The Best Schools for Biology Majors

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Red and pink liquids in test tube in rack.

The Best Schools for Biology Majors

Biology is an exciting field full of intriguing experiments, engaging thoughts, and mind-blowing developments.

Although biology might sound limited in its scope, this broad area of study actually has several subfields including evolution, zoology, physiology, microbiology, molecular biology, marine biology, medicine, ecology, botany, genetics, and conservation…just to name a few.

Two male research scientists preparing and analyzing microscope slides in research lab.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in biology, you should strive to attend a college or university with competitive offerings in this area. After all, the better your education, the more professional opportunities you’ll have in any field, including biology.

Here, we’ll look at the # best schools for biology in the entire country. Get your microscopes and slides ready!

What are the best schools for biology?

1. Stanford University – Stanford, CA

The hallmark of a great university is specialization. And that’s exactly what Stanford University has achieved with the field of marine biology. The school’s preeminent marine biology program is known as one of the best in the country and the world, for that matter.

The jewel of the marine biology program, the Hopkins Marine Station, is an epic 11-acre mini-campus located on Cabrillo Point built to house 40 graduate students and ten staff members for Stanford’s biology department.

The Hopkins Marine Station features world-class research facilities, state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, and an endless array of marine journals, books, and other research tools. You’ll have a tough time finding a college putting this kind of investment in its marine biology program.

2. UC Berkeley – Berkeley, CA

Although UC Berkeley doesn’t have a dedicated biology department, it offers a world-class education in the field for high schoolers considering biology as their major.

Through various specialized departments such as Plant & Microbial Biology, Molecular & Cell Biology, Policy & Management, Environmental Science, and Integrative Biology, students can receive a comprehensive interdisciplinary education in biology.

There’s no shortage of biology-related courses offered through these various departments which give students freedom and flexibility to choose their own academic path.

Students should also consider UC Berkeley due to the university’s wealth of research opportunities on and off-campus. The school also emphasizes study abroad programs where biology majors can gain valuable international experience.

3. Caltech – Pasadena, CA

The undergraduate biology program at Caltech is a top-rated option in the country focusing on physical science and mathematics to provide students with a strong foundation to prepare them for further education and work in the field.

The program focuses on a wide range of biology topics including methodologies, problems, concepts, and fundamental facts. Biology classes at Caltech focus on the fundamental properties of living organisms and important areas of foundational research instead of the distinct fields of the life sciences.

Students will also have the opportunity to participate in ongoing research programs within the biology division in addition to various forms of informal coursework. Caltech’s primary biology-related research areas include:

  • Biological Engineering
  • Cellular, Developmental, and Systems Biology
  • Evolutionary and Organismal Biology
  • Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Biophysics
  • Microbiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Systems Biology

4. Harvard University – Cambridge, MA

Harvard – as you might have guessed – is easily one of the best schools for biology. Its Faculty of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology has developed a challenging yet rewarding undergraduate education in this popular field.

Students will benefit from a diverse set of courses and concentrations as well as the ability to get hands-on experience through on-site research in the state-of-the-art MCB Faculty Labs. The biology department is split into three primary focal points:

Molecular and Cellular Biology

In this concentration, students will gain a better understanding of complex biological processes by focusing on molecules and their interaction with each other and the surrounding environment.

Chemical and Physical Biology

Through the CPB focus, undergraduates will apply chemical principles, physical concepts, and quantitative tools to studying the biological field.


This concentration focuses on the nervous system and how it influences living organisms.

5. Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, MD

The Department of Biology at Johns Hopkins University boasts 27 different research laboratories focusing on a wide variety of biological issues, allowing students valuable hands-on and real-world experience within the field.

The goal of the department is to equip students with the foundations of biology by touching upon some of the most important subject areas with challenging and interdisciplinary coursework. Graduates can earn a major in Biology or Molecular and Cellular Biology depending on their specific interests.

Dropping a liquid inside the test tubes.

If you’re interested in obtaining more knowledge and expertise in the subject matter, Johns Hopkins University also offers a five-year program that provides graduates with a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree.

6. Princeton University – Princeton, NJ

No discussion of the best schools for biology is complete without mentioning the world-renowned Princeton University. Biology students have a wide selection of courses from which to choose based on their specific interests and goals.

The Molecular Biology undergraduate program is designed to offer students the skills and knowledge needed to explore the fundamental questions of the modern state of biology. Students will complete a senior thesis by writing an original piece on a specific topic within the field of biology.

The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is another biology-related undergraduate program at Princeton that focuses more on the evolutionary aspects of biology in addition to the public policy relevant to it.

7. UCSF – San Francisco, CA

The University of California San Francisco is one of the best schools for biology for students seeking a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in the field. The university is so renowned for its graduate-level education that its undergraduate opportunities tend to get overlooked.

As a leading biological teaching and research school, UCSF provides high schoolers with a unique opportunity to increase their knowledge of the vast field of biology through rigorous, dynamic, and interdisciplinary courses.

Students also have chances to get hands-on experience through research opportunities and programs available on and off-campus. You’ll graduate with a solid foundation in biology that will set you up for success in furthering your education or in the professional field.

8. Yale University – New Haven, CT

At Yale University, the study of biology is spread across a wide range of departments, giving students the opportunity to explore various aspects of this dynamic field while gaining the varied expertise needed to succeed in related careers. Biology students at Yale focus on all levels of life from single cells to entire organisms and whole ecological networks.

Here are some of the main programs, institutes, and departments contributing to the biology education at Yale:

  • Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS)
  • School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS)
  • Yale School of Medicine (YSM)
  • West Campus (WC)

9. Cornell University – Ithaca, NY

Cornell might be known as the easiest Ivy League to get into, but it’s also one of the best schools for biology in the country. Biology majors are split into two different colleges at Cornell:  the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Both degree paths provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the foundations of biology and a major in biological sciences.

However, the programs differ slightly in their focus. With 14 different biology concentrations and a host of courses, biology students have the flexibility to choose their academic path based on their unique goals, interests, and strong suits.

10. Duke University – Durham, NC

Duke Biology is one of the broadest and most extensive Biology Departments in the whole country. It focuses on providing undergraduates with the invaluable opportunity to learn and conduct research in an interactive, interdisciplinary, and professional environment.

Duke Biology features a world-class faculty of 50 professionals with expertise spanning various areas of biology including genomics, organismal biology, evolution, ecology, molecular biology, and much, much more. This program offers both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Biology in addition to a minor.

11. Tufts University – Medford, MA

Tufts University has been recognized by several prominent publications, including College Factual & US News, for having one of the best biology programs in the country. Students can pursue various different biology programs including:

  • BS in Biology
  • BS in Biochemistry
  • BA/BS in Biopsychology
  • BS in Biotechnology
  • Environmental Studies Program
  • Combined Degree in Biology (BS/MS)
  • Minor in Biotechnology
  • MS in Biology
  • Ph.D. in Biology

Tufts University biology students receive a dynamic education with focuses on seminar, lecture, and laboratory courses. This way, students develop an in-depth knowledge of the theoretical side of the field while having plenty of opportunities to pursue a real-world understanding too.

Throughout its classes, Tufts’ biology department strives to teach students the fundamentals of scientific problem-solving, understanding research literature, and accurately communicating research results – all skills essential for a future career in any field related to biology.

The landscape of biology in higher education.

Interest in biology has been steadily increasing over the past few decades. In fact, there are over 150,000 biology degrees awarded to students each year. This number is growing by over 3% each year too!

If you’re attending an in-state public university or college, you can expect to pay around $8,500 for tuition, which isn’t too bad considering the rising costs of tuition. However, this number grows dramatically for students pursuing a biology major at a private, out-of-state school.

A man looking down a microscope with his assistant beside him.

Tuition in this scenario could run you upwards of $38,000. In both instances, the tuition rates for biology programs are increasing around 1.5 to 2% annually. With rising tuition costs, the average pay for biology graduates is also increasing.

The average wage of professionals in the field is around $108,792, with an annual growth of around 0.6%. The total number of people in the workforce is growing at an impressive rate of 4.1% annually. The average employment age continues to decrease as more and more young people get interested in the field.

Tips for pursuing a degree in Biology

Congrats! You already know what you want to study in college. You’re already ahead of the 75% of college students who still aren’t sure or changed their major at least once. And now that you know some of the best schools for biology, you should focus on increasing your chances of getting accepted to these prestigious colleges and universities.

