Biology Major Degree Requirements

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Iowa State University offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology through its interdepartmental undergraduate Biology Program.  Consisting of 120 credit hours, students can complete this degree within four years (8 semesters) to pursue a wide variety of career options.  The links below contain downlodable, printer-friendly 4-year plans and our current degree requirements: 


University Requirements

Students enrolled in any major at Iowa State University complete a common set of general education requirements.  These requirements include:

Course # Course Name Credits
ENGL 150 Critical Thinking and Communication 3
ENGL 250 Written, Oral, Visual, and Electronic Composition 3
(varies) Advanced Communications (determined by choice of college and major) 3
LIB 160 Information Literacy 1
(varies) International Perspective (select here for a list of approved courses) 3
(varies) U.S. Diversity (select here for a list of approved courses) 3

For additional information about English and communications coursework, including test-out and placement tests, see the ISUComm website.  


College Requirements

Students majoring in Biology can do so through two colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).  Each college has additional general education requirements students are expected to complete.  They key differences between these requirements for Biology majors are summarized below:

  LAS Requirement CALS Requirement
Foreign Language 101/102 college-level language proficiency or 3+ years in high school none required
Advanced Communications advanced writing (ENGL 312 preferred) -or- speech (SP CM 212, COMST 214, or AGEDS 311) speech (SP CM 212, COMST 214, or AGEDS 311)
Math (met by completing Biology major requirements) mathematics and/or statistics mathematics AND statistics
Science (met by completing Biology major requirements) natural sciences biological and physical sciences
Arts and Humanities 12 credits (select here for approved course list) 3 credits (select here for approved course list)
Social Sciences 9 credits (select here for approved course list) 3 credits (select here for approved course list)
Ethics None required 3 credits (select here for approved course list)

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences also requires completion of 45 credits of 300-level coursework.  


Biology Major Requirements

Biology Core Requirements

This coursework provide students with a broad foundation in the biological sciences.  Students must maintain a 2.0 or higher cumulative GPA for these courses.

Course # Course Name Credits Learning Goals

BIOL 110 & BIOL 111 (students entering directly from high school)

-or-

BIOL 112 (students transfering from another school)

Introduction to Biology and Opportunities in Biology

-or-

Transfer Student Orientation

1 to 1.5

 

BIOL 211 & BIOL 211L Principles of Biology I & lab 4 BIOL 211+L Learning Goals
BIOL 212 & BIOL 212L Principles of Biology II & lab 4 BIOL 212+L Learning Goals
BIOL 312 Ecology (with lab) 4  
BIOL 313 & BIOL 313L Principles of Genetics & lab 4  
BIOL 314 Principles of Molecular Cell Biology 3  
BIOL 315 Biological Evolution 3  

The 300-level core courses do not need to be taken in numerical order.  Students should aim to take the course which relates to their primary interest areas first.  

Advanced Biology Requirements

Advanced biology coursework allows students to tailor their degree program to their interests with over 200 course options, making Biology the most flexible life-science major at Iowa State University.  Advanced biology courses include traditional instructional content as well as opportunities such as field trip courses, teaching experiences, internships, and research experiences.  Biology majors complete 21 credits of advanced biology coursework, including:

  • At least 9 credits from Biology Program offerings (e.g., BIOL, EEOB, and GDCB courses)
  • At least 2 advanced courses containing a laboratory/field component

As with the biology core, students must maintain a 2.0 or higher cumulative GPA for these courses.  

Complementary or Supporting Science Requirements

An understanding of math, chemistry, and physics is required for completing a Biology major.  What courses a student takes depends largely on their career interests, and is best discussed with their advisor or our Student Services Office.  

Mathematics

Biology majors complete two semesters of calculus and/or statistics.  Choice of college (LAS or CALS) impact a student's mathematics requirements per the options below:

Math/Stats Option Mathematics Course Statistics Course Credits
Mathematics Only (LAS) MATH 165 (Calculus I) and MATH 166 (Calculus II) none (LAS only) 8
Statistics Only (LAS) none (LAS only)

STAT 101 (Principles of Statistics) or STAT 104 (Introduction to Statistics)

-and-

STAT 301 (Intermediate Statistical Concepts and Methods)

7 to 8
Mathematics and Statistics (LAS and CALS)

MATH 160 (Survey of Calculus) or MATH 165 (Calculus I)

STAT 101 (Principles of Statistics) or STAT 104 (Introduction to Statistics) 7 to 8
Statistics Only (CALS) any college-approved mathematics course

STAT 101 (Principles of Statistics) or STAT 104 (Introduction to Statistics)

-and-

STAT 301 (Intermediate Statistical Concepts and Methods)

10 to 13

Placement in math courses is governed by the ALEKS exam and the Department of Mathematics.  

Chemistry

Biology majors complete a minimum of one semester of general chemistry (with lab), one semester of organic chemistry (with lab), and one semester of biochemistry (12 credits total).  Students often complete more than this because it is recommended or required for their career path or post-graduate plans.  

Minimum Chemistry Sequence

Course # Course Name Credits
CHEM 163 & CHEM 163L College Chemistry & lab 5
CHEM 231 & CHEM 231L Elementary Organic Chemistry & lab 4
BBMB 316 Principles of Biochemistry 3

Advanced Chemistry Sequence

Course # Course Name Credits
CHEM 177 & CHEM 177L General Chemistry I & lab 5
CHEM 178 & CHEM 178L General Chemistry II & lab 4
CHEM 331 & CHEM 331L Organic Chemistry I & lab 4
CHEM 332 & CHEM 332L Organic Chemistry II & lab 4
BBMB 404 Biochemistry I 3
BBMB 405 Biochemistry II 3
Physics

Biology majors complete one semester of physics with a lab (5 credits).  Students may opt to take a full year of physics because it is recommended or required for their career path or post-graduate aspirations.  

Physics Option Course # Course Name Credits
Single Semester PHYS 115 & PHYS 115L Physics for Life Sciences 5
Full Year PHYS 111 & PHYS 112 General Physics I and II 10