Can I work while studying for my PhD in biology?
Biology PhD programs require students to be fully engaged with their classes and research, so it is highly unlikely that you will be able to work while you study, even on a part-time basis. Some programs, including those that offer an accredited online PhD in biology, might even require you to agree to not take a job during your studies and will punish you if you breach the agreement. Part-time PhD programs are available, but they are not very reputable.
These strict requirements exist because top biology PhD programs are meant to immerse you in the experience of being an academic with the hopes of grooming you for a future career as a scholar. As a result, schools want your professional life to consist of performing research, working with other academics and teaching.
The best biology doctorate programs, however, also recognize your need for income and offer some form of financial aid. Most commonly, PhD students receive assistantships, where they are assigned to help a faculty member with research, administrative tasks and teaching lower level biology classes. In exchange, they receive substantially reduced or even free tuition as well as a monthly stipend to cover living expenses.
Stipends are not an adequate replacement for a salary, though, especially if you are the main source of income for your household. Before you pursue any PhD biology programs, evaluate your economic needs and determine if you are in a position to make financial sacrifices.
Are there any scholarships for traditional or online PhD students in biology?
In order to attract talented individuals to pursue higher levels of biology education, there are millions of dollars in scholarships available for students pursuing a traditional or online PhD in biology. For example, government agencies offer scholarships in biology doctorates as an investment in potential future public employees.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science offers a fellowship program for those working toward an advanced degree in scientific and engineering fields, which includes nonmedical biology. Recipients receive a yearly stipend of $35,000 for general living expenses, up to $10,500 toward tuition and fees, and a $5,000 yearly research allowance. Students can receive the benefits for 3 years, subject to renewal each year.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program to support graduate-level research in oceanography, marine biology or maritime archaeology. Doctoral students receive up to $188,000 over 4 years.
Online students may not qualify for as many scholarships as traditional students. Before you apply to any programs, make sure that you are eligible for the scholarship. For the most part, if the scholarship does not explicitly preclude online degrees, then you should be qualified.
Are there any notable people who have earned PhDs in biology?
As you research doctorate in biology online programs, consider some famous individuals who were once hopeful students like you:
Nobel laureate Leland H. Hartwell received his PhD in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is most known for his work alongside Paul Nurse and R. Timothy Hunt in the discovery of protein molecules that control cell division.
Kary Mullis, a Nobel Prize winning American biochemist, earned his PhD from University of California, Berkeley. However, he has since been wrapped up in controversy for promoting ideas in which he has no expertise, such as denying the relationship between AIDS and HIV, climate change denial and astrology.
Samuel M. Nabrit is a pioneer for black Americans as he was the first African American to be awarded a doctoral degree from Brown University and the first African American to be appointed to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He received his PhD in biology from Brown University.
The son of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Nicholas Hughes became known to the public after his mother’s well-publicized suicide. Fortunately, he was able to overcome the tragedy and he went on to earn his PhD in biology from University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Greg Graffin, most recognized as the lead singer of the punk band Bad Religion, earned his PhD in biology from Cornell University. He actually teaches the subject now at various universities.
Do you recommend any biology PhD student blogs that I should follow?
Blogs about biology are a dime a dozen, but here are a few that you may be interested in while you pursue your biology degree online:
Blogging the PhD is written by a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Imperial College London. She shares experiences as a student, book reviews from her personal reading list, insights on education and occasionally general thoughts about life.
Living Alongside Wildlife by David Steen, a PhD student from Auburn University, educates the general public about wildlife that has a bad reputation, particularly amphibians and reptiles. He uses a lot of pictures, but if even if you are squeamish about the thought of giant snakes, he assures you that have nothing to fear.
Another blog focused on wildlife by a PhD student is Phytoplanktonic. The author, who studies marine biology in the United Kingdom, shares his experiences on various local safaris in Essex. He also provides many photos and videos taken on his journeys and describes them in vivid detail.
A Lady Scientist chronicles the experience a new mother who recently received her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. She writes about her personal thoughts and experiences, giving you great insight into the ups and downs of a life in academia.
While not technically a blog, you may also want to check out Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD), a web comic strip poking fun at the mundane aspects of pursuing a PhD. Commiserating with these fictional characters is a great way to relieve the stress that you will inevitably encounter during biology PhD programs.