Best Colleges When Pursuing a Biology Major

Look to these schools when considering a major in biology

Let’s discuss some of the best colleges for you if you’re interested in pursuing a biology major. Occupations you may consider when achieving your degree in biology may be a biological technician, biochemist, research assistant, and more! 

All About Biology 

Most of us know about the general concept of biology, which is the study of living organisms. If you took biology courses through high school, you probably did some labs where you were able to  understand how some biological processes work. This may include a variety of different aspects such as cell division and the functions of DNA. If you enjoy science and learning more about the way different organisms function, biology could be just the right major for you. 

Best Colleges for Biology

When applying for colleges as an incoming biology major, it’s important to do the proper research into what the different universities have to offer. A strong biology department should give you the opportunity to perform high quality research, and there should be enough resources to learn about the many areas biology covers. 

Duke University

Duke University is one of the best colleges in the country, with one of the best biology programs you can find! Duke University prides itself on providing their students with the best knowledge on cutting edge lab techniques, the opportunity to work with some of the most renowned researchers in the biology field, as well as the opportunity to travel the world. 

The biology program at Duke is split into three different sections. Biological structure & function, ecology, and organismal diversity. There are also over 500 different laboratories in 10 different areas of research including Cell & Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Neuroscience. Over 15 million dollars is funded towards external research every single year. There is also an alumni page on Duke’s website that lists hundreds of their alumni, who now work in professions as surgeons, physicians, and graduate students. It is also noted that Duke alumni also have a higher than average acceptance rate into medical schools. 

The average tuition at Duke University is close to $60,000, while the amount of financial aid can bring your total down to an average of $32,000. However, because Duke is one of the best in the country, the acceptance rate is at a mere eight percent!

Rice University

Rice University is a private research university located in Houston, Texas. This school has an excellent biology program and is known for their prolific research. Because this school is more of a research institution, the aspects in biology covered may be different from other schools who aren’t as invested in conducting their own research. The department of biosciences at Rice University gears their undergraduate and doctoral degree programs in biochemistry & cell biology along with ecology & evolutionary biology. 

Rice University
Image courtesy of US news, showing the campus of Rice University which opened in 1912 after the murder of William Marsh Rice. Rice was a former businessman and the school was funded by his fortune. 

Multidisciplinary degree programs at Rice University:

  • Biological Science 
  • Environmental Science
  • Neuroscience 

Professional science master’s programs:

  • Bioscience & Health Policy 
  • Environmental Analysis 

There have been a plethora of faculty members from Rice University that have been involved with scientific organizations and have received national and international recognition for their research efforts. If you check out the overview page of the biology department at Rice, you can learn more information about the different research efforts and what they each entail. The average tuition at Rice University can be upwards of $60,000, but with financial aid that amount can be dropped down as low as $15,000. Along with Duke, Rice University is another competitive school. The acceptance rate is at a very low 11%.

Northwestern University 

Northwestern University is one of the top research universities in not only the country, but in the entire world. Northwestern was founded originally in 1851 and exists as the oldest chartered university in Illinois. Northwestern is located in Evanston, IL and is also a private institution. Northwestern is currently classified as the #14 best universities in the country. Northwestern also explains on their website that they want to enhance both the intellectual and creative potential of students focusing on human biology. 

Northwestern University lists a couple key goals graduates can be prepared to achieve. Some of these include:

  • Convey extensive knowledge of human biology overall. 
  • Analyze and interpret a wide variety of scientific data. 
  • Become efficient in writing scientific work and giving oral presentations. 

Northwestern also provides a list of the top career options with a biology major:

  • Genetic testing.
  • Working alongside government agencies regarding health regulations.
  • Professions such as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian.

The tuition at Northwestern University is close to $60,000 while you can expect to pay as low as $20,000 after financial aid. Keep in mind that the acceptance rate is at 9%, highly competitive!

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan is one of the best schools in the country, and they are also known for their accomplished biology program. The University of Michigan has 80 full time faculty that are very knowledgeable in their two main biology departments: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology.  

What makes the University of Michigan’s biology department stand out from others is their fantastic academic support. The department provides “drop-in spaces” which are used for peer advisors to connect with students who may be needing academic help. You are also able to schedule meetings with staff online to discuss any questions that might be a bit more extensive.

Because the University of Michigan has such a large team of staff and faculty, it’s common for students to take on their own research. With the help of a mentor (staff/faculty member), students can participate in a lab, field, or modeling project in which they can have a say in the way the experiment is run. This includes design, implementation, and interpretation of different materials. 

If you already live in Michigan, you should take into consideration the great financial aid benefit you get as an in-state student. Out of state students are expected to pay around $50,000, while in state students can expect to pay as low as $15,000. The acceptance rate is also a little bit higher at 26% versus some of the other schools mentioned that were closer to 8% and 9%.

University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is in the top 10% of the country in biology. They also offer one of the highest amounts in financial aid than most other schools prominent in sciences such as biology. 

Other options

While you will most certainly find the best biology programs at competitive schools with a lower acceptance rate and higher tuition, you can still get a pretty great experience at schools that may not be as competitive. But they specialize in having strong biology programs! 

Lewis & Clark College

Lewis & Clark College is a liberal arts university located in Portland, Oregon. Lewis & Clark College is also on the list of College Factual’s best schools for biology as #277. Lewis & Clark is also ranked as the second best college in the state of Oregon. The most popular majors at Lewis & Clark are social sciences such as biology and psychology. 

Lewis & Clark lists several learning outcomes students can expect to obtain on the biology department tab as part of their main website:

  • Generate hypotheses.
  • Design studies.
  • Collect data both in the field and in the lab.
  • Learn to analyze and interpret data.
  • Communicate your findings by writing and presenting.
  • Write grants and read scientific literature critically. 

It is also emphasized on the website that the learning curriculum will embrace every part of biology. From ecosystems, to mathematics, and even psychology. As far as the likelihood of you being accepted into Lewis & Clark goes, the average acceptance rate is at a very attainable 80% percent. The average tuition at Lewis & Clark college is around $50,000, but you can expect to pay as low as $37,000 after aid. 

Community College

If you’re just not sure exactly where you want to start in the field, consider starting off at community college to get some experience and take classes within the biology major. Even if you want to pursue your entire college career at a community college, there are many great schools that offer great programs. Do some research around your area into some community colleges and see if any specialize in social sciences like biology! 

What to Takeaway

When looking for colleges that have strong biology programs, remember to look out for schools that are noted for their research efforts and can offer you opportunities such as traveling to different places and working with mentors to create research on your own. Remember that you don’t always have to go for the very top colleges (like mentioned in the first list), and it’s okay to start small and work your way up!

Matt Lyons
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