Free Online Biology Courses

Biology is the study of living organisms, at the cellular, molecular, and group levels. Students exploring this field will get a comprehensive look at life cycles, from food-to-energy conversions, reproduction, and death. Biology students also examine interactions between different classes of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, animals, and humans. Some biologists will focus on population patterns, examining trends within ecosystems that cause species levels to drop or explode.

Biology majors can work as lab technicians or scientists in a variety of settings once they graduate. Governments need biologists to study organisms that affect agriculture and human disease control. Physician offices rely on biology and health sciences labs to test blood and tissue samples from patients. And food companies need biologists to test and develop their products to ensure the safest and healthiest food possible. These opportunities make biology a very interesting field to work in, since scientists’ skills can be put to use across multiple disciplines.

Sample Courses

Students diving into biology courses as undergraduates will start by examining organisms at the cellular and molecular levels, learning about some of the smaller components of life. From here, students will usually move on to biological classification systems, evolution theory, species’ histories, and the biology of infectious diseases. Biology students will have a wide variety of life forms to study within their first few years, including plants, insects, bacteria, fungi, and humans. More advance topics include how organisms work in systems, such as ecology, population patterns, disease pathologies, and outbreak epidemiology.

Possible Specializations

At the undergraduate level, students who wish to go on to practice medicine can choose to specialize in health and human biological sciences. Another route is to explore a education degree emphasis, which prepares biology students to teach at the secondary level. As they progress toward graduate levels, students can specialize in topics like microbiology, biotechnology, molecular biology, or immunology. Biology specializations can be quite diverse, and the offerings can differ based on one’s school and its resources.

Degree Types

Students can enroll in biology degrees at the associate to Ph.D. level. Each of these degree types will open new career options upon completion.

Associate

This two-year program only gives students enough time to explore the fundamentals of biology. Most community colleges offer this degree option so students can get familiar with the field, choose a specialty, and then apply the credits to a bachelor’s program. An associate degree would be considered inadequate preparation for most entry-level biology jobs.

Bachelor’s

This four-year program will get students acquainted with the fundamental concepts of biology, along with some specialty topics. Upon graduations, bachelor’s degree holders can explore roles as health lab technicians, biology scientists, food quality controllers, environmental technicians, or vet technicians.

Master’s

Once students enter biology at the graduate level, they often choose to specialize in areas like microbiology, evolutionary biology, or ecology. Before enrolling within a graduate level program, students should take care to examine the quality of the lab facilities at their prospective colleges, since this can influence the type of research they conduct. Master’s students may take on jobs as teaching assistants as they complete their program. Master’s graduates can find work as researchers within government, medical, and environmental offices.

Ph.D.

People who continue to study biology at the doctoral level might have to pass a qualification exam, so that faculty members can make sure a candidate meets the program’s rigorous standards. Biology students will be expected to conduct guided research within their specialization, which will be used within their final capstone project, a Ph.D. dissertation. In addition to faculty roles, doctoral graduates can pursue jobs as biological scientists at private and public health institutions, government labs, and environmental organizations.
Students should consider joining a national academic honors society, such as Beta Beta Beta (BBB) or Phi Sigma, which gives scholars the opportunity to network, further your understanding of biology R&D, and apply for merit-based funding options. Professional organizations, such as the American Institute of Biological Sciences, provide access to exclusive biology publications, conferences, and networking opportunities for both students and researchers.

Ideal Candidates for Biology

Highly observant individuals will thrive in a biology program. Students are required to conduct careful study of organisms and biochemical reactions at the cellular level with powerful microscopes. In addition to a keen eye for detail, students must be excellent notetakers and record-keepers; data recordings are instrumental to any biologist’s research. Another crucial trait is patience, since biologist might be called upon to wait longer periods of time to observe a behavior or reaction during an experiment. Patience can also help when researchers have to complete repetitive tasks, such as studying the effects on multiple generations of fruit flies within the lab.
Biologists need to be process oriented, since deviation from safety protocols can result in dangerous exposure, especially with scientists working with harmful chemicals or pathogens. Workflows will be particularly useful in the completion of experiments. Scientists need to carefully follow lab protocols to prevent cross-contamination, imprecise measurement and a number of other failures that can compromise the results of an experiment.

