Office of Undergraduate Instruction

The major in Biological Sciences is open to both SAS and SEBS students.

Entry Requirements for the Major in Biological Sciences

Students wishing to major in Biological Sciences must have completed two terms of general biology, including laboratory, with a grade of C or better in each course (or have the permission of the department).

If you are thinking of becoming a Biological Sciences major or minor, please fill out this survey to help us guide you towards your academic and professional goals.

Students who wish to declare a major in Biological Sciences must have taken General Biology 01:119:101 and 102 and meet with an advisor. Students from the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) should then submit the online application (mymajor.sas.rutgers.edu). Students from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) need to have a major declaration form, available at Martin Hall, signed by an advisor

Contemplating a Major in Biological Sciences

If you intend to declare Biological Sciences as your major, the division recommends the following sequence of courses in the freshman and sophomore years.

Freshman Year:

  • General Biology 01:119:101-102
  • General Chemistry  01:160:161-162, 171
  • Calculus 01:640:135, 138 (or next year)
  • Expository Writing (required of all students)
  • non-science electives, school requirements

Sophmore Year:

  • Organic Chemistry 01:160:307-308, 311
  • General Physics (or Junior year) 01:750:203-206
  • Genetics  01:447:380
  • Life Sciences Elective Course
  • non-science electives, school requirements

Junior and Senior Year

  • Life Science Elective courses (approximately 6 credits per semester, see "Life Science Elective Courses," below).

Please keep in mind that the above is merely a recommendation and is intended for those students who not only know that they wish to major in Biological Sciences, but also have a solid high school background in the sciences.

If you are undecided about a biology major, consider not registering for General Chemistry in your freshman year.  However, do sign up for General Biology since this introductory course should help you decide.  The 2 semesters of General Chemistry can be made up in the summer, if you decide to major in Biological Sciences.  Alternatively, but less preferable, General Chemistry can be taken during the sophomore year in place of Organic Chemistry.

If you are sure that you want to be a biology major, but do not wish to (or cannot) take these courses at the same time, we strongly recommend that you take Calculus and General Chemistry as a freshman and General Biology in your sophomore year (or preferably take it in summer school, before your sophomore year).  We recommend that you take General Chemistry as a freshman, so that you can take Organic Chemistry during your sophomore year. Many upper level biology courses either require Organic Chemistry as prerequisite or strongly recommend it; thus, delaying Organic Chemistry until your junior year may limit your choices of advanced biology courses.

Please note that no more than two courses with a grade of D may be used to fulfill the requirements of the major.

Requirements for the Major

The major in Biological Sciences, administered through the Division of Life Sciences Office of Undergraduate Instruction, is intended to provide a broad and comprehensive training in modern biology. This course of study is recommended for those who wish to study biology as part of their liberal arts education, preparing them for a career in one of the health professions, graduate studies in biology, a teaching career in secondary schools (courses in education are also required), as well as employment in various areas of the life sciences. A student who wishes to concentrate in a specific area of biology should consider a major offered by one of the departments in the Division of Life Sciences or at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Faculty advisors are available to assist each student with course selection and program requirements.

A minimum of 20 credits of course work from among General Biology, Genetics and Life Sciences Electives must be completed in residence. In other words, no more than 16 credits in this part of the major requirements may be transferred from any institution outside of Rutgers-New Brunswick. This rule is intended to assure that students receiving degrees from Rutgers - New Brunswick have taken a minimum number of courses in their major with New Brunswick faculty. Please keep in mind that although a course may transfer from another institution into one of the Rutgers-New Brunswick colleges, it will not necessarily be accepted toward the major in Biological Sciences. Therefore, transfer courses must be evaluated and accepted by the Advising Office of the Office of Undergraduate Instruction in order to count toward the major.

The course requirements for the Biological Sciences major are divided into two sections, the Life Sciences Core and the Life Sciences Electives.

Required Life Sciences Core Courses (47 credits):

  • 01:119:101-102 General Biology (4,4)
  • 01:160:161-162 (4,4) or 01:160:163-164 General Chemistry (4,4)
  • 01:160:171 Introduction to Experimentation (1)
  • 01:160:307-308 or 160:315-316 Organic Chemistry (4,4)
  • 01:160:311 Organic Chemistry Laboratory (2)
  • 01:447:380 Genetics (4)
  • 01:640:135,138** (4,4) or 01:640:151-152 Calculus (4,4)
  • 01:750:203-204 General Physics (3,3)
  • 01:750:205-206 General Physics Laboratory (1,1)

** Basic Probability and Statistics (01:960:379, 3 credits) or Basic Statistics for Research (01:960:401, 3 credits) may be substituted for the second semester of Calculus.

Life Sciences ElectiveCourses (24 credits):

The elective courses must include at least one course each from the Cell Biology and Neuroscience (146), Genetics and Microbiology (447), Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (694), and Ecology and Natural Resources (704) subject areas. A list of approved courses in subject areas in addition to those in the Division of Life Sciences (Biological Sciences 119, Cell Biology and Neuroscience 146, Genetics and Microbiology 447, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry 694) will be published by the Advising Office of the Office of Undergraduate Instruction. Generally, acceptable courses will have a year of General Biology as prerequisite; however, there are exceptions. Notably, several courses in the biochemistry area are exempted from this prerequisite. It is imperative for students to consult the published list and/or meet with an advisor.

It is highly recommended that students meet with the Biological Sciences Director of Advising when planning their elective courses. It is important that the courses taken complement each other as much as possible and are not merely a collection of unrelated topics. While a distinct advantage of this program is the flexibility it affords the student in designing a course of study in biology, we wish to make sure that all of our graduates end up with both a solid foundation in biological sciences as well as an appropriate preparation for their intended post-baccalaureate career.

The electives must include at least three laboratory courses (at the 300 or 400 level), or courses with a laboratory component, only one of which may be satisfied by independent research work. General Biology Laboratory and "library research" do not qualify for this requirement. A minimum of six courses (18 credits) must be at the 300 or 400 level. The laboratory associated with Genetics (382 or equivalent), if taken, may be used to satisfy one of the three laboratory requirements.

No course at the 100 level may be used to satisfy the Life Sciences elective requirements. A maximum of six credits of independent study/research/honors research may be used toward the 24 elective credits. Please keep in mind that a minimum GPA of 2.8 is required to enroll in an independent study/research course in Biological Sciences.  Research courses can satisfy only one of the three laboratory requirements, regardless of number of credits.  An Independent Study course, however, will not satisfy any of the three laboratory requirements.  Courses taken on a pass/fail basis may not be used to satisfy requirements for the major in Biological Sciences. Cooperative education credits may not be used to satisfy requirements for the major in Biological Sciences, unless prior approval has been obtained from the Office of Undergraduate Instruction.

Worksheet for the Biological Sciences Major

Use the Biological Sciences Major Worksheet to keep track of the courses which you have completed for your major.  The Worksheet may be obtained from the Advising office in Room B-112, Nelson Biology Labs, Busch campus, or downloaded here.

Requirements for Honors

To qualify for Honors in Biological Sciences, a student must have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better and an average of 3.4 or better in courses credited toward the biological sciences major at the end of the junior year.  At that time, the student should apply formally to the Advising Office of the Office of Undergraduate Instruction.  Accepted students are expected to complete at least 6 credits in an independent research project, resulting in a thesis, and to pass an oral examination before a faculty committee in the general field of the student’s program of emphasis.  If the research is done in a laboratory outside of Rutgers–New Brunswick, the examination committee must include at least one individual from the Rutgers–New Brunswick faculty.  Honors students must register either for an honors course sequence in life sciences or for a course sequence in a college honors program.  These decisions should be discussed with an adviser. An approval form available in the advising office, must be completed.

Contact Us

Nelson Biological Laboratories

Nelson Biological Laboratories
604 Allison Rd
Piscataway, NJ 08854


p. (848) 445-2075
f.  (732) 445-5870