Degree Requirements

This field will no longer be accepting applicants after the spring 2018 admission cycle (March 15 to April 15, 2018). If you have started your admissions coursework, you may continue and apply during summer, fall, or spring (see Degree Program Admission for specific dates). To find courses, you can log into online services and choose Degree Program Admissions from the menu.

Check out our graduate degrees and certificates in related fields.

Required courses

The Master of Liberal Arts, Bioinformatics degree field consists of nine courses—three of which you take to gain admission—and a thesis or internship. You study through a combination of on-campus and online courses.

Admission Courses

To begin the admission coursework and apply, you need to:

  • Have an undergraduate degree in science.
    • This must be a regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent in an area of physical, life, or computer science. 
  • Demonstrate at least one year of postbaccalaureate scientific research experience.
    • “Scientific research” is described as experience where the student directly participates in the research performed in an academic or industry laboratory and utilizes the following: design and conduct experiments, collect data and analyze results, and conclude and discuss outcomes. In addition, the student will have a strong understanding of the scientific method. The type of research experience that qualifies includes laboratory, clinical, or computational research. A letter of recommendation from the laboratory supervisor must accompany your application. Questions about this requirement should be sent to BIOT_research_exp@extension.harvard.edu.

If you have met this criteria, start with the admission courses:

You need to have an undergraduate degree to begin taking degree-applicable courses. The admission courses must be 4-credit, graduate-level courses. You complete all admissions courses with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your third admission course, you may apply to the program. We have fall, spring, and summer admission cycles. 

How to Apply

Additional Required Courses

Once admitted, you'll continue your progress, completing:

  • Five bioinformatics courses
  • One ethics and policy course
  • A master’s thesis or internship

The Harvard On-Campus Experience

Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least four of your courses, which gives you access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

On-campus requirements can ordinarily be completed through: 

  • Fall- or spring-semester courses that meet only on campus.*
  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • Three-week January on-campus courses.*
  • Seven- or three week summer courses based on campus.*

*On-campus courses that have an online option do not count, even if you attend all of the class meetings on campus.

International students

To meet the on campus requirement, you should plan to study with us in the summer, either for three- or seven-weeks. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School.  For more information, see the important visa information on the International Student Study Options page.

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To complete your degree

Prove Competency in Statistics

  • Successfully complete the statistics waiver exam.
  • Or earn a B– or better in one undergraduate or graduate statistics course at Harvard (this course does not count toward the degree).

Achieve an Average Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or Higher

Earn a B or better in each of the three admission courses and a B– or better in each of the subsequent courses, but be sure to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher. You are allowed two withdrawal (WD) grades. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years

You have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any three degree applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program. Moreover, courses over five years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your degree: Master of Liberal Arts in extension studies, Field: Bioinformatics. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May. You may participate in the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Guidelines and Policies 

For information about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree