Biological Sciences Bachelor of Arts Degree

What Is Biological Sciences ?

Biology is the scientific study of life and life processes. Biologists study the organization of life from the structures of molecules to the balance of ecosystems. Biology majors learn to observe critically the details of all life; they analyze data and apply biological knowledge learned in the classroom to draw conclusions about their observations.

Biologists are able to make significant contributions to maintaining the health and well-being of the human population, as well as preserving and protecting the environment. They develop a knowledge base and scientific way of thinking that will enable them to make informed personal health and public policy decisions.

Success Factors

Students who have an interest in the living world around them, how the body works, the causes of diseases, etc., will often find a biology major very rewarding. Successful biology majors are good at making careful observations and recording information in a logical way. They excel at analyzing that information (critical thinking), which often involves employing basic math skills. Since many science courses involve laboratories, students who enjoy active, hands-on learning will enjoy the biology major. Visual learners will especially appreciate the beauty and complexity of the natural world. The major requires a significant amount of hard work and study time, but can result in a very rewarding career.

Career Possibilities

Graduates with a bachelor of science in biology have a wide range of career options as well as options for graduate study in biology, while the bachelor of arts degree may be preferable for students seeking a second major in biology or those interested in careers in teaching or entering the workforce upon graduation. The B.A. degree will generally not serve the needs of a pre-professional student (pre-med, pre-vet, etc.) who should instead select the B.S. degree in biology. A few examples of career fields open to B.A. biology majors include the following (many of which require additional degrees):

  • Academic, industrial, environmental/organismal, medical/pharmaceutical researcher
  • Physician assistant, physical therapist
  • Imaging technologist
  • Law, specifically areas that include environmental issues and patent law requiring a solid scientific background
  • Medical lab technologist
  • Nurse
  • Middle/high school educator
  • Forestry, horticulture, park service, wildlife/fishery biologist
  • Regulatory affairs specialist
  • Scientific Writing
  • Zookeeper, naturalist

Additional career options are listed on the Career Development Center's website.

Major Details

The study of biology includes several subdisciplines and the major offers students the flexibility to create their own course of study within this range of possibilities. Majors begin by establishing a broad base in the discipline, taking a three-quarter sequence in introductory biology (lecture/lab) followed by three quarters of sophomore biology (lecture/lab): genetics (fall quarter), cell structure and function (winter quarter) and ecology (spring quarter). During the final two years, biology majors must complete a minimum of six upper-level electives in biology, of which at least two must include a laboratory component. Undergraduate research may be used to fulfill one of the lab requirements. If undergrad research is used, it must be a minimum of 3 credits and the work must be presented upon completion.

UC College of Arts and Sciences' (A&S) flexible degree requirements allow for and highly encourage students to pursue multiple areas of study. Free electives allow for enough credits for students to pursue a minor, certificate program or even complete a second major. Some of the most common pairings are listed below.

  • Chemistry (BA or minor)
  • Environmental studies
  • Geographic information sciences
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Neuroscience
  • Psychology

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is a large part of the biology undergraduate major. Students are strongly encouraged to conduct research and take unique courses such as this field course held at the Cincinnati Center for Field Studies at Miami Whitewater Forest. Watch the YouTube Video. Internships can also be completed for free elective credit.

Minor Details

Students working toward an undergraduate degree at UC can earn a minor, while non-degree students (e.g., graduate students, non-matriculated students) can earn a certificate. The requirements are the same for both. See the undergraduate student advisor in the Department of Biological Sciences to create a plan to meet the requirements outlined below.

Minor details
Course Name Course Number Credits
Foundations of Applied Calculus (or substitution, or waiver) MATH 224 (QR) 3
Applied Calculus I & II MATH 226-227 (QR) [1] 6
Biology Lecture and Lab BIOL 101/111-102/112-103/113 15
First Year Chemistry Lecture and Lab CHEM 101/111-102/112-103/113 15
Sophomore Biology BIOL 302, 301, 303 [1] 12
Upper-level biology course

see course list  [3]

Upper-level biology course with lab see course list  [3] 3-5
Total   54-61
  1. Mathematics: Also accepted:
    1. Elementary Probability & Statistics (STAT 147, 148, 149), 9 credits
    2. Calculus I & II (MATH 251 & 252/256), 10 credits
  2. 15BIOL101/111-102/112-103/113 with a GPA of 2.0 or better and 15CHEM101/111-102/112-103/113 with a GPA of 2.0 or better must be completed before taking 15BIOL302, 301 and 303.
  3. The choice of these upper-level biology courses should be discussed with the courses' instructors to prevent possible problems with a lack of the prerequisites such as organic chemistry or physics.


This curriculum information is intended as a general information guide for students considering enrollment in this major. These online tools are designed to assist you, but are not a substitute for planning with an academic or faculty advisor.

If you are currently enrolled at UC, you can audit your degree online. If you are considering transferring to this major from another school use the course applicability system (CAS) to see how credits you have earned will apply to this major at UC.

Biology Major Requirements Checklist

Note: After entering the Arts & Sciences, biology majors must take all required courses in mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology from the College of Arts & Sciences unless prior permission is obtained. See details below. [1]


First Year
First Year Course Number Credits
*English Composition ENGL 101, 102 6
Foundations of Applied Calculus (or substitution, or waiver) MATH 224 (QR) 0-3
Applied Calculus I & II MATH 226, 227 (QR) [2] 6
Biology Lecture and Lab BIOL 101/111, 102/112, 103/113 15
First Year Chemistry Lecture and Lab CHEM 101/111, 102/112, 103/113 15
Introduction to Statistics (if not taking 224, and if not taking STAT 147-149) STAT 241 [3] 0-4
Total for first year   45-46
Second Year
Second Year Course Number Credits
*Intermediate Composition ENGL 289 3
Introduction to Statistics (unless already taken, or if STAT 147-149 taken) STAT 241 [3] 0-4
Sophomore Biology BIOL 302, 301, 303 [4] 12
Second Year Chemistry (select either option A, or B, below) See footnote below. [5] 10-16
(A) Bio-organic Chemistry CHEM 204, 205, 206 (12)
(B) Required: Organic Chemistry I & II with Labs CHEM 201/211, 202/212 (10)
(B) Recommended: Organic Chemistry III with Lab CHEM 203/213 (0-6)
*Humanities (HU)   3
*Social Sciences (SS)   3
*Literature (LT)   3
Free electives (recommended to count in a minor or other program)   Varies: 1-11
Total for second year   45
Third & Fourth Years
Third & Fourth Years Course Number
Two Upper Level Biology Major Elective Courses with Lab see course list [6] Minimum 6
Four Upper Level Biology Major Elective Courses see course list [6] Minimum 12
Biology Capstone (added to a certain biology course) BIOL 686 [7] 1
*Foreign Language see checklist 15-18
*Social Sciences (SS)   6
*Historical Perspectives (HP)   9
*Humanities, Literature or Fine Arts (HU, LT or FA)   3
*Social & Ethical Issues (if not already taken, SE)   3
Free electives (recommended to count in a minor or other program)   32-35
Total for third & fourth years   90
Total overall   Minimum 180

*Needed to fulfill A&S college requirements

[1] Note: After entering the College of Arts and Sciences, biology majors must take all required courses in mathematics, chemistry and biology within A&S unless prior permission is obtained. To obtain permission, students must see the biology department academic advisor and submit a formal, written petition to the Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs Committee, which will consider the request. Petition forms are available in the departmental office, 614 Rieveschl Hall.

[2] Mathematics: Also accepted: "Elementary Probability & Statistics" STAT 147, 148, 149 (9 credits), or "Calculus I & II" MATH 251 & 252/256 (10 credits).

[3] Introduction to Statistics, STAT 241: Required for students beginning in 09A. Not required for students who complete STAT 147, 148, 149. Students can request that other statistics courses be considered as a substitution on their degree audit. Contact the Biology major advisor to request a substitution.

[4] BIOL 101/111-102/112-103/113 with a GPA of 2.0 or better in lectures and CHEM 101/111-102/112-103/113 with a GPA of 2.0 or better in lectures must be completed before taking 15BIOL302, 301 and 303.

[5] Second Year Chemistry: Sequence should be taken at the same time (or before) Biology 301, 302 and 303. Students pursuing the BA in Biology can select either Bio-organic Chemistry (CHEM 204-205-206), or Organic Chemistry (CHEM 201/211-202/212). Note: It is recommended that students who complete CHEM 201/211-202/212 also complete CHEM 203/213.

[6] Upper Level Biology Major Electives: Students must complete a minimum of six (6) upper level biology elective courses, of which two (2) must include a laboratory experience. These courses must be selected from the list of Upper Level Biology Elective Courses published by the department each year, and must be at least three (3) credits each. One laboratory experience may be fulfilled by completing three (3) credits of Undergraduate Research in a single quarter, and presenting the work at an approved research forum. 

[7] Capstone: The Department of Biological Sciences has a number of options for fulfilling the capstone requirement of the general education program. These may be taken late in the junior year or in the senior year. The options include several courses which have been designated "capstone courses." These are generally courses which require synthesis of material from a number of different fields of biology. With the permission of the instructor, the student may designate the course to fulfill the capstone requirement.

A paper or presentation beyond the regular requirements of the course may be required. Other options include summer fieldwork at a biology field station, research in a biology lab, either in the biology department or another part of the university, or work as an assistant teaching assistant (ATA) in one of the undergraduate laboratories. In each of these cases, there is a written component and a presentation required to complete the capstone experience. More details about capstone options are available on the biology website.

Special Opportunities

Students in UC College of Arts and Sciences enjoy many benefits afforded through study at a research-intensive institution ranked among the nation's top 25 public research universities. UC's urban, tri-state location offers exciting opportunities for global education, research and service learning, while its student-centered focus includes an 11:1 student-faculty ratio, a nationally recognized Center for Exploratory Studies and a highly successful First Year Experience program that teaches critical skills for first-year students and provides connections with important campus resources.

Students are encouraged to pursue more than one area of study. The BA in biology allows students to complete a certificate or minor within the 180 credit hours needed to graduate. Thus, students will graduate with at least two areas of expertise within a typical graduation timeline.

Special Programs

Faculty within the Department of Biological Sciences are actively engaged in research in a variety of areas. Undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in this research and can earn academic credit that can be applied toward their upper-level biology course requirements. Outstanding undergraduates (with a GPA of at least 3.3 overall) may apply for admission to the honors program in biology as early as the spring quarter of their sophomore year.

Teaching laboratories within the department are well-equipped and devoted to undergraduate education. Faculty are involved and dedicated to employing new teaching methods and technology that enrich students’ educational experiences.

Admission Requirements

Admission criteria for this program vary based on the relative strength of test scores, class rank and GPA. Please see the Freshman Class Profile for this major in the Quick Facts sidebar on this page for the range of academic credentials typically accepted into this program. Test scores in the lower range may be acceptable with higher-class rank and/or GPA.

Freshmen applying to this program should also have completed the following state of Ohio articulation requirements with no more than two units missing:

  • English (4 units)*
  • College-preparatory mathematics (3 units)*
  • Science (2 units)
  • Social science (2 units)
  • Foreign language (2 units)*
  • Additional college-prep subjects (3 units)

*A&S does not allow units missing from these areas.

Transfer Requirements

Applicants to A&S whose most recent enrollment was not in any of the UC colleges must apply through the Office of Admissions. Applicants in this category must submit transcripts for all secondary school and college-level work. A cumulative GPA of 2.0 for all college-level work is required for admission consideration. Admission to A&S is generally available for any off-campus applicants whose cumulative GPA is 2.0 or higher.

University transfer scholarships are available to those who meet specific requirements and ANY admitted A&S transfer student might qualify for an A&S transfer scholarship. Deadlines and eligibility criteria are online via the previous links.

Changing Major Requirements

Applicants to A&S whose most recent enrollment was as a degree student in one of UC’s other colleges can apply directly to the A&S college office. Admission to A&S is generally available for any on-campus students who have:

  • at least a 2.0 GPA in all college-level courses (both at UC and at other institutions),
  • successfully completed two quarters of English composition or its equivalent, and
  • gained credit for a college-level mathematics course.

A&S students must meet the college residency requirement of 45.0 hours which begins immediately upon matriculation in the college and consists of courses taught within the College of Arts & Sciences.

Graduation Requirements

To graduate from UC College of Arts and Sciences, students must:

  • Earn at least 180 credits. This can include transfer credit, AP credit and free electives, but does not include preparatory coursework. Students who have met all other degree requirements must continue earning credit until the total number of their earned hours comes to at least 180.
  • Attain a 2.0 grade point average for all courses taken at the University of Cincinnati.
  • Be in good academic standing, that is, not on either academic probation or disciplinary probation or suspension.
  • Complete the residency requirement by earning at least 45 credits after matriculating into the college. These minimum 45 credits must be taught within A&S (15), and also must be completed after gaining admission to the college.
  • Complete all of the requirements of at least one major (see major requirements above).
  • Complete the College Core Requirements
  • Submit an application for graduation to the registrar's office by their posted deadline.

Application Deadlines

UC operates on a quarter system, with 10-week grading periods beginning in late September, early January, late March and mid-June. While midyear admission is possible, fall quarter is generally the best time to enter the college, since many course sequences begin in that quarter. Applicants to the College of Arts and Sciences who are enrolled or who were previously enrolled as degree-seeking students in A&S or in other UC colleges should apply for admission directly to A&S (in French West, 2nd Floor). All other applicants who wish to earn an undergraduate degree from A&S should apply through the Office of Admissions (3rd Floor, University Pavilion).