Skip to main content

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: 

You may also skip to information about a specific requirement area on this page by using the following links:

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 1500Critical Thinking and Communication3
ENGL 2500Written, Oral, Visual, and Electronic Composition3
(varies)Advanced Communications (determined by choice of college and major)3
LIB 1600Introduction 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.  

Back to Top

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 Language1010/1020 college-level language proficiency or 3+ years in high schoolnone required
Advanced Communicationsadvanced writing (ENGL 3120 preferred) -or- speech (SP CM 2120, COMST 2140, or AGEDS 3110)speech (SP CM 2120, COMST 2140, or AGEDS 3110)
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 3000+ level coursework.  

Back to Top

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 NameCredits

BIOL 1100 & BIOL 1110 (students entering directly from high school)


BIOL 1120 (students transferring from another school)

Introduction to Biology and Opportunities in Biology


Transfer Student Orientation

1 to 1.5
BIOL 2110 & BIOL 2110LPrinciples of Biology I & lab4
BIOL 2120 & BIOL 2120LPrinciples of Biology II & lab4
BIOL 3120Ecology (with lab)4
BIOL 3130 & BIOL 3130LPrinciples of Genetics & lab4
BIOL 3140Principles of Molecular Cell Biology3
BIOL 3150Biological Evolution3

The 3000-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.  

Back to Top

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. 

Back to Top

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 and Statistics

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 1650 (Calculus I) and MATH 1660 (Calculus II)none (LAS only)8
Statistics Only (LAS)none (LAS only)

STAT 1010 (Principles of Statistics) or STAT 1040 (Introduction to Statistics)


STAT 3010 (Intermediate Statistical Concepts and Methods)

7 to 8
Mathematics and Statistics (LAS and CALS)MATH 1600 (Survey of Calculus) or MATH 1650 (Calculus I)STAT 1010 (Principles of Statistics) or STAT 1040 (Introduction to Statistics)7 to 8
Statistics Only (CALS)any college-approved mathematics course

STAT 1010 (Principles of Statistics) or STAT 1040 (Introduction to Statistics)


STAT 3010 (Intermediate Statistical Concepts and Methods)

10 to 13

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

Back to Top


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 1630 & CHEM 1630LCollege Chemistry & lab5
CHEM 2310 & CHEM 2310LElementary Organic Chemistry & lab4
BBMB 3160Principles of Biochemistry3

Advanced Chemistry Sequence

Course #Course NameCredits
CHEM 1770 & CHEM 1770LGeneral Chemistry I & lab5
CHEM 1780 & CHEM 1780LGeneral Chemistry II & lab4
CHEM 3310 & CHEM 3310LOrganic Chemistry I & lab4
CHEM 3320 & CHEM 3320LOrganic Chemistry II & lab4
BBMB 4040Biochemistry I3
BBMB 4050Biochemistry II3

Back to Top


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 1150 & PHYS 1150LPhysics for Life Sciences5
Full Year (algebra-based)PHYS 1310 + PHYS 1310L 


PHYS 1320 + PHYS 1320L
General Physics I and II10
Full Year (calculus-based)

PHYS 2310 + PHYS 2310L


PHYS 2320 + PHYS 2320L

Classical Physics I and II10

Back to Top