The Master of Liberal Arts, Biology degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), three of which are required on campus.
12 Graduate Courses
The degree assumes an academic background in biology (e.g., Molecular and Cellular Biology and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology) and laboratory research experience.
- 5 biology courses
- 1 biology seminar
- 1 statistics course
- 1 elective
- EXPO 42c is an elective option
- Thesis proposal tutorial
- Master’s Thesis (8 credits)
Eight of the above courses (32 credits) need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard instructor designation. The thesis course is ordinarily taught by a Harvard instructor. However, if you work in a lab outside of Harvard University and wish to pursue your thesis research there, then you will need to complete the 32-credit Harvard instructor requirement through core requirements.
Admissions: Earn Your Way In
To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application required—for the following three, four-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online):
- BIOS 200 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies 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 attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
- 1 biology course
- 1 biology course or elective (e.g., EXPO 42c)
While the three courses don't need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with the proseminar. All three courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.
Eligibility: Before you enroll in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor's degree. You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master's degree in Biology or a related field. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated, and the Admissions Office makes final determinations about eligibility. Refer to Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.
Applying to the Degree Program
During the semester of your third degree course, submit the official application to the program.
Don't delay! To achieve academic success and meet your expected graduation date, it is critical to prioritize the three degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll avoid the delayed application fee and gain access to exclusive degree candidate privileges.
If you submit a complete and timely application—which includes required Harvard courses, grades, and cumulative GPA—you will be admitted, after which you’ll have nine more courses to take to earn the degree.
For more details about eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Admissions.
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 courses (12 credits), which offers you in-person 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. Courses with the format "on campus or online" do not fulfill this requirement.
- Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
- Three-week January session courses that meet only on campus.
- Three- or seven-week summer 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's three- or seven-week sessions. For more information, see the important visa information on the International Student Study Options page.
International Students and Thesis Research
While your research question will be developed in consultation with your research advisor (RA), you will be responsible for finding a lab in your home country. The Harvard Extension School cannot sign institutional agreements, nor does the school provide research funding.
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. 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 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.
Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the five-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work. Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the five-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied.
Graduate with Your Harvard Degree
When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Biology. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.
Degree Guidelines and Policies
For information special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree.