Schools with Embryology Programs: How to Choose

Embryology is the scientific study of reproduction and the earliest stages of life. Degree programs prepare graduates to work as embryologists in clinical settings or as researchers. Most are graduate degree programs designed for students who have a bachelor's degree in biology.

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How to Select an Embryology Program

Embryology programs are found in developmental biology departments in public and private universities across the country. Students who plan to work as embryologists in reproductive medicine should first earn a bachelor's degree in biology, followed by a master's degree in embryology, developmental biology or reproductive science. Embryology programs place an emphasis on reproductive health technologies and clinical research concerning assisted reproduction. Students in embryology programs learn about gametes and embryos, cryopreservation and in-vitro fertilization technology.

List of Important Considerations

  • Technologies available
  • Research opportunities

Technologies Available

Students considering an undergraduate or graduate degree in embryology should look for programs that utilize the newest technologies available in the ever-changing field of assisted reproduction and developmental research. Programs should prepare students to work with current technologies while providing a solid foundation to adapt to emerging technologies.

Research Opportunities

In choosing an embryology or developmental biology program, another important factor is the availability of research opportunities for students. Students should make sure a school's laboratories are well-funded and held in high regard among researchers. Students who have a particular interest in a specific aspect of embryology or developmental biology, such as stem cell research or cell structure, may want to look for research programs that focus on these areas.

Embryology Program Overviews

Bachelor's Degree in Biology

Most embryologists hold bachelor's degrees in biology or biomedicine. These programs provide a solid foundation for students considering graduate school in embryology or developmental biology. Courses include molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics. Developmental biology programs offer a broader study of the process by which living things grow and develop. Students can opt to specialize in a variety of areas within the scope of developmental biology. Students may have opportunities to take specialized courses or seminars relating to human reproduction or embryonic development. Some of the courses include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Stem cell biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Microbiology

Master's Degree in Embryology

Master's degree programs in embryology or developmental biology offer students in-depth courses in genetics and cell development as well as opportunities to delve into research in the laboratory setting. Many of these 2-year programs require students to complete a thesis based on their research. Generally, students must choose a thesis topic by the start of their second year of graduate school. Coursework includes:

  • Molecular cell biology
  • Research methods
  • Genetics of reproduction and infertility
  • Female reproductive endocrinology
  • Cryopreservation

Ph.D. in Embryology

Doctoral programs in developmental biology are offered through schools of medicine or biology departments. These programs are often individualized to a student's research interests. Most of these programs require students to write a dissertation based on their research findings. The length of these programs varies among schools and from student to student, depending largely on the type of research conducted for the dissertation. Areas of study include:

  • Stem cells and cloning
  • Development of cell types and organ systems
  • Development of the nervous system
  • Cell communication
  • Evolution of form
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