Biology is the science of living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, and distribution. If you are interested in ecology, genetics, microbiology, cellular, developmental, environmental, or molecular biology, and want to develop a foundation in biology while also exploring other academic disciplines, the Biology B.A. degree may be a good choice for you.
The Department of Biology is part of the College of Arts and Sciences and includes expert faculty who specialize in a wide range of disciplines within the biological sciences. When pursuing a biology major, you work with faculty who are conducting ongoing cutting-edge research in biology, giving you the opportunity to participate in some of the latest scholarship in the field.
The Department of Biology offers two biology degrees: the Bachelor of Arts in Biology (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Science in Biology (B.S.). The two degree options begin similarly, making it easy to adjust your path as your interests develop.
The Biology B.A. is the most flexible degree offered by the Department of Biology. It provides students with training in the major subject areas of biology, while giving them the chance to explore other academic disciplines. The Biology B.A. has minimal chemistry and math requirements, giving you the opportunity to earn a double major or pursue additional minors.
The Biology B.A. degree does not automatically fulfill most of the requirements for entrance to medical, dental, or optometry schools or to most graduate programs in biology. If you desire to establish a rigorous background in the sciences that will prepare you for graduate or professional school for science-related jobs, the Biology B.S. degree may be a better option for you.
Biology majors begin by taking two introductory Biology lecture courses:
- BIOL-L 111 Foundations of Biology: Diversity, Evolution, and Ecology
- BIOL-L 112 Foundations of Biology: Biological Mechanisms
These are followed by BIOL-L 113, the introductory Biology Lab.
It is important for you to begin the chemistry sequence required for the Biology B.A. major in your first or second year, since a foundation in chemistry is required for a majority of intermediate and upper-level biology courses. You may work with one of the Biology academic advisors to determine which beginning chemistry course is appropriate for you (either CHEM-C 103, or CHEM-C 117 together with CHEM-C 127), or you can check your CHEM-C 117 eligibility yourself on the website for the Department of Chemistry.
To be successful in the Biology B.A. major, it is important to limit the number of science and math courses that you take each semester. Talk with one of the academic advisors about how to balance your science course load.
Tracks and concentrations
The beauty of the Biology B.A. degree is that it gives students the opportunity to explore different areas within the field of biology as well as other academic disciplines. As a Biology B.A. major, you will have the freedom to take upper-level courses from many different areas of biology while shaping your degree according to your interests.
The Biology B.A. does not have official areas of concentration, but students who are interested in one of the following areas may choose to take upper-level classes from within that area:
If you take several upper-level biology courses within one of the above areas, you will acquire a more coherent education in a specific area of biology. Your introductory courses will help you determine which (if any) area of interest to pursue.
Upper level coursework
All Biology majors complete 18 to 20 credit hours of core classes in biology, which include courses such as molecular biology, genetics, and evolution. Keep in mind that you will need a strong foundation in inorganic and organic chemistry in order to successfully progress through your intermediate and upper-level biology courses.
Biology students get to choose many of their upper-level biology courses. Upper-level biology lectures and labs are offered in the following subject areas: microbiology, biotechnology, biochemistry, cell biology, ecology, the environment, botany, and zoology. See the comprehensive list of approved upper-level lectures and labs for course titles.
Students interested in continuing their education overseas may want to participate in the tropical biology overseas study program led by IU Biology faculty members. The program is held in Costa Rica over winter break and in the Cayman Islands in the spring. You get credit for one upper-level biology lab by participating in one of these programs. Talk to an Overseas Study advisor or visit the Overseas Study website for more information.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates. Biology B.A. majors most commonly pursue the following additional degrees: Psychology, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, English, Anthropology, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Management and Human Organization, and Spanish.
Common minors for biology students include psychology, animal behavior, chemistry, social science and medicine, medical sciences, environmental science, biotechnology, anthropology, and Spanish (or another language). Check your bulletin for more information about these minors.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a degree in Biology, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
You can get involved in research as early as your freshman year. Many incoming freshmen apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker.
Many exciting research opportunities are available to biology majors at IU Bloomington. Interdisciplinary research in biology and microbiology takes place in Indiana University facilities such as the Biocomplexity Institute, the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB), and the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics. The nearby Research and Teaching Preserve provides a setting for field-based research in ecology and environmental issues.
Many students choose to pursue research positions in faculty labs. Through working in a lab, you get to participate in cutting-edge research, explore your own research interests, build relationships with faculty members, and gain valuable work and research experience.
Students can receive academic credit for their involvement in research by signing up for BIOL-X 490 Independent Study credit hours. See the Biology Department's website for more information on ways you can earn independent study credit.
Undergraduate Research Programs such as ASURE, the Integrated Freshman Learning Experience (IFLE), Science, Technology, and Research Scholars (STARS), and the Cox Scholars Program give students who are especially interested in research the opportunity to start working in a lab as early as their first year. Students in IFLE begin research in the summer before their first semester at IU.
You are encouraged to work with a faculty member who specializes in what most interests you. For more information about the exciting research underway in the Department of Biology, visit the faculty and research webpages. The academic advisors post relevant research opportunities on the Undergraduate Biology blog.
Biology majors have the opportunity to gain teaching experience by becoming an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA). Introductory biology courses, especially BIOL-L 111 and BIOL-L 112, are large classes with discussion groups; UTAs help to create a small class atmosphere inside a large course. Students may either earn academic credit or be paid for their UTA experience.
Outstanding students may earn honors in biology by writing and defending an honors thesis on their own original research. Students work with a faculty mentor to develop a research project, assemble a thesis committee, and write their thesis.
To be eligible for departmental honors, students must have conducted their own research over at least two semesters and earned at least 6 credits of BIOL-X 490 devoted to their original project. Students who successfully complete and defend their honors thesis before their thesis committee receive honors in biology upon graduation. Talk with the academic advisors and the Biology faculty for more information.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
The following programs and scholarships are available to incoming first-year students who are interested in research:
- Cox Research Scholarship
- Integrated Freshman Learning Experience (IFLE)
- Science, Technology, and Research Scholars (STARS)
For a list of other scholarships and awards that are available to biology students, see the Department of Biology website, the College of Arts and Sciences scholarships website, and the IU Bloomington Office of Scholarships website.
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their first year.
Biology students have found internship opportunities with organizations such as:
- Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center
- American Red Cross
- Applied Behavior Center for Autism
- Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington
- Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Cook Medical, Inc.
- Eli Lilly and Company
- Health Net
- Indiana Review
- IUB Center for Postsecondary Research
- IUB Center for Sexual Health
- IUB Department of Biology
- Life Health Sciences Internship Program
- Middle Way House
- National Science Foundation
- Procter & Gamble
- Roche Diagnostics
- Timmy Global Health
- WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology
Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships. It may be possible to earn academic credit for an internship by enrolling in BIOL-X 473 or ASCS-X 373. Job shadowing is another way to learn about a field, and you can receive credit through BIOL-X 473 for one job shadow.
Foreign language study
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.
A Biology B.A. major must demonstrate fourth-semester proficiency in a single foreign language. This coursework fulfills both the College of Arts and Sciences Foreign Language and the IUB General Education World Languages and Cultures requirements.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in an increasingly globalized world. Biology students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following IU sponsored and co-sponsored programs:
- Adelaide, Australia
- Canberra, Australia
- Wollongong, Australia
- Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (summer)
- Santiago, Chile (semester or summer)
- Costa Rica (winter break or semester)
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Canterbury, England (semester or academic year)
- Oxford-St. Anne's, England (academic year)
- Freiburg, Germany (semester or academic year)
- Legon, Ghana (semester or academic year)
- Christchurch, New Zealand
- Cape Town, South Africa
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one. Student associations include:
- American Academy of Optometry at Indiana University
- Best Buddies at Indiana University
- Biology Club
- Environmental Law Society
- Environmental Management and Sustainable Development Association
- Global Environmental Brigades: Panama, at Indiana University
- Global Medical Brigades at Indiana University
- Global Water Brigades at Indiana University
- Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students
- oSTEM @ Indiana University
- Pre-Optometry Club at Indiana University
- Pre-Student Osteopathic Medical Association (pre-SOMA) at Indiana University
- Science Outreach Society
- Timmy Global Health at Indiana University
- Women in Science at Indiana University
Residential Programs and Services at IU offers a variety of learning communities, which allow students to select to live among peers with a common interest. Some of the following learning communities may be of interest to biology students:
- Collins Living-Learning Center
- Honors Residential Communities
- INSPIRE Living-Learning Center
- Residential Scholars Communities
- Women in STEM Living-Learning Center
For a complete list of Living Learning Centers, Academic Communities, and Thematic Communities, visit the Residential Programs and Services website.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- American Red Cross
- Best Buddies
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana
- Bloomington Parks and Recreation
- Girls Inc.
- Habitat for Humanity
- Health Net
- IU Hilltop Garden and Nature Center
- Middle Way House
- Monroe County Humane Association
- Student Involvement and Leadership
- WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.
Students and alumni who wish to get involved with a professional organization may be interested in the following organizations, as well as other national and international groups:
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- American Society for Cell Biology
- Animal Behavior Society
- Ecological Society of America
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
- International Mammalian Genome Society
- National Science Foundation
- Society for Biological Engineering
- Society for Developmental Biology
- Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
- Build your skills
Through the major
The Biology B.A. degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. Biology students will:
- Acquire knowledge of foundational biological concepts
- Apply the scientific process to address biological problems using hypothesis-driven inquiry and experimentation
- Learn modern lab techniques
- Design experiments, collect data, and use quantitative reasoning to analyze, interpret, and present data
- Participate in collaborative interactions to analyze data and solve problems
- Find and critically evaluate information on biological questions and communicate that information to diverse audiences in both written and oral form
- Situate biological studies within the greater context of prior published work and identify current gaps in knowledge
- Develop expertise in a particular area of biological study
See the Department of Biology Undergraduate Learning Goals for more information.
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employerswhat key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take Initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptionsand requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.
Maximize your career preparation with a career course. [add major name] majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Natural and Mathematical Sciences provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!
The job market
With the increased focus on job growth in STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, there are many job opportunities for students with analytical, critical thinking, and research skills.
Students with the Biology B.A. degree take their education in many directions. Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: research, healthcare, education, biotechnology, business/industry, pharmaceutical sales and research, parks, museums, and government.
Graduates with the Biology B.A. have become teachers, research assistants, pharmaceutical sales representatives, quality analysts, educational program specialists, technical writers, lab managers, wildlife biologists, and conservation officers, among many other vocations and careers.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations. The “Occupation Groups” and “Occupation Finder” sections can provide insight into entry-level education requirements and the job outlook for specific fields.
O*Net Online is a site that includes detailed descriptions of the world of work. You can conduct an “Occupation Quick Search” in the top right corner of the homepage, or use the “Career Cluster” search under Find Occupations to look at snapshots of different career paths. The Wages and Employment Trends section under each specific career title has information like projected growth and projected job openings that can be useful.
What Can I Do With This Major? is a site that compiles lists of majors and outlines various careers and strategies for finding employment in numerous fields. The list of industries featured under each major can be beneficial for brainstorming career options in each major.
Vocational Biographies features over 1,000 career stories of individuals in a variety of fields. The “Career Pathway” and “Career Cluster” sections let you search through common interests for specific career stories. Each story has a box of information on the last page with job outlook, education and training, salary range, and more data that can be useful. Use the following username/password to access this site: username: IndianaUniv password: zSQhK
Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!
Post-graduate short-term experiences
After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:
- Alliance Health Project
- Argonne National Laboratory
- Department of Homeland Security Pathways Program
- National Institutes of Health Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training
- Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
- Peace Corps
- Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (University of Chicago)
- Teach for America
Teaching positions give you a chance to hone language and communication skills. Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as the Center for International Education Exchange, the Institute of International Education, and LanguageCorps.
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.
Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
- The Allan Rosenfield, M.D. HIV/AIDS Public Policy Fellowship Program
- Cincinnati Children's Hospital Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
- Association of Public Health Laboratories Fellowships
- Fulbright Program
- Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Post-Bachelor Fellowship
- Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you’ll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
If you are interested in graduate school, start thinking about your options early. To develop the skills you need for graduate study, it is important to make connections and build relationships with faculty and advisors.
A Biology B.A. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as education, medicine, healthcare, biotechnology, research, and public health. Students who pursue graduate studies in biology have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, medicine and healthcare, business and entrepreneurship, and government organizations.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.
Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:
- Department of Biology (MS in Biotechnology, PhD in several fields)
- School of Education—Transition to Teaching (graduate certification or MSEd)
- School of Medicine (MD and PhD)
- O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (MPA, MSES, and PhD)
- School of Public Health (MPH, MS, and PhD)
The Department of Biology provides services to alumni through their development office, which organizes departmental events, administers undergraduate departmental scholarships, and publishes an alumni newsletter. We encourage you to stay in touch with the Department of Biology after graduating from IU by sending news about your activities.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts +Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Biology B.A. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:
- Curiosity about the basic structure, function, growth, and evolution of living organisms
- Enjoyment of diverse interests and aspiration to explore multiple academic disciplines
- Desire to think critically and ethically about biological research and its societal impact
- Appreciation of the natural world
- Intellectual curiosity and imagination
- Aptitude for quantitative and scientific reasoning
Contact one of the Biology academic advisors and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address