In this ranking, we evaluate and detail the top 10 best affordable online Bachelor’s in Biology degree programs to help students who are new freshmen, working professionals seeking career advancement, or adult students looking to switch careers. Studying the science of living organisms allows undergraduates to develop a comprehensive understanding of biological, natural sciences, and life processes. An online undergraduate biology degree not only opens up many doors to exciting careers but also prepares graduates to pursue advanced graduate programs. The following guide covers everything undergraduates need to know about earning an online Bachelor’s in Biology degree, ranging from concentration offerings, tuition rates, and curriculum requirements to prospective career options, their related salaries, and job outlooks. Keep reading to learn more about the 10 best affordable online biology degree bachelor’s programs for 2020.
To capture the balance between quality and affordability, we ranked each of the following 10 colleges and universities by awarding points based on the average cost of attendance, student-to-faculty ratios, and graduation rates. Before we could rank the universities and colleges below, however, we first needed to come up with a list of institutions that offers online biology degrees. To do this, we searched for the term “online biology bachelor’s degree” using the College Navigator tool at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We then narrowed down the search results from 15 schools into the top 10 programs based on the methodology. We also checked each institution’s website to verify the information we pulled from the NCES was still accurate and up-to-date.
Average Cost of Attendance
Since this ranking is based on finding the best affordable online Bachelor’s in Biology degree programs, the first metric by which we awarded points was the average cost of attendance at each school. However, while it can be tempting to choose the cheapest school on the list for the sake of saving money, it is important to make sure the school you attend offers everything you are looking for in an online biology degree program, including internships, extracurriculars, and concentrations in which you might be interested. For the following ranking, tuition is based on one academic year of study for an online student. Tuition information was gathered from each school’s financial aid website.
Under $7,500: 5 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 3 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
Next, we used student-to-faculty ratios to gain a better understanding of the learning environments at the following schools. While there are always exceptions, in most cases, colleges with low ratios tend to offer smaller class sizes and, therefore, more opportunities for one-on-one mentoring and individualized instruction. While student-to-faculty ratios are just one piece of the larger academic puzzle, it is important to keep in mind your academic background and personal priorities when determining whether you would fare better in a large or small classroom setting. For this ranking, however, we awarded the most points to schools with the lowest ratios, as reported by NCES.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
Finally, to gauge student satisfaction, we looked at each school’s graduation rate as a measure of success. After all, the ultimate goal is to graduate with a degree. Schools with high graduation rates are keeping their students enrolled throughout the program. Therefore, we can assume that these students are, for the most part, satisfied with their academic experiences. For example, a school may offer affordable programs, provide plenty of academic support, and employ experienced faculty members — all key factors that prospective undergraduates typically look for in a school. Therefore, we awarded the most points to colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates from NCES.
More than 50 percent: 3 points
Between 30 percent and 50 percent: 2 points
Less than 30 percent: 1 point
Ranking Top 10 Best Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Biology Degrees
10. Excelsior College
Albany, New York
Established in 1971, Excelsior College is a private institution of higher learning that serves mostly non-traditional, adult working students through its online offerings. Excelsior confers an affordable online biology degree in the form of a Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences. Students may choose to concentrate in biology or complete the program without any concentration. This low-cost program is available entirely online and consists of 120 credit hours of study. Specifically, the biology concentration features core biology courses in anatomy and physiology, biodiversity, evolutionary biology, microbiology, human genetics, and plant anatomy. Students also complete electives in areas such as biopsychology, bioethics, and advanced investigations in biology. The biology concentration allows students to build analytical and technical skills, scientific advocacy and literacy, and curiosity about the world around them. Graduates are prepared for careers in wildlife conservation, forensics, public policy, and science journalism. Graduates of this cheap online bachelor’s in natural science degree program may also choose to attend graduate school to pursue careers in environmental law, medical research, and academia.
Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences
Online Tuition: $15,300
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Graduation Rate: N/A
9. Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, Utah
Recognized as one of the most affordable universities for an online biology degree, Western Governors University is a nonprofit, private, online institution of higher education. Established in 1997, WGU uses an online competency-based learning model instead of the traditional cohort-based class model. Students seeking an affordable online biology degree can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Science Education program that leads to a middle school or high school biology teaching license. The curriculum is nationally recognized by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and accredited by both the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP). Classes focus on the study of biology, human anatomy and physiology, ecology and environmental science, zoology, and integrated physical sciences as well as classroom management and engagement, psychology for educators, and educational assessments. This high-value program is available entirely via distance learning, and most students graduate within 42 months.
Bachelor of Science in Science Education (Secondary Biological Science)
Online Tuition: $10,560
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 41:1
Graduation Rate: 29 percent
8. Logan University
Established in 1935, Logan University is a private, special-focus institution of higher learning that provides academic degrees in the health and chiropractic sciences. Logan is recognized as one of the top schools for students seeking a low-cost online biology degree. Undergraduates can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology that is offered online, on-campus, or a combination of the two delivery methods. Students learn from leading subject experts in modern, state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities, including one of the nation’s most prestigious anatomy labs. The 122-credit-hour curriculum is comprised of core human biology courses in areas such as immunology, genetics, biostatistics, biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, public health, and cell biology. Undergraduates of this cost-effective bachelors in human biology degree program are also exposed to physics, general and organic chemistry, and general biology. Through these courses, students learn how to apply scientific principles to communicate biological concepts, make evidence-based decisions, and solve problems. Graduates are prepared for rewarding careers in the science or healthcare workforce or to pursue graduate-level studies.
Bachelor of Science in Human Biology
Online Tuition: $8,250
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Graduation Rate: N/A
7. Arizona State University
Founded in 1885, Arizona State University is a public metropolitan research university that operates five campuses throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area as well as four regional learning centers across the state. ASU is also one of the largest public institutions of higher education by enrollment in the state and a top choice for undergraduates seeking an economical online biology degree. ASU offers a top-value online Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences degree that focuses on the basic organization and processes of life, including animals, plants, and microbes, at scales ranging from ecosystems to molecules. Students complete 39 classes for a total of 120 credit hours of study. While the program is available entirely online, students may be required to attend the Tempe, Arizona campus to complete an on-campus lab course during the summer months or fulfill this requirement by transferring credits from another accredited institution.
Online Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences
Online Tuition: $10,918
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 23:1
Graduation Rate: 48 percent
6. Life University
Life University is a private institution of higher education that was established in 1974 as Life Chiropractic College. In addition to offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in health and wellness-focused fields, the school is best known for its doctoral chiropractic degree. However, Life University is also one of the most affordable universities for an online biology degree, providing a Bachelor of Science in Biology comprised of either a general education in biology or an interdisciplinary curriculum with the option to choose a specialization. Core courses are broken down into three areas: the social sciences, communications and humanities, and science, mathematics, and computers. The curriculum also includes classes in the natural sciences, biology, and electives based on students’ interests. This economical program requires 188 quarter credit hours of instruction. Common career paths for graduates include animal trainer, zoologist and wildlife biologist, soil and plant scientist, geoscientist, and medical technologist.
Online Bachelor of Science in Biology
Online Tuition: $11,610
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Graduation Rate: 33 percent
5. Westfield State University
Westfield State University, established in 1839, was the first coeducational college in the country to offer an education without barriers to economic status, gender, creed, or race. A top-ranked institution of higher learning and an affordable university for an online biology degree, WSU offers a part-time Bachelor of Science in Biology programs that features a flexible course schedule. Classes are available on-campus, online, or a combination of the two delivery methods and designed so that students may continue working while earning their degree. Core courses cover topics in human anatomy and physiology, human biology, and environmental biology. Undergraduates complete upper-division biology courses in areas such as cell and molecular biology, ecology, evolution, and organismal biology/physiology. Students must also complete three seminars, the last of which requires the presentation of a portfolio that showcases what the student has learned throughout the program.
Biology Degree (B.S.), Part-Time
Online Tuition: $10,849
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Graduation Rate: 63 percent
4. University of Maryland Global Campus
Established in 1947, the University of Maryland Global Campus is a public institution of higher education that focuses on providing online education to adult and nontraditional students. Serving more than 90,000 students worldwide, UMGC is one of the largest distance-learning institutions in the world and boasts a 100 percent acceptance rate for its undergraduate programs. UMGC offers a special type of biology-related program in the form of a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology. In this program, undergraduates study cellular biology, molecular biology, microbiology, bioinformatics, bioinstrumentation, biotechniques, and the chemical and biological sciences. The major combines applied coursework and laboratory skills with upper-level study and a biotechnology internship experience. Students must complete 36 credits of coursework in the major, 15 of which must be transferred in from another accredited institution. Graduates of this high-value biotechnology bachelor’s degree are prepared to enter the biomedical, agricultural, or pharmaceutical research industries and organizations in the areas of bioinformatics, chemical technology, assay analysis, quality control, and laboratory technology.
Biotechnology Bachelor’s Degree
Online Tuition: $9,000
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Graduation Rate: 15 percent
3. Washington State University
Recognized as one of the most affordable universities for an online biology degree, Washington State University is a public research institution of higher learning. Founded in 1890, WSU is also one of the oldest land-grant universities in the West and the second-largest university by enrollment in the state. Undergraduates can pursue an economical online Bachelor of Science in Biology through WSU’s College of Arts and Sciences. To be admitted into the program, students must transfer in science courses from outside of WSU. The curriculum, delivered entirely online, covers the development of plants and animals, cellular and molecular biology, and physiology. Undergraduates also develop expertise in biological fields such as evolutionary biology, ecology, disease biology, taxonomy, genetics, and human anatomy. Students become well-versed in professional communications, scientific writing, data analysis, and research design. Graduates are prepared for advanced study as well as for employment in wildlife-related careers, medical support professionals, and other roles that require biological expertise.
Bachelor of Science in Biology
Online Tuition: $10,368
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Graduation Rate: 59 percent
2. University of West Georgia
The University of West Georgia, established as Fourth District A&M School in 1906, is a public research university and one of four campuses that make up the University System of Georgia. The school is also known for the Advanced Academy of Georgia, a residential, early-entrance opportunity for high school juniors and seniors. Students seeking a high-value online biology degree and who are interested in teaching may pursue a Bachelor of Science with a major in biology. Three options are available: a general track, a secondary education track, and a professional preparation track. All programs require 120 hours of study. Requirements for the major include classes in chemistry, cellular and molecular biology, physiological biology, organismal biology, procaryotic biology, and ecology/evolutionary biology. Undergraduates of this top biology bachelor’s degree develop the training and knowledge necessary to pursue employment in the field, professional studies, or advanced graduate education.
Bachelor of Science With a Major in Biology, Secondary Education
Online Tuition: $7,055
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Graduation Rate: 42 percent
1. University of Florida
Topping our list of the most affordable universities for an online biology degree program is the University of Florida. Founded in 1853, UF is a public space-, land-, and sea-grant research university and a senior member of the State University System of Florida. UF confers an affordable online Bachelor of Arts in Biology degree through its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The 120-credit program provides broad training in biology and allows students to specialize in particular subdisciplines. Students must complete one course from three of the five required groups: organismal biology, evolution and diversity, ecology, biology and society, and molecular biology, cellular biology, and genetics. The program culminates in a capstone course that offers a critical analysis of biological research. Graduates are prepared for careers in the allied health professions, education, and interdisciplinary fields such as bioscience management, science journalism, and biotechnology or environmental law. This cheap, online B.A. in Biology at UF is not designed for students interested in attending professional schools such as veterinary, dental, or medical school.
Bachelor of Arts in Biology
Online Tuition: $3,875
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Graduation Rate: 90 percent
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Bachelor’s in Biology Degree?
As biology is the study of life and living organisms, earning an online Bachelor’s in Biology degree opens the door to many career options. Biologists work in medical laboratories, environmental protection agencies, schools, industrial research facilities, and government agencies. Other employment opportunities are available in wildlife management, wildlife preservation and conservation, agriculture, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, human medicine, ecology, biotechnology, and animal science. By earning an online biology degree, graduates are qualified for both entry-level and advanced roles in the biological sciences and biology.
