This online biochemistry course is led by expert academics from Harvard University and provides a comprehensive yet thorough introduction to the discipline.
The course content delves into the molecular, chemical components that make up living organisms and provides detailed insight into biochemical processes such as metabolism and protein synthesis, amongst others.
Free to study, with an additional cost of $199 for certification, Principles of Biochemistry by Harvard University is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious online biochemistry courses available currently.
Cost: Free to join ($199 for certification)
Length: 15 weeks (flexible)Platform: EdX
“Few scientists acquainted with the chemistry of biological systems at the molecular level can avoid being inspired.” – Donald J. Cram
The study of biochemistry is one of the fundamental pillars of our understanding of the natural world – including ourselves.
Until recently, access to high-quality resources concerning this fascinating subject was limited. Textbooks were expensive, as were commitments to years-long learning programs.
Thankfully, as our engagement with Information Technology has advanced, new and more convenient ways of learning have emerged. Today, there’s a plethora of online biochemistry courses available online to help keen scientists study their passion.
In this article, we will be reviewing the 4 best online biochemistry courses currently accessible through popular platforms. We’ve also provided an informational guide to help set you on the right track.
Many will know Harvard University as a prestigious learning institution based in Massachusetts and ranked as the Number 1 university in America.
Fewer potential students, however, are aware of the range of courses Harvard offers through the EdX learning platform, including their highly reviewed Principles of Biochemistry course!
The course is designed to take 15 weeks to complete, based on an expected time commitment of 4 to 6 hours per week. With that being said, you can take as long as you like to complete the course around your pre-existing commitments.
As part of the course, students will gain a comprehensive, introductory understanding of molecular structure as it applies to the study of cells.
Topics covered in the course include an overview of the main chemical elements that make up living organisms, the navigation of protein structures, enzymes, and metabolic pathways.
All of these topics eventually inform a perspective on how these processes come together to create what we know as life.
The Principles of Biochemistry course is taught by real Harvard academics. The instructors are Alain Viel, who is a Senior Lecturer in Harvard’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Rachelle Gaudet, professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
It’s completely free to join the course and study the content – however, if you wish to be certified at the end of the course, you’ll need to pay $199. All things considered, though, this is a very reasonable price for certification from such a prestigious institution.
We should point out that this course is taught at an intermediate level with prerequisites for college-level introductory biology and introductory chemistry at the same level.
This means that students without a formal background in biological sciences may find the course quite challenging and struggle to complete it within the expected timeframe.
However, many students without formal education in biology have completed the course and reported finding it rewarding, albeit a challenge.
The University of East Angela has created an excellent biochemistry course through FutureLearn.
We would recommend this course to any high school age students of biology or chemistry with aspirations in the field of biochemistry. It’s also a great tool for adult beginners to gain an introductory understanding of the subject.
This course offers a broad perspective of the field of biochemistry. The program starts with an introduction surrounding the question of ‘What is Biochemistry?’, which covers topics such as the history of biochemistry and how it’s applied in everyday life.
The next module focuses on the interaction between biological and chemical sciences, with lessons on metabolism and bioenergetics. The third and final module discusses the role of biochemistry in medicine, health sciences, and technologies and concludes with a lesson on how to progress in the field.
The course is led by 2 brilliant academics from the University of East Anglia: Richard Bowater, reader and researcher of Biological Sciences, and Fraser MacMillan, a Biophysical Chemist at the university’s School of Chemistry.
You can join the course and work your way through all the content for free. However, a free membership will only grant you access to the content for 5 weeks, which is the expected time for course completion if you dedicate just 3 hours per week to learning.
If you want to take your time working through the material and receive official certification at the end, the cost is a very reasonable $74.
Although this is a fantastic course for beginners and students with a basic understanding of biological and/or chemical principles, it’s worth bearing in mind that this isn’t the best course for those with a more advanced educational background in these sciences.
Neither is it the best program for anyone seeking a very thorough, in-depth perspective. The purpose of this course is to lay the foundations for more advanced learning and career development.
