Office of Undergraduate Instruction

Major in Biological Sciences

Entry Requirements for the Major in Biological Sciences

Students who wish to declare a major in Biological Sciences must have earned a "C" or better in both semesters of General Biology lecture 01:119:115, 116, and 117  (or previously 01:119:101 and 102) and meet with an advisor. Students should then submit the online application (SAS online major application; SEBS online major application). The major in Biological Sciences is open to students of both SAS or SEBS.

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

                  Fall                           Spring

General Biology 115
General Chemistry 161
Expository Writing
Calculus I

General Biology 116
General Chemistry 162
Intro to Experimentation
Calculus II or Statistics
SAS Core class 

Sophomore Year

Organic Chemistry 307
Biological Research Lab 117
SAS core class
SAS core class
Physics I with lab

Organic Chemistry 308 and Lab 311
Genetics 447:380
Physics II with lab


Junior Year

Life Science elective
Life Science elective
SAS Core
SAS Core 


Life Science elective with lab
SAS Core
SAS Core 

Senior Year

Life science elective with lab
Life Science elective
SAS Core 

Life Science elective with lab
Life Science elective
SAS core 

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.

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 (49 credits):

  • 01:119:115-116 General Biology (4,4) (formerly 01:119:101 and 102)
  • 01:119:117 Biological Research Laboratory (2) (not required if credit for 01:119:101 and 102)
  • 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) or Statistics I and II (01:960:211 and 212) may be substituted for the second semester of Calculus.

Life Sciences Elective Courses (24 credits):

Here is a complete list of life science elective courses that can be used for a major or minor in Biological Sciences.

From the list of approved life science electives, students must include at least one three credit (or more) course each from the Cell Biology and Neuroscience (146), Genetics and Microbiology (447), Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (694), and Ecology and Natural Resources (216) subject areas. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Residency Requirement

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.

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.  

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.

Departmental Learning Goals

I. To acquire the appropriate factual and conceptual knowledge that provides students with a foundation to further their education and career in the areas of life science or health science. Students will be able to demonstrate basic knowledge (ex. identify, define, explain…) of the concepts, practices and principles that comprise the biological sciences.

II. To develop data analysis and statistical reasoning skills that prepares students for a society increasing reliant on the use of data and information. Students will be able to interpret/evaluate patterns in data presented in tables, figures, and graphs as well as be able to organize, summarize and present data.

III. To develop the ability to use scientific reasoning as embodied by the structured process commonly known as the scientific method to empower students with the ability to generate and refine knowledge. Students will be able to evaluate and apply the practice of science.

IV. To develop critical thinking and problems solving skills appropriate to prepare students to evaluate, synthesize and generate knowledge that provides them with a competitive advantage to adapt to an evolving, global, and knowledge based society. Students will be able to demonstrate application of higher order thinking (ex. classify, diagnosis, evaluate, synthesize, hypothesize…). Students will develop an understanding of not only the connections within biology but also the connections between biology and other scientific disciplines. 

Contact Us

Nelson Biological Laboratories

Nelson Biological Laboratories
604 Allison Rd
Piscataway, NJ 08854

p. (848) 445-2075
f.  (732) 445-5870