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Staff Writers
Updated March 24, 2021

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physicians and surgeons have a median pay of over $200,000 a year. Each of these high-profile careers requires an undergraduate degree in biology or a related area such as biochemistry or biomedical sciences. To help you start your career in biology on the right foot, we've curated a list of the 20 best small colleges for biology majors on a budget.

Each college listed maintains an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 45%. These programs have shown their dedication to offering an affordable source of education by meeting our strict requirements for tuition and fees. All of the programs showcased have an estimated annual cost, as reported on College Navigator, of less than $32,000 a year.

But the true question is, which one of these colleges is the least expensive of the bunch? The only way to know is to keep reading all the way to #1!


Each of these top schools has a minimum of three relevant programs for students seeking a bachelor's degree in biology or a related area (including but not limited to biophysics, biochemistry, ecology, and biomedical sciences). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 45%.

Of course, to be a best value, these top-ranked schools also have to demonstrate a genuine commitment to affordable education - which means meeting our net price requirements. All of the programs on this ranking have estimated annual costs (as reported on College Navigator) of less than $32,000 a year.

But which of these is the most affordable small college for a biology degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!

For more information on the methodology, click here.

35. University of the Sciences

Philadelphia, PA


The University of the Sciences' low student-faculty ratio and high availability of undergraduate research opportunities makes it a top small college for biology majors. With just over 1500 undergraduates in the entire school, biology students at USciences are all but guaranteed to receive the attention from faculty and administrators they need to succeed. This personalized approach to education also extends to minors and degree specializations, which cover popular topics like Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, Microbiology, and Neuroscience. Whether you're interested in pursuing a career in medicine, dentistry, or even veterinary science, a degree in biology from USciences is a tried and true pathway to graduate school and beyond.

Net Price: $31,997/yr

34. St. Lawrence University

Canton, NY


St. Lawrence University offers a comprehensive yet affordable undergraduate biology program that covers a broad spectrum of topics in the field. Spanning laboratory and field research, molecular/organismal biology, and evolution and ecology, St. Lawrence's undergraduate biology curriculum is the perfect primer for budding scientists and doctors. Students also develop their facility with language and data analysis by producing scientific papers for class as well as the nationally published journal, BIOS. Those interested in an integrated Pre-Med curriculum can even work with advisors within the Biology Department to develop a course of study that satisfies admissions requirements for medical school.

Net Price: $31,010/yr

33. W.M. Keck Science Center (Pitzer/Scripps/Claremont McKenna Colleges)

Claremont, CA


Representing three of the five members of the Claremont Consortium, Pitzer, Scripps, and Claremont McKenna Colleges all share degree programs within the prestigious W.M. Keck Science Department. Although certain majors in the biological sciences technically belong to individual schools, it will be a superficial distinction from your perspective. After all, any student within the consortium can take science classes at any of the five colleges. And yet, the academic programs themselves are anything but superficial. With top undergraduate biology programs in fields that include Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Human Biology, and Molecular Biology, you are free to pursue whatever field of study your biological heart desires.

Net Price: $30,464/yr

32. Simmons College

Boston, MA


Like the Claremont Consortium, Simmons Colleges is host to a number of degree programs that full under the banner of the biological sciences. From General Biology to Public Health, Environmental, and even Exercise Science, students at Simmons have an exceptional opportunity to explore their interests within the realm of biology. But despite the diverse nature of the college's bioscience curriculum, all of its programs share a strong emphasis on hands-on learning - and that includes laboratory work and internships. And at the end of the day, it's this commitment to both educational breadth and depth that makes Simmons one of the best colleges for a biology degree.

Net Price: $30,232/yr

31. Rhodes College

Memphis, TN


Biology is one of the most popular degree programs available at Rhodes College. And it's no wonder; the combination of a challenging curriculum and a wealth of research and internship opportunities is too good for any serious bio student to pass up. Rhodes College's affordable undergraduate biology program itself sponsors a dozen or so student-led research projects during the school year, as well as additional work over the summer (when more funding is available). And with the college's scholastic reputation, you can rest assured that your work will have real impact. Past undergraduate projects have earned recognition in the Rhodes Journal of Biological Sciences as well as at the Tennessee Academy of Sciences' regional meeting and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Net Price: $29,659/yr

30. Kenyon College

Gambier, OH


Just this past summer, Kenyon College made headlines when it received nearly a million dollars in funding from the National Science Foundation to study "high-impact practices" for STEM students. While the full effects of this ample grant remains to be seen, Kenyon's Biology Department stands to benefit tremendously from the additional support. Of course, the college already offers a superior education in the biological sciences, complete with a rigorous capstone requirement, or Senior Exercise, for biology and molecular biology majors. But with the additional "high-impact practices" that the school has planned - which include funding for student research, internships, and other "community-based and collaborative projects," there's little doubt Kenyon will continue to rise in national biology degree rankings.

Net Price: $28,253/yr

29. Connecticut College

New London, CT


With an impressive array of majors, concentrations, and degree programs in the biological sciences, Connecticut College easily ranks among the best small colleges for biology majors. At Connecticut, you can choose from traditional programs like Botany and Biology or more interdisciplinary programs like Biochemistry. Even the supposedly "basic" Biology major comes with plenty of bells and whistles, including specializations in Ecology and Cellular and Molecular Biology. And as if all these choices weren't enough, CC encourages students to expand their scientific knowledge beyond the horizon by studying abroad at associated universities all over the world.

Net Price: $27,417/yr

28. Washington & Jefferson College

Washington, PA


Like Connecticut College, Washington & Jefferson College features a wide range of exciting programs in the biological sciences. Many of them (Biochemistry, Forensic Science, and Biological Physics, for example) are interdisciplinary in nature. And indeed, it is the depth of study available through these degrees that entitle W&J to a top biology degrees ranking. But that's only half of what makes this school such a great choice for aspiring biologists. The other half is W&J's own Abernathy Field Station, a 57-acre living classroom that houses multifarious ecosystems and a staggering breadth of flora, fauna, and everything in between.

Net Price: $27,315/yr

27. Smith College

Northampton, MA


It would be virtually impossible to list all of the reasons that Smith College is one of the best colleges for a biology degree in such a short space. For starters, admission to Smith is SAT-optional. After completing the stress-reduced application process, you can start planning for the Junior Year Abroad program (in which nearly 50% of your classmates will participate), and a guaranteed year of internship funding. But these benefits are campus wide; for biology students in particular, Smith features one of the most comprehensive and flexible programs in the country. Not only can you explore the diverse disciplines of ecology, genetics, and statistics, but you can also acquire a unique specialization in one of five tracks, such as Integrative Biology or Biology and Education.

Net Price: $26,318/yr

26. Florida Southern College

Lakeland, FL


Florida Southern College's top small college biology programs are an excellent gateway to academia, medicine, and a wealth of other promising career opportunities. With undergraduate degrees in Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Biotechnology, Marine Biology, Environmental Science, and the "nation's only bachelor's degree program [devoted] specifically [to] Citrus," FSU caters to interests you may not even realize you have yet! To top it all off, students in these programs often find internships at local organizations where they can jump-start their careers. Past internship placements have included popular organizations like the Lowry Park Zoo, Mote Marine Library, and the Center for Cancer Care and Research.

Net Price: $24,589/yr

25. Eastern University

Saint Davids, PA


Faith and science converge at Eastern University, a school with a strong undergraduate biology program and an even stronger belief in the goodness of God. Some schools inevitably compromise either their religious values or scientific rigor in order to reconcile these sometimes conflicting positions - but not Eastern. Rather, the university encourages students and faculty alike to develop their own world views under the influence of both Biblical and empirical scrutiny. The result is an unprecedented selection of opportunities for Christian students to engage in scientific discovery. One particularly intriguing option is the bilingual Spanish/Biology program, which provides research opportunities in Costa Rica and Mexico!

Net Price: $24,583/yr

24. Walla Walla University

College Place, WA


Like Eastern, Walla Walla University is a faith-driven institution that encourages equal devotion to faith and empirical skepticism. But what makes Walla Walla one of the best colleges for a biology degree is the intimacy and personalized nature of the curriculum and student resources. Like many small colleges, Walla Walla's limited undergraduate enrollment allows it to offer class sizes of well below 20 students on average - and below 15 for advanced classes. This close proximity between classmates and faculty also encourages collaborative research, which a significant percentage of biology majors participate in each year.

Net Price: $24,104/yr

23. La Sierra University

Riverside, CA


La Sierra University's degree offerings run the gamut of the biological sciences. From Biomedical Science and Psychobiology to Biomathematics and Biophysics, there's scarcely a stone that the collective faculty at La Sierra have left unturned. But as much as there is to learn in these programs, the real education at La Sierra takes place outside of the classroom. Experiential learning - and undergraduate research - especially is the cornerstone of this top small college's biology program. Recent student projects have included the genetic analysis of 3,000-year-old human bones and the discovery of a new species of gecko.

Net Price: $23,819/yr

22. Barnard College

New York, NY


While Barnard College is perhaps best known as the sister school of founding Ivy, Columbia University, it doesn't rely on this connection to earn its place as a top small college for biology majors. An impressive program in its own right, Barnard's biology department features a rigorous combination of lectures, laboratory courses, and independent research projects. As a student, your efforts will culminate in the Biology Senior Theses, a highly competitive presentation of challenging research that you undertake alongside a faculty mentor. Students whose work falls outside the purview of general biology can also find refuge in interdisciplinary degree programs like Biochemistry and Neuroscience.

Net Price: $23,741/yr

21. Hiram College

Hiram, OH


Popular publications like Forbes and The Washington Monthly have consistently praised Hiram as one of the best value colleges in the country. It's no surprise, then, that the school also makes the grade for our affordable biology degrees ranking. But a competitive price isn't that only quality that defines Hiram as a leading destination for aspiring biologists. Despite its diminutive size of just 1,100 students, Hiram features two unique field stations for biological research: the J.H. Barrow Field Station and the Northwoods Field Station. The former lies just three miles from campus and features over 500 acres of natural habitats for study. But for the latter, you'll have to take a much longer trip - to the upper peninsula of Michigan!

Net Price: $23,517/yr

20. Andrews University

Berrien Springs, MI


Like many of the other schools on this list, Andrews University supports an array of novel interdisciplinary programs in the biological sciences, including Biochemistry and Biotechnology. But Andrews' true appeal lies in its general biology major. This competitive program offers a host of resources designed to optimize your success, from BioBoost (a preemptive crash course for entering freshmen) to cross country field trips. Past excursions have taken students as far away as the Field Museum in Chicago and even the Florida Everglades! And in the end, it is this commitment to student engagement outside the classroom that qualifies Andrews as a top college for a biology degree.

Net Price: $23,491/yr

19. Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago, IL


When people talk about the Illinois Institute of Technology, they typically mention its world-class engineering and computer science programs. But flying under the radar at this top tech school are several equally robust programs in the biological sciences, including majors in Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, and Biology and Psychology. Many of these affordable undergraduate biology programs build on the strengths of this technical college to provide students with a unique perspective on biology—an invaluable qualification in an increasingly competitive job market. IIT also offers 5-year dual-BS/MS programs in all of its biology programs to help you accelerate the pace of your learning.

Net Price: $23,371/yr

18. California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, CA


Without a doubt, the California Institute of Technology is one of the most prestigious and competitive educational and research institutions in the sciences. And its Biology and Biological Engineering (BBE) Division is no exception. In fact, this division alone boasts "more than 50 faculty research laboratories" as well as nine Nobel Prizes and 10 National Medals of Science (awarded to both faculty and alumni). While these achievements alone can't prove that CalTech is the best small college for biology majors, they certainly speak to the caliber of students one can expect to find at this school.

Net Price: $23,213/yr

17. Franklin and Marshall College

Lancaster, PA


Like many other top colleges for a biology degree, Franklin and Marshall offers a selection of study abroad opportunities, interdisciplinary majors, and undergraduate research opportunities that would appeal to anyone with even a hint of interest in the biological sciences. Given these qualifications, it's almost impossible to deny that FMC would be a great choice for any student looking to study biology at an affordable small college. But FMC also claims a few distinct features that set it apart from the crowd. One example is its student-run Porter Scientific Society, which arranges seminars and colloquia for biology majors and even supports educational trips around the country.

Net Price: $23,092/yr

16. Wesleyan University

Middletown, CT


Often considered a "Little Ivy" alongside Amherst and Williams Colleges, there's little doubt that Wesleyan University is among the top liberal arts colleges in the nation. So perhaps it is needless to say that Wesleyan ranks among the best colleges for a biology degree, as well. In addition to a multitude of required writing-intensive lab courses, all biology majors must complete a "Capstone Experience." Taking the form of an experiential project, this course can include anything from science-based fieldwork to participation in faculty research. Looking for an extra challenge? Wesleyan also offers an Honors program within the biology major that requires original thesis work in mathematical modeling, computation, or laboratory research.