Career Pathways

Those who hold an undergraduate degree in biology can often find biological lab technician roles in several different environments, such as government offices, academic institutions, chemical labs and factories, and medical institutions. The median pay for these professionals is $39,750 a year, or $19.11 per hour. This field has an average job outlook, growing at a rate of 10% during the years 2012 to 2022. These technicians analyze lab samples, record data, and assist lab scientists with their research.

Graduate degree holders can become biological scientists, who make an average of $76,220 a year, or $36.64 an hour. These researchers are frequently found in government labs, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions. Physicians rely heavily on biological scientists, who can test blood work, urine, and other patient samples, leading to medical diagnoses.

Prospective biology students can get a firm grasp of their degree program options by reaching out to high school counselors, admissions offices, and faculty members. Honors societies, professional guilds, and on-campus career advising offices ensure that biology students continue to have access to academic and job resources during their studies and after graduation.

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The Amazon's carbon balance is a matter of life and death: living trees take carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow, and dead trees put the greenhouse gas back into the air as they decompose. The new study, published in Nature Communications on March 18, is the first to measure tree deaths caused by natural processes throughout the Amazon forest, even in remote areas where no data have been collected at ground level.

Fernando Espírito-Santo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead author of the study, created new techniques to analyze satellite and other data. He found that each year, dead Amazonian trees emit an estimated 1.9 billion tons (1.7 billion metric tons) of carbon to the atmosphere. To compare this with Amazon carbon absorption, the researchers used censuses of forest growth and different modeling scenarios that accounted for uncertainties. In every scenario, carbon absorption by living trees outweighed emissions from the dead ones, indicating that the prevailing effect in natural forests of the Amazon is absorption.

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Biology in the News

Source: Science Daily

Our Favorite Biology Blogs

Biology Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • Journal of Cell Biology

      Rockefeller University Press publishes this peer reviewed journal that examines the latest research in intracellular anatomy using cutting edge techniques including electron microscopy.

    • Journal of Computational Biology

      The audience for this journal includes genomic specialists, cell biologists and others who are interested in the current state of computational biology and bioinformatics.

    • Journal of Experimental Biology

      The study of comparative animal physiology is the focus of this journal published by a nonprofit group of biologists that began in 1923 as The British Journal of Experimental Biology.

    • Journal of Molecular Biology

      This is a multidisciplinary journal publishing articles, reviews and related material on a wide range of topics, including DNA replication, biomolecular interactions, computational biology and more.

    • The Journal of Biological Chemistry

      Publishing weekly for over 100 years, this journal publishes original and unique research that adds to the knowledgebase of molecular and cellular biology.

    • The Quarterly Review of Biology

      Since its inception in 1926, the QRB has provided ample space for the thorough discussion of important biological topics such as historical and philosophical issues.

  • Trade Magazines

    • AstroBiology Magazine

      The burgeoning field of Astrobiology is covered extensively in this NASA sponsored online publication that examines the study of life throughout the universe ...

    • IBiology

      This exclusively online publication makes extensive use of videos that feature leading biologists and their latest research.

    • Scientific American

      Continuously published since 1845, this magazine provides coverage for a large gamut of scientific topics with one or more reader friendly articles on some ...

    • The Scientist

      The magazine is published for professionals in the life sciences field including molecular biology and genetics delivering crisp accessible writing print and ...

Biology Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • Society for Developmental Biology

      Deadline: December 1st

      Award Amount: $4,000

      This grant is for the development of K-12 activities designed to improve students understanding of developmental biology, particularly to conform to local or national standards.

    • University of Minnesota Travel Grant

      Deadline: June 15th

      Award Amount: $800

      This grant is available to graduate and postdoctoral students and scientists for the purpose of traveling to attend a scientific meeting or conference as a presenter or poster.

  • Scholarships

    • Beta Beta Beta Scholarship

      Deadline: N/A

      Award Amount: $500

      The University of Northern Alabama chapter of the National Biological Honor Society offers this scholarship to undergraduates with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or ...

    • Davenport-Hopkins Scholarship

      Deadline: March 1st

      Award Amount: $2000

      This pair of scholarships is for biology majors at Salisbury University who are at least sophomores with a minimum of a 2.8 GPA who actively participate in ...

