Skip Navigation
  • UC Riverside
  • College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

UCR's Biology Major

Consult a current catalog or the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (951-827-7294) for up-to-the-minute information on major requirements.

The Department of Biology offers B.A. and B.S. degrees in Biology. Both programs are based on the conviction that broad undergraduate training in biology and the physical sciences, together with study in the humanities and social sciences, are fundamental to the education of a biologist. In addition to English composition, humanities, social sciences, mathematics, chemistry, and physics, both degrees require introductory biology courses (BIOL 005A, BIOL05LA, BIOL 005B, and BIOL 005C) and 36 units of upper-division (numbered 100-199) biology courses. The degrees differ only in that 16 units of a foreign language are required for the B.A., whereas the B.S. requires 16 additional units in substantive courses in biology or in related fields.

This page contains information on degree requirements, programs of specialization, preparation for graduate school, transfer students, full and part-time study, grading, counseling, independent study and research, and internships.  A separate page lists the undergraduate courses offered by the Biology Department.  Information on graduate courses (some of which are open to qualified advanced undergraduates) can be found in the page for the Graduate Program.

The research and teaching of the department includes the different levels of biological organization: cellular, developmental, physiological, organismal, ecological, and populational. An overview of processes at all these levels is presented in the introductory courses (BIOL 005A, BIOL05LA, BIOL 005B, and BIOL 005C), and emphasis is placed on the unifying principles of the discipline.

Because of the diversity within biology and the wide range of career options, considerable latitude is allowed in selecting upper-division biology courses for the 36 units required for the major. Each student meets regularly with a faculty advisor (see Student Academic Advising below) to plan an academic program and select courses to prepare for postgraduate study or specific career objectives. Recommended programs of specialization are provided below as a guide in course selection.

Ordinarily, most of the 36 upper-division units required are selected from courses offered by the Department of Biology. With advisor approval, one or two courses in other departments (e.g., Biochemistry, Cell Biology and Neuroscience) may be counted as biology courses in meeting upper-division unit requirements. Qualified undergraduates (GPA 3.0 or above) may participate in graduate-level biology seminar courses by enrolling in BIOL 191. Consent of the instructor is required, and up to 4 units of BIOL 191 (with letter grade) may be included in the major.

Those who choose to obtain a B.S. degree have as a college breadth requirement an additional 16 units in upper-division biology courses and/or substantive courses in a field or fields related to the major. The purpose of this related area is to add strength and breadth to the major and to meet specific requirements for postgraduate study or a chosen career. These courses are selected with the assistance and approval of a faculty advisor. The substantive courses in fields related to the major may be lower or upper division, but they usually have science or mathematics prerequisites (e.g., CBNS 120/PSYC 120, CHEM 005, BCH 100, STAT 100A, STAT 100B, MATH 009C).


Degree Requirements

Please see the current
UCR Course Catalog for Degree Requirements or consult the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (951 827-7294) for current requirements.


Programs of Specialization

Suggested programs are described below for students preparing for careers in the medical professions (including dentistry and veterinary medicine), laboratory technology, the allied health professions, and teaching. Additional courses of study are provided for those interested in various biological fields (cell and molecular biology, molecular genetics, organismal genetics, zoology and physiology, and ecology and population biology). These programs meet most of the requirements for admission to corresponding professional schools and graduate programs.

In some cases a course of study differing substantially from the examples given below will best meet the needs of the student. In consultation with a faculty advisor, a student may prepare a program in other biological specializations such as microbiology, behavior, anatomy or developmental biology.

Students interested in any health related fields should seek information from the Health Professions Advising Center (visit 1114 Pierce Hall or for location) and Career Services (Veitch Student Center) before developing a plan of study.

Medical Professions

BIOL 102, BIOL 161A, BIOL 161B, BIOL 167

Professional schools for medicine, veterinary medicine, osteopathic medicine, dentistry, podiatry, optometry and pharmacy commonly require for admission one or two years of college-level biology/zoology course work without specifying the exact courses. Some schools, however, do require certain courses, and often specific courses are highly recommended. Information about these requirements and required admission tests (MCAT, DAT, VCAT, OAT, PCAT), can be obtained from the Health Professions Advising Center (visit 1114 Pierce Hall or for location) and Career Services (Veitch Student Center).

A national organization for each medical profession publishes admissions requirements for each school in that profession. The Medical School Admission Requirements publication is usually available in the UCR Bookstore. Publications that outline requirements for other professional schools may be ordered in the bookstore, and they are available in Career Services (Veitch Student Center).

The most commonly recommended courses for medical school are developmental biology, genetics, cell biology and vertebrate zoology. Most medical, dental and veterinary medical schools require that physics and other science courses be taken with a laboratory. Some dental schools require one or two courses in psychology (e.g., PSYC 001, PSYC 002) and principles of management (e.g., BSAD 010). UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine requires a course in statistics (e.g., STAT 100A), genetics (e.g., BIOL 102), and embryology (e.g., BIOL 167). Western University of Health Sciences requires courses in nutrition (e.g., BCH010), genetics (e.g., BIOL102), statistics (e.g., STAT 100A), computer skills (e.g., CS 008), technical writing (e.g., ENGL01SC), public speaking (e.g., THEA 050), and macroeconomics (e.g., ECON002).

Some medical schools recommend that when science or mathematics courses are offered at two different levels, premedical students should take the more rigorous option. On the other hand, it is better to do well in the less rigorous option than to do poorly in the more difficult one. Some medical schools also recommend physical chemistry (e.g., CHEM 109), one year of college-level mathematics (e.g., MATH 005, MATH 009A-MATH 009B or MATH 009A-MATH 009B-MATH 009C), biochemistry (e.g., BCH 100) and statistics (e.g., STAT 100A, STAT 100B). Medical schools usually do not offer substantive instruction in parasitology, so students are advised to consider including BIOL 157 as part of the undergraduate program.

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), Dental Admissions Test (DAT), and tests for other health professions are commonly taken in the spring of the junior year, so chemistry, physics, mathematics and some upper-division biology courses (genetics, anatomy, embryology, cell biology) should usually be completed during the first three years.

Laboratory Technology

Students who plan to apply to a laboratory technology school must obtain a Clinical Laboratory Technology Trainee license, which certifies that they have completed the required courses for admission to a training program. In addition to the lower- and upper-division courses required for the Biology major, the following courses are required by the California State Department of Health for a trainee license in Clinical Laboratory Science: BIOL 121A/MCBL 121A, BIOL 121B/

MCBL 121B, BIOL 121L/MCBL 121L, BIOL 128/CBNS 128, BIOL 171, BCH 100 or BCH 110A, CHEM 005, and hematology. Students should inquire at the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (1223 Pierce Hall) concerning hematology, since a separate course is not available at UCR. For admission to training laboratories approved by the American Medical Association, there is an additional requirement of one year of organic chemistry. Parasitology (BIOL 157) and statistics are strongly recommended (e.g., STAT 100A, STAT 100B).

The Department of Biology recommends the following courses to strengthen preparation for a medical technology career: BIOL 107A and CBNS 111.

Career Services staff (Veitch Student Center) can provide information about laboratory technology schools. For current information regarding requirements for clinical training and applications for the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Trainee license (required for admission to any laboratory technology program), the student should call (510) 873-6327, or write: State of California Department of Health, Laboratory Field Services, 2151 Berkeley Way, Annex 12, Berkeley, California 94704.

Allied Health Professions

BIOL 102, BIOL 121A/MCBL 121A, BIOL 121L/MCBL 121L, BIOL 161A, BIOL 161B, BIOL 171, BCH 100

Students at UCR can take some of the course work preparatory for careers in nursing, physical therapy, dental hygiene, and physician's assistant. In some programs such as physical therapy, nursing and dental hygiene, the student may complete two or three years here and then transfer to a professional school offering more specialized training and course work for the baccalaureate degree. In dental hygiene, the student may wish to obtain a bachelor's degree here in Biology and then continue at a professional school for specialized training. For information about these alternatives and the specific requirements of various schools, students should seek information from the Health Professions Advising Center, (visit 1114 Pierce Hall or and Career Services (Veitch Student Center).

Physical therapy programs are currently in transition toward becoming graduate programs only. Practical work experience is required for admission to physical therapy and physician's assistant programs (see Internships below). Most professional schools require that science courses be taken with lab where possible.

The lower-division requirements for the Biology major prepare students to take the specific upper-division courses required for admission to the professional schools in the allied health area. Not all the courses listed above are required by each type of professional school. A course in nutrition is usually required by nursing schools. This can probably be met by BCH 010 (Introduction to Nutrition). Students wishing to obtain their degree in biology at UCR before transferring should select additional upper-division course work in biology and related fields appropriate for the career objective.

Teaching Credential

Teachers in the public schools of California must be certified by the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The credential requires an undergraduate major, baccalaureate degree, and completion of a graduate credential program such as that offered by the Graduate School of Education at UCR. The latter usually requires three quarters and includes education courses and supervised teaching.

Before admission and student teaching in a graduate credential program, the candidate must pass the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST) and demonstrate subject-matter proficiency in the fields in which the candidate will teach. The candidate can demonstrate proficiency either by passing the commission's subject-matter assessment examination, or, preferably, by completing an undergraduate program that is state approved for teacher preparation.

UCR has an approved undergraduate program for Biology majors who plan to get a Multiple Subjects Credential and teach in the elementary (K-6) grades. Abreadth of course work is necessary in addition to the specified requirements for the major. Students are urged to start early, preferably as freshmen, selecting courses most helpful for this career.

UCR does not yet have a state-approved undergraduate program for Biology majors who wish to teach at the secondary level. The Teaching Credential in Science, biology emphasis, is required for biology teachers, grades 7-12. Students who plan to get this credential must take the commission's subject-matter assessment examination and should make certain their academic program includes preparatory course work. The examination includes biology in depth and general science with introductory, college-level biology, chemistry, physics, and geoscience (geology, meteorology, oceanography, astronomy). The intent is that candidates for the Teaching Credential in Science are prepared to teach unifying themes and principles in general and specialized science courses.

There are other credential options (CLAD, BCLAD) and requirements that may be completed during the undergraduate years. Requirements include knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and courses in health (PED 044), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (e.g., PED 021), and mainstreaming EDUC 116/HMDV 116). Further information is provided in orientation meetings, at the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (1223 Pierce Hall) and at the Graduate School of Education (1215 Sproul Hall).

Cell and Molecular Biology BIOL 102, BIOL 105, BIOL 107A, BIOL107B, BIOL 109, CBNS 111 or BIOL113 and BIOL 114, BIOL 121A/MCBL 121A, BIOL 121B/

MCBL 121B, BIOL 121L/MCBL 121L, BIOL 128/CBNS 128, BIOL 155/BPSC 155, BCH 100 or BCH 110A-BCH 110B-BCH 110C, BCH 102, CBNS 150/ENTX 150, CHEM 005, CHEM 109, STAT 100A and STAT 100B or STAT 120A-STAT 120B

Molecular Genetics BIOL 102, BIOL 107A, BIOL107B, BIOL 109, BIOL 115, BIOL 121A/

MCBL 121A, BIOL 121L/MCBL 121L, BIOL 128/CBNS 128, BIOL 155/BPSC 155, BCH 185/BPSC 185, CBNS 150/ENTX 150.

Organismal Genetics BIOL 102, BIOL 105, BIOL 107A, BIOL 107B, BIOL 108, BIOL 115, BIOL 155/BPSC 155, BCH 185/

BPSC 185, CBNS 150/ENTX 150, CBNS 169

Zoology and Physiology BIOL 102, BIOL 105, CBNS111 or BIOL113 and BIOL 114, BIOL 151, BIOL 160, BIOL 160L, BIOL 161A, BIOL 161B, BIOL 167, BIOL 175, BIOL 176, BCH 100. Students are also encouraged to take laboratory courses (e.g., BCH 102, BIOL 175L, BIOL 176L). Also recommended: BIOL 157, a course in ecology (e.g., BIOL 117 or BIOL 127/ENTM 127), BIOL 100/ENTM 100, BIOL 173/ENTM 173, STAT 100A and STAT 100B

Ecology and Population Biology BIOL 102, BIOL104/BPSC 104, BIOL 105, BIOL 108, BIOL 117, BIOL 118, BIOL 160, BIOL 160L, either BIOL 175 and BIOL 175L or BIOL 143/ BPSC 143, MATH 009A-MATH 009B-MATH 009C, either STAT 120A-STAT 120B or STAT 100A and STAT 100B.

Also recommended: BIOL 151, BIOL 161A, BIOL 163, BPSC 146, MATH 046


Preparation for Graduate School

The specializations presented above are appropriate as preparation for those planning to attend graduate school for advanced degrees. The faculty advisor assists in selecting combinations of courses appropriate for advanced study in the fields listed above and others. Students considering graduate study are encouraged to gain competence in at least one foreign language. Undergraduate research and courses in computer science and statistics should also be considered.

The various campuses and departments of the University of California set their own requirements for admission to graduate school, but students should expect that at least a "B" average is required to be eligible for consideration. Higher levels are usually necessary for applicants to be competitive for most programs. Letters of recommendation, undergraduate research and results on the GRE are also considered. A minimum GPA of 2.50 in the last 60 units of undergraduate course work is necessary to be eligible for admission to master's degree programs in the California State University system, but campuses and departments usually have additional or higher requirements.


Transfer Students Majoring in Biology

Transfer students majoring in Biology need to complete at least three of the following full-year sequences, which must include general chemistry:

  1. General chemistry, equivalent to CHEM 001A-CHEM 001B-CHEM 001C
  2. First-year calculus, equivalent to MATH 009A-MATH 009B
  3. General biology, equivalent to BIOL 005A, BIOL05LA, and BIOL 005B (and BIOL 005C, if available)
  4. General physics with laboratory equivalent to PHYS 002A, PHYS 002B, PHYS 002C or PHYS 040A, PHYS 040B, PHYS 040C
Students must have a minimum grade point average of 2.70 in transferable college courses.

If time permits, students are strongly encouraged to complete one year of organic chemistry with laboratory (for which a one-year chemistry series is a prerequisite). Partial satisfaction of the breadth requirements (e.g., humanities and social sciences) also accelerates the student's progress.

To integrate transfer credits with a program of study at UCR, it is important that all new transfer students consult with a faculty advisor before or early in their first quarter on campus (see Student Academic Advising below).

Prospective UCR students are welcome to discuss their past and future academic program with a faculty advisor. Call the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (951) 827-7294 to arrange an appointment.


Full or Part-Time Study

Students majoring in Biology ordinarily enroll full time in 12 to 18 units of course work each quarter. Advisor's approval is required for exceptions. Students who are unable to enroll full time because of health, family responsibilities or outside employment may apply to the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (1223 Pierce Hall) for permission to enroll part-time. Documentation of hours of employment is required. Part-time students may take no more than 10 units in one quarter, and they receive a 50 percent reduction in the Educational Fee for that quarter.


Grading Basis

Students are required to enroll for letter grade credit in science and mathematics courses used to satisfy major requirements. Science and mathematics courses counted as electives may be taken on a Satisfactory (S)/No Credit (NC) basis. Nonscience courses such as those in humanities and social sciences may also be taken as "S/NC".

English and foreign language courses may be taken as "S/NC", but this is not recommended. English composition is so basic and important that students should aim for excellence rather than a satisfactory level of achievement. Since language courses are often taken in series, progress is cumulative, and students may fall behind if only a satisfactory level is attempted in early courses in the sequence.

For policies on "S/NC" grading, see the Academic Regulations section of this catalog.


