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Biotechnology Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, Biotechnology degree field consists of 12 courses, 2 of which are required on campus. You choose a thesis or capstone track.

Getting Started

  1. Explore the required course curriculum.
  2. Determine your initial admissions eligibility.
  3. Learn about the 2 degree courses required for admission.
  4. Search and register for courses.

Required Courses

12 Graduate Courses (48 credits)

Prerequisite knowledge. To pursue this degree, you must have 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.

  • BIOT 200 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Biotechnology
  • 3 biotechnology life sciences courses
  • Ethics and Trends in Biotechnology
  • 4 biotechnology electives
    • EXPO 42c is an elective option

Thesis Track: Additional Requirements

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

Recent Thesis Topics:

  • A Diabetes Management Device with an Incentivized Reward Feature to Promote Healthier Patient Behavior
  • CTAT Mutations: A Machine Learning Based RNA-Seq Variant Calling Pipeline Incorporating Variant Annotation, Prioritization, and Visualization
  • An Interrogation of ORF Versus CRISPRa Pooled-Screening Technologies Used to Define Cancer Drug-Resistance Landscapes

Capstone Track: Additional Requirements

  • 1 additional biotechnology elective
  • Precapstone: Business Ideas and Entrepreneurial Innovation
  • Capstone: Business Ideas and Entrepreneurial Innovation

Capstone experience. After completing preliminary research and discovery in the precapstone, for the capstone you create the business plan for a new biotechnology company, a ground-breaking drug, or an emerging technology such as a diagnostic or medical device. Below are two recent capstone projects:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Addiction via a Mobile Device Platform
  • Stimulation of the Trigeminal and Vagas Nerves to Aid in Relieving Neurological Pain due to Chronic Primary Headaches

Capstone sequencing. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring) and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement.

The Harvard On-Campus Experience (2 Courses)

Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least 2 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.
  • 3-week January courses that meet only on campus.
  • 3- or 7-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.
  • While your research question will be developed in consultation with your research advisor (RA), at Harvard Extension School (HES) you will be responsible for finding a lab in your home country. HES cannot sign institutional agreements, nor does the school provide research funding.

Optional Certificates

You can choose to concentrate your degree studies in a specific biotechnology area and earn a certificate along the way. There are 4 options:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Biotechnology Management
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Project Management


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.

Initial Eligibility

  • Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a 4-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 biotechnology or a related field. Check your eligibility.

The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.

Earning Your Way In: Courses for Admission

To begin the admissions process you simply register—no application needed—for the following 2 graduate-level degree courses (available online):

  • BIOT 200 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Biotechnology
    • 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 2 years old at the time of application.
  • 1 biotechnology life science course

The courses above, including EXPO 42c, count toward the degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses.

While the 2 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. The 2 courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round. You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).

To find degree courses in the DCE Course Search and Registration platform:

  • Under Search Classes, scroll to Browse by Degree, Certificate, or Premedical Program.
  • Select Graduate Degrees
  • Choose Biotechnology to explore program courses.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your second degree course, submit the official application to the program. 

Don’t delay! You must prioritize the 2 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.
  • ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • gain access to exclusive benefits (see bottom of page).

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 10 more courses after admission to earn the degree.

For details about full eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Degree Program Admissions.

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.

Required 3.0 GPA, 2 Withdrawal Grade Limit, Repeat Course Policy

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the 2 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 2 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.

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.

Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under 5 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 2 years old at the time of application.

Further, you have 5 years to complete your degree requirements. The 5-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any 2 degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to the degree program.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the 5-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 5-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: Biotechnology. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.