    • EIU4 Scholarship

      Deadline: April 1st

      Award Amount: $1,000

      This scholarship is available to full-time students of Eastern Illinois University, including incoming freshmen who plan to major in one of the qualified ...

    • Francis and Evelyn Clark Soil Biology Scholarship

      Deadline: April 3rd

      Award Amount: $2,000

      Offered by the Soil Science Society of America, this award is for graduate students who are pursuing studies in soil biology, soil bio chemistry or microbial ...

    • John Mark Caffrey Scholarship

      Deadline: October 15th

      Award Amount: $1,500

      Administered by Florida State University, this scholarship is for high school seniors who have an interest in one of the following: biology, structural ...

    • M. Blanche Adams and M. Frances Adams Scholarship

      Deadline: N/A

      Award Amount: $1,000

      Biology and zoology majors at the University of Oklahoma who have at least a 3.5 GPA and who can effectively communicate their reasoning for choosing their ...

    • The John Tolson, Jr., Memorial Scholarship

      Deadline: N/A

      Award Amount: $1,000

      The University of Louisiana offers this scholarship of $500 per semester for two semesters to full-time pre-med students who have completed at least 30 credit ...

    • William Kreutzer Scholarship

      Deadline: N/A

      Award Amount: $500

      Named for former Colorado State University botany and plant pathology professor William Kreutzer, this award is available to sophomore through senior botany ...

Biology Internships

  • Alpha Genesis

    Deadline: April 30th

    This company supplies non-human primate products and services to researchers and has an internship for undergraduates who plan to pursue a career in research.

  • Aviculture Internship

    Deadline: N/A

    The Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City is looking for an intern to fill a 6 month position beginning in May that will provide the necessary skills to qualify for an entry level zookeeper position.

  • Delaware Nature Society

    Deadline: March 15th

    This 10 week internship comes with a $3,000 stipend and focuses on teaching children and adults about stream ecology and conducting a macroinvertebrate study.

  • Discover Life in America

    Deadline: N/A

    Interns will work closely with staff and visiting scientists while becoming intimately familiar with the natural history of the Great Smoky Mountains region in a program that lasts 10 weeks.

  • Dow Agro Sciences

    Deadline: December 31st

    The chemical and agribusiness giant Dow has internships available for several disciplines of biology majors at their headquarters in Indianapolis, where you will work lab and field positions.

  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Research Internship

    Deadline: Deadline: February 1st

    This leading cancer research center has summer internships available for students to work on independent research projects that they develop with MSK staff.

  • Pocono Environmental Education Center

    Deadline: N/A

    Located in Northeast Pennsylvania, this environmental Education Internship can vary in length from 2 to 10 months, with interns responsible for assisting in the day to day operations of the center.

  • Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

    Deadline: N/A

    The 12 week internship is at the refuge. Interns take direction from the staff and are there for a 40 hour work week. Depending on circumstance, the internship may include housing and a stipend.

  • Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory

    Deadline: N/A

    The world renowned research facility in Massachusetts is home to this internship where participants will gain first hand experience working with marine animals.

Biology Student & Professional Organizations

  • Student Organizations

    • Alpha Epsilon Delta

      AED is the national honor society of health pre-professionals, and since its founding in 1926, has remained a service oriented organization.

    • Beta Beta Beta

      Known as tri-beta, this is the national honor society for biology students with more than 670 chapters across the United States. It was founded in 1922 to ...

  • Professional Organizations

    • American Institute of Biological Sciences

      The institute is a nonprofit advocate for biological research that works to apprise legislators, funders and the public on advancements in biological research.

    • American Society for Microbiology

      With 39,000 members worldwide, this is perhaps the largest society of life scientists in the world, with members representing 26 disciplines.

    • American Society of Cell Biology

      An international society of biologists engaged in the study of cells committed to education, professional development and advocacy, as well as research policy development.

    • The Society for In Vitro Biology

      Originally known as the Tissue Culture Association when it was founded in 1946, the society exists to promote greater knowledge and understanding of in vitro biology of cells in plants and animals.

    • The Society for Marine Mammalogy

      The aim of this nonprofit organization is to advocate for the educational and scientific advancement of marine mammal science by working closely with public and private groups and meetings.