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Biology Major Degree Requirements

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 downloadable, 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 NameCredits
ENGL 150Critical Thinking and Communication3
ENGL 250Written, Oral, Visual, and Electronic Composition3
(varies)Advanced Communications (determined by choice of college and major)3
LIB 160Introduction to College Level Research1
(varies)International Perspective (click here for a list of approved courses)3
(varies)U.S. Diversity (click 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 RequirementCALS Requirement
Foreign Language101/102 college-level language proficiency or 3+ years in high schoolnone required
Advanced Communicationsadvanced 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 statisticsmathematics AND statistics
Science (met by completing Biology major requirements)natural sciencesbiological and physical sciences
Arts and Humanities12 credits (select here for approved course list)3 credits (select here for approved course list)
Social Sciences9 credits (select here for approved course list)3 credits (select here for approved course list)
EthicsNone required3 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 NameCreditsLearning Goals

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


BIOL 112 (students transferring from another school)

Introduction to Biology and Opportunities in Biology


Transfer Student Orientation

1 to 1.5 
BIOL 211 & BIOL 211LPrinciples of Biology I & lab4BIOL 211+L Learning Goals
BIOL 212 & BIOL 212LPrinciples of Biology II & lab4BIOL 212+L Learning Goals
BIOL 312Ecology (with lab)4 
BIOL 313 & BIOL 313LPrinciples of Genetics & lab4 
BIOL 314Principles of Molecular Cell Biology3 
BIOL 315Biological Evolution3 

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.  Note that advanced biology courses cannot be used to meet general education requirements. 

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.  


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 OptionMathematics CourseStatistics CourseCredits
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)


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)


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.  


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 NameCredits
CHEM 163 & CHEM 163LCollege Chemistry & lab5
CHEM 231 & CHEM 231LElementary Organic Chemistry & lab4
BBMB 316Principles of Biochemistry3

Advanced Chemistry Sequence

Course #Course NameCredits
CHEM 177 & CHEM 177LGeneral Chemistry I & lab5
CHEM 178 & CHEM 178LGeneral Chemistry II & lab4
CHEM 331 & CHEM 331LOrganic Chemistry I & lab4
CHEM 332 & CHEM 332LOrganic Chemistry II & lab4
BBMB 404Biochemistry I3
BBMB 405Biochemistry II3


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 OptionCourse #Course NameCredits
Single SemesterPHYS 115 & PHYS 115LPhysics for Life Sciences5
Full Year (algebra-based)PHYS 131 + PHYS 131L 


PHYS 132 + PHYS 132L
General Physics I and II10
Full Year (calculus-based)

PHYS 231 + PHYS 231L


PHYS 232 + PHYS 232L

Classical Physics I and II10