As Level Biology Coursework Planning

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 2017-2018 (PDF)

Biology Core

Core coursework provides students with a broad foundation in the biological sciences.  Students must earn a grade of "C-" or higher in all of the core courses, and maintain a 2.0 or higher GPA for these courses collectively.

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 BIOL courses containing a laboratory/field component

As with the biology core, students must earn a "C-" or higher in advanced courses, and maintain a 2.0 or higher GPA for these courses collectively.  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 competing 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

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 NameCredits
MATH 160A Survey of Calculus4
   
MATH 165Calculus I4
MATH 166Calculus II4
   
MATH 181Calculus & Mathematical Modeling for the Life Sciences I4
MATH 182Calculus & Mathematical Modeling for the Life Sciences II4

Only one of the MATH 160, MATH 165/166, and MATH 181/182 may be counted towards graduation.  MATH 181/182 is recommended over MATH 165/166 for biological science majors; 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 NameCredits
STAT 101Principles of Statistics4
STAT 104Introduction to Statistics3
   
STAT 301Intermediate Statistical Concepts and Methods4

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.  

Chemistry

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

Advanced Chemistry Coursework 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

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.  

Physics

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 NameCredits
PHYS 115 & PHYS 115LPhysics for Life Sciences5
   
PHYS 111General Physics I5
PHYS 112General Physics II5

 

Biochemistry Four-Year Plans

Below are sample four-year plans for biochemistry majors. They focus on science coursework sequencing and do not take into account factors such as AP or advance standing credits, whether or not you plan to take summer courses, study abroad, or preparing for standardized tests like the MCAT or PCAT. Other four-year plans may be available on the university’s official Guide for your specific degree.

It is critical that you talk with your advisor about your tentative plan for course sequences and prerequisites, which courses are offered fall vs. spring vs. summer, etc. "Breadth/Electives" is a placeholder for any requirement or coursework outside the biochemistry major (social science, CALS International Studies, humanities, etc.)

Sample Four-Year Plan (Chem 103/104)

Fall SemesterCrSpring SemesterCr
Year 1Chem 103
Math 221
Comm A (if needed)
First-year Seminar (CALS students)
Breadth/Electives

4
5
3
1
3+

Chem 104
Math 222
Breadth/Electives
5
4
3+
Year 2Chem 343
Biocore1 or Bio 151
Breadth/Electives
Research credits (optional)
3
5
3+
1-3
Chem 344 (or summer)
Chem 345
Biocore or Bio 152
Breadth/Electives
Research credits (optional)
2
3            
5
3+
1-3
Year 3Physics 207
Biochem 507
Biocore (if applicable)
Research credits (optional)
5
3
3
1-3
Physics 208
Biochem 508
Biocore (if applicable)
Chem 327 (or summer)
Research credits (optional)
5
3
3
4
1-3
Year 4Chem 565 or Biochem 551
Senior Thesis (optional)
Upper-level Biology2 (if applicable)
4
2-3
3
Biochem 551 or Chem 565 
Senior Thesis (optional)
Upper-level Biology (if applicable)

4
2-3
3          

Biocore sequence requires 4 lecture courses plus 2 laboratory courses. Students who complete Bio 151 and 152 (10 cr.) must also take 6. cr. of upper-level biology to complete the biological sciences requirement.

See Upper Level Biology Courses for a complete list of courses that can fulfill the upper-level biology requirement (for students who have completed Bio 151/152).

Additional Four-Year Plan (Chem 109)

Fall SemesterCrSpring SemesterCr
Year 1Chem 109
Math 221
Comm A (if needed)
First-year Seminar (CALS students)

5
5
3
1

Chem 327
Math 222
Breadth/Electives
4
4
3+
Year 2Chem 343
Biocore1 or Bio 151
Breadth/Electives
Research credits (optional)
3
5
3+
1-3
Chem 344 (or summer)
Chem 345
Biocore or Bio 152
Breadth/Electives
Research credits (optional)
2
3
5
3+
1-3
Year 3Physics 207
Biochem 507
Biocore or Upper-level Biology
Research credits (optional)
5
3
3
1-3
Physics 208
Biochem 508
Biocore or Upper-level Biology
Research credits (optional)
5
3
3
1-3
Year 4Chem 565 or Biochem 551
Remaining breadth, electives, research, advanced biology (if applicable), and/or senior thesis
4
3+
Biochem 551 or Chem 565 
Remaining breadth, electives, research, advanced biology (if applicable), and/or senior thesis
4

3+

Additional Four-Year Plan (Chem 103) Spring Freshman Year

Fall SemesterCrSpring SemesterCr
Year 1Math 112/113/114/171
Comm A (if needed)
First-year Seminar (CALS students)
Breadth/Electives

3-5
3
1
3+

Chem 103
Math (next in sequence)
Breadth/Electives
4
3-5
3+
Year 2Chem 104
Math (next in sequence)
Breadth/Electives
5
4-5
3+
Chem 343
Math (if needed)
Bio 151
Breadth/Electives
3
4
5
3+
Year 3Chem 345
Chem 344 (or future summer)
Bio 152
Research credits (optional)
Breadth/Electives
3
2
5
2
3+

Biochem 501
Physics 207
Chem 327 (or summer)
Research credits (optional)
Upper-level Biology

3
5
4
1-3
3
Year 4Physics 208
Chem 565
Remaining breadth, electives, research, and/or senior thesis
5
4
3+

500/600 level Biochem course
Biochem 551 
Upper-level Biology
Remaining breadth, electives, research, and/or senior thesis

2-3
4
3
3+

About the courses

Students should be aware that some biochemistry courses are not offered every semester or year. Consult the university’s Guide to see when courses are typically offered and enroll.wisc.edu to see which courses are being offered in a specific upcoming term.   

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