In our degree program, you earn your way in. The most important predictor of program success is your aptitude now to do honors-level work at Harvard.

You start by taking three admission courses, one proseminar and two life courses, to demonstrate your academic ability. Earn at least a B in all three, and you qualify for admission.

1. Verify your science credentials.

To begin coursework and apply, you need to have a regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent in an area of physical, life, or computer science.  

You also need to have postbaccalaureate research experience:

  • For the life sciences, bioinformatics, or bioengineering and nanotechnologies concentrations: you should be able to demonstrate at least one year of scientific research experience.
  • For the management principles concentration: you should have two years of scientific research experience. (Candidates in this concentration often have hopes of breaking into the business side of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. This requires a solid understanding of research first, which can only be acquired by working as a researcher.)
  • Scientific research experience that qualifies includes postbaccalaureate work in an academic or industry laboratory that focuses on basic or applied, clinical, or computational research. Examples of scientific research experience include, but are not limited to the following: identification and analysis of genes and proteins linked to disease, development of novel diagnostics, drugs, or vaccines, and use of computational modeling to understand disease. A letter of recommendation from the research supervisor must accompany your application.

2. Take your first admission course.

The three required admission courses include the proseminar and two life science courses.

You can take these in any order, online or on campus, all at once or one at a time. They count toward the degree once you are admitted. 

We recommend starting with the proseminar BIOT E-200. If you earn a grade below B in a proseminar, you are only allowed to enroll in it once more for admission. If you delay application to the program more than two years after completing the proseminar, you must retake the course. When retaking the proseminar, choose a section taught by a different instructor.

Registration guidelines and tips

  • If you have a science degree but no previous coursework in biology, start with BIOS E-1a and BIOS E-1b before attempting graduate-level biology classes that would count toward the degree.
  • A passing score on the online test of critical reading and writing skills is required to register for BIOT E-200. Take this test as soon as possible.
  • Instead of the test, you can register for EXPO 42c and earn a B, then take BIOT E-200 the following semester. EXPO 42c does not count toward the degree, but it does prepare you for all writing assignments.
  • If you are registered in EXPO E-42c, you are automatically granted early registration privileges for the next Harvard Extension School semester, fall or spring, to register before the general population for BIOT E-200.
  • If English is not your native language, you also need to prove proof of English proficiency before registering for BIOT E-200.

Need financial aid?

Before admission, you can work with Student Financial Services to secure private funding to cover the cost of the first three courses required for admission. Learn about financial aid.

3. Complete your next two courses and prepare to apply.

Once you have a good feel for the courses, enroll in any two life sciences courses—your choice.

Find courses via the degree course search

Also, ensure that you meet all admission criteria as you prepare your application.

Additional admission criteria

  • Earn a 3.0 (B) or higher cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in all Harvard degree courses taken prior to admission (no grade below a B in each of the three required admission courses).
  • Demonstrate English language proficiency for program admission.
  • Be in good academic and financial standing with Harvard University, with no disciplinary or administrative procedures pending.
  • Be in good financial standing—able to submit official transcripts—with other schools attended.
  • If you already hold a graduate degree, you may earn the master’s degree provided the two degrees are in different fields.
  • The Extension School will consider your disciplinary record at Harvard University in making admissions decisions.

4. Apply to the program.

Submit your application when you are finishing up your third course. If you earn the required GPA and meet the additional criteria, you will be admitted.

Learn how to apply

We are here to help. If you don’t earn the required grades, request that an advisor calculate your GPA and offer advice before you take any more courses. Log in to online services, choose “Degree Program Admissions,” then “Pre-Admission GPA Confirmation.