Net Price: $22,257/yr

15. William Jewell College

Liberty, MO


Tucked away in Liberty, Missouri, William Jewell College's top small college biology program is one of the best-kept secrets in higher education. Its traditional biology and biochemistry programs are impressive, to be sure, but it's the school's Oxbridge and Dr. William Jewell Scholars Programs that really stand out. If accepted into one of these programs, you'll gain access to the types of exceptional education experiences truly befitting this list. In the Oxbridge initiative, a small group of high-performing students participate in a tutorial-style program modeled after courses at Oxford and Cambridge (hence the portmanteau). The WJS program, in contrast, serves as an honors pre-medical track and provides accelerated/early-admission to the Kansas City University of Medicine.

Net Price: $21,753/yr

14. Colgate University

Hamilton, NY


Located in the middle of 1,100 acres of undeveloped forestland in upstate New York, Colgate University is the perfect candidate for a top undergraduate biology program. The surrounding natural splendor provides an exceptional site for biological research. This research, in fact, is the foundation of the undergraduate biology experience at Colgate. Whether in the form of a paid assistantship during the school year, funded independent research over the summer, or for course credit, Colgate encourages every biology student to pursue his or her unique interests through creative and hands-on learning.

Net Price: $21,741/yr

13. Chatham University

Pittsburgh, PA


With an average net price of just over $20,000 a year, Chatham University is one of the most affordable colleges for a biology degree. The women's college contributes to the low costs its students face by participating in a number of merit-based scholarship programs. For biology majors in particular, the university participates in the NSF-funded S-STEM initiative, which offers $10,000 annual awards (renewable for up to four years) to help aspiring biologists and biochemists pursue their education. Either way, Chatham's low prices and great reputation in the scientific community all but guarantees a great return on any your investment.

Net Price: $21,066/yr

12. Colorado College

Colorado Springs, CO


Unlike the vast majority of schools on this list, Colorado College does not even offer a general biology degree. At this top small college for biology majors, students instead choose between a degree in Molecular Biology or Organismal Biology and Ecology. As you might expect, these majors diverge in content as well as delivery method. The former is a "laboratory rich" program, where students devote most of their efforts to developing lab skills (e.g. gram staining, centrifuging, etc.) that will aid them in the study of microscopic forms. The latter, on the other hand, devotes a significant portion of the curriculum to field research courses at the CC Cabin on Pikes Peak.

Net Price: $21,027/yr

11. Middlebury College

Middlebury, VT


Middlebury College is one of the most highly ranked liberal arts colleges in the country, and the strength of its biology program reflects this stature. In terms of facilities, Middlebury is in a class of its own. With a greenhouse, cell imaging facility, DNA sequencing facility, and a devoted research forest, Middlebury is never short of opportunities for hands-on learning. In fact, you'll start developing research techniques from your first day in this top small college's biology program. By exposing students to the world of research in introductory courses, Middlebury ensures that its undergrads can take advantage of its expansive resources as soon as possible.

Net Price: $20,197/yr

10. Northwest Nazarene University

Nampa, ID


With small class sizes, a net price of less than $20,000 a year, and a strong Christian worldview, Northwest Nazarene University should be a top choice for any student of faith seeking any of the following degrees in biology. Within NNU's bachelor of science in biology program itself, you can personalize your education with several concentration options, including cellular/molecular biology, ecology/biodiversity, and pre-med. NNU also offers a bachelor of arts undergraduate biology program (which focuses on science education) as well as an Environmental Science minor for those interested in conservation methods.

Net Price: $19,789/yr

9. Colby College

Waterville, ME


At Colby College, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, biology is far and away one of the most popular majors in the school. Owing to its pastoral environment (Colby is located on a 714-acre campus beside the Kennebec River Valley in Maine) and emphasis on student-led learning, this top small college for biology majors attracts students who are eager to learn both in and out of the classroom. In fact, Colby's entire campus is a State Wildlife Management Area and features an arboretum, bird sanctuary, and flourishing pond for marine life study.

Net Price: $18,908/yr

8. Oklahoma Christian University

Edmond, OK


Despite its small size and low net price, Oklahoma Christian University offers some of the most unique degree offerings of any of the top colleges for a biology degree on this list. With undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry, Biology, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Medical Laboratory Sciences, and Science Education (with an emphasis in biology), OCU allows you to tailor your educational experience to suit your professional interests, goals, and needs. Furthermore, OCU's emphasis on undergraduate research has had a huge impact on student success: 90% of OCU students involved in research at the undergraduate level were accepted to medical or graduate school.

