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Is a Masters Degree in Biology Worth It

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

What are the best masters degrees after completing bs degree in biology? Do you wish to know about 1 year biology masters programs? Or get more info on what masters programs can i do with a biology degree?

If you are wishing to pursue your master degree in biology then you must be thinking about taking admission in masters programs. But the only question that comes to your mind is whether it’s worth getting a masters degree in biology?

Is a Masters Degree in Biology Worth It?

You’ve got your undergraduate degree, and now you’re ready to move on to the next step: furthering your education. But is it worth it for you to invest in a masters degree in biology?

The answer depends on the kind of career you’re looking for. If you’re hoping for a job that requires one or more specific skills, then a masters program may be exactly what you need. For example, if you want to work as a medical technologist or medical laboratory scientist—which is highly competitive—you’ll need an MS in microbiology or molecular biology. The same goes for lab-based positions like forensic scientist or research scientist.

If you want to move into management, however, things get trickier. Some jobs require a masters degree but others don’t—and there’s no way of knowing which ones will until after the fact. And even if it’s required by some companies, there are still other factors that can affect whether having an advanced degree will actually make any difference when it comes time for promotion: your performance at work and how long you’ve been there (among other things).

Is a Master’s Degree in Biology Worth It?

When thinking about a master’s degree in biology, one question that comes to mind is ‘Is it worth it?’ To determine the potential worth of a master’s degree in biology, it is important to look at career opportunities, how long it takes to complete the program and how much the program costs.

Why Study for a Master’s Degree in Biology?

If you are considering getting a PhD in biology, getting a master’s degree in biology can work in your favor since students with master’s degrees are likely to be more successful in a doctoral program. Having a master’s in biology can also increase a candidate’s chances of getting accepted into a PhD program. For the individual who is interested in teaching at the community college level, a master’s degree in biology is preferred. Some colleges and universities will consider hiring master’s-prepared biologists as adjunct faculty or lecturers. In addition to teaching, an individual with a master’s degree in biology can expect to find jobs as biochemists, biological science teachers, forensic biologists (forensic technicians), marine biologists, and microbiologists.

What is biology?

Biology is widely recognised as the study of life and living matter. One of the three main scientific disciplines, biology can be divided into numerous specialised fields, although ultimately all of the different branches of biology can be brought together by their common understandings about living things.

All biological disciplines work on the basis that cells are the basic units of life and they make up the composition of all living things, while genetic information within the cells is responsible for determining the structure and function of each individual cell.

Cells can evolve, which creates new species, and all living things require energy to exist. The final common understanding in biology is that homeostasis must be maintained, meaning a state of balance between the living matter and its environment. Since the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA, our collective understanding of the field of biology has rapidly increased.

What do you learn on a biology degree course?

The first year of a biology course often entails a broad overview of the subject, which allows students to develop an understanding of some of the major sub-disciplines of biology.

This often means a lot of lectures, as well as practical work and in-course assessment. As the course progresses, students should expect to spend less time in lecture halls and more time in laboratories or doing fieldwork, and in most cases students must elect more specialised modules as they progress toward a final research project, which usually comes at the end of the degree course.

Assessment occurs throughout the duration of most biology courses as a combination of exams, assessed practical work, short-answer tests, essays and presentations.

Some universities offer more specialised courses, such as ecology or biochemistry, which have a similar structure to a broader biology degree course but are more focused on one branch of biology. Therefore, most students who opt for a more specialised course are already aware of their main area of interest within the huge array of different biological studies.

Most undergraduate biology courses run for three or four years and a lot of universities offer work experience and overseas study opportunities. As with many science-based subjects, biology majors regularly contain a high number of contact hours, allowing students to experience a rigorous curriculum and preparing them for life after university.

What should I study if I want to do a biology degree?

Most universities want to see some evidence confirming a prospective student’s interest in biology before accepting them on a degree course, so studying biology at school/college prior to university is a must for anyone hoping to study the subject at degree level.

Often, universities require a student to have achieved a certain standard in another science or mathematics subject, such as chemistry, physics, psychology, geography, geology or maths. Relevant work experience is also something worth pursuing for prospective biology students, not only because it may help them to decide whether there is a specific field they want to specialise in but also because it shows a willingness to go beyond school-level education to study.

For example, a student interested in studying zoology at degree level may try to obtain work experience in a veterinary surgery, a zoo, a wildlife trust or even a museum. Some universities require prospective students to pass an entrance examination too, so it is worth looking at course information and requirements in great detail before deciding which universities to apply to.

What jobs do biology graduates go on to do?

The broad nature of the subject is reflected by the wide-ranging jobs that biology graduates go into. A lot of biology students choose to continue their university studies beyond undergraduate level, with a master’s or a doctoral degree course being a popular choice for biology graduates. While undergraduate level biology degrees help students develop transferable skills, further levels of study are often necessary to land careers in the more advanced areas of biological studies.

Biology graduates can go on to work in research and, depending on their specialisation, they often find themselves in either molecular and cellular, organismal or field biology. Roles in molecular and cellular biology include neuroscientists, microbiologists and genealogists, while graduate roles in the organismal field of biology include zoologists, botanists and entomologists.

Field biologists are often employed in positions as ecologists, oceanographers and marine scientists. The medical industry is also a common destination for biology graduates, with medical treatment developers, nutritionists and medical researchers among the roles often taken by biology students.

Graduates who choose not to continue their studies further than undergraduate level can become laboratory technicians, science writers, teachers, and biotech marketing and sales roles, among numerous other positions. The career prospects of a biology graduate are by no means limited, and the skills developed during the course can be transferred to almost any scientific or non-scientific industry.

Famous people with biology degrees

Actor Lisa Kudrow, or Phoebe from Friends, studied biology at Vassar College in New York, obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Christine Poon, the vice-chairman of Fortune 500 company Johnson Johnson, studied for a bachelor’s degree in biology and later a master’s degree in biochemistry.

Mayim Bialik, the actress who played neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory, is actually a qualified neuroscientist herself, having earned a PhD from UCLA in 2007.

Career Comparison

Job TitleMedian Salary (2019)*Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Biochemist$94,490 (biochemists and biophysicists)6% (biochemists and biophysicists)
Postsecondary Biological Science Teacher$83,30012%
Forensic Biologist$59,150 (forensic science technicians)14% (forensic science technicians)
Marine Biologist$63,270 (zoologists and wildlife biologists)5% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


A biochemist works in labs conducting experiments to study living systems. Biochemists look at cell growth and development and study diseases and issues related to heredity. The job of a biophysicist is similar to that of a biochemist.

Postsecondary Biological Science Teacher

At the post-secondary level, an individual with a master’s degree in biology teaches courses in biological sciences. At junior colleges, duties include teaching in the classroom and labs. At universities, an individual who teaches biological sciences is likely to be involved in research.

Forensic Biologist

Forensic biologists or forensic science technicians specialize in forensic science. They work with law enforcement agencies to solve crimes. The work of a forensic biologist includes collecting and preserving evidence that will be evaluated and studied to help solve crimes.

Marine Biologist

A marine biologist specializes in dealing with environmental issues related to marine life. He or she studies marine animals and plants and issues that impact the marine environment. Other titles for marine biologists include fisheries biologists, aquatic biologists, and wildlife biologists.


A microbiologist works in a lab setting studying organisms such as bacteria and fungi. Microbiologists may work in medical settings where they study diseases. In the medical setting, they also look at how antibiotics and other substances affect bacteria.

What Is a Master's in Biology | Coursera

what are the best masters degrees after completing bs degree in biology

Graduate Degrees for Biology Majors

Biomedical engineering

Biomedical engineering students study principles of natural and physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics to develop technology for the field of medicine. Students can expect to take a variety of courses in engineering and science fields as well as obtain hands-on experience in research and development projects. Their studies and research can take around two years for a master’s program and four or more years for a Ph.D. To apply to biomedical engineering graduate programs, one typically must provide GRE scores, undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.


Biostatisticians analyze and interpret data related to healthcare and medical research and participate in interdisciplinary work to tackle a variety of health-related issues for the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and academia. Students in a biostatistics graduate program can expect to take many applied mathematics and statistics courses; a master’s degree generally takes two years to complete while a doctoral degree can take four years beyond the completion of a master’s. Applicants to these programs should have a strong background in mathematics, including linear algebra, calculus, and basic statistics. Program application requirements generally include letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, a statement of purpose, and GRE scores.

Environmental science

Environmental scientists study and monitor the health of Earth’s ecosystems and seek to create solutions to mitigate the impacts of human population growth on the environment. Environmental science graduate degrees include Master of Science (usually a two-year program) and Ph.D. (usually completed in four to six years); students in these programs take courses in environmental studies, environmental policy, and statistics. Most programs require students to choose a particular interest area or concentration and take courses in that field; a few possible areas include water resources, climate change, and natural resources. Graduate program admissions require GRE scores, undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement of interest.


