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Biology Major

Study the science of life — with the world as your lab

Biology Major

Study the science of life — with the world as your lab

Megan Cook in scuba gear climbing into boat
"Traveling in international scholar exchange, diving into a field research team and being mentored in a community of inspiring peers and exceptional leaders gave me great confidence that my contributions could, should and would be impactful.”
Megan Cook (Biology '09), Manager of Education Partnerships & Programs at Ocean Exploration Trust.

The BASICS: Biology

Department: Integrative Biology
Degrees offered: Bachelor of Science, Honors Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Ph.D.
Online option: No (See Zoology for a related major that is available online)
Biology minor: Learn more here
Biology graduate program: Learn more here

What is biology?

Biology is the foundational study of life from basic cellular levels to the broader context of ecosystems. As a biology major at Oregon State, your extensive curriculum covers courses in genetics, physiology, marine biology, ecology, conservation and so much more. And we get you out there: OSU’s biology major offers field, clinical and laboratory research experiences that will complement your studies in the classroom.

Why get a biology degree?

As a biology major, you’ll be trained for life science careers ranging from human/animal health to conservation, science education and public policy. Thinking about grad school? You’ll be well prepared for graduate programs in the biological sciences and professional schools including medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and others.

With eight options and a wealth of electives, OSU’s biology major offers you a curriculum that is interdisciplinary, comprehensive and career-focused.

Microscopic view of pink cervix cells as studied by biology majors

The PAYOFF: Careers in biology

What jobs can you get with a biology degree?

With a biology degree from OSU, you’ll be able to embark on a huge number of career paths.

Here are just several examples of career pathways our biology alumni have followed:

The PROGRAM: Studying biology at Oregon State

Biology degree options

Students can choose to focus on their specific interests by declaring one of these eight transcript-visible options (OR through a wide variety of elective courses and possible minors).

Ecology is the study of the physical and biological factors that affect the distribution and abundance of organisms, and ecological knowledge is essential to fields such as conservation biology, environmental sciences and others. Completion of the biology major and the coursework in the ecology option provides a solid foundation for jobs in research agencies, nongovernmental organizations, environmental consulting companies and academia, as well as for admission to graduate school. The ecology option coursework covers the Biology and Society, Organismal Biology, Physiology, Writing Intensive Course (WIC) and upper division science electives for the Biology major. Students are encouraged to gain professional experience before graduation.

The Genetics option emphasizes the application of genetics theory and methods to evolutionary questions. It is an excellent way to prepare for graduate programs in genetics and evolutionary biology. The option combines the upper-division science electives for the biology major with tailored courses in genomics, advanced genetics, bioinformatics, statistics and computer science.

The Pre-Education in Biology option provides innovative and cutting-edge teaching and learning experiences such as a unique opportunity to work collaboratively with faculty in delivering biological science instruction at the college level. This option meets the requirements for most graduate teacher licensure programs. The coursework prepares students for endorsements to teach middle school integrated science and high school chemistry and biology. This option is especially valuable for students aspiring to teach biology in a high school (AP) or community college setting.

Oceans produce more than 70% of the oxygen on earth, are home to more than 300,000 different species, and are critical to the survival of the human race and our planet. You can study the implications of this and more in the marine biology option in the biology major. The marine biology option couples the comprehensive core of the Biology major with intensive marine courses covering topics such as biological oceanography, marine ecology, invertebrate zoology, conservation biology, marine field research methods and other areas. In the program you will be exposed to field and laboratory research ranging from invasive species to coral genetics. As an immersive and transformative educational experience, you will spend one or more terms in residence at the renowned Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) in Newport, Oregon, to complete the BI 450 Marine Biology and Ecology course in the Marine Biology option. You can also participate in one of the many marine international internships and study abroad experiences available to marine biology option students in countries ranging from Australia to South Africa.

The Physiology and Behavior option emphasizes the integrative and comparative biology of animals. It explores how animals, including humans, contend with the challenges of life through their physiology and behavior. This option prepares students very well for graduate programs and research careers in physiology, behavior and organismal biology. Students can choose to work closely with a faculty mentor to conduct research in a physiology or organismal biology lab.

The Pre-Medicine option in Biology has two tracks. Track I: Pre-Medicine is designed for students interested in becoming a physician, and Track II: Pre-Physician Assistant, which is designed for students interested in becoming a physician assistant.

Students pursuing the pre-medicine option receive professional and academic advising support to chart their course to medical school.

The Pre-Dentistry option provides relevant coursework, workshops, academic advising support and outstanding clinical, volunteer, internship and international study opportunities to prepare students for competitive dentistry programs. Coursework emphasizes upper division science elective courses in the biology major as well as writing intensive courses to improve cross-cultural communication skills and critical thinking, which are valued for admission to medical and dental schools.

The Biology major Pre-Veterinary Medicine option is designed to meet OSU College of Veterinary Medicine prerequisites and other U.S. veterinary schools. The Pre-Veterinary Medicine option couples the strong biological sciences background of the biology major with core animal anatomy and physiology laboratories and animal science-focused electives. Dedicated professional advisors work with Pre-Veterinary Medicine option students to integrate animal handling and other essential professional experiences during their time at OSU.

Learn more about your biology curriculum

  • What kind of classes will you take? Check out our list of biology courses:

Biology courses >

  • How does adding an option affect your degree path? Learn more about your biology options — requirements, class types, learning outcomes and more:

More about transcript-visible options >

  • What could your class schedule look like over four years? Have a look at this sample plan to help guide your way towards graduation:

Biology major: sample plan >

WATCH: Meet a biology major

Meet Milan, a biology major with an emphasis in marine biology and a minor in Chemistry. Milan shares what inspired her to get a biology degree, studying abroad in Australia, hands-on experiences at the Marine Hatfield Science Center on Oregon's coast and student life as a leader of the Integrative Biology club.  

The EXPERIENCE: Hands-on opportunities

What makes a biology degree from Oregon State better? One big reason: our hands-on learning experiences! Science is often a competitive career field - these experiences give you the real-world skills to support your future goals.

Fun fact: The Department of Integrative Biology is a campus leader in study abroad — our students make up a large portion of total OSU majors studying abroad. Participate in a wide variety of abroad experiences around the world in STEM or other areas of interest.

Undergraduate Research

This is your chance to see up close what it means to be a scientist. Don’t just study science in the classroom — get in a lab and contribute to it, working alongside world-class faculty!

Learn why undergraduate research is better here >


Internships serve as your perfect transitional experience into a career field. Gain real-world career experience while exploring the career possibilities your degree opens up.

Learn about amazing internship opportunities >

Study Abroad

Our students’ work spans the globe! Immerse yourself in another culture to gain a global perspective in your studies.

Take your science studies around the world >


Here’s your chance to discover like-minded communities of peers who share your interests! Come together and engage in meaningful ways.

Connect with a club and more members of Team Science >

The SUPPORT: Connect with your advisor

Your science advisor is your all-in-one resource for college success! Our advisors will help you navigate your whole journey at OSU. If you have questions now, you can reach out to one of our amazing peer advisors and they can help you with anything you’d like to know about our programs or being a student at OSU.

And of course, you can always reach out to our Student Peer Advisors at with questions, as well! Our Peer Advisor team is friendly, helpful and can share their first-hand knowledge of the Oregon State experience.

The PROOF: Successful students and alumni

A dream that won't be squelched: Protecting marine life and inspiring the next generation

Simone Burton, an Honors biology major with an option in marine biology, has pushed through more obstacles than she could have imagined only four years ago. Now, she is confident that she will find a powerful way to protect marine life through a career in conservation, science communication and outreach.

Researching intertidal communities ecosystems: Ecology fellowship supports student fieldwork

For Lily Miksell, the Alexei Lubchenco Menge Undergraduate Research Fellowship presented an exciting opportunity to pursue her interests in ecology and conservation.

Biology senior awarded Gilman Scholarship to pursue pre-med internship in Argentina

Julia Zavala is one of seven undergraduate students at Oregon State University to have been awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship during the 2020-2021 academic year. The honors biology senior will undertake a paid 10-week pre-med internship in Cordoba, Argentina, during summer 2021 where she will gain a global perspective on healthcare. Oregon State enjoys the distinction of being a top producer of Gilman Scholars. With seven honorees, OSU continues its trend of having students accepted at or greater than the national rate of 25%.

Fulbright awards will take science students to Germany and New Zealand

Oregon State University and the College of Science are thrilled to congratulate biochemistry and molecular biology Honors student Maja Engler and biology alumna Emily Newton on receiving the 2021-2022 Fulbright Award.

Continuing a family tradition: Mahtab Brar pursues a future in medicine

Mahtab Singh Brar ('20) an OSU Honors biology major and pre-med graduate, began medical school at OHSU in the fall to launch his career in medicine.

Ask Me Anything: Watch our virtual biology Q&A session!

The Integrative Biology department hosted a virtual "ask me anything" information session on Tuesday, May 5 for admitted College of Science students. 

Download Biology brochure 2022 (PDF)