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Biotechnology is a rapidly growing scientific field that involves transforming living organisms and biological systems into useful products like medicine, fuel, and even beer. As biotechnology continues to evolve, society may gain the knowledge and tools to cure deadly diseases instead of simply treating their symptoms.

This guide helps you prepare for a career as an agricultural engineer, product development manager, or microbiologist by offering information about the best online master's in biotechnology programs of 2021. Read on to learn about admission requirements, learning objectives, and course offerings. The guide then explores five major career paths and ends with answers to frequently asked questions.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Biotechnology Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Five:

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Rank School Location
1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
2 Columbia University New York, NY
3 Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester, MA
4 University of Washington Seattle, WA
5 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
How We Rank Schools

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Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology here. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Biotechnology Programs

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 93%

Johns Hopkins University — located in Baltimore, Maryland — is a leading research university that offers an online master's degree in biotechnology. The 10-course program is designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, genomics, and proteomics.

The program is thesis-optional and takes 12-24 months to complete, depending on a student's enrollment status. The program offers six concentrations: biodefense, bioinformatics, biotechnology enterprise, drug discovery, regenerative and stem cell technologies, and regulatory affairs.

Applications are accepted throughout the year, giving students the ability to enroll in the summer, fall, or spring. Johns Hopkins recommends applying at least six weeks prior to your desired start date.


Columbia University

New York, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 96%

New York City's Columbia University takes an interdisciplinary approach to its master's in biomedical engineering online program. Coursework covers neuroscience, cell and tissue engineering, biomechanics, and quantitative physiology.

The 30-credit program consists of nine biomedical engineering core credits, three applied mathematics credits, six biomedical engineering elective credits, and 12 free elective credits. Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 and are required to complete all courses within five years.Competitive applicants should submit GRE scores and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students also need one year of coursework related to calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 87%

Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute's online master's in biotechnology program takes a skills-focused approach, providing students with the practical training needed for careers in biotech. While most courses are available online, some courses require on-site lab sessions, including virology, bioinformatics, medical and applied immunology, genetic engineering and gene expression, and animal cell culture.

WPI maintains multiple support systems for online students, including online orientation videos that prepare incoming students for coursework and scheduling. At the outset of the program, students work with student success mentors to help plan their degree paths. The school's career center assists currently enrolled and recent graduates with resumes and cover letters, interview training, and professional workshops.To qualify for this master's in biotechnology program, students should hold a BS in a field related to life sciences or an engineering bachelor's with a concentration in life sciences. Applications are accepted throughout the year.


University of Washington

Seattle, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

The University of Washington offers an online master's in pharmaceutical bioengineering that explores molecular and cellular biology, drug discovery and design, and pharmaceutics. The 38-credit program is designed to prepare graduates for practical careers in biotechnology.

The program culminates with a six-credit capstone course where students produce a research project for their professional portfolio. Full-time students typically complete the program in two years, though part-time students take longer.Applicants should submit GRE scores, unofficial transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. While UW prioritizes applicants with degrees in related disciplines, it does not require a related degree for admission. However, applicants with a BS in an unrelated field need two years of related professional work experience.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

The online master of engineering in bioengineering program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers three concentrations: bioinstrumentation, computational genomics, and general bioengineering. This fully online program requires 32 credits and can be completed in five semesters.Instructors deliver all courses synchronously, meaning students must log on at specific times. Students can go online to access recorded lectures, assignments, exams, and projects. Instructors are also available for virtual office hours to provide further assistance and clarification.Applicants must have a BS degree and a minimum GPA of 3.0. They should also submit three letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Students who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement may be considered for limited status admission.


George Washington University

Washington, DC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

Located in Washington, D.C., George Washington University offers an online master of science in health sciences in immunohematology and biotechnology. The program focuses on studying human immunologic reactions while also incorporating a foundation in molecular biology and biotechnology.This non-clinical MSHS program comprises 35 credits and can be completed in two years. The program culminates in a capstone project, in which students demonstrate an understanding of their coursework through a mentored project.

Admission requirements include a statement of purpose, a minimum 3.0 GPA, two letters of recommendation, and official transcripts from all attended colleges and universities. Applicants should also hold a national certification as a blood-banking technologist or the professional equivalent.


Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, OH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 85%

Case Western Reserve University — located in Cleveland, Ohio — is a leading private research institution. The school offers an online master of science in biomedical engineering. Founded in 1968, this MS program was one of the first in the world and hosts multiple National Institutes of Health training grants for biomedical engineering graduate students.Classes are available entirely online, and instructors deliver coursework asynchronously. The program's core courses include quantitative analysis of physiological systems, cellular and molecular physiology, and biomedical instrumentation and sign processing.The program consists of 10 courses and can be completed in 18 months. Admission requirements include GRE scores, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and a bachelor's degree. A bachelor of science in engineering is preferred, though it is not required.


Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 81%

The master's in biotechnology innovation and regulatory science program at Purdue University uses a hybrid delivery format. The program includes four semesters of online coursework and 12 on-campus sessions. This degree requires 30 credit hours and can be completed in 22 months.This program covers topics such as drug development, innovation and strategy in biotechnology, and regulatory practices. Following the completion of their first semester, students develop a plan of study with an advisory committee.The program accepts applications throughout the year, allowing students to enroll in the spring, summer, or fall. On-campus weekend dates are predetermined and mandatory for all students.


Colorado State University

Fort Collins, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 71%

Colorado State University in Fort Collins offers an online master's in biomedical engineering. The program takes 1-2 years and explores the structure and function of biomaterials, material issues in mechanical design, and design and data analysis.The program comprises 30 credits, covering core, foundation, depth, and breadth area categories. Students can take classes to enhance their knowledge in a particular field or specialty area, such as applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, and material issues in mechanical design.All applicants should have a BS in engineering, life sciences, or natural sciences from an accredited institution. Official transcripts should demonstrate a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and classes in calculus I-III, ordinary differential equations, physics I-II, and at least one semester of life science.


University of Maryland Global Campus

Adelphi, MD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 15%

The online master's degree in biotechnology offered by the University of Maryland Global Campus features four specializations: bioinformatics, biosecurity and biodefense, biotechnology management, and biotechnology regulatory affairs. Combining science and technology with a business approach, this program requires students to complete a project with an actual biotech company, helping them gain practical experience.

This master's in biotechnology program is available entirely online and typically takes two years to complete. While the number of courses varies depending on a student's specialization, each concentration requires 36 total credits.

Applicants must have a background in molecular biology to start the program. Students with an unrelated bachelor's degree who wish to enroll must complete a college-level molecular biology course during their first term.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Biotechnology Program?

The best online master's in biotechnology programs teach students to apply scientific knowledge in professional research, business enterprise, and engineering processes.

To earn a master's in biotechnology, learners must complete at least 30 credits of coursework, practical experiences, and capstone requirements. This process takes traditional students about two years, but you can graduate more quickly by enrolling in an accelerated online program. These intensive tracks enable dedicated students to graduate in 12 months by taking seven-week classes throughout the year.

The best online master's in biotechnology programs teach students to apply scientific knowledge in professional research, business enterprise, and engineering processes. Learners take fundamental classes like cell biology and biochemistry. Students also receive extensive laboratory training and learn about the theories and laws that inform biomedical ethics.

Beyond core topics, the curriculum differs based on program objectives. Some biotechnology programs emphasize laboratory research, preparing learners for careers as scientists and engineers. Other schools focus on biobusiness, offering advanced classes in intellectual property and current manufacturing best practices.

Biotechnology students shape their curricula through their choice of electives and concentration, with options like pharmaceutical technologies, process sciences, and biotechnology management. Many schools require an internship with either a company in your local area or a university partner. Most programs culminate in a thesis or research experience.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Biotechnology Programs

To enroll in an online master's in biotechnology program, prospective students typically need an accredited bachelor's degree in biology earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some graduate schools accept degrees in other fields if the applicant has a strong background in biology, chemistry, and calculus.

Prospective students demonstrate relevant experience through a statement of purpose, recommendation letters, and a current resume or CV. Some programs require or recommend GRE scores.

Check out the BestColleges graduate admissions guide for more information.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Biotechnology Program?

As an interdisciplinary discipline, biotechnology synthesizes science and engineering. Graduate students take classes like protein chemistry, experimental design, and bioprocess engineering.

Learners also delve into the business side of the biotech industry, examining laws and regulations, product development, and entrepreneurial opportunities. These programs supplement classroom learning with laboratory training and fieldwork experiences like internships.

Societal Issues in Biotechnology

This core course provides an overview of the history and development of biotechnology in the United States. Students delve into pertinent topics like biohazards, the value of public scrutiny, and legal issues from a managerial standpoint. They also examine the role government agencies play in the research, development, and commercialization of biotechnology.

Bioprocess Engineering

In this course, students examine engineering concepts related to the conversion of biological materials into food, fuel, and pharmaceutical products. Covered topics include bioenergetics, biokinetics, bioreactor design and selection, and product recovery. The course also covers best practices in manufacturing, emphasizing the role of bioprocess engineering in developing and analyzing medicine.