Pharmacists hold a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, which takes four years to complete, and also must obtain licensure by passing two exams. While not all Doctor of Pharmacy programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree, there are several required prerequisite courses including general biology, human physiology, microbiology, general and organic chemistry, calculus, and statistics. Application requirements also include transcripts showing prerequisite course grades and letters of recommendation. Pharmacy students take courses in public health, patient care, pharmaceutical calculations, and science courses related to medications; some programs also provide students with practical, hands-on clinical experience.

A number of graduate-level degrees in a variety of fields are available to those who possess a bachelor’s degree in biology. Biomedical engineering, biostatistics, environmental science, and pharmacy are four possible areas of study that offer a good salary and job prospects.

Top 50 Best Masters Degree Programs - Master's Programs Guide

1 year biology masters programs

Biology is a natural science, together with chemistry and physics, and it is taught in schools of all levels. This field explores all living and non-living forms of life, from microorganisms to plants, animals and humans. Biology sub-disciplines focus on species and groups of organisms and offer an in-depth study of their growth and evolution, origin, actions and distribution around the world.

Zoology, biophysics, anthropology, histology and ecology are only some of the specializations that students choose for a Master’s degree in biology. Others may enrol in a degree programme that focuses on the foundations of modern biology, such as cell theory, evolution, genetics, homeostasis and energy. While classic biology had the cell as a centre point, today the focus of attention is on energy, as a mechanism of survival for organisms.

Graduates of a Master degree in biology enter a competitive employment market, where practical experience plays a major role. They are able to find jobs as higher education lecturers, pharmacologists, research scientists or science writers.

5. Tufts University

Score: 90.92

Tufts University offers a Master of Science in Biology that is geared toward increasing students’ abilities to think critically about different subfields of biology as well as their knowledge of cutting edge research. Students can choose between a thesis and an open choice option for their degree. The program itself requires 30 credits of coursework to graduate. All students in this degree program are also eligible for scholarship consideration, and there are teaching assistantships available for those wishing to complete the thesis option. Lastly, the department has five major concentrations of research including Global Change Biology; Neurobiology and Biomechanics; Genetics; and Molecular Biology.
Net Price: $29,449

4. University Of California-Berkeley

Score: 91.77

Students can receive their Master of Science in Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley while working on their Ph.D. To earn this degree, students must earn either 20 or 24-semester units, depending on their plan of study. In the thesis-based plan, students only do 20 units of courses plus the written thesis. In the alternative plan, students must finish 24-semester units. Some of the courses that students can take on the way to completing this degree include Methods in Ecology and Environmental Biology, Advanced Paleoecology, and Function Neuroanatomy. Students can also earn fellowships from the university to help pay for their education.
Net Price: $18,178

3. University Of California-Los Angeles

Score: 92.21

The Master of Science in Oral Biology at the University of California at Los Angeles is geared toward students who already have degrees in dentistry and who are looking to grow their research interests. The program typically takes approximately two years to complete, and it requires 36 credits to graduate. During the first year, students finish most of their coursework and take part in two laboratory placements. Then, they delve further into their thesis research as they progress further in the program. Elective courses also help to narrow down this area of research interest. This program is housed in UCLA’s School of Dentistry.
Net Price: $14,760

2. University Of California-Irvine

Score: 93.19

In a degree that brings together chemistry, biology, and engineering, the Master of Science in Biotechnology at the University of California at Irvine allows students to address issues and emerging practices in medicine, agriculture, and other fields. Students in this program immediately delve into research through core technical laboratories. They can then focus their studies on one of the following areas of interest: Structure and Biosynthesis of Nucleic Acids, Structure and Biosynthesis of Proteins, Recombinant DNA Technology, Protein Isolation and Characterization, Animal and Microbial Cell Culture, Product Development and Marketing, and Research. To earn their degree, students must complete between 76-88 units of coursework.
Net Price: $13,944

1. Stanford University

Score: 100.00

At the top of this list is Stanford University’s Master of Science in Biology. This degree builds upon prior experience in biology in students’ bachelor’s studies. Students must earn 45 units to graduate, and much of this is dedicated to preparing students to teach and to conduct academic research. For example, courses include Teaching of Biology, Directed Instruction or Reading, and the Development and Teaching of Core Experimental Laboratories. This program is specifically geared toward students who are already enrolled in their undergraduate studies at Stanford. However, it is also open to graduate students in other departments at Stanford as well.
Net Price: $16,562


Best College Reviews provides degree rankings, such as the [title of article], from carefully researched data sets published from government and non-profit organizations across the United States. Five primary factors affect how we rank degrees:

  • 25% Student Satisfaction  
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what masters programs can i do with a biology degree

Biology degrees are extensive, so as you might expect, careers for biology graduates are equally as wide-ranging. Careers you could pursue with a biology degree

  • Research scientist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Biologist
  • Ecologist
  • Nature conservation officer
  • Biotechnologist
  • Forensic scientist
  • Government agency roles
  • Science writer
  • Teacher

Biology careers can lead you to study living organisms to help develop biological knowledge and understanding of living processes for a number of different purposes, including treatment of disease and sustaining the natural environment.

Many biology degree graduates choose to study at postgraduate level within a specialization or related field, in order to further their expertise and help career progression, although further study often isn’t necessary for many.

Read on to find out more about the selection of typical – and less typical – biology careers available for both undergraduates and postgraduates.

Typical careers with a biology degree

Biology careers in research

Scientific research is not only crucial within society but also a highly stimulating career for biology graduates. As a research biologist you’ll aim to develop knowledge of the world around us by studying living organisms. Careers in research provide perhaps the broadest scope of all careers with a biology degree, as research can be conducted across all specializations.

Most common is research within the medical and life sciences, covering areas such as health and disease, neurology, genomics, microbiology and pharmacology. Researchers help to develop societal knowledge within many areas and, with the right additional qualifications, can be found within academia, research institutes, medical facilities and hospitals, and also within business and industry.

Biology careers in healthcare

Working in healthcare as a biologist will see you developing campaigns to help treat and cure illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, heart disease, and many lesser-known illnesses and diseases. Although many roles are out of reach to students holding just an undergraduate degree (such as doctor and practitioner roles), the sector has a huge hiring capacity, and biologists are well sought-after in the medical world.

Healthcare biologists with the necessary qualifications and experience also work as veterinarians, doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare professionals. Biologists are recruited not only within hospitals and other medical facilities; they are also hired by organizations such as the Peace Corps in order to bring advanced healthcare to developing and war-torn regions.

Biology careers in environmental conservation

As an environmental biologist you’ll be interested in solving environmental problems and helping to protect natural resources and plant and animal wildlife to conserve and sustain them for future generations. Careers with a biology degree which fall under this remit include marine and/or aquatic biologist, zoo biologist, conservation biologist, ecologist and environmental manager. Biologists in these roles carry out recovery programs for endangered species and provide education for the general public. Hiring industries include charities and not-for-profit organizations, government and the public sector and ecological consultancies.

Biology careers in education

With a biology degree and a teaching qualification you’ll be equipped to work within education. You’ll enjoy working with young people and encouraging them to learn about the world, be that in a classroom, a lecture theater, a laboratory or a museum. The higher up in the education world you go, the more qualifications you’ll need; for instance, a university lecturer will often be required to have gained a master’s degree or even a PhD, while a primary or secondary school teacher will usually only need an undergraduate degree and a teacher training qualification. If you do choose to undertake further study and go on to work within higher education, you may be able to produce your own research, have your work published and/or become a member of an advisory board within your field.

How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master’s Degree in Biology?

Typically, 30 hours of graduate credit must be completed to earn a master’s degree in biology. Programs may offer both thesis and non-thesis options. It takes about two years of full-time study to complete 30 hours for the degree.

How Much Will it Cost to Earn a Master’s Degree in Biology?

Similar to the average tuition cost for master’s degrees in general, the average tuition for a master’s degree in biology will vary depending on the institution. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2017-18 estimates), the tuition for all graduate degrees at a public university will be just over $11,926 per year while at a private non-profit institution the cost will be around $25,442 per year. Housing, food, and transportation must also be factored into the total cost. Working as a teaching assistant can help defray some of the costs, and other forms of financial aid such as loans and scholarships are usually available.

If you enjoy science and are interested in a career other than teaching, a master’s degree in biology might be the pathway to rewarding work. It is important to consider all of the variables, such as the job market and program length.

Why study biology? A guide to your degree in biological science, with information on what you will learn, what jobs you might get, and how to make sure you get on the right course.

A master’s degree in biology is worth it, but only if you have a clear path to a job.

If you want to go into research or teaching, a master’s degree can help you get the kind of training and experience you need. But if your goal is to get a job in the field, then it’s not necessarily worth it.

Why? Because there are many jobs that don’t require an advanced degree, and those jobs pay well and offer great benefits. If you’re not sure what kind of position you want after your undergraduate studies, then taking time out for an extra degree might not be worth it for you.

If you do decide to pursue a masters degree, then consider how long it will take before that investment pays off financially—and whether or not the extra time will make sense for your career goals.

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