This online biochemistry course by UC San Diego provides a comprehensive, detailed overview of the field of biochemistry and its main areas of study, including biomolecules, bioenergy, and genetics (DNA).
Whether you have an existing background of knowledge in biochemistry or not, the content of this course is sure to impart a great deal of knowledge, be it new or consolidatory.
Topics covered in this course include everything from the structure of atoms to the study of processes such as digestion and metabolism. You’ll also learn about enzyme kinetics, protein synthesis, DNA replication, and much, much more!
Each intake of students will be lucky enough to be taught by 2 academic experts in the field over a period of 3 months. Apart from these time limits, learning is asynchronous, and students can complete the course material at their own pace.
The level at which this course is taught is suitable for those with a basic understanding of biology and chemistry.
However, there are no specific qualifications required to enroll on the course, so it’s open to anyone who feels they’re up to the challenge.
The potential downside to this course is that it comes at the cost of $745. On top of that, students will need to purchase the Biochemistry: A Short Course textbook.
Weighing this fee against the cost of the average 2-year college fee in the U.S (in the region of $3,000 for course content alone) puts its value for money into perspective. However, the reality is that, unfortunately, the cost of this course will make this learning experience inaccessible to many.
Brought to you by MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), this course combines the content of real introductory biology programs taught at MIT. In addition to biochemistry as a whole, this course teaches elements of molecular biology, genetics, and recombinant DNA.
Although the entire course focuses on more than purely biochemistry, we still consider this to be one of the best courses online for learning about biochemistry. This is because each module is delivered in so much depth, with plenty of resources and assessment opportunities.
Additionally, the other subjects touched on in this course will help dedicated students of biochemistry to understand how the subject ties into other aspects of biological science, both in academic and everyday capacities.
Each module is taught by different instructors with specializations in their subjects. Professors Eric Lander and Robert Weinberg cover the genetic, neurobiological, and cancerous cell content.
Professors Tyler Jacks and Hazel Sive continue the focus on cancer cells with a perspective on cellular development. Finally, professors Penny Chisholm and Graham Walker take the course in an ecological and environmental direction.
The course is very detailed in its content, with the majority of lessons consisting of at least 1 lecture video, interactive activities, a document of key terms to learn, and resources for further study.
The depth that the Fundamentals of Biology course by MIT goes into is impressive and means that you’ll come away from the course with a wealth of new knowledge – as long as you’re prepared to put the time and effort into learning. This course takes an estimated 150 hours to complete, including time spent revising the material.
This program is taught at undergraduate level, meaning it should be suitable for those with a high school/college education in biology. And the best thing about this course? It’s absolutely free.
Although the lack of enrollment cost means no certification is available upon completing the course, you’ll benefit from expert, high-quality online teaching and complete the course as a more knowledgeable person.
You’ve come this far, and now you know what your 4 best options are for studying biochemistry online. You’re one step closer to achieving your learning goals! Congratulations!
But now it’s time to make some important decisions about which online biochemistry course will fit in best with your schedule and provide you with content and tools that enhance your learning experience.
Here’s where it gets personal. Don’t worry, not too personal – but you do need to take a moment to think about what taking an online biochemistry course means to you. Why do you want to embark on this journey?
What are you hoping to get out of it? Is there any topic specifically that you want or need to learn about? Are you doing this for your own independent growth or as part of an educational or career requirement?
Whatever your answers to these questions, we can assure you that they are valid and that there is an online biochemistry course out there to fulfill your goals and aspirations.
On our list of top 4 online biochemistry courses, you’ll find programs aimed at high school students and college graduates as well as complete beginners. You’ll find courses where certification is the ultimate goal and others where the aim is simply to learn at your own pace and for your own enjoyment.
You’ll come across super-detailed, in-depth learning programs and broader introductions to the subject. Courses range in price from completely free to several hundred dollars. The options are all there – now it’s down to you to make your choice!
The first piece of information to clarify whenever you start looking into a biochemistry course is who the course demographic is. Basically, who is the course aimed towards?
It’s very important to choose a course that is taught at the right level for your existing foundation of knowledge.
Enrolling in a course that’s too advanced is likely to leave you floundering and overwhelmed, which completely takes the enjoyment out of learning and means your grasp of the content will suffer.
On the other hand, underestimating yourself and choosing a course that’s too basic for your level of understanding is likely to bore you and feel like a waste of money.
Thankfully, working out what level a course is taught at is usually pretty straightforward. This information will usually be given on the homepage or ‘syllabus’ page of the online course. It could be expressed in terms of ability/proficiency levels, for example, ‘beginner,’ ‘intermediate’, or ‘advanced.’
Course creators will also often specify what kind of person their course has been designed around.
For example, the content might be aimed at high school students or people considering a career in biochemistry. If the course leaders have a specific audience in mind, they’ll usually make that clear from the onset.
Another way of ascertaining whether an online biochemistry course is right for you is by looking at the entry requirements or ‘prerequisites.’
Most of the time, online biochemistry courses won’t specify a specific course or degree required for entry. These prerequisites are usually along the lines of ‘a basic understanding of biology and chemistry is recommended’.
There are also courses available that don’t have any prerequisites at all, although these tend to be the more beginner-friendly courses.
The majority of online biochemistry courses are suitable for people with no prior educational background in the subject of biochemistry specifically. More often than not, though, a high school or even college-level understanding of biology and/or chemistry can be really helpful.
But this isn’t to say that you can’t try out a course that you feel might be challenging for you. In many cases, biochemistry courses online will allow access to the content itself for free, so you have nothing to lose if you give it a go and feel you need to try something less advanced.
Besides, student testimonials confirm that it is possible to complete many of these courses from a position of complete inexperience, even though it might be a bit of an uphill climb at times.
Ultimately, assessing your own ability and commitment against the entry requirements for an online biochemistry course comes down to your own discretion and what you know yourself to be capable of.
This may seem like a trivial factor, but hear us out. Choosing a reputable institution to study biochemistry through (whether online or in-person) isn’t just about prestige and reputations.
Fundamentally, it’s about the quality of the course materials and the teaching you’ll receive.
We’ve made sure to include courses in our top 4 from reputable, trusted institutions such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of East Anglia, and the University of California, San Diego.
Several of the online biochemistry courses led by these institutions come (included or for an additional fee) with an official certification, which looks very impressive on your CV. But enrolling with one of these institutions will also provide you with some peace of mind concerning the quality of the content you’re paying for.
Online courses in biochemistry from trusted institutions like these universities are taught by experts in the field, usually academics from the institution itself. This kind of expert guidance is pretty invaluable, especially in such a complex and multifaceted subject as biochemistry.
Before you invest your time, and potentially your money, into an online biochemistry course, it’s important to fully understand the content that will be covered in the program. This includes the different modules and the different subjects covered in each module.
In most comprehensive, introductory biochemistry courses, you can expect to cover the main ways in which biology and chemistry interact as disciplines.
You will also touch on the main branches of biochemistry, including molecular biology, cellular biology, metabolic processes, enzymology, immunology, and genetics.
How much detail a course goes into about these topics will depend on how advanced the course is, and some subjects may be covered more extensively than others.
If the course is purely introductory, the content is likely to be less detailed. Courses aimed at students for the purposes of career guidance and progression may focus less on the actual science and more on its applications.
More advanced or in-depth courses may be more specific in their teaching than others. For instance, UC San Diego’s Biochemistry course dedicates entire subsections of the course to processes such as oxidative phosphorylation and protein synthesis.
Courses aimed at beginners and high school students, on the other hand, are usually broader in terms of the areas they cover.
Deciding whether a course is right for you based on the content will involve taking into consideration how much detail you feel capable of taking in per subject, as well as what you’re interested in.
It may be that you’re looking to progress in a specific career, in which case you’ll need to ensure that the course covers the topics and subjects you need to qualify in.
It’s also worth taking a look at how the material is delivered. Is there video content involved, for example? What other resources are provided? Are you expected to sit exams or complete certification? These are all things you should be aware of coming into your new learning experience.
