Best Biology Schools

Updated on January 5, 2024

Biology is a fascinating and rapidly advancing field that covers everything from cellular processes to the study of entire ecosystems. For students interested in biology, choosing the right college or university can greatly impact their learning experience and future career opportunities. The following are 10 of the top-rated biology schools based on academic excellence, research output, facilities and resources, career prospects, and more.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Avg SAT Score: 1540

Tuition: $55,876

Avg Salary: $86,900

Website: mit.edu

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is world renowned for its biology programs, especially in highly innovative fields like synthetic biology and systems biology. MIT invests heavily in state-of-the-art research facilities and enabling students to work alongside pioneer researchers. Graduates are highly sought after and command high starting salaries.

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Avg SAT Score: 1540

Tuition: $57,699

Avg Salary: $83,300

Website: stanford.edu

With ample research funding and cutting-edge facilities, Stanford University provides unmatched opportunities for biology students to learn and discover. Many graduates move on to top PhD programs or launch successful biotech careers. The beautiful Northern California campus and proximity to Silicon Valley bio firms are added bonuses.

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Avg SAT Score: 1540

Tuition: $55,950

Avg Salary: $84,800

Website: harvard.edu

As one of the top research universities globally across fields, Harvard needs no introduction. From influential professors to seemingly limitless resources, Harvard offers the best possible environment for aspiring biologists. Most undergrads participate in original research work before moving onto top PhD programs and faculty positions nationwide.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Avg SAT Score: 1425

Tuition (in-state): $14,253

Avg Salary: $72,200

Website: berkeley.edu

The top public university in the U.S. also shines in biology education and research. UC Berkeley provides affordable excellence that rivals many private colleges. With a strong focus on hands-on learning, Berkeley biology students conduct exciting research across diverse specializations – from CRISPR gene editing to evolutionary biology.

California Institute of Technology

Location: Pasadena, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Avg SAT Score: 1560

Tuition: $56,859

Avg Salary: $88,300

Website: caltech.edu

Prestigious for its strength in natural sciences and engineering, Caltech offers extraordinary research opportunities even for undergrads. Biology students have access to state-of-the-art core facilities for computational biology, genomics, bioimaging and more. The program’s rigor also prepares students remarkably well for top PhD and MD programs.

Duke University

Location: Durham, NC

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Avg SAT Score: 1510

Tuition: $60,888

Avg Salary: $78,900

Website: duke.edu

At Duke University, biology majors can tap into many interdisciplinary programs like computational biology and genomic sciences. Undergrad research is highly encouraged through partnerships with Duke’s medical school and marine lab. Duke also has specialized programs for promising bioscience PhD candidates to obtain combined MD degrees.

Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, NY

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Avg SAT Score: 1495

Tuition (in-state): $59,316

Avg Salary: $77,200

Website: cornell.edu

Cornell University is an Ivy League school with a strong life sciences focus, covering everything from biophysics to neurobiology. Cornell offers state-of-the-art research facilities and enables undergrads to work with award-winning faculty. Interdisciplinary studies are also encouraged through partnerships with departments like computing and medicine.

University of Michigan

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 24%

Avg SAT Score: 1465

Tuition (in-state): $17,522

Avg Salary: $71,200

Website: umich.edu

The University of Michigan excels in ecology and evolutionary biology with field observation sites worldwide. Undergrads can access innovative programs like genomics, biomedicine and quantitative biology. Graduates have excellent PhD program placement and job prospects in diverse bioscience industries nationwide.

University of California, San Diego

Location: La Jolla, CA

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 31%

Avg SAT Score: 1375

Tuition (in-state): $14,976

Avg Salary: $75,800

Website: ucsd.edu

UC San Diego shines in molecular and cell biology with a highly collaborative culture that spans medicine, nanoengineering and marine sciences. Undergrads are encouraged to perform original research in cutting-edge areas like microbiome science and bioinformatics. Graduates have excellent outcomes in PhD programs, biotech jobs and healthcare roles.

University of Washington

Location: Seattle, WA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 52%

Avg SAT Score: 1325

Tuition (in-state): $12,207

Avg Salary: $67,400

Website: washington.edu

The University of Washington boasts a stunning campus and access to ecosystems from rainforests to marine habitats for field research. Degree programs enable students to explore biology alongside other disciplines like computer science or public health. Graduates have strong industry placement regionally and further afield.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What level of academics is needed to gain admission?

The most selective biology programs require a stellar high school GPA alongside high SAT/ACT scores, advanced coursework and extracurriculars indicating passion for science. State school programs may have more reasonable admissions criteria.

Most programs recommend advanced lab science courses (especially biology, chemistry), math up through calculus, and experience with computer science/coding. Research experience can also bolster applications.

How expensive is tuition and what aid options exist?

Private universities can be very costly – up to around $60,000 per year. But many offer generous need-based and/or merit-based aid to reduce this cost. State schools have much lower in-state tuition. External scholarships are also an option.

What undergraduate research opportunities are available?

Programs encourage or even require students to participate in laboratory research, quite often resulting in co-authorship of published papers. This enables crucial hands-on learning and skills development for future PhD programs or industry careers.

What specializations exist within biology majors?

Common tracks include molecular/cellular biology, genetics, microbiology, biochemistry, ecology, evolutionary biology, marine biology and plant sciences. Interdisciplinary programs also combine biology alongside fields like neuroscience, bioengineering or bioinformatics.

What are typical careers for biology graduates?

Those with bachelor’s degrees often work in healthcare, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology, agriculture/food science, environmental consulting or government agencies. Graduate study leads to more advanced careers like geneticist, ecologist, physician, professor, or biomedical researcher.

How competitive is gaining admission to top PhD programs?

Applicants who demonstrate research excellence through publications, presentations and strong letters of recommendation have the best PhD outcomes at elite universities, often continuing at their undergraduate institutions.

Are combined MD/PhD options available?

Yes, many top schools offer competitive Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP) that develop physician-scientists through the combined degrees. Some universities also have joint JD (law)/PhD programs in disciplines like genetics or neuroscience.

Is study abroad possible as a biology major?

Definitely – those interested can join field research programs worldwide to gain unique hands-on experience while immersed in fascinating ecosystems. Some sample destinations include the Amazon rainforest, African savanna and Great Barrier Reef.

What non-academic attributes help job prospects after graduation?

Relevant lab and/or field experience, strong research, writing and public speaking abilities, leadership/teamwork skills, creativity and innovation, persistence and passion for the field greatly improve competiveness after graduation.

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