Biology Degree Program Guide

Biology is the study of living organisms and life processes. Pursuing a biology degree provides an understanding of cells, genes, physiology, ecosystems, and related concepts that shape the functioning of life on earth.

Biology degree programs equip students to discover new knowledge that can improve medical treatments, enhance food production, further environmental conservation, and more. There are a few main degree options at increasing levels of specialization for entering biology careers in healthcare, research, industry, and beyond.

Types of Biology Degrees

biology degree banner with man pointing to the screen

Associate’s Degrees in Biology

An Associate of Science (AS) degree in biology introduces foundational concepts in life sciences and may focus on a special area like anatomy. Coursework covers biology, chemistry, physics, and math concepts. An AS serves as a stepping stone toward a Bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Biology

A Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in biology delves deeper into cellular processes, genetics, evolution, plant/animal systems, ecology, and using lab techniques. Undergraduate research opportunities further develop analytic skills. This 4-year degree is flexible enough to launch various careers or prepare for graduate/professional programs.

Master’s Degrees in Biology

A Master of Science (MS) degree allows graduate-level biology students to concentrate their knowledge within a specific subfield like microbiology, botany, or zoology through advanced coursework and intensive research projects. An MS in biology qualifies candidates for scientist roles.

Doctoral Degrees in Biology

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) involves 5+ years conducting independent lab research and developing subject-matter expertise to become a university professor or senior scientist leading initiatives through research. It is a terminal degree in biology.

BA vs BS in Biology – What’s the Difference?

College biology majors can choose between a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) track. While both study life sciences, they differ in key areas:

  • Coursework – BS features more heavy lab sciences; BA emphasizes communication skills
  • Flexibility – BA allows more electives outside biology
  • Careers – BS suits research/clinical roles; BA options are wider

So a BS provides in-depth technical knowledge for science-heavy roles, while a BA offers supplementary skills for broader positions. Students’ interests shape the better choice.

Scientist Using Microscope

Standard Biology Curriculum & Courses

Typical curriculum shared between BA and BS biology tracks establishes core competencies through combinations of the following courses:

  • Intro Biology I and II – Exploration of life structures/processes
  • General Chemistry I and II – Atoms, reactions, solutions
  • Organic Chemistry – Carbon-based compounds
  • Biochemistry – Cellular metabolic pathways
  • Physics I and II – Energy, force, motion concepts
  • Calculus – Quantitative analysis methods
  • Cell Biology – Cell components and replication
  • Microbiology – Bacteria, viruses, basic biotech
  • Genetics – DNA, genes, heredity
  • Evolutionary Biology – Speciation, diversity
  • Ecology – Habitats, populations, conservation
  • Statistics – Data analysis

Lab requirements supplement classroom learning through practical observation, experimentation, and reporting. Biology bachelor’s degrees typically mandate 30+ credits specifically in biology coursework with added mathematics and physical sciences.

Biology Major Specializations

While foundation courses convey essentials, biology majors can home in on certain concentrations as upperclassmen or in graduate biology programs:

Molecular Biology

Molecular biology focuses on DNA, genes, proteins, RNA structure, and interactions facilitating the inheritance of genetic information flow in living systems. It studies how nucleic acid molecular processes drive essential cellular functions governing growth, metabolism, response to stimuli, and other phenotypic effects of encoded “instructions”.


Biotechnology aims to create and improve biological processes, organisms, and systems to design processes and products addressing medical, agricultural, and industrial challenges. It learns from molecular biology to forge recombinant DNA, genetically modified organisms like bacteria to produce insulin, Enhance crops, or modify animals as human disease models.


Botany is the study of plants – their physiology of how they grow, cell walls, vascular tissues, specialized structures like flowers, seeds, fruits, storage organs. It also examines plant biochemistry, genetics, evolution, taxonomy, ecology of how different plant species and populations interact with environments, adaptations equipping them to thrive in various conditions.


Zoology examines all aspects of animal systems – their genetics, evolutionary origins, anatomy and physiology nervous digestive visual, reproductive systems, endocrinology behind hormones, taxonomy and diversity of animal forms, ecology adaptations of species to habitats behaviors that aid survival or reproductive fitness.


Neurobiology is a biology subfield investigation how cells, anatomy, and chemical signaling between neurons and neural circuits facilitate cognition, perception, memory, information processing, regulation of mood and motor output at organismal level. It involves study of the brain, sensory systems, responses to stimuli.

Marine Biology

Marine biology is a subsection of biological science focused on understanding organisms living in saltwater ecosystems – oceans, seas – from microscopic plankton like algae and protozoa to intertidal filter feeders, fish, marine mammals, and others that have adapted to aquatic habitats. It examines biodiversity, food chains, habitats.

Biomedical Science

Biomedical Science applies biology, physiology, and biotechnology toward medical processes of preventing, diagnosing, and treating injury and disease. It spans understanding cellular mechanisms, genetics, pharmacology developing new therapies and personalized medicine accounting for individual biologic variability.

Specializations allow tailored preparation aligned with desired careers in biological research or clinical practice.

A Doctor Attending a Patient

Biology Degree Careers

Many biology grads pursue medical training for healthcare roles treating patients:


Physicians complete medical school and residency training to diagnose and treat human illness and injury across medical and surgical specialties. They examine patients, order tests, develop treatment plans that may include prescribing medication or surgery, with the aim of improving health and managing disease. Specialties span primary care to cardiology, oncology, pediatrics, and more.


Pharmacists earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree providing expertise on drug composition, interactions, side effects, dosing. They dispense prescription medications to patients and advise them on proper administration, storage, potential adverse reactions monitoring. Pharmacists improve medication adherence and safety.


Optometrists receive specialized training to test vision acuity, examine eye health to check for conditions like glaucoma or cataracts, and prescribe corrective lenses including glasses or contacts to improve refractive visual deficits. They provide primary vision care ranging from comprehensive exams to prescribing treatments.


Dentists graduate from dental school and are doctors specializing in oral health. They diagnose and develop treatment plans addressing cavities, gum disease, malocclusion overbites or underbites, trauma wounds, and perform procedures like tooth extractions, crowns, bridges, braces, and more to manage conditions.


Veterinarians complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program providing advanced expertise in non-human animal health. Like physicians, vets examine animals, run tests, diagnose illness/injuries, perform surgery, set fractures, prescribe medication. They prevent, treat, or manage disease in pets, livestock, or wildlife.

Others conduct scientific research generating knowledge:

  • Natural Science Professor – Teach college courses and publish findings
  • Laboratory Scientist – Design and run experiments
  • Field Scientist – Collect samples and make observations

Industry also offers positions applying insights:

  • Biostatistician – Model biological data
  • Epidemiologist – Study disease spread
  • Pharmaceutical Scientist – Develop new medicines
  • Food Scientist – Enhance nutrition and safety
  • Wildlife Biologist – Protect endangered species
Man Sitting on Dental Chair

Preparing for a Biology Career

Gaining relevant experience as an undergraduate biology major through assistantships, internships, or volunteering helps secure jobs after graduation. Assisting professors’ research, interning with governmental agencies, or working in university labs allows students to put classroom theory into practice with technologies, methodologies, analytics, and more. This strengthens applications for hire or graduate school admission.

Pursuing a Master’s or Doctoral biology degree facilitates specialization for advanced scientific or medical careers. For instance, a PhD develops foremost subject experts, while added clinical credentials prepare biology grads for clinical practice as physicians.

Applying to Biology Degree Programs

Students should research each school’s expectations, but typical undergraduate biology program application requirements include:

  • Course Prerequisites – 2-3 years math/sciences
  • GPA & Test Scores – ACT/SAT scores; 3.0+ GPA
  • Letters of Recommendation – From math or science teachers
  • Personal Statement – Discussing academic interests and goals

The statement is a chance to convey passion for biology. Graduate applications also examine research experience, published works, and professional accomplishments indicating potential as a scholar.

With biology’s popularity, admission can be highly selective. Applicants who excel academically and portray genuine enthusiasm tend to fare best.

Succeeding as a Biology Major

Covering vast content and concepts, biology curricula demand diligent studying. Useful success tips include:

  • Attend lectures and complete readings to maximize exposure to material
  • Review notes routinely to reinforce retention
  • Create visual charts mapping processes and relationships
  • Form study groups to quiz each other’s knowledge
  • Use practice questions to identify weak areas for focus
  • Begin assignments and lab reports early allowing proper time

Staying caught up on courses, while dedicating fuller effort toward more difficult subjects, helps biology students manage the workload and perform well.

The Value of a Biology Degree

Through exploring cell structures, genetic codes, evolutionary trends, delicate ecosystems, and multifaceted diseases, biology students gain insight enabling discovery that betters human lives and environmental health.

Degree programs cultivate analytical capabilities to advance scientific progress translating to medical breakthroughs, agricultural innovations, biodiversity protections, and technology advancements.

Biology graduates ultimately contribute to bettering society. And the critical thinking, research, data literacy, and communication competencies developed serve biology majors well in myriad potential career paths.

Next Steps for Prospective Biology Students

For those fascinated by living systems, pursuing college biology promises intellectual growth and a foundation enabling meaningful work. By mapping degree and specialization choices to career goals, students obtain qualifications to match aspirations.

Through commitment to biology education, the next generation pioneers a healthier, more sustainable future for both humankind and the wonderful diversity of life inhabiting our planet.

You might want to also this video I made about the biology degee:

Frequently Asked Questions About the Biology Degree

What math do you need to study biology?

Biology degrees require a fair amount of math coursework, including statistics, calculus, and sometimes linear algebra. Math helps biologists conduct complex data analysis, model biological scenarios, and appreciate quantitative approaches. Expect to take up to a year’s worth of college math.

Can you work in biotech or at a zoo with just a biology bachelor’s degree?

Many entry-level jobs in biotechnology, zoos, environmental agencies, and related sectors hire candidates with biology bachelor’s degrees for research assistants, lab technicians, data analysts, animal caretakers, and conservation roles. Experience from internships helps secure positions.

Does graduate school become necessary to advance in biology?

While some obtain lab, policy, education, or industry jobs at the bachelor’s level, studying biology at graduate degree levels allows greater specialization leading to senior scientist roles, professorships, or advanced clinical practice as physicians, dentists or pharmacists. A biology PhD is required for tenure-track university faculty jobs.

How might a biology degree help me start my own business?

Entrepreneurial biology grads may sell science services like field research or lab testing, offer health/wellness consulting grounded in their expertise, help found biotechnology startups, author scientific publications, develop medical devices or pharmaceuticals, or educate through digital courses or resources drawing on their biology backgrounds.

What are examples of a biology degree becoming useless or not worth it?

Failing to locate a job match or at least apply biological knowledge toward work. But biologists avoid inutility by identifying open positions, conveying transferable skills, and articulating relevance to roles not traditionally associated directly with life sciences like medical writing, patent law, bioethics, or public policy.

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