The Master of Liberal Arts, Biology degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), three of which are required on campus.
To get started in the program:
- Review the details below to learn more about the curriculum and course selection.
- Determine your initial admission eligibility.
- Complete the 3 courses for admission.
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 biology elective
- EXPO 42c is an elective option
- Thesis proposal tutorial
- Master’s Thesis (8 credits)
Harvard Instructor Requirement
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, non-thesis requirements.
Search for Courses
To find courses that apply toward the degree use DCE Course Search and Registration:
- Scroll through the search filters to “Courses in a Graduate Degree.”
- Choose “Biology” to explore program courses.
Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Be sure to visit Degree Program Admissions for full details.
- Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated for equivalency.
- You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in biology or a related field. Check your eligibility.
The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.
Earning 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 (or the prerequisite EXPO 42c). All three courses must be completed 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 degree course, submit the official application to the program.
Don’t delay! You must prioritize the three degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll avoid the delayed application fee or the loss of credit for expired course work, while gaining access to exclusive benefits (see bottom of page). Also, critical degree courses are only open to officially admitted candidates such as thesis proposal tutorials.
Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 9 more courses after admission to earn the degree.
For details about full eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Degree Program 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 for Harvard Summer School’s 3- and 7-week courses. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.
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
Required GPA, Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Courses
GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the three degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.
Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive two withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.
Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.
Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years
Courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree. As stated above, the proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
Further, you have 5 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.
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 (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).
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.