Biology Major Programs

Page Menu: About biology | General degree information | The biology major | About the faculty | Applying to UNC biology | Four-year plans

About UNC biology

Undergraduate education is the primary mission at UNC, and the School of Biological Sciences offers you a friendly, cutting-edge and student-centered educational opportunity. Open the door to your career as you gain real-world experience, side-by-side with top biologists. Learning and doing biology at UNC will give you the skills and confidence to succeed in what ever future you choose.

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General biology degree information

The biological sciences study all aspects of life from sub-cellular processes to planetary ecosystems. We offer an undergraduate program leading to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Biological Sciences.

The biology B.S. program includes a core of common courses to provide students with a solid foundation in the diversity and cellular basis of life, structure and function, heredity and development, and how organisms interact with each other and with their environment.

Each biology student chooses an area of emphasis that best suits their educational interests and goals. Within the major, we offer four different biology emphasis areas (see emphasis areas, below):

  • Pre-health and biomedical sciences
  • Cellular and molecular biology
  • Ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Biology secondary teaching

The UNC catalogs contain the official descriptions and requirements of all programs at the university, including biology. As a UNC student, you should be familiar with your program's requirements for the year that you declare your major. The general descriptions of biology programs provided on this page are intended to aid your interpretation of the catalogs, but they are not intended to replace or supercede the catalogs.

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The different emphasis areas of the B.S. degree

Prehealth/Biomedical   |   Cell/Molecular   |   Ecology/Evolution   |   Secondary teaching

The prehealth and biomedical sciences emphasis

This emphasis is intended for premed and other students having an interest in the human and animal health professions. This program meets the minimal requirements for admittance to most medical schools and other professional schools of health science. Undergraduates entering this program should have a strong science and mathematics background in high school or be prepared to do additional remedial work.

Students who successfully complete the program will be prepared for admission to medical, veterinary, dentistry, chiropractic, or paramedical professional programs. They will also be prepared to continue their education in a wide range of graduate programs as diverse as microbiology and human physiology. This would also be an appropriate emphasis for students interested in working in health communication, pharmaceutical sales, hospitals, biotechnology companies, or government laboratories such as the Centers for Disease Control.

Please see our prehealth and biomedical sciences four-year plan to graduation.

The cellular and molecular biology emphasis

This program places emphasis on a thorough understanding of the biological principles underlying all living systems through study of the basic unit of life, the cell. Students should have a strong science and mathematics background in high school or be prepared to do additional remedial work.

Students successfully completing this program will be prepared to choose from a widely varied range of careers in the basic or applied biological sciences such as public health, the pharmaceutical industry, cancer research, biodiversity research, forensic biology, animal and plant agricultural sciences, and many others. Students will also be prepared to continue their education in graduate biological sciences programs (microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, physiology, endocrinology, immunology, developmental biology, etc.) and in most professional schools (medical, veterinary, etc.). This program encompasses a minor in chemistry.

Please see our cell/molecular four-year plan to graduation.

The ecology and evolutionary biology emphasis

This emphasis focuses on ecology, evolution, organismal biology, and on field courses. Students completing the program will acquire a background in taxonomy, the diversity of species, and life histories. Students should have an interest in working with plants and animals in a field setting. A strong science and mathematics background in high school is beneficial to students wanting to become field biologists.

Students successfully completing this program will be prepared to work for public or private sector environmental agencies such as state or federal wildlife agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, various parks and recreation programs or private consulting agencies. They can also continue their education in graduate programs in the pure or applied biological sciences (botany, zoology, ecology, forestry, wildlife biology).

Please see our ecology and evolution four-year plan to graduation.

The secondary teaching emphasis

This program leads to State of Colorado licensure in secondary science. Students receive training in biological sciences content and pedagogy plus a wide range of additional support science content. They should have an interest in teaching and have evidence of working successfully with young people. They should have a strong science and mathematics background in high school or be prepared to do additional remedial work.

Students successfully completing this program will meet licensure requirements of the Colorado Department of Education for teaching secondary science (grades 7-12). Upon completion of this program, students will also be able to continue their education in graduate programs in the biological sciences.

Please see our secondary teaching four-year plan to graduation.

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Graduation requirements for the B.S. degree

Total credits for each emphasis area

For the Prehealth/Biomedical, Cell/Molecular, and Ecology/Evolution emphasis areas, 120 total credits are required. For the Secondary teaching emphasis, 123 total credits are required. These 120-123 credits encompass the required biology credits, the required supporting credits, and the Liberal Arts Core credits described below.

Required biology credits for each emphasis area

These credits include core biology courses that all biology majors take, additional biology courses specific to the emphasis area, and elective biology credits that you choose. The total number of core biology credits varies with the emphasis area.

Required supporting credits

These credits include mathematics and other science courses (e.g., chemistry, physics) that, in addition to the biology core, help to provide the foundation for a well rounded and comprehensive degree. The total number of supporting credits varies with the emphasis area.

The liberal arts core (LAC)

The LAC is what used to be called "General Education" credits . These credits provide the foundation for the liberal arts education at UNC. A total of 40 credits are required for each emphasis area, plus additional PTEP credits (Professional Teacher Education Program) for the Secondary Teaching emphasis.

Graduation requirements for each emphasis area

The requirements for graduation vary slightly for each emphasis area. These requirements are listed on page two of the four-year plans. If you started your biology degree program at UNC a year or more ago, you can find details of the requirements for graduation in the university catalog for the year that you started.

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About the biology faculty

The biology faculty chose UNC for their careers because they want to teach, they care about providing you the best education possible, and they want you to succeed in the pursuit of your own career goals. In addition to teaching, the faculty have active research programs that are nationally and internationally recognized. What this means for you is an educational opportunity that is not only centered on you but is also cutting-edge because it is designed and delivered by faculty who know science because they do science. Students in biology also have unsurpassed access to the faculty in the classroom, in the field, and in the research laboratory for the kind of active and interactive learning that it hard to find elsewhere.

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Applying to UNC biology -- the admissions process

Information about applying to UNC biology, the admissions process and admissions requirements can all be obtained at the UNC Office of Admissions.