Net Price: $18,758/yr

7. Daemen College

Amherst, NY


Even a superficial glance at Daemen biology programs would convince most readers that this college offers some top-notch degree options. From teaching laboratories to field study in Florida and Costa Rica (not to mention the 10:1 student-faculty ratio), a myriad of benefits conspire to produce Daemen's solid standing in our top biology degree ranking. On top of all this, the school devotes substantial resources to its undergraduate research initiatives, providing more than enough training for your future goals - whether they include graduate school or professional work. But what truly sets Daemen apart from other schools on this list is its B.S./M.S. in Biology/Cytotechnology. This one-of-a-kind program grants students the rare opportunity to earn a graduate-level cancer research degree in just five years.

Net Price: $17,551/yr

6. St. Mary's University

San Antonio, TX


Just like all the other top programs on this list, St. Mary's University faces no shortage of unique degree offerings and interesting student research opportunities. But that's hardly what distinguishes this top college for a biology degree from its peers. Of particular note is St. Mary's Biology Living Learning Community, where first-year students can reside in a single dormitory to learn and grow together with the support of biology faculty members. Biology students at St. Mary's also participate in a great deal of community outreach, which helps them develop valuable skills while also deepening their commitment to serving others through science and medicine.

Net Price: $17,164/yr

5. The Sage Colleges

Troy, NY


At the Sage Colleges, the Biology Department features an unusual split between traditional and applied subjects in the biological sciences. If you are more interested in the standard academic program, you can opt for the former track - and choose between a B.S. and B.A. degree (depending on your career goals). Applied Biology students, on the other hand, face a veritable smorgasbord of specialization options, each of which have a distinct professional bent. With 10 different concentrations in total (including Forensic Science, Law & Society, Nutrition, and Public Health) it's safe to say that the Sage Colleges offer a greater diversity of degree offerings than just about any other affordable undergraduate biology program in the country.

Net Price: $16,890/yr

4. Amherst College

Amherst, MA


As the third-oldest college in Massachusetts and the number two liberal arts college in the country (according to Forbes and U.S. News), Amherst College is no stranger to the top spots on academic rankings. However, the college's Biology Department is particularly exceptional and boasts a number of award winning faculty - as well as a long record of impressive student/alumni accomplishments. Although there are few specialization options within the major itself (outside of Biochemistry and Biophysics), this top college for a biology degree keeps students engaged with a challenging curriculum, an even more rigorous Honors track, and ready access to faculty-led research initiatives.

Net Price: $16,861/yr

3. Carson-Newman University

Jefferson City, TN


At just over 1,700 students, Carson-Newman University somehow manages to fit all the resources of a larger university's biology department into a pint-sized package. In addition to its impressive range of degree offerings and emphases (including Environmental Studies, Education/Teacher Licensure, and Biotechnology), this affordable small college biology program features a range of "special opportunities" that makes the study of biology a truly memorable experience. From hands-on research at the Cadaver Lab and marine biology courses through the Gulf Coast Research Lab to c-nvolved (a school-wide service learning initiative), CNU transforms an otherwise traditional learning environment into a transformative life experience.

Net Price: $16,662/yr

2. Christian Brothers University

Memphis, TN


Christian Brothers University offers three distinct degrees within its Biology Department, each of which focuses on a unique facet of the natural world. General Biology is the most popular of the three, featuring a comprehensive introduction to the topics that are explored more in-depth in the other majors. By contrast, the Biomedical Science program is designed to equip you with all the basic knowledge and skills you'll need to pursue higher education in the medical field, including dentistry, optometry, nursing, and even physical therapy. Lastly, students with a love of nature and a desire for dirty work should look to CBU's undergraduate biology program in ecology, which is heavily focused on fieldwork.

Net Price: $15,556/yr

1. Brigham Young University-Hawaii

Laie, HI


At less than $11,000 a year for the average undergraduate student—or roughly half of most of the schools on this list—Brigham Young University-Hawaii provides its biology students with an unprecedented educational value. General Biology, Marine Biology, and Biochemistry students alike have access to abundant resources at BYU, including a comprehensive Research and Thesis course. This challenging class, which is actually a three-semester course sequence, covers everything from scientific literature analysis and hypothesis development to oral and written communications skills for scientific presentations. At the end of four years, you'll be well-prepared to depart this affordable college for a biology degree for a satisfying career in private industry, academia, or professional healthcare.

Net Price: $10,695/yr

Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable small college biology programs? Check out the U.S. Department of Education's Net Price Calculator Center.

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