments within the college:
- Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology
- Botany and Plant Sciences
- Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology
- Microbiology and Plant Pathology
UC-Riverside is part of the University of California system. It enrolls approximately 22,000 students and is located about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
Biology Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Both on-campus and online biology degrees can be found at the undergraduate and graduate levels. While those who want to do advanced research or teach at the postsecondary level may need a master's or doctoral degree, many entry level positions are available to those with a bachelor's degree.
Career Outlook for Biology Majors
As with jobs in other STEM fields, occupations for biology majors should see steady demand in the years to come. Here's the expected career outlook for some common jobs pursued by graduates.
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Biology Degree Programs
Many of the best colleges for biology degree programs have scholarship or other financial assistance available. Beyond that, students may want to apply for aid from private sources. The Thermo Fisher Scientific Antibody Scholarship Program and the Marion B. Sewer Distinguished Scholarship for Undergraduates are two examples of available awards.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Reasons to Major in Biological Sciences, Purdue University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.bio.purdue.edu/Academic/undergrad/10reasons.html
- Online Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, Arizona State University, Accessed December 2017, https://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/undergraduate/biological-sciences-bs
- Biology, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, Accessed December 2017, https://www.uwlax.edu/biology/
- Bulldog Academic Pride, Selma University, Accessed December 2017, http://selmauniversity.edu/academics.html
- Department of Biology, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Accessed December 2017, https://www.uwsp.edu/biology/Pages/default.aspx
- Bachelor of Science: Biology, Georgia Gwinnett College, Accessed December 2017, http://www.ggc.edu/academics/degrees-and-programs/biology/
- The Biology Major, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Accessed December 2017, http://www.smcm.edu/biology/academic-offerings/what-you-learn/major/
- Biology, University Nevada, Reno, Accessed December 2017, https://www.unr.edu/biology
- Biology, Grove City College, Accessed December 2017, http://www.gcc.edu/Home/Academics/Majors-Departments/Science-Engineering-Mathematics/Biology
- College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of California - Riverside, Accessed December 2017, http://cnas.ucr.edu/about/departments.html
- About, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Accessed December 2017, https://integrativebiology.wisc.edu/about/
- Program Goals and Outcomes, Central Washington University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.cwu.edu/biology/program-goals-and-outcomes
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed December 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh
- Thermo Fisher Scientific Antibody Scholarship Program, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Accessed December 2017, http://www.thermofisher.com/us/en/home/life-science/antibodies/thermo-fisher-scientific-antibody-scholarship-program.html
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.