An online Bachelor’s in Biology degree prepares students for both entry-level roles and beginning laboratory positions as well as for entry-level positions such as food science and agricultural technicians. Most employers view an undergraduate degree as the completion of four years of coursework at the postsecondary level and a master’s degree as two additional years of experience working in the field or a laboratory. As is typically the case with any occupation, higher positions are reserved for those with a master’s or doctoral degree. However, there are many occupations that one can pursue with only a bachelor’s degree in biology, including:
- Environmental Scientist and Specialist
- Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist
- Biological Technician
- High School Teacher
- Occupational Health and Safety Specialist or Technician
- Conservation Scientist
As you can see, an online biology degree allows for many career opportunities; graduates are not locked into any one field or occupation. Interested in medicine? Enroll in a graduate school to become a dentist, doctor, or nurse. Have a passion for wildlife and the environment? Dive into botany, environmental law, or conservation studies. Have a soft spot for animals? Consider a career as a veterinary technician, wildlife biologist, or zoologist. The fantastic thing about the field of biology is that the technology used in many careers is constantly changing and advancing, thereby paving the way for plenty of exciting, new opportunities for biologists across the globe.
What is the Salary Potential and Job Outlook for an Online Bachelor’s in Biology Degree?
When it comes to narrowing down earnings for graduates with a Bachelor’s in Biology, it can be tricky, particularly because there are many occupations that one can pursue with this degree. Also, salary numbers vary depending on the level of experience, level of education, employer, and the location in which one works. For example, those who have advanced their education and earned a master’s degree may be entitled to command more responsibilities and, therefore, higher salaries. However, since this ranking is based on undergraduate biology programs, we consulted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to learn more about the different salaries one can expect for various entry-level occupations in the field of biology.
According to the BLS, microbiologists earned an average salary of $71,650 per year, with the top 10 percent earning more than $133,550 and the lowest 10 percent earning less than $41,820. The median annual wages for microbiologists in the top industries in which they worked included the federal and state government and both pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing. Research and development in the life, engineering, and physical sciences, as well as state, local, and private professional schools, universities, and colleges, were also among the top-paying industries. The BLS also indicates that the employment of microbiologists is expected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. More microbiologists will be needed to solve problems of industrial production and contribute to basic research.
Environmental scientists and specialists brought home $71,130 per year as of May 2018. According to the BLS, the highest 10 percent earned more than $124,620, while the lowest 10 percent saw $42,520 per year. Top-paying industries include the federal, state, and local government as well as engineering services and management, technical, and scientific consulting services. The employment of these professionals is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due to a heightened public interest in environmental hazards as well as the increasing demands placed on the environment due to population growth.
Another career that one can pursue with a Bachelor’s in Biology is that of the occupational health and safety specialist and technician. These individuals reported annual earnings of $69,370 per year as of May 2018. The top 10 percent earned more than $108,520, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $42,450. Wages for these professionals were highest in the following industries: manufacturing, hospitals, construction, government, and technical, scientific, management, and consulting services. The BLS indicates that the employment of occupational health and safety specialists is expected to grow 6 percent between 2018 to 2028, while the employment of technicians will grow 7 percent during the same time frame.
Other occupations that one can pursue with a Bachelor’s in Biology degree and their related salaries and job outlooks from 2018 to 2028 include:
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
- $63,420 per year
- 5 percent employment growth
Conservation Scientists and Foresters
- $61,310 per year (scientists)
- $61,410 per year (foresters)
- 3 percent employment growth
- $44,500 per year
- 7 percent employment growth
What Will You Learn About in an Online Bachelor’s in Biology Degree Program?
