The recent explosion of interest in biotechnology, including genome sequencing, stem-cell research, recombinant DNA studies, and nuclear cloning, offers career opportunities unheard of even 10 years ago.

An undergraduate degree in biology is also excellent preparation for graduate school. It is an area of study well-suited to students who enjoy science in general and life sciences in particular.

Why Study at Iowa?

Biology is one of Iowa's most popular majors, with about 700 students. The Department of Biology offers degree programs that provide a solid foundation in modern biological sciences as well as specialized tracks of study. Through a combination of its flexible curriculum and student access to leading research faculty, the department offers excellent preparation for a biosciences career, graduate study in the biological sciences, or professional study in the health sciences.

Biology students can get acquainted with the activities of practicing scientists by working in one of the department’s research groups, conducting laboratory experiments, discussing current research, studying specialized topics, and attending seminars. Biology faculty members are advancing knowledge in specialized fields, such as molecular genetics, neurobiology, cell and developmental biology, plant sciences, and evolution.

Course Work

Iowa offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in biology. Both programs prepare students to work in many areas, including health care, industry/biotechnology, and research/education, and both provide a solid foundation for graduate study. The BA program is a good choice if you're interested in teaching secondary school science, as it offers a broad range of biology courses and is combined into a five-year MAT program with the College of Education. The BS program offers more specialized study and is good preparation for a future in research.

BA and BS students take a common set of courses in the basic sciences of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and mathematics, but their remaining requirements are different. 

BA students study genetics, evolution, cell biology, and additional biology courses along with electives offered by other departments. 

BS students choose from one of six tracks:

  • Cell and Developmental Biology—examines the structure and function of cells and principles of development related to animals and plants
  • Evolutionary Biology—focuses on principles of evolution applied to understanding diversity with and among species
  • Genetics and Biotechnology—looks at key principles of gene transmission, maintenance, regulation, and manipulation
  • Neurobiology—teaches about nervous system function at all levels, from molecular to systems biology
  • Plant Biology—looks at how plants grow, how they have evolved, and how they interact with other organisms
  • Comprehensive Biology—provides a well-balanced introduction to all of the major fields of biology

Review Biology in the UI General Catalog for more information about course work and graduating with honors.

Teaching Licensure

Students planning to teach in secondary schools will need to complete the College of Education's Teacher Education Program.

Students with an interest in teaching may participate in two teaching internships for academic credit. One internship teaches students in a non-majors biology course while the other provides experience teaching students in the first-semester biology course for science majors.

Minor in Biology

Review Biology in the UI General Catalog for more information.

Admission Requirements

Biology majors need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

Biology students have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and learn research techniques directly from the faculty and their research groups on campus. Students in the Biology Honors Program conduct research with a faculty member in the Department of Biology. With guidance from their faculty adviser, biology honors students write a research proposal and thesis and present their research findings to members of the biology department as part of a student colloquium. Alternatively, students may choose to perform research with faculty in departments outside the biology department and earn academic credit.

In addition to nearly 500 student organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple living learning communities, study abroad programs, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

The Living Learning Community in the residence halls that may interest biology majors is the Honors House.

UI BIO is a student organization dedicated to student development in the biological fields. This organization provides research opportunities, career networking, and pre-professional experiences intended to cultivate interest in biology and the surrounding community while fostering an environment of fellowship among students and faculty.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

If you are interested in field biology, you will be able to use the facilities of the Macbride Nature Recreation Area nearby, and you'll have the option of taking summer courses at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, located on Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa.


Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

The biology major prepares students for careers or graduate study in any of the health-related professions, from physical therapy to medicine to dentistry.


The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Biology (BA)
Biology (BS)
Cell & Developmental Biology
Comprehensive Biology
Evolutionary Biology
Genetics & Biotechnology
Plant Biology
Teaching Licensure
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan