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Direct from High School- Recommended Coursework

Recommended High School Coursework for Future Biology Majors

The Biology program at Iowa State University offers a uniquely flexible and robust curriculum. Students in Biology have the option to select from over 160 advanced courses, allowing them to customize their biology coursework to target specific interests and career directions.

In order to best prepare for coursework in the Biology major, the Biology Student Services Office recommends that high school students complete the following courses prior to beginning their adventure in Biology at ISU:


Chemistry is one of the primary supporting sciences students encounter in the Biology major. For this reason, it is important to have a strong foundation in high school chemistry. Our office encourages students to complete a minimum of one year of high school chemistry.


A firm understanding of introductory level physics can lead to greater success for students enrolled in the Biology program. One year of high school physics is recommended. Students in high schools with AP Physics offerings may choose to enroll in these courses in order to attempt college credit for physics.


Courses in Biology, such as Anatomy and Physiology, Genetics, and Advanced Sciences, are helpful for students entering the Biology program. However, these courses should not take the place of the Chemistry and Physics courses. One year of high school Biology is recommended. If students have the opportunity to enroll in additional Biology courses without sacrificing their supporting sciences, these courses may prove to be beneficial.


Math is an important factor in student success at the university level. Our office encourages students to complete Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry in high school, if possible. Students with the opportunity to enroll in AP Statistics, Pre-Calculus, and/or Calculus I courses in high school may attempt college credit for Math.             


While a strong foundation in the sciences is certainly important, Biologists are also expected to communicate with colleagues from various backgrounds on a regular basis. Courses in English, Literature, and Speech Communication will be valuable in contributing to students’ overall success.

World Language

Although world language is not specifically required by the Biology program, our office encourages high school students to complete three years of foreign language prior to enrolling at Iowa State. This is particularly useful for students interested in obtaining a Biology degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which requires 3 years of world language in high school, or 4-8 credits of world language at the university level.

Computer Courses

Students may find at least one high school computer course helpful before moving on to the university setting. At Iowa State, a student’s word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database building skills will likely be called upon in various courses and laboratories. 

The courses listed above are not required for entrance into the undergraduate Biology program at ISU. However, they may be helpful in fostering academic success within the Biology program.