Take biology courses in high school.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. Any student interested in attending the best schools for biology majors should be exhausting their high school’s biology curriculum.

The vast majority of high schools have at least one biology course, and many schools go a step further by offering upper-level biology classes.

AP Biology is among the most common upper-level course in the field offered by high schools. However, you might have additional choices depending on where you go to school.

The key is to expose yourself to as many biology-related topics as possible. It’s going to look great on your application and won’t leave any question in the minds of admissions officers that you’re seriously committed to the field.

Keep in mind that you still need to aim for near-perfect grades in these biology courses. Colleges aren’t going to be nearly as impressed by an applicant who took half-a-dozen biology classes yet failed to do well in any.

Try to find that balance between difficulty and capability. You want your biology courses, and all of your curriculum for that matter, to push your abilities without making it impossible to earn a decent grade.

Work with a college admissions specialist.

One of the best ways to secure a spot in a competitive biology program is to work with a college entrance expert. These professionals can help you custom-tailor your application to catch the attention of admissions officers at your desired school.

With a thorough understanding of the college admissions process, a college admissions expert can help you choose the right high school courses, extracurricular activities, summer programs, and other crucial factors to put you on the right path to attending the best schools in biology in the country.

Many high schoolers are passionate about biology without having a clear understanding of how to focus their efforts most effectively for a smooth transition into college. You can think of college admissions experts as guides helping you reach your college-level goals.

Participate in biology-related extracurriculars.

Although biology classes are fundamental if you’re planning to pursue a degree in the field, they’re not everything. It’s important not to forget about the impact of extracurricular activities on your chances of getting accepted into the best schools for biology.

Admissions officers are interested in finding well-rounded candidates who pursue their passion for biology both inside and outside the classroom.

Two scientists working together analyzing chemicals in a laboratory flask.

Dedicating your free time to the further development of your skills and knowledge in biology show a commitment and desire that only taking classes wouldn’t convey to admissions officers. It might not seem like a big difference to you, but admissions officers will certainly notice it.

We advise students to focus on a single extracurricular to give themselves time to excel in that particular activity. Check to see what kind of biology extracurriculars your high school provides and try out all the ones that pique your interest.

When you’ve narrowed down your favorite, commit to it throughout high school for the maximum effect on your application. There are also one-time extracurricular activities such as summer programs, internships, and even academic competitions that can further help set you apart from the crowd of applicants.

Focus on all of your academic subjects.

When you’re sure about what major to pursue in college, it’s easy to get laser-focused on the related high school courses and forget about other subjects. For example, students seeking to attend the best schools for biology might understandably devote a lot of time, attention, and energy to improving their grades in related courses.

This makes perfectly good sense considering the importance of your performance in biology courses when applying to biology programs.

However, you can’t let this focus distract from your other courses. Admissions officers don’t just care about your abilities in a single area. They also want to see your skills in various fields.

A frustrated college male student studying late at night.

There are a few reasons for this broad focus. Firstly, biology is a multidisciplinary field mixing various elements of science and math together.

Students who can demonstrate aptitude in these relevant fields will have a better chance of catching the attention of admissions officers when compared to students who fell short in these areas in favor of higher biology scores.

Another important reason colleges focus on your overall academic performance is because they’re looking for students who care about doing their best no matter the subject. If you push yourself in all courses, you effectively demonstrate your work ethic, determination, and dynamic abilities.

Get Into the Best Schools With AdmissionSight

Many high schoolers experience a lot of stress and anxiety when preparing for college. It’s a major transition with many uncertainties. AdmissionSight can help bring some direction and clarity to the process with personalized guidance, support, and services.

As a leading college entrance expert, we have over a decade of experience helping students just like you achieve their academic goals. In fact, 75% of the student we work with have been accepted to a Top 10 or Ivy League university. No matter what college you want to attend, we can help you achieve that goal.

How do we do it? Great question! We take our deep understanding of the college application process and admissions office expectations to help students perfect their applications to stand out from the crowd of applicants. Our services cover everything from the course and extracurricular planning to standardized tests and college interview preparation.

If you’re interested in learning more about the college preparation services we offer, feel free to contact us. We’ll set up a free consultation to answer all of your questions.

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