Head of larval Ciona. Courtesy of Smith Lab. Credit: Michael Veeman
Credit: Michael Veeman

 Biology Majors

The majors leading to a B.A. or B.S. in Biological Sciences are the most general of those offered by EEMB and MCDB. Students in either major take courses fulfilling requirements in several broad areas ranging from ecology to molecular biology, but can choose from a variety of courses in each area. In addition, the Biological Sciences majors allow a greater number of electives than the more specialized majors offered by the two departments. Students who wish to have the most flexibility in their choice of biology courses often choose a Biological Sciences B.A. or B.S. major.

The Biological Sciences B.S. degree is more oriented toward science and math courses, with fewer General Education requirements. The Biological Sciences B.A. degree allows students to pursue a typical liberal arts education while still receiving excellent training in biology.

The Majors

All students interested in any area of the biological sciences enter UCSB as pre-biological sciences majors. Pre-biology majors share a common core curriculum, typically completed during the freshman and sophomore years, consisting of introductory biology with laboratory, general chemistry with laboratory, mathematics, physics with laboratory, and for many of the majors, organic chemistry with laboratory. After completion of a subset of this key preparatory coursework, students may petition to declare the full major. The Biological Sciences B. S. degree requires completion of 48 upper-division quarter units in biology and offers a strong, well-rounded background in the field. The Bachelor of Arts degree in Biological Sciences requires 36 upper division units in biology and allows students greater flexibility in taking courses both within and outside their major. Students are encouraged to work closely with faculty members who share their interests, and to seek assistance in program planning from the well-informed and helpful undergraduate advisors.

Careers in Biological Sciences

Modern biology is too comprehensive and complex a field for one person to master all sub-disciplines at the advanced level. Thus, most professional biologists specialize in a particular area. A considerable number of biology students pursue graduate study in an area of interest, finding that they can gain admission to any major university on the basis of their Biological Sciences major from UCSB.

Some students elect employment immediately upon graduation. These students secure positions with state or federal agencies, or begin careers in research or supervision within private industries such as pharmaceutical companies and environmental consulting firms.

The Biological Sciences majors and many of the specialized majors are excellent preparation for careers in the health sciences (dentistry, medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, and medical technology). The Health Professions Office in the College of Letters & Sciences advises and supports students from the beginning of their studies in biology to their entrance into health science graduate programs and professional schools.

Students interested in teaching biological sciences or conducting research at a college or university should plan to complete the PhD degree. Teaching at the junior high or high school (secondary) level requires the California single subject teaching credential. Students considering this last option should discuss their plans with the credential advisor in UCSB's Graduate School of Education early in their academic careers.

High School Preparation

Recommended as part of or in addition to the UC admission requirements:

  • One year of biology
  • One year of chemistry
  • Mathematics through trigonometry
  • One year of physics

Transfer Preparation

To make normal progress in the major, complete the following courses prior to transferring to UCSB.

  • One year sequence of general chemistry with laboratory
  • One year sequence of general biology with laboratory
  • Two terms of calculus and either a third term of calculus or one term of statistics
  • Two terms of organic chemistry with laboratory
  • One year sequence of physics with laboratory

Please see the UCSB General Catalog or your high school or community college counselor for more information on course preparation.

Additional Information

For further information please consult one of the biology undergraduate academic advisors.

 General Questions

+1 805-893-5191

 Academic Advisors


How many upper division biology courses should I take per quarter?

We recommend taking two upper division biology courses per quarter (assuming 8.0 units per quarter) and, if possible, fulfilling area specific requirements first starting one's Junior/3rd year. This will give you the required 48.0 units required for most of our majors. For more detailed recommendations for the MCDB majors please go to: Resource Documents: Recommended Schedule - MCDB majors.

 Related Links