Earning an online Bachelor’s in Biology degree requires rigorous study in the natural sciences. Programs focus on building a strong foundation in organismal, molecular, evolutionary, ecological, and cellular biology. Prerequisites typically include statistics, physics, and calculus. Undergraduates generally take both laboratory and theory courses to develop their problem-solving skills and competencies. Course requirements will vary depending on the specific program and the school itself, but most online bachelor’s degrees in biology offer the following classes:
- General Biology
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Organic Chemistry
- General Physics
Also, many online bachelor’s degrees in biology allow students to choose a specialization or area of concentration in a subdiscipline of biology such as marine biology, microbiology, ecology, or zoology. Students may also have the opportunity to focus their degrees through electives in areas like the environmental sciences, physiology, psychology, and pharmacology. Some programs even prepare graduates for professional studies and graduate-level degrees in veterinary sciences, medicine, forensics, dentistry, biotechnology, or biochemistry.
During the final two years of the program, undergraduates may be required to complete a capstone project in the form of a research project, graduate-level course, or internship experience. Even if not required, gaining laboratory experience through an internship in a research, medical, biological, or other similar approved facility can help to increase a graduate’s job prospects.
Although the time to completion will vary depending on the school and program, most undergraduates will complete at least 120 credits of coursework within four years of full-time study. In most cases, distance learning provides more flexibility than traditional schools, meaning that students may elect to enroll on a part-time basis and graduate within six years. Also, some programs offer accelerated pathways that allow undergraduates to earn their degrees sooner than traditional programs. It is important to carefully research programs, however, as some are only offered as a degree-completion program. This means that students are required to transfer in a specific number of credits in the sciences from another accredited institution.
Is There a Difference Between an On-Campus and Online Bachelor’s in Biology Degree?
Online learning is a fantastic option for adult students and working professionals who may not be able to give up their family or work commitments to advance their education. Unlike on-campus students who follow a set course schedule, distance learners often have the opportunity to work at their own pace. Most programs do not require on-campus visits, and students can learn from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. The degree and learning outcomes for both on-campus and online programs are the same; there is no distinction between an online and an on-campus program on one’s physical degree.
However, there are two main differences between on-campus and online bachelor’s degrees in biology. First, students who are looking to pursue a professional program such as a medical school may find that some online biology degree programs do not prepare them for admission to these institutions. Although such is not always the case, some professional schools will not accept an online degree and therefore discourage undergraduates from completing these programs. In most cases, a school will indicate whether or not it prepares graduates for graduate-level study and professional degrees, so be sure to check prospective institutions’ websites for more information.
Second, a common difference between the two is the laboratory environment. In a traditional biology program, laboratory courses and experiences are completed in teams and on the school’s campus, usually in a building or room specifically designed with state-of-the-art equipment. On the other hand, online labs may be completed solo and in a kitchen setting. Some schools offer virtual labs for online learners that provide a team environment and real-time work, while others arrange for the laboratory part of the program to be completed at a nearby facility close to the student’s area of residence. Requirements vary depending on the school, so it is important to research this component before enrolling in a program.
Related Resource: What is Biostatistics?
How Do You Choose an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Biology?
The online undergraduate biology degrees a student is considering should be, at the very least, regionally accredited. This means that the school in question has undergone a peer-review process and demonstrated adherence to quality standards set by the accrediting agency. Additionally, while there are many solid online biology degrees that have not earned programmatic accreditation, future undergraduates should pay attention to programs that are accredited by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology or the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Also, if a school offers an accredited master’s or doctoral program in biology from one of these agencies, students may assume that that institution’s undergraduate program shows academic excellence as well.
When researching possible programs for your online biology degree, consider factors such as internship opportunities, student services, graduation and retention rates, curriculum requirements, prerequisites, and the cost of tuition. Prospective undergraduates should also select a program that offers not only the degree but also the specialization or concentration they wish to pursue. Moreover, each school’s reputation status and accreditation play major roles in a graduate’s career outcomes. Whether you are considering a biology-focused career fresh out of high school or you are already working in the field and hoping to advance your career, we hope that our list of the top 10 best affordable online biology degree programs serves as a helpful resource as you narrow down the programs you may wish to pursue.
This concludes our ranking of the top 10 best affordable online bachelor’s in biology degree programs.
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