Skip to content

Coronavirus Updates: See latest COVID-19 news from Harvard Extension School.

Biotechnology Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, Biotechnology degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), two of which are required on campus. You choose a thesis or capstone track.

To get started in the program: 

  1. Review the details below to learn more about the curriculum and course selection.
  2. Determine your admission eligibility.
  3. Complete the 2 courses for admission. Once you’ve been accepted, you’ll continue the remaining coursework—customizing your path to support your goals.

Required Courses

12 Graduate Courses

The degree is only for students with an undergraduate degree in a science field (physical, life, or computer science), at least one year of proven postbaccalaureate scientific research experience, and an academic background in molecular, cellular, and organismal biology.

  • Proseminar
  • 3 Biotechnology life sciences courses
  • Ethics and Trends in Biotechnology
  • 4 Biotechnology electives
    • EXPO 42c is an elective option

Additional Thesis Track Requirements

  • Thesis proposal tutorial
  • Master’s thesis (8 credits)

Additional Capstone Track Requirements

  • 1 additional biotechnology elective
  • Precapstone: Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • The capstone

Capstone topics are subject to change annually. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring) and in your final academic year.



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 Biotechnology or a related field. If you are unsure, and because the Admissions Office makes all final determinations about program eligibility, we strongly encourage you to inquire with us in advance of enrolling in any courses at Harvard Extension School.

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. 

Earning Your Way In

To begin the admissions process you simply register—no application needed—for the following two, graduate-level degree courses (available online):

  • BIOT 200 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Biotechnology and Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
    • To register, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills 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 biotechnology life science course

The two courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, but each course 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 second 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 two 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.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 10 more courses after admission 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 two courses (8 credits), which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

On-campus requirements can ordinarily be 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 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

Prove Competency in Statistics

Prior to registering for the thesis proposal course or precapstone, you need to prove your competency in statistics through one of the following two options:

  1. Choose an upper-level, graduate-credit statistics course that appears under the elective option for the biotechnology degree and earn a B- or higher grade. This course will count toward the degree.
  2. Earn a B– or higher in one of the following undergraduate-credit statistics courses at Harvard: STAT 100, 102, 103, 109, 150, or 200. While the course fulfills the statistics requirement, it does not count toward the degree.

Maintain a Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or Higher

Earn a B or higher in each of the two degree required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses, but be sure to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher. 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.

Internship Option

If you earn a professional graduate certificate in bioinformatics or biotechnology management while a degree candidate and have a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or higher, you may be able to pursue a 500-hour internship instead of a thesis or capstone. See Internships.

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 two degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to the degree program. Moreover, courses over five 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: Biotechnology. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Guidelines & Policies

Learn more about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies.