Umass biology major requirements

Umass biology major requirements DEFAULT

College of Science and Mathematics

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Biology, BS

Requirements for the BS Degree in Biology

1. Biology "Core" Requirements: 19 Credits in Biology, 26 Credits in Math, Physics, and Chemistry

  • General Biology and (lab required)
  • Genetics (lab required)
  • Cell Biology (lab required)
  • Population Biology
  • Introductory Chemistry and with labs and
  • Physics and / Labs
  • Mathematics through one semester of calculus (usually Math or or ).

2. 20 Credits at the Level or Above in Biology

  • These must include at least 4 credits (or 12 class hours) in the laboratory. (Biochem. , , , and are acceptable.)
  • The following biology courses DO NOT fulfill this requirement: , ,
  • Majors are advised to complete Biology , Chemistry , and math through algebra during their first year and Biology , Biology , and Introductory Physics during their second year.

Biology GPA Requirements

  • In order to graduate as a biology major, a final grade point average of is required in biology courses above Biology which are used to meet the biology major requirements.

Course Repeats

To repeat a course, a student must repeat the same course with the same course number for it to count in their Degree Audit. If one took a lecture only version, one cannot repeat the course by taking the lecture plus lab version or vice versa. Doing so will not replace the grade.

Pass/Fail Options

  • Students may take ONLY ONE course Pass/Fail that counts toward any of the biology major course requirement (including all required chemistry, math, and physics courses - see 1 and 2 above).

Biology Transfer Course Policy and Limitations

  • Fully matriculated students no longer are permitted to take courses elsewhere and transfer them to UMass Boston. Notwithstanding, students who have a particularly pressing reason to take courses at other institutions may appeal this regulation. That is done through the use of a prior approval form, obtained from the Registrar's Office and signed by the department chair or the departmental director of undergraduate advising, or the instructor of UMass Boston's equivalent course.

Biology Residency Requirements

  • All students, including transfer students, must take at least 12 credit hours, including a minimum of 2 credit hours (6 class hours) in laboratory work, within the Biology Department at UMass Boston. These courses will be at the level or above unless the chair's approval is obtained for lower level courses. Biology , , , and do not fulfill this requirement. Moreover, organic chemistry (, , , and ) does NOT count towards the residency requirement, notwithstanding the fact that 8 of those credits can count towards the fulfillment of the overall minimum of 20 credits upper level bio courses. The biology residency requirement, therefore can only be satisfied by upper level (+ level) biology courses (including a minimum of 2 upper level lab credits).

Exemption from General Biology

  • CLEP: The Biology Department accepts the CLEP exam with a score of 50 or above. Students who meet this requirement will be exempt from General Biology and and will receive six (6) credits towards graduation.
  • Advanced Placement (AP): Students with a score of 3 on Advanced Placement Biology are exempt from Biology and ; those with an AP score of 4 or higher are exempt from Biology and and receive 4 elective credits.

Honors in Biology

To recognize achievement in research, the Biology Department confers honors to some of its graduating seniors. Honors in Biology differs from honors in other programs and from the Honors College. Students who are majoring in biology are eligible for honors in biology as described by the requirements and criteria below. Students majoring in other departments/programs, such as biochemistry, must meet the requirements of their program/department to earn honors in their department/program.  It is the major of the student candidate, not the department/program affiliation of the research mentor, which dictates the specific requirements for earning honors.

To receive honors in biology, a student must engage in supervised research while taking at least 3 credits of independent study (BIOL or or BIOL ). The mentor supervising the undergraduate research may be either a UMass Boston faculty member in biology, chemistry, the School for the Environment, or another related discipline -- or an off-campus scientist with a UMass Boston biology faculty liaison. Shortly before graduation (spring or fall), the biology honors candidate presents the research in a poster session organized by the Biology Department. The honors candidate also presents the research in a written honors thesis that is submitted to the Biology Department one week after the poster session.

The honors student must also perform well in classes. A cumulative grade point average of or better in all courses, and a cumulative grade point average of or better in the Biology major, as calculated in the degree audit, are required for honors in biology. The required GPAs must be achieved in the student’s penultimate semester since GPA eligibility for honors in biology is determined before the finish of the student’s final semester.

Two months before graduation, the Biology Honors Committee screens potential candidates for honors in biology to ensure that both the GPA and research requirements are met. The final vote approving honors in biology is made at a special end-of-semester meeting of the entire biology faculty immediately following the poster presentations.


  • Every biology major must have a faculty advisor from the Biology Department. Students may check their advisor assignments through their WISER accounts. If declared biology majors have not been assigned advisors from the Biology Department, they should see the departmental assistants to be assigned one.

Course Clusters

Click the following link for recommended level courses focusing on sub-disciplines within Biology.

Learning Goals for UMB Undergraduate Biology Major


  • Evolution: The diversity of life evolved by mechanisms driving genetic changes that are reflected in the tree of life.
  • Information flow: The growth and behavior of organisms are activated through the expression of genetic information in context.
  • Structure and function: Basic units of structure define the function of all living things.
  • Pathways and transformation of matter and energy: Biological systems grow and change by processes based upon chemical reactions and are governed by the laws of thermodynamics.
  • Systems: Living systems are interconnected and interacting; biological properties at one level provide directions and impose constraints on properties at other levels.


  • Model: Construct, use, re-express, and revise models and representations of natural and designed objects, systems, phenomena, and scientific ideas in the appropriate context and in formulating their explanation.
  • Apply quantitative reasoning: Reason about relationships between equations and variables through the lens of rates, percentages, probability, or proportional relationships when solving problems or when interpreting results or situations.
  • Engage in argument from evidence: Evaluate the claims, evidence, or reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.
  • Engage in scientific inquiry and experimental design: Design and conduct experiments with appropriate strategies, controls, and alternative approaches.
  • Analyze and evaluate data: Extract information from data and analyze it to discover patterns, critically evaluate conclusions, and generate predictions for subsequent experiments.
  • Appreciate and apply the interdisciplinary nature of science: Apply concepts from within biology subdisciplines and outside of biology to interpret biological phenomena.
  • Written and oral scientific communication: Explore and express biological information using a range of tools and methods.
  • Use an understanding of the process of science and knowledge of biology to engage with the world at large: Apply the results of scientific research to career, everyday life, society, health, and the environment.

Biology Major Requirements

The curriculum for biology majors consists of two core sequences: 1) a Math and Physical Sciences Core of courses required of all majors, and 2) a very flexible Biological Sciences Core that allows students to explore the diversity of biology.

As part of their general education requirements, Biology majors must also complete an Integrative Experience requirement.

The department also offers a Biology Minor.

The major requirements consist of at least 67 credits, with a minimum grade of C- required in courses in the Math and Physical Sciences Core, and a minimum grade of C in all other courses counted toward the major requirements. The requirements are described below and can also be viewed on a summary checklist.

I. Math and Physical Sciences Core (30 credits)

A. PHYSIC and Introductory Physics;

B. CHEM and General Chemistry for Science and Engineering Majors;

C. CHEM , , and Organic Chem/Organic Lab for Nonmajors;

D. One of the following courses:

STATISTC Intro to Statistics;
RES ECON Intro Statistics for Social Science;

E. One of the following courses:

MATH Calculus for Life & Social Sciences;
MATH Calculus for Life & Social Sciences;
STATIS Methods of Applied Statistics;
CMPSCI Introduction to Programming;
CMPSCI Introduction to Problem Solving with Computers.

II. Biological Science Core (37 credits)

A. BIOL and Introductory Biology;

B. BIOL Intro Biology Lab;

Note: Biology majors must achieve a grade of C or better in BIOL , and before additional Biology courses may be taken.

C. BIOL Writing in Biology.

D. At least 25 additional credits in biological science courses numbered or above, chosen from a list of approved courses. These credits must include:

i. at least 13 credits in courses numbered and above;
ii. at least one course related to plant biology and one course related to animal biology;
iii. at least two courses with a laboratory or field component;
iv. at least one course in four of the following five areas:

  • Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Cellular Biology and Development
  • Physiology
  • Evolution and Biodiversity
  • Ecology and Behavior

The 25 additional credits may include up to 3 credits of Independent Study, up to 3 credits of Undergraduate Teaching Practicum in a Biology Department course, and up to 6 credits from an off-campus internship approved by and enrolled though Career Services. However, no more than 6 total credits from these sources (independent study, teaching practicum, internship) may be counted toward the 25 additional credits. Note that Biol LI, required as part of the Integrated Experience requirement, does not count toward the 25 additional credits.

The 25 additional credits MUST be taken at UMass Amherst. Note that this stipulation means that we do not accept courses taken in other departments at UMass Amherst (with the exception of the non-Biology UMass courses that are on the list of approved courses), or at other colleges. (Exceptions: With advance approval from his or her advisor, a student may substitute level courses taken in a UMass Amherst department other than the Biology Department, Five College courses, or courses taken as part of a study-abroad program.)

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Biology DepartmentUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst

Make a Four-year Plan

To help plan your Biology major, use the links below. There is a suggested four-year plan for completing the major, and a version for students planning to study abroad. There is also a blank worksheet that you can use to develop your personalized plan.

Planning worksheet: Four-year Plan.

Planning worksheet: Four-year Plan including study abroad.

Planning worksheet: Blank Four-year Planning Form.

Choose Courses that Match Your Interests

The course guides linked below contain suggested course plans that include recommended biology electives. There are three different guides; choose the one that focuses on the area of biology that you are most interested in.

Course Guide for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Genetics.

Course Guide for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Course Guide for Physiology and Biomedicine.


To complete the Integrative Experience general education requirement, a Biology major must do two things:

1. Take Biology LI, Life After Biology (1-cr seminar, offered every semester). Completion in sophomore year recommended, grade of D or higher required.

2. Make sure that the upper-level elective courses completed for the major include at least one of the following courses:

  • Biology Introductory Neurobiology
  • Biology H Gene and Genome Analysis
  • Biology Plant Ecology
  • Biolog Field Ecology: An Experimental Approach
  • Biology H BioImaging
  • Biology H Tropical Field Biology
  • Biology Population Genetics
  • Biology Histology
  • Biology Animal Behavior
  • Biology Animal Communication
  • Biology Neurobiology
  • Biology DNA to Diversity

Note that one of the above elective courses will fill the IE requirement with a grade of D or higher, but will not count toward biology major requirements unless the grade is C or higher


Major umass requirements biology

The Biology Department serves more than a thousand undergraduate majors and minors, and provides courses for students of all majors. Explore the links below for more information.


Find out how to arrange a meeting with a Biology Department advisor.

Major requirements

A description of the courses required to complete the Biology major.

Major requirements checklist (PDF)

A one-page summary of the major requirements

Recommended course sequences.

Course guides with suggested plans for completing a Biology major.

Courses Approved as Major Electives.

A list of courses that count as electives to fill Biology major requirements.

Declaring a Biology major.

Ready to become a Biology major? Here's how.

Integrative Experience

All students must complete an Integrative Experience requirement in their major, as part of the University's general education program.

Minor requirements

A description of the courses required to complete the Biology minor.

Departmental honors

Biology honors students may choose to complete departmental honors.

Study Abroad

Biology majors may choose to spend a semester or two in international or domestic exchange.

Biology course catalog

Descriptions of all Biology courses.

Course offerings

Courses and instructors for the current academic year (PDF)

Learning goals

The Biology Department has established learning goals for its majors.

Research opportunities

We offer a range of opportunities for undergraduate participation in faculty research.

Awards and Scholarships

Each year, the Biology Department honors a few undergraduates with small scholarship awards.

Residential programs

The Biology Department sponsors two residential programs for first-year students.

Biology Undergraduate Handbook (PDF)

Biology Computer Resource Center

The BCRC supports the computing needs of Biology students and faculty.

TOP Pre-Med Majors (Spoiler: Biology is the Worst)

The following lists specify the courses that may be taken toward fulfillment of the biology core requirements. If a course appears in more than one area, it may used to fill only one area requirement. Note that only courses in the Biology Department can count toward the minor.

[PL] = Course that fulfills the "plant course" requirement.

[Lab] = Course that fulfills the "lab or field component" requirement.


BIOL Genetics Lab [Lab]

BIOL Cell & Molecular Biology

BIOL Q Phage Bioinformatics [Lab]

BIOL General Genetics (formerly BIOL )

BIOL H Genomics and Bioinformatics

BIOL H Gene & Genome Analysis [PL] [Lab]

BIOL MH Cell & Molecular Biology Lab [Lab]

BIOL Cancer Genetics

BIOL H Tackling Biomedical Problems with Molecular Biology [PL] [Lab]

BIOL D Genomics and Data Science [Lab]

BIOL G Human Genome Analysis [Lab]

BIOL Population Genetics

BIOL Advanced Genetics

BIOL GE Evolutionary Genomics and Bioinformatics [Lab]


BIOL Cell & Molecular Biology

BIOL MH Cellular and Molecular Biology Lab [Lab]

BIOL H Bioimaging [Lab]

BIOL Plant Cell Biology [PL]

BIOL Histology [Lab]

BIOL Cell & Molecular Biology II

BIOL Developmental Biology

BIOL From DNA to Diversity: The Evolution and Development of Animal Form [Lab]

BIOL CD Cellular Biology of Disease

ANIMSCI E Fundamental Vertebrate Embryology [Lab]

ANIMSCI Cancer Biology


BIOL Introductory Physiology

BIOL Introductory Neurobiology

BIOL N Neurobiology and Physiology Lab [Lab]

BIOL AM How Animals Move

BIOL E Physiology of Extreme Environments

BIOL Plant Physiology [PL]

BIOL Human Physiology

BIOL Comparative Animal Physiology

BIOL Endocrinology

BIOL Neurobiology

BIOL NB Developmental Neurobiology

BIOL NE Neural Basis of Animal Behavior

ANIMSCI Wildlife Reproduction

ANIMSCI Infection and Immunity

ANIMSCI Physiology of Reproduction [Lab]

ANIMSCI Molecular Immunology

ANTHRO Growth and Development


BIOL Evolution

BIOL Marine Biology [Lab]

BIOL New England Flora [PL] [Lab]

BIOL How to Make the Perfect Plant [PL][Lab]

BIOL H Tropical Field Biology [PL] [Lab]

BIOL Population Genetics

BIOL Principles of Evolution

BIOL Ichthyology [Lab]

BIOL Ornithology [Lab]

BIOL Mammalogy [Lab]

BIOL From DNA to Diversity: The Evolution and Development of Animal Form [Lab beginning F20]

BIOL GE Evolutionary Genetics [Lab]

ANTHRO EI Evolutionary Medicine

ENVIRSCI Microbiology of the Soil


BIOL Introductory Ecology

BIOL Plant Ecology [PL] [Lab]

BIOL Field Ecology: An Experimental Approach [PL][Lab]

BIOL Marine Biology [Lab]

BIOL New England Flora [PL] [Lab]

BIOL H Tropical Field Biology [PL][Lab]

BIOL Ornithology [Lab]

BIOL Animal Behavior [Lab]

BIOL Animal Communication

ANTHRO Primate Behavior

NRC AE Aquatic Ecology

NRC IE Invasion Ecology

NRC M Marine Ecology

NRC Global Change Ecology

NRC Restoration Ecology

NRC Ecology of Fish [Lab]


BIOL Topics in Plant Biology [PL]

BIOL Great Papers in Biology

BIOL MB The Human Microbiome in Health and Disease


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Associates Degrees

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