The Major

The course requirements for Biology emphasize fundamental scientific concepts while allowing students to tailor a program to their own interests. All students are required to complete a core sequence that includes basic math and science courses and several key Biology courses. The elective portion of the degree is more flexible and is intended to allow students to select a personalized array of courses while sampling the breadth of biology.


The major requirement consists of at least 67 credits. For courses counted toward the major requirements, a minimum grade of C is required in all Biological Science Core courses and a minimum grade of C- is required in all Math and Physical Science Core courses.

Math and Physical Sciences Core (30 credits)

  1. PHYSICS 131 and 132 Introductory Physics
  2. CHEM 111 and 112 General Chemistry for Science and Engineering Majors
  3. CHEM 261 and 262/269 Organic Chemistry/Organic Lab for Non-Chemistry Majors
  4. Take one course from Group A and one course from Group B
    Group A
    • STATISTC 240 Introduction to Statistics
    • RES-ECON 212 Introductory Statistics for the Life and Social Sciences
    • ANTHRO 281 Statistics in Anthropology
    Group B
    • MATH 127 Calculus for the Life and Social Sciences I
    • MATH 128 Calculus for the Life and Social Sciences II
    • STATISTC 501 Methods of Applied Statistics
    • CMPSCI 119 Introduction to Programming
    • CMPSCI 121 Introduction to Problem Solving with Computers

Biological Science Core (37 credits)

  1. BIOLOGY 151, 152 & 153 Introductory Biology (C or higher in these courses is required as a prerequisite for some upper-division Biology courses);
  2. BIOLOGY 312 Writing in Biology;
  3. At least 25 additional credits in biological science courses numbered 200 or above. These credits must include:
    1. at least 13 credits in courses numbered 315 and above;
    2. at least two courses with a laboratory or field component;
    3. at least one course in each of four of the following five areas (a list of acceptable courses in each of the five areas is available in the Biology Undergraduate Office):
      • Genetics and Molecular Biology
      • Cellular Biology and Development
      • Physiology
      • Evolution and Biodiversity
      • Ecology and Behavior.

    The 25 additional credits may include up to 3 credits of Independent Study, up to 3 credits of Undergraduate Teaching Practicum in a Biology Department course, and up to 6 credits from an off-campus internship approved by and enrolled though Career Services. However, no more than 6 total credits from these sources (independent study, teaching practicum, internship) may be counted toward the 25 additional credits. All of the 25 credits must be from courses taken at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Integrative Experience for Biology majors

Take Biology 494 LI, Life After Biology (1-cr seminar, offered every semester). Make sure that your upper-level elective courses include at least one of the following courses:

  • Biology 372 Introductory Neurobiology
  • Biology 383H Gene and Genome Analysis
  • Biology 422 Field Ecology: An Experimental Approach
  • Biology 477H BioImaging
  • Biology 486H Tackling Biolomedical Problems with Molecular Biology
  • Biology 487H Tropical Field Biology
  • Biology 514 Population Genetics
  • Biology 523 Histology
  • Biology 550 Animal Behavior
  • Biology 551 Animal Communication
  • Biology 572 Neurobiology
  • Biology 582 DNA to Diversity


Courses completed elsewhere and accepted for transfer credit may substitute for some required courses. All post-introductory biology courses, however, must be completed in the Department of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 


Students interested in graduating as Biology majors with Honors should contact Professor Lynn Adler (A-J), Professor Akiko Okuso (K-R), or Professor Sarah Pallas (S-Z) for information on requirements.