Student Academic Advising

Academic advising is available through the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (1223 Pierce Hall), Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., (951) 827-7294.

Petitions and other related business requiring an advisor's signature or approval should be routed through the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center.

The Department of Biology requires that each new freshman and transfer student consult with a faculty advisor before or during the first quarter at UCR. After that initial conference to review transfer credits and plan a program of study, the student may visit the advising center to speak with an advisor as needed.

The department recommends that each student meet with a faculty advisor at least once each year to review progress, clarify career objectives and revise the program of study so it is commensurate with the developing interests and objectives of the student.


Independent Study and Research

The Department of Biology offers courses in which students can enroll to do independent laboratory research or an in-depth library study of a topic of special interest.

Students desiring to do Independent Reading (BIOL 194), Introduction to Research (BIOL 197) or Junior/Senior Research (BIOL 199) should consult with a professor who is willing to supervise the project. The student may suggest a specific question or formulate a project after consultation with the instructor. Information about the research fields of the professors is available at the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (1223 Pierce Hall).

To enroll in these courses, the student must obtain an application form from the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center. Instructions for writing a brief description of the proposed project are provided with the form. The completed application, signed by the professor in charge of the project, is submitted to the advising center preferably before the first day of the quarter but no later than the end of the second week of the quarter.

Applicants for BIOL 194 and BIOL 199 should ordinarily be juniors or seniors with a GPA of 3.00 or higher. Sophomore students with a GPA of 3.00 or higher may apply to enroll in BIOL 197 (Introduction to Research), since the purpose of this course is to enable the student to do preliminary reading and laboratory research to explore with the professor the feasibility of undertaking a project for later enrollment in BIOL 199. Enrollment in BIOL 197 is not required before enrollment in BIOL 199, but the former course is available for those situations where preliminary work will be helpful.

For BIOL 194 and BIOL 199, the student writes a report of the library study or laboratory results for the quarter, which is reviewed by the sponsoring professor and submitted to the CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center by the last day of instruction of the quarter.

BIOL 194, BIOL 197, and BIOL 199 are graded "S/NC", and up to 9 units of credit may be counted as part of the 16 substantive units related to the major for the B.S. degree.



Internships provide students with practical, part-time work experiences in conjunction with their academic studies. The internships are designed to relate a student's academic preparation in the major with professional work at the entry level in community businesses and organizations. They can be one or more quarters in duration. For more information or to arrange an internship, see the Internship Coordinator in Career Services (Veitch Student Center).

As much as possible, the internships are arranged to accommodate the student's specific interests. Those majoring in Biology commonly work in local hospitals, clinics, museums and medical research laboratories. Some students do internships in health administration, environmental planning and natural resource management. Those considering high school teaching as a possible career can work as a tutor or teacher's assistant in local high schools.

Students majoring in Biology are welcome to participate in the internship program, but they are not paid for this work, and the Department of Biology does not give academic credit for internships. Students frequently find internships helpful in investigating a possible career, and some experience in the work environment is helpful or required for admission to professional and technical training schools.

Natural Reserve System

This system was formed by the University of California in 1965 to preserve for study a series of undisturbed natural areas representing the state's vast ecological diversity. Since then the system has grown to include twenty-seven reserves, eight of them administered by the UCR Committee of the Natural Reserve System. The reserves administered by the Riverside campus are described in the Special Study Resources and Facilities section of this catalog.

Most of the reserves are undeveloped except for fencing, roads and trails, but laboratory facilities, housing and campgrounds for class use are available at some sites. The reserves are used as outdoor classrooms and laboratories by students, teachers and researchers from educational institutions, public and private, throughout the state, across the nation and around the world. Some of the courses offered by the UCR Department of Biology include field trips and overnight camping trips to the reserves. In the field, students are introduced to the great diversity of plant and animal organisms in Southern California, and to the effect of environmental factors on this diversity.

Undergraduate and graduate students who wish to use the reserves in their individual research projects should contact Dr. Richard Redak (, Department of Entomology, (951) 827-7250, to obtain an application, map and list of rules and regulations.