In this foundational course, students learn about the analytical techniques and statistical concepts commonly used in biotechnology experimental design. Covered topics include linear correlation and regression, population parameters, probability theory and distributions, and categorical data analysis. Students also develop the ability to conduct hypothesis testing for variances and proportions.


Students taking this course receive an overview of how biological agents have historically been used in society and agriculture. Learners examine case studies of major bioterrorism agent releases and resulting government responses, including state and federal quarantine powers and the Posse Comitatus Act. Degree-seekers also examine the mental health consequences of bioterrorist attacks on communities and individuals.

Biopharmaceutical Development

In this class, students learn about the major phases of drug development. These steps include early clinical trial, proof of concept, late stage clinical development, and product registration and approval. The course also covers the application of study design methods to evaluate a drug's efficacy, safety, and tolerability in different therapeutic areas.

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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Biotechnology Degree?

Learners usually go to graduate school to either advance their current career or prepare for a new occupation. With a master's in biotechnology, graduates qualify for research-focused positions as microbiologists and medical scientists. They may also develop life-saving technologies as biomedical engineers, a career that the BLS projects to grow 5% between 2019 and 2029.

Alternatively, professionals can opt to focus on biotech in business. In this field, job opportunities include laboratory manager, biomanufacturing specialist, and director of drug commercialization

See where a master's in biotechnology degree can take you. Learn more about biotechnology careers here.


Bioinformaticians use computational concepts and techniques to better understand biology. These scientists analyze large quantities of complex data to identify genes and genomes, as well as their relationship to the genetic basis of disease. Beyond pharmaceutical applications, bioinformatics can also be used to locate and isolate desirable properties in agricultural species.

Drug Design and Discovery

By pursuing a drug design and discovery concentration, students prepare for careers in pharmaceutical development and regulatory affairs. BLS data shows that medical scientists who work in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing earn a median annual wage of $111,630. These scientists possess in-depth knowledge of disease mechanisms and design drugs for specific pharmaceutical targets.


Biodefense specialists understand the potential threats of bioterrorism agents on epidemiological and microbiological levels, allowing them to detect, deter, and respond to incidents of biowarfare. In addition to helping communities create recovery plans, these professionals assist government agencies with policy development. The biodefense field includes epidemiologists, chemical defense scientists, and emergency management directors.

Regenerative and Stem Cell Technologies

These biotechnologists use their expert knowledge of cell and gene therapies to oversee research and development projects for clinical and industry laboratories. They also create regenerative technologies that can repair and replace damaged organs through tissue engineering processes. To succeed in this emerging field, professionals also need to understand the current state of the biotech industry and how to bring regenerative medicine products to market.

Agricultural Biotechnology

The agritech industry involves using biotechnological tools like molecular diagnostics and genetic engineering to augment animals, plants, and microorganisms. Professionals in this field modify living organisms to be more resilient to disease or to propagate at a faster rate, making products like corn, canola, and soybean more profitable for farmers and less expensive for consumers.

Biotechnology Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Biotechnology Programs

Is a master's in biotechnology worth it?

The value of an online master's in biotechnology depends on each student's academic background and professional goals. Biotech is among the most innovative and fastest growing industries in the United States, providing career opportunities in IT, agriculture, and national security. The size of the biotech market will grow 9.9% between 2019 and 2025, according to Global Market Insights.

What can I do with a master's in biotechnology?

By earning a master's in biotechnology, professionals can pursue research-focused occupations as microbiologists, biomedical engineers, and biochemists. They may work on the forefront of national security as epidemiologists, helping communities defend against and recover from bioterrorist attacks. Alternatively, biotech professionals can use their business skills through careers in biomanufacturing management and quality assurance.

Is microbiology better than biotechnology?

Microbiology and biotechnology are interconnected, each field borrowing concepts and techniques from the other. However, microbiology is the study of microorganisms and their impact on specific microbial and industrial processes. Biotechnology is a broader discipline that, in addition to preparing students for research careers, prepares learners for IT and business management positions.

How much money can I make with a master's in biotechnology?

According to PayScale, the average annual salary for professionals who have a master of science in biotechnology is $70,430. Wages differ between occupations, with manufacturing production managers earning $72,210 and biomedical engineers making $91,410 each year. Salary potential depends on factors like geographic location, employer, and individual qualifications.

What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in biotechnology?

The best wages in the biotech industry are reserved for experienced researchers and company leaders. Senior research scientists enjoy an average annual salary of $105,090. Production management directors earn approximately $146,260 each year, with the opportunity to garner as much as $210,000 when adding profit shares, commissions, and bonuses.