You will also need to consider how a particular biochemistry course ties in with your daily life and schedule.
You probably have other time commitments, whether they’re to do with your family, work, social life, hobbies, or other studies.
It’s important that you know, prior to starting a course, how long the content will take you to work through and how many hours you’ll be expected to commit per week.
Some courses will have a strict time limit on how long you can access the content. For example, UC San Diego’s online Biochemistry course only remains accessible for 3 months.
However, the learning itself for this course and many others like it doesn’t have a specific schedule, so you can work it around the other commitments in your life.
Alternatively, if limited-time access to course materials doesn’t suit you, there are plenty of courses that allow you to access the content for as long as you like and work completely at your own pace.
Finally, it’s inevitable that cost and expenses will factor into your decision.
There’s a huge amount of variety in prices between different online biochemistry courses, with some being completely free from start to finish (with the compromise of no final certification) and others costing several hundred dollars for enrollment.
It’s important to be aware that a higher price point doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better experience. For one thing, a $500 might not cover the specific topics you’re interested in, while a free course might.
An expensive course may use teaching methods that don’t usually work for you, while a less expensive course could deliver your material in your favorite way.
Something else to think about is the fact that there could be other expenses not covered by the cost of the course itself. A common example of this is the need for additional textbooks, which you’ll have to purchase separately in most cases.
Many potential students have reservations about paying for online educational content. A common worry is that the quality of the content and delivery won’t be as good online as in person.
Some even worry about the prevalence of scams online and fear being cheated out of their money for content that isn’t as advertised.
The first thing we want to reinforce here is that there are biochemistry courses available online for free. You don’t necessarily need to put yourself out of pocket.
While free online courses generally don’t include certification, it’s completely possible to learn about biochemistry through an online teaching program without having to pay.
But for those who are seeking certification of their achievements, or perhaps just want to guarantee quality content monetarily, how do you know if a course is worth your money?
Well, for one thing, it’s a good idea to look for courses from reputable institutions. You’ll find courses in our selection from big names such as Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego.
By choosing a course directed by trusted institutions, you augment your chances of receiving quality teaching and resources. Of course, these institutions do tend to attach a higher price tag to their online material, but it’s a case of ‘you get what you pay for.’
This brings us to our next point, which is that the cost of even the most expensive online biochemistry course is far preferable to what you would pay for a college education in the same subject under normal circumstances.
Some online biochemistry courses can cost north of $500, but this is very little compared to the several thousands of dollars per year you would pay to learn in person, in an educational setting.
So, our answer to this question is a resounding yes: online biochemistry courses are absolutely worth the money if you’re prepared to enroll with a reputable institution.
Yes, biochemistry is considered to be a medical course because it teaches subjects and modules that overlap significantly with the field of medicine. However, taking a biochemistry course alone is, of course, not enough to qualify you in medicine.
In order to go into the medical field, you will first need to obtain your biochemistry qualification (alternative courses are biology or chemistry).
This course will provide the foundation of knowledge and fulfill the entrance requirements for you to progress onto medical school.
If you are considering taking an online biochemistry course with the intent of pursuing a career in medicine, you’ll have to consider a few things.
First, the course you choose will have to be certifiable, and you’ll need to make sure that the medical program(s) you’re thinking of applying to will accept the course as a genuine qualification.
Some online biochemistry courses offer certification (usually for a fee) at the end of a course. This will be an official certification that you can add to your résumé. A biochemistry certification can open a lot of doors and career paths for you!
Various positions in research, teaching, scientific administration, healthcare, forensics, and environmental sciences become accessible once you’re qualified in biochemistry.
You should bear in mind, however, that certification in biochemistry will often need to be supplemented with extra tests, qualifications, and checks, especially higher up in the field.
On a positive note, though, a biochemistry certificate is an excellent first step to getting a foot in the door in many science-related fields.
Jacob has a background in finance and engineering. Outside of his day job, he is a lifelong learner, who enjoys reading, taking online courses, and writing about what he's learned.
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