The online genetics courses described below all teach the basics of the science of genetics. Some can be included as part of a certificate or degree program, although only one of these individual courses (the Duke University online course) itself leads to a certificate.
Taking an online genetics course can prepare the student for applying for a career in the health care industry, earning credit toward a degree or certificate, or earn continuing education (CEU) credits that are required or encouraged in some careers. Non-scientist administrators and support workers in scientific industries may find that having knowledge of fundamental genetics helps them do their jobs better.
1. BIOL 1040: Online Genetics Lecture and Lab Course
This online genetics course offered by the University of New England covers cytogenetics, developmental genetics, evolutionary genetics, molecular genetics, molecular medicine, and transmission genetics. Students learn the vocabulary of genetics, how to predict the probability of an organism inheriting a given trait, describe the behavior of genes and chromosomes, and many other concepts in genetics.
Students complete this self-paced course in an average of 16 weeks. An Introductory Biology course must be completed as a prerequisite to this genetics course. Students who have completed the prerequisite can enroll at any time up until the Monday before the course starts. The course starts on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month.
Cost: Tuition: $1360, Registration: $25, Total: $1385 not including materials.
2. MCELLBI X143 – Genetics
This University of California at Berkeley Extension School online genetics course offering is available in an entirely online format. Students learn the key concepts in both classical and molecular biology, including cellular processes, developmental genetics, gene function, gene mutation, Mendelian genetics, and population genetics. They also study the genetic implications of biotechnology developments including the Human Genome Project.
One year of college-level biology is required as a prerequisite for this course for those students who are taking it as part of a biology degree program. The three units of credit earning by completing this course can be applied to the Advanced Bioscience program, the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Preparatory program, or the Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions program. One does not have to be a part of any of these programs to take the online course. Registration for this course is ongoing.
3. XGEN101 – Fundamentals of Genetics: The Genetics You Need To Know
XGEN101 is one of two required online genetics courses in the Stanford Center for Professional Development’s Stanford Genetics and Genomics Certificate. The certificate program also requires four elective courses in genetics chosen from a specific list. “Genomics and the Other Omics: The Comprehensive Essentials” is the other required course for the certificate program, which requires at least five years of working in a science or technology-related field and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.
Students learn the function and structure of genes, genomes, and chromosomes; molecular biology; methods of analyzing gene regulation, inherited disease, and protein function; and the model organisms of genetic research. The course can be completed in 60 days.
Cost: $695 per required course plus $75 one-time document fee.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers this undergraduate-level online genetics course as open courseware, so there are no prerequisites and no costs. While the course will teach students genetics principles at the molecular, cellular, organism, and human levels, it does not offer any course credit. It can be used for personal and professional enrichment, and MIT offers a host of related open courses in genetics, molecular biology, and cellular biology in its Life Sciences department.
Two versions of the course are offered online, one based on the Fall 2001 section and another based on the Fall 2004 section. Course lectures, each of which can be downloaded as .pdfs, cover topics that include chromosomes and sex linkage, genetic maps, mutations and suppressors, bacterial genetics, transgenes and gene targeting in mice, and genetics of cancer. This is a self-directed course and the student can take as much time as he or she likes to complete it.
Cost: Free and open to everyone.
5. Introduction to Genetics and Evolution
This Duke University online genetic course is available as open courseware on Coursera and simultaneously offered for course credit from Duke. Students learn not only the fundamentals of genetics in this undergraduate-level course, but also about the genetic evidence that supports the theory of evolution. Those taking this course are not assumed to have any previous knowledge of biology, and there are no course prerequisites.
Introduction to Genetics and Evolution has been translated into Chinese for those who learn best in the Chinese language. The course includes five videos and one reading, and the course takes 11 weeks to complete overall. The syllabus covers genetic variation, heritability and populations, molecular evolution, adaptive behaviors and sexual selection, new species evolution, phylogenetics, and applied evolution.
Cost: A free version is available, but the free version does not include a verified certificate when the student completes the course. Paid versions of the course start at $49, and financial aid is available for those who can’t afford the course fee.
For those who want to learn more or refresh their knowledge about genetics, many online genetics courses are available online, both free and paid. These range from courses offered as MOOCs (massive online open courses) to full-credit courses offered by not-for-profit universities that can be applied to a certificate program or a degree program.
Many of these genetics courses are geared toward people who will work in the medical field. However, one does not have to work in the genetic science and technology fields to learn and appreciate this knowledge. Anyone who has purchased a commercial genetic sequencing kit to learn about their own ancestry can benefit from learning more about the science of genetics.