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To increase your salary potential and job opportunities, a master’s degree in this discipline will help. Your path in this field can begin in high school by taking biology classes. This level may introduce you to bioinformatics. After high school, a bachelor’s degree in bioinformatics or computational biology is the next step.

Colleges and universities offering master’s degrees use different names. Some of the regular titles are data science with a concentration in bioinformatics, biomedical informatics, biotechnology with a concentration in bioinformatics, and computational biology with bioinformatics. Regardless of the degree name, there are commonalities in the curricula. We will look at examples of the course work you can expect to see in graduate bioinformatics and related programs.

The department associated with your master’s degree will vary. Some schools house their program in biotechnology, engineering, or biomedical science. Along with differences in which department offers the major, the coursework can also differ according to the subjects emphasized. The focus might be on biology, computer science, or information technology. You should examine the courses of each to select one that suits your career aspirations and interests.

 Master of Science in Bioinformatics

This degree generally emphasizes biology, microbiology, and computational methods. The latter involves the study of algorithms, computer logic, Python (computer language), sequence analysis, and protein structure analysis. Other topics involving programming are string operations, data structures, and program design and implementation. Another computer language you will encounter is the R language. Statisticians and data miners frequently use it.

If you earned a bachelor’s degree in bioinformatics, you took several courses in statistics, algebra, and calculus. There are fewer courses in statistics at the graduate level. Examples of the topics you may see in a statistics class are maximum likelihood, nonparametric methods, correlation, regression, and linear models.

A class in statistical methods provides students with the competency to analyze, interpret, and measure health and research data. They also learn how to evaluate statistical methods and select the most appropriate one for the particular study.

One of the applications of bioinformatics is in the pharmaceutical industry. To work in this field, you will benefit from an understanding of genetics, genomes, and pharmacology. For this reason, some schools include a course in pharmacogenomics, which is the study of how genes affect a person’s reaction to drugs. Therefore, it is the coupling of the study of the function of genes with the science of drugs and medications.

masters in bioinformatics smart

M.S. in Biomedical Informatics (BMI)

Different degree title with a similar curriculum. One example of a BMI program is 45 credit hours that concentrate on biomedical informatics, computer science, and statistics. The coursework blends biomedical software systems with basic and advanced algorithms used in sequence analysis. Other topics include quantitative pattern matching, protein sequence, and genome databases.

Master’s in Biotechnology with Bioinformatics Specialization

Again, the theme continues with the inclusion of courses in mathematics, biology, and computer science. All of these are vital components of bioinformatics. Biology can create quantities of data, mathematic algorithms analyze the data, and computer technology interprets the results.

Examples of the biotechnology subjects include the study of biohazards, legal and environmental issues, commercial application of biotechnology, and governmental regulations. One program introduces the term bioprocessing, which refers to the process of using living cells to create new products. Its uses are in biopharmaceuticals, biofuels, and new vaccines.

The computer science portion may involve the use of Java-based tools and object-oriented programming (a familiar word). Database modeling, management systems, database design, and the implementation of database systems are other topics of study in this specialization.

M.S. in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

This combination pairs biological analysis with computer science. Graduates will have the knowledge to work in the fields of drug design, forensics, environmental sciences, and disease detection. There is less emphasis on statistics. Instead, the program homes in on bioinformatics methods, programming,  and molecular biology. Additional courses may include bimolecular modeling, sequence analysis, protein structure analysis, and genomics.

There are also standalone programs in Computational Biology at this level. A degree in this major has the same trio of statistics, biology, and computer science. The courses may cover an assortment of disciplines, such as biomedical engineering, chemistry, and information management. Graduates may pursue their Ph.D. or seek employment in academia, pharma, research, or government agencies.

International Society for Computational Biology

We highlight the iSCB as a source of further information on bioinformatics. The organization has membership benefits, career center, journal subscriptions, and discounts on online M.S. in Bioinformatics tuition at a selected school.

Additional Resources

What is a Degree in Health Informatics?

What degree do I need to work in Nursing Informatics?

What is a degree in Health Information Management?