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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: See Zoology for a related major that is available online
  • Biology minor: Learn more about the biology minor
  • Biology graduate program: Learn more about the graduate program

This science unravels the mysteries of living organisms, from microscopic cells to entire ecosystems. You'll delve into core principles around the growth, adaptation, genetics and interconnectedness of all life forms. Your studies will explore the science behind genetics, evolutionary processes and biodiversity while uncovering profound insights into humans' role within nature.

You’ll train for life science careers ranging from human and animal health to public policy. Thinking about grad school? You’ll be well prepared for graduate and professional programs like medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, Ph.D. programs and more. Plus, an OSU biology degree offers field, clinical and laboratory research experiences that help your resume really stand out.

Biologists apply their skills in a wide variety of professional roles. You can find biology grads in the healthcare industry as doctors, nurses, technicians and more. Many find jobs in education, teaching life science to the next generation of science leaders. Biologists also play pivotal roles in conservation efforts, examining ecosystems, pollution and strategies for sustainable resource management.

One major thing that biologists do: conduct research. Whether it's delving into laboratories or the field to uncover the secrets of life, researchers study DNA, investigate how organisms adapt to their environments, explore the behaviors of animals and so much more. Here at OSU, our own researchers in the Department of Integrative Biology are hard at work in the following areas, pursuing science that can change the future for the better:

  • Biodiversity
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Organismal biology
Check out our department's research
Microscopic view of pink cervix cells as studied by biology majors

The PROGRAM: Studying biology at Oregon State

At OSU, you have the opportunity to learn from award-winning instructors. Our globally recognized Department of Integrative Biology is home to a diverse array of impactful research and our faculty are eager to help students discover their passions.

Biology degree options

Eight degree transcript-visible options offer better learning experiences that matter to you. For example, our popular marine biology option gives you the opportunity to spend a term studying at the Oregon Coast at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, while pre-medicine students can participate in the OSU Medical Preceptorship.

Fun fact: Our medical school acceptance rate is 67 percent, well above the national average of 40 percent!

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

Wondering what kind of classes you'll take? Your biology major includes in-depth curriculum, including courses like

  • Introduction to Marine Life in the Sea: Marine Habitats
  • Principles of Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Genetics
Biology courses

Want to know more about coursework requirements? Use the OSU Catalog to learn more about:

  • your typical sequence of courses
  • what pre-requisite courses you'll need
  • your major's core curriculum
Biology course requirements

What does your four-year course load look like as a biology major? Check out this sample plan for one example of how to map out your academic journey.

Biology: sample plan

WATCH: Meet a biology major

Meet Lily, a third-year biology major at Oregon State University’s College of Science. Her dream of helping the planet is what motivated her to choose OSU’s biology degree program. Thanks to undergraduate research opportunities and superior learning resources here at Team Science, Lily’s prepared for an incredible future career in biology.

The EXPERIENCE: Hands-on opportunities

From research labs to student clubs, every biology major has an opportunity to explore and deepen their interests in science and community outreach while enhancing their professional development and acquiring valuable leadership skills. Science is often a competitive career field — these experiences give you the real-world skills to support your future goals.

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.

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.

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: Learning resources for science students

Team Science is here to help you thrive. Our student support is another reason we always say, "science is better at Oregon State." You'll have access to a huge array of support services and resources designed to thrive both in and out of the classroom. Here are some places to get started:

Student resources

At OSU, support comes in a LOT of forms — here's where to start. From our Science Success Center to health and wellness resources, connect with the support you need to thrive as a college student.

Check out our student resources page

Learning Assistant (LA) Program

Love learning in smaller, collaborative group settings? Our Learning Assistant Program combines small-school attention with big-school resources. Your LA group replaces traditional lecture formats with active learning strategies, maximizing the way you engage with your STEM courses.

Explore our Learning Assistant Program

Tutoring Centers

Our tutoring centers are welcoming, friendly spaces where peer and faculty mentors offer guidance and share study techniques to help you grasp course materials and improve your academic performance.

Learn more about our science-focused tutoring centers


The Department of Integrative Biology advising team is dedicated to supporting your academic journey. Their personalized attention helps you develop and implement a plan to achieve your educational, life and professional goals. From navigating degree requirements to connecting with campus opportunities, your advisor will help you make the very most of your OSU experience.

Visit the department's advising page

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 PAYOFF: Careers in biology

What jobs can you get with a biology degree?

More and more, biologists play important roles in solving some of the most pressing societal and global challenges. From animal and human health care to conservation and preservation, a biology degree opens you diverse and expanding career opportunities. After graduating from OSU, our alumni have embarked on a huge number of career paths.

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

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)