What Are the Different Types of Biology Degree Programs?

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  • Written By: K. Kinsella
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2019
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Universities and colleges offer a variety of biology degree programs for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Some of these degree programs are classified as arts degree courses while others are regarded as science degrees. Both undergraduate and postgraduate programs normally involve a number of subtopics such as marine biology or zoology and university applicants often take these choices into account when deciding which university to enroll in.

Among the biology degree programs offered by many universities are Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Students who enroll in these courses normally study both animal and plant biology, and the classes contain both lectures and practical laboratory based sessions. People who plan to eventually work as researchers normally complete a BS program before continuing to study the topic in more depth at graduate school. Some universities combine BS biology degrees with teacher training programs, although these courses are designed to prepare people to teach at middle or high schools rather than colleges or universities.


Many educational establishments offer biology degree programs that are Bachelor of Arts (BA) courses rather than BS degrees. While a BS program involves a significant amount of practical work, a BA degree is largely theory based. At one point in time, BA courses were also distinguished from BS programs by the fact that the former were often partially taught in Latin. In many instances, people enrolled in joint honors programs will take BA biology degree programs and these courses are aimed at those who wish to learn the science rather than those who wish to put their skills to practical use. As with BS degrees, a BA program may include zoology, marine biology and animal science classes.

Students who have completed undergraduate biology degree programs can continue their studies by enrolling in postgraduate masters degree programs. As with the undergraduate courses, masters programs are either science or arts courses. People who wish to work as researchers tend to enroll in Masters of Science (MS) courses while the Masters of Arts programs (MA) are more theory based and often attract applicants who plan to work in non-science related jobs but who may benefit from having some knowledge of the topic.

The most advanced biology degree programs are doctorate degrees. These courses normally last for several years and students are usually required to complete a dissertation that focuses on one element of the topic. Typically, senior lecturers and department heads at universities are people who have completed doctorate degrees while junior lecturer jobs are often given to people with masters degrees.

In the past, biology courses consisted of classroom based sessions and face-to-face interaction with teachers. Since the end of the 20th century, many colleges have begun offering online courses although some of these still involve students having to participate in at least one laboratory based session. Additionally, other colleges offer mail-based sessions that work similarly except that students and teachers correspond via the mail rather than with email.


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