Biology is the study of life, and advances in the understanding of living systems impact almost every aspect of modern life. From food to biofuel to medicine, biological applications are integral to modern society and further advances will be necessary to address the challenges that the future holds. 

An undergraduate degree in biology offers diverse career opportunities and also is excellent preparation for graduate or professional school. The explosion of interest in biotechnology and synthetic biology, including genome sequencing, stem-cell research, recombinant DNA studies, and nuclear cloning, offers career opportunities unheard of even 10 years ago.

Why Study at Iowa

With more than 700 students, biology is one of Iowa's most popular majors. 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, research, and 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 can be 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 or medicine. 

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 four tracks:

  • Cell and Developmental Biology—examines the structure and function of cells and principles of development related to animals and plants
  • Genetics and Biotechnology—looks at key principles of gene transmission, maintenance, regulation, and manipulation
  • Integrative Biology—provides a well-balanced introduction to all of the major fields of biology
  • Neurobiology—teaches about nervous system function at all levels, from molecular to systems biology

Review Biology in the UI General Catalog for more information about the major, 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 and work closely with an adviser. 

Students with an interest in teaching may participate in a teaching internship for academic credit. This internship provides the options of teaching in a general education biology course, the first-semester biology course for science majors, or an advanced investigative lab course. 

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 600 student organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple study abroad programs and undergraduate research opportunities.

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 an interest in biology and the surrounding community while fostering an environment of fellowship among students and faculty.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

The Department of Biology is housed in two large buildings connected by a sky bridge. It encompasses renovated laboratories, TILE (Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage) and lecture classrooms, and core research facilities, including the Biology Greenhouse, Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank, the Sciences Library, and the W. M. Keck Dynamic Image Analysis Facility. 

Three teaching labs, including the Neurobiology Lab, have been completely renovated. The Neurobiology Lab is a combined wet lab/TILE classroom that will provide majors with an unsurpassed experiential learning environment.

The Carver Center for Genomics offers in-house DNA sequencing and a variety of instrumentation, while the Carver Center for Imaging houses two multiphoton/confocal microscopes utilized for student research. 

The Iowa Neuroscience Institute and the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics offer research cores, a wide variety of events, seminars, internships, and grant programs, as well as access to dozens of faculty who can mentor students conducting research in these fields.  

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 provides a strong foundation for graduate study or careers in a wide variety of fields such as the health sciences, biological research, forensics, biotechnology, public health, natural resources, and education. 


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 and Developmental Biology
Genetics and Biotechnology
Integrative Biology
Teaching Licensure
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan