Biology Major Requirements


Bachelor of Science in Biology

Obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at Iowa State University requires the completion of about 70 credits of coursework in math and sciences, in addition to satisfying other university and college-level requirements.  Many students will go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the Biology Program in order to pursue certain professional and graduate school opportunities.  A downloadable, printer-friendly version of the Biology major requirements (including university and college requirements) is available here:

Biology Major Degree Requirements 2020-2021 (PDF)

Biology Core

Core 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 -or- BIOL 112 Introduction to Biology -or- Transfer Student Orientation 1


BIOL 111 Opportunities in Biology 0.5  
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 Courses

Advanced biology coursework allows students to tailor their degree program to their interests with over 180 course options, making ours the most flexible life-science major on campus.  Advanced biology courses include traditional instructional content, but also 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.  A complete list of currently approved advanced biology courses can be found by clicking the link above, as well as in the printable version of our curriculum linked to above.

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 must complete two semesters (7 to 8 credits) of calculus and/or statistics.  Students enrolled as a Biology major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (AgLS) must take one math and one statistics course, which is typically one semester of calculus (MATH 160, MATH 165, or MATH 181) and an introductory statistics course (STAT 101 or STAT 104).  If a student in AgLS wishes to avoid calculus, they may opt to take a full year of statistics (STAT 101 or 104, and STAT 301) and any college-approved 100-level math course.  Students enrolled as a biology major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) have more flexibility with their mathematics options, and may choose to take statistics or math only in addition to the option of taking one semester of each.  Placement in math courses is governed by the ALEKS exam and the Department of Mathematics.  

Calculus Options

Course # Course Name Credits
MATH 160 A Survey of Calculus 4
MATH 165 Calculus I 4
MATH 166 Calculus II 4

Only one of the MATH 160, and MATH 165/166 may be counted towards graduation.  Students who only need a single semester of calculus may opt to take MATH 160 instead of the two-semester sequence courses.  

Statistics Options

Course # Course Name Credits
STAT 101 Principles of Statistics 4
STAT 104 Introduction to Statistics 3
STAT 301 Intermediate Statistical Concepts and Methods 4

Credit for either STAT 101 or STAT 104 may be applied towards graduation, but not both.  STAT 104 is recommended over STAT 101 for biological science majors.  Students interested in a full year of statistics take STAT 101 or STAT 104, and STAT 301.  


Biology majors must complete at least 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 aspirations.  

Minimum Chemistry Coursework 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 Coursework 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

BBMB 420 (Physiological Chemistry, 3 credits) may be taken instead of the BBMB 404/405 sequence, but only one of these may be applied towards graduation, not both.  


Biology majors must 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.  Below represents the typical options.

Course # Course Name Credits
PHYS 115 & PHYS 115L Physics for Life Sciences 5
PHYS 111 General Physics I 5
PHYS 112 General Physics II 5