Degree Requirements

Required Courses

The Master of Liberal Arts, Biology degree field consists of 12 courses, three of which are required for admission. You complete the degree through a combination of on-campus and online courses.

12 Graduate Courses

The degree field assumes a strong academic background in biology (e.g., Molecular and Cellular Biology and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology) and prior scientific research experience is recommended.

  • Proseminar
  • 5 biology courses
  • 1 biology seminar
  • 1 statistics course
  • 1 elective
    • EXPO 42c is an elective option
  • Crafting the thesis proposal
  • Master’s thesis part one
  • Master's thesis part two

Eight of the above courses need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard instructor designation. The thesis courses are always taught by a Harvard instructor.

Search Biology Degree Courses

Admissions: Earn Your Way In

To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application required—for the following three degree courses:

  • BIOS 200 Proseminar: Research Methods and Scholarly Writing in the Biological Sciences
    • Before registering, you'll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills test or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42c Writing in the Sciences.
    • You have two registration attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar, which cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
  • 1 biology course
  • 1 biology course or elective (e.g., EXPO 42c)

You complete the three degree courses with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0. The courses need to be taken at the graduate level and be four credits each. Before you enroll any degree-applicable courses, you need to possess an undergraduate degree.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your third degree course, submit your official application to the program. We have fall, spring, and summer admission cycles.

If you submit a complete application—which includes required Harvard courses, grades, and cumulative GPA—you'll be admitted, after which you'll have just nine more courses to complete to earn the degree.

How to Apply

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 three of your courses, which gives you access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

On-campus course requirements are typically completed through:

  • 15-week fall or spring semester courses that meet only on campus (online option courses do not fulfill this requirement).
  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • Three- or seven-week summer courses that meet only on campus.
  • Three-week January session courses that meet only on campus.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on campus requirement, you study with us in the summer. 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.

To Complete Your 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 except for statistics, which must be completed with a grade of B or higher. 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 10 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: Biology. 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 special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree