Science professions have been undergoing a quiet revolution over the last several years, as a wealth of new tools, materials and techniques have burst into mainstream practice. The biological sciences are no exception to the tech wave, and well-trained biotechnology personnel are vital to the industry's continued pursuit of innovation.
At the bachelor's level, biotech degree programs may be offered as standalone degrees or as concentrations within larger academic subjects like biology and agricultural science. Graduate programs tend to go into much greater detail than their undergraduate counterparts, often giving you the option to specialize in a particular area of the discipline.
A few forward-thinking colleges and universities also feature online degrees for biotechnology students, which can be a great option if you're finding it difficult to fit a typical program into your schedule. Online biotechnology degrees may also come with a lower price tag for tuition and fees -- check with a registrar at your chosen school for more information.
Best Colleges for Biotechnology Degree Programs
We wanted to find out which U.S. universities were the best schools for biotechnology, so we consulted the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and put together data profiles on dozens of two- and four-year schools across the country. Click the methodology button to see how we calculated the scores for each institution, and read on for our list of the 10 best colleges for biotechnology degree programs.
Located in Syracuse, New York, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry took the No. 1 spot overall by performing impressively on a wide range of metrics in our analysis. It placed second in the graduation rate category, for one thing, and its schoolwide student-faculty ratio of 16:1 tied for the fewest students per faculty member of any institution on our list.
The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program in biotechnology at SUNY ESF emphasizes practical experience in the field, providing students with internship opportunities, independent research work at off-site laboratories and a curriculum that's interdisciplinary enough to serve as a stepping stone into the graduate study needed for a clinical medical career.
State University of New York schools dominate at the top of our rankings, landing in both the No. 1 and No. 2 positions. SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill stood out in the flexibility category, offering alternative tuition plans, placement services for degree completers and on-campus courses in the evenings and on weekends.
Small class sizes are a focus of the B.S. in biotechnology at SUNY Cobleskill, particularly in the upper division. The natural sciences and mathematics department reports an average class size of around ten students in third- and fourth-year biotechnology courses. Also, if you're a fan of sustainable practices and green living, take note: the biotech labs at SUNY Cobleskill are located in LEED-certifiable facilities.
The University of Nebraska Omaha ranked No. 4 in the affordability category among schools in our top ten, and its nearly 50 percent distance education enrollment made it one of the best schools for biotech students hoping to study online. Biotechnology degrees here require some on-campus study, but some general education courses may be available in the virtual classroom.
Thanks to a cooperative agreement with Nebraska Methodist Hospital, UNO also offers a medical laboratory science technology track for students planning to use their biotechnology training in a clinical medical setting. The program takes place in a 3+1 format -- three years at UNO and the last one on the hospital grounds -- and features 36 hours of clinical prerequisites.
This Orem, Utah, institution placed second for affordability among the more than 50 schools we surveyed nationwide, charging an average of less than $5,400 for the year in 2015. Utah Valley University also earned the No. 4 spot among our top ten schools for online enrollment, with around 29 percent of 2015 students taking at least some courses in the virtual classroom.
UVU focuses the curriculum for its biotechnology B.S. on courses in the hard sciences -- biology, chemistry, genetics, physics and their subdisciplines -- and includes a course in bioinformatics, a cross-disciplinary analytical approach that uses techniques from statistics and computer science to better understand biotechnological data. UVU is also the only school in our top ten with an open admission policy.
Worcester State University had our list's third-largest percentage of biotechnology students among its 2015 graduating class and features a portfolio of degree options that's among the more diverse selections available in 2017. Along with a general B.S. in biotechnology, this Massachusetts school offers concentrations in bioinformatics and nuclear medicine technology, an honors track for exceptional students and a plan designed to meet the prerequisites of an accelerated Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program.
For students planning to continue their biotechnology education through the graduate level, WSU also offers a combined Bachelor/Master of Science (B.S./M.S.) program that speeds up the master's degree process. The entire program typically takes just five years -- four as an undergraduate and one as a graduate student -- and requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in your first three years of college.
Our No. 6 school, located in Fargo, North Dakota, emerged as a top destination for students seeking partially online biotechnology degrees. Although North Dakota State University doesn't list strictly biotech degrees in its online catalog, general education courses for B.S. plans can be taken online and more than a third of the student body took at least some courses online in 2015.
The biotech program at NDSU can be taken as either a B.S. or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree and includes both a senior research section and a senior thesis. A 21-credit biotechnology minor is also available for students who want to expand the scientific horizons of another degree plan.
The flagship location of Brigham Young University is the largest campus in our top ten, awarding nearly 8,000 degrees in 2015 and boasting an undergraduate enrollment north of 30,000 in 2016-17. The Utah school also had the highest graduation rate among schools that made our list, with more than 80 percent of students expected to graduate in 2015 completing their degrees, and its $5,150 average cost of tuition and fees was the most affordable of all the biotech schools we surveyed nationwide.
Multiple study tracks are available for students in the genetics, genomics and biotechnology B.S. at BYU, including plant genetics, biomedical genetics and bio-business. The program takes 120 credit hours to complete and contains eight credits of courses in religious teachings.
The undergraduate biotechnology degree at the Pomona campus of California State Polytechnic University emphasizes the study of cell and molecular biology and requires 20 credits from a list of specialized upper-division subject clusters that includes physiology, agriculture, business and more. A biotechnology internship is also part of the curriculum, typically in an off-site laboratory, to help students gain practical experience in the field.
Cal Poly Pomona posted the third-best graduation rate among schools that made our list and cost less than all but four of the other schools in our top ten. It was also the most selective school among our best colleges for biotechnology degree programs, admitting just over 39 percent of applicants in 2015.
Tuition and fees at this Texas institution were among the lowest in the country, averaging under $5,900 for the year in 2015. The University of Houston also reported more than 45 percent of students taking some of their courses online and earmarked our list's highest percentage of its annual budget for services such as career counseling, student advising and other academic support expenses.
The biotechnology B.S. at UHD is an interdisciplinary program that aims to equally provide a firm academic foundation for continued study at the graduate level and job-ready skills for emerging biotechnology careers. The biotech curriculum also satisfies prerequisite requirements for pre-professional degree programs in health care, including medicine, pharmacy, optometry, dentistry and veterinary medicine.
The University of Kentucky was the second-largest institution to make our top ten and had a better graduation rate than all but three of the other schools on our list. Flexibility was a standout category for the Lexington school, with close to one quarter of students taking some of their classes online and a list of campus-based courses available on weekends and in the evening.
The degree in agricultural and medical biotechnology at UK is designed to allow students to choose their own path to graduation, providing a strong base in biology, chemistry and genetics and leaving room for you to target further coursework toward your career goals. Students also propose and complete a mentored research project, typically in their senior year.
Biotechnology Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Although a select few entry-level jobs may be available to high school graduates or associate degree holders, biotechnology is similar to other STEM professions in that it typically expects full-fledged candidates to earn at least a bachelor's degree. Here's some info about that degree level and a short list of biotech occupations.
Career Outlook for Biotechnology Majors
Graduating students often face an uphill climb into the career market, but keeping your finger on the pulse of employment trends may give you an advantage over other candidates coming straight out of college. Here's a quick rundown of some job growth projections for biotechnology careers.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Biotechnology
Grants and scholarships for biotechnology students are available from a variety of sources, from regional foundations and individual institutions on up to large national agencies. The national organization FIRST, for example, provided access to a total of more than $50 million in science and technology scholarships in 2017. Here's a short list of financial aid options for biotechnology students.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.8 GPA.
Renewable for up to four years if recipient continues to meet eligibility requirements. Recipient must reapply for renewal.
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) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed November 2017, 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/
- School pages, accessed December 27, 2017: Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology Concentration, University of Illinois, http://catalog.illinois.edu/undergraduate/aces/departments/crop-sci/plant-biotechnology-molecular-biology-concentration/; Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, https://www.unlv.edu/degree/bs-biological-sci-biotech; Online Biotechnology Bachelor's Degree, University of Maryland University College, http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/bachelors-degrees/biotechnology-major.cfm; Understanding Bioinformatics, Loyola University Chicago, https://luc.edu/bioinformatics/stories/archive/06-02-16-cas-bioinformatics-story.shtml; Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology, Northeastern College of Professional Studies, https://cps.northeastern.edu/academics/program/bachelor-science-biotechnology; Biotechnology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, http://www.esf.edu/efb/biotech/; Biotechnology (B.S.) SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, http://www.cobleskill.edu/academics/schools/liberal-arts-and-sciences/natural-sciences/biotechnology-bs.asp; Biotechnology, Bachelor of Science, University of Nebraska Omaha, http://catalog.unomaha.edu/undergraduate/college-arts-sciences/biotechnology/biotechnology-bs/; Online Degrees in Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Nebraska Online, https://online.nebraska.edu/search/?fields=agriculture -- life-sciences; Biotechnology, B.S., Utah Valley University, https://www.uvu.edu/catalog/current/departments/biology/biotechnology-bs/; Biotechnology, Worcester State University, https://catalog.worcester.edu/undergraduate/school-education-health-natural-sciences/biotechnology/#programstext; Pharmacy (Accelerated PharmD), Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, https://www.mcphs.edu/academics/school-of-pharmacy/pharmacy/pharmacy-pharmd-accelerated; Biotechnology, North Dakota State University, https://bulletin.ndsu.edu/undergraduate/interdisciplinary-studies/biotechnology/; Online Degrees: Undergraduate Degrees, North Dakota State University, https://www.ndsu.edu/dce/degrees/undergraduate; Genetics, Genomics & Biotechnology, Brigham Young University, https://catalog.byu.edu/life-sciences/plant-and-wildlife-sciences/genetics-genomics-biotechnology-bs; BS in Genetics, Genomics & Biotechnology, Brigham Young University, https://catalog.byu.edu/openPDF/maps/17/285823.pdf; Program: Biotechnology, B.S., California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, http://catalog.cpp.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=4&poid=968&returnto=744; Bachelor of Sciences in Biotechnology, University of Houston-Downtown, https://www.uhd.edu/academics/sciences/natural-sciences/Pages/ns-degree-plan-bs-biotech.aspx; Agricultural and Medical Biotechnology, University of Kentucky, https://abt.ca.uky.edu/program_description;
- Biological Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed December 27, 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biological-technicians.htm
- Professional organization pages, accessed December 27, 2017: Become a Member, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, https://www.bio.org/become-member; About Us, BioSpace, https://www.biospace.com/about-us/; Articles, BioCentury, https://www.biocentury.com/articles; Conferences, BioCentury, https://www.biocentury.com/conferences; BCIQ Marketing, BioCentury, https://www.biocentury.com/bciq-marketing/bciq;
- At A Glance, FIRST, accessed December 27, 2017, https://www.firstinspires.org/about/at